I’ve written about the shameful statistics on how America treats its young for many years, and they only get worse. Last Sunday evening on “60 Minutes”, Scott Pelley, did a very sensitive and moving piece on the dramatic increase in homeless children in the current recession. Although these children are in Florida, they can easily be in almost any classroom in America. They are the newest face of child poverty in America and everyone who cares about children should see this. The segment is about 13 minutes.
The Census Bureau predicts that soon the poverty rate for America’s children will reach 25% – and these numbers are based on the obscenely outdated calculus which says that for a family of four income below $22,050 is considered poverty. In a study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute, it was calculated that a family of four actually needs $48,778 to meet a more realistic construct of “just getting by” called family budgeting. Under this measurement, which is much closer conceptually to measures used in European nations, THREE times as many families fall below the official poverty line.
According to the Children’s Defense Fund, Connecticut has nearly 97,000 poor children (12.1%) and 44,752 (5.6%) children living in extreme poverty.
We will soon be, if not already, number one among industrial nations in the rate of children living in poverty. The lack of rational discourse on how best to deal with these deficits, particularly at the federal level, do not give us hope that the lot of children’s lives will improve and indeed it seems more likely they will worsen in the years ahead.
What Scott Pelley has exposed for America to ponder is that these children, who once enjoyed relative, albeit modest, measures of security, now get on the school bus carrying a lot more baggage to the classroom than their backpacks reveal. When we talk about shared sacrifice our test will be who we ask to share the burden.
I was reminded of something that Hubert Humphrey, former Vice President and US Senator, said in his last speech before leaving public life:
“The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”