I hope that I’m not the only one who finds it very disturbing that the wellbeing of children and youth in this country is ascribed such a low priority. Among all nations of the world, the USA ranks number two for the highest child abuse rate per capita, far worse than countries like Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh. Of the 35 developed countries, the United States ranks 34th in its child poverty rate. Add to these rankings that we also have one of the highest infant mortality rates and very low academic achievement, and our country isn’t painted in a very pretty picture.
Given the immense wealth and resources we have in this country, there is no excuse for our kids to suffer and fall short the way that they do. Unfortunately, our many shortcomings can be easily explained – our Policymakers and power brokers simply don’t give a ##@&!
This attitude was recently exemplified by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, in his speech given before the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). According to Time magazine, Mr. Ryan stated, “Free lunches provided to children by government programs give kids a full stomach – and an empty soul.” The gist of his message being that it is better for kids to go hungry than to be “humiliated” by the fact that they receive a free lunch! Never mind the fact that there is a ton of research which shows quite the contrary--children who are malnourished or food challenged perform far worse than their peers, and those who receive school-based meals perform substantially better or on par with their peers. I mean, this is scientific evidence which is tantamount to sorcery to some of these folks.
One of my favorite quotes, which cannot be overused in my opinion, is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a WWII German martyr. Mr. Bonhoeffer simply stated, “The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” Our country is failing this test miserably!
It is daunting when you understand that there is an entire sector with a vociferous appetition to eliminate or substantially minimize public funding for everything child related: education, health services, abuse prevention, child protection, affordable housing--you name it, conservatives want it gone.
Let me put this issue another way. Annually, the federal budget for all child-related programs--from healthcare, to education, foster care, child welfare services, including abuse prevention, as well as Headstart and a ton of miscellaneous programs--is about $41 billion. By way of contrast, the government spends $100 billion per year on Corporate Welfare, well over double what it spends on kids. Policymakers claim that business subsidies are needed to “fix alleged market failures or to help American companies better compete” in the global economy. However, corporate welfare often subsidizes failing and mismanaged businesses, and induces firms to spend more time on lobbying rather than on making products better. Plus, there’s absolutely no evidence to support these assertions. So much for a “free market economy.”
It is plain and simple “quid pro quo!” Politicians love campaign contributions and lots of perks, and, in turn, handout billions of taxpayer dollars in corporate welfare. Plus, these figures don’t account for the tens of billions of dollars lost through tax loopholes granted through the same corrupt process. Children in poverty, in foster care, with mental health illnesses, with learning or physical disabilities don’t have paid lobbyists to feather the nest of political prostitutes!
In the 114th Congress, there was a great bipartisan bill introduced by Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden entitled the Family’s First Preservation and Services Act (FFPS). The FFPS would have annually shifted about $1 billion in foster care funding to early intervention, family preservation and child abuse prevention activities in order to keep children and youth out of the foster care system. What a brilliant idea: spend money up-front which will save more in taxpayer cost in the future. Unfortunately, the Republicans in the House demonstrated their blatant lack of concern or priority for what’s best for kids, and basically killed the bill through draconian fiscal cuts and unrealistic state requirements. It bears repeating: conservative politicians have warped priorities and don’t care about kids!
Now, more than ever, we must fight for the health and wellbeing of our children, our future! Given the dishevel, ineffectiveness and utter disdain for the needs and concerns of the public demonstrated by Congress, coupled with the inexperience and unpredictability of our current President, there needs to be a very loud voice of advocacy on behalf of children and youth! America already ranks down at the bottom of the world in terms of child poverty, child abuse, infant mortality, educational achievement, et cetera, can you imagine how far we will plummet if federal and/or state funding is severely cut back or eliminated?
Children must be one of our highest national priorities--#Kidscount and #B4Kids must advocate at the grandest scale. The United States is truly at a moral crossroads. Are we going to do our very best for children and youth, and leave them with a healthy, safe and hopeful future? Or are we going to further succumb to greed, corruption, pandering and self interest, leaving them in the dust of a ruined society?