In every country on Earth, there are people who live in opulence because they were lucky enough to be born into wealth or fortunate enough to live in a society that rewards initiative and hard work. There are though, segments of every society that barely subsist on meager provisions because of economic and social factors that are often beyond their control. America is said to be the wealthiest country on the planet and it has its fair share of extremely wealthy citizens who enjoy special privileges based on their financial worth. However, for all the wealth in America there are still a disproportionate number of people living in dire poverty with no hope of ever exceeding their present condition and it should be a cause of shame for the nation. It is unfortunate, but regardless of the amount of wealth in America, there are at least 31 million children living in poverty which is approximately one in five of all children.
It is unbelievable that in this country any children live in poverty, but the figures for minority children are much worse. One in three (36%) African-American children live in poverty and 31% of Latino children live in poverty and it affects the infant mortality rate and school achievement far exceeding their white counterparts. The numbers are much worse for sixteen states that report as high as 40% of black children living in poverty in 2009 and in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama there are 40% of Latino children living in poverty. There are no states that have children’s poverty levels for white children exceeding 23% and it demonstrates the deepening income inequality in America. There are many reasons for higher percentages of minority children living in poverty, but one specific explanation is the mortgage foreclosure crisis that disproportionally affected communities of color.
Many black and Latino families accumulated wealth throughout the 1990s, but the economic recession erased their gains and unlike their white counterparts have not been able to regain their financial footing. Entire families have been affected and besides job losses and mortgage foreclosures, the Republican practice of eliminating social safety nets like unemployment insurance, food stamps, and health insurance has contributed greatly to the rising number of children living in poverty. The government programs that were put in place to help Americans left destitute from the economic downturn are being eroded by the Republican’s Draconian spending cuts and there are consequences to the families and especially the children living in poverty.
Researchers at Cornell University discovered that children who grow up in poverty are deeply affected in their educational and psychological development. The researchers found that the instability of children who grow up in poverty are affected by their home lives and that environmental stressors hinder their education and there is a direct correlation between a family’s income and success in school. One of the senior fellows at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Jann Jackson, said that the “deepening racial inequality facing the country matters to everyone” because children lacking a decent education are going to be prohibited from succeeding for the rest of their lives. Jackson continued, “This has huge implications for whether or not the next generation is going to be economically secure, educated and prepared to be productive in the workforce. This is about where our country will be 20 years from now.”
In twenty years, there will be more than just minority children living in poverty because Republicans have set in motion a deeper income inequality than exists in America today. The lion’s share of America’s wealth is held by a minute percentage of Americans and as the wealthy’s corporations continue to ship Americans’ jobs to India, China, and South Korea, unemployment is certainly going to continue rising. In a recent report, experts said the number of poor in America is nearly identical by percentage to China where more than half the population are peasant farmers who barely subsist from day to day. It is tragic that a wealthy, allegedly predominately Christian population sits by and watches as such an obscene number of children live in the same conditions as peasants in rural China. Republicans have made sure that our children, and especially minority children, go to bed hungry and are fortunate to eat free school lunches. The Republicans’ spending cuts have decimated Head Start programs and children’s health care so their wealthy donors continue receiving their precious tax breaks.
Americans should feel abject shame that one in five of all children live in poverty, but it is humiliating that over one third of all minority children suffer because the GOP thinks more of a couple hundred wealthy families than 31 million of our own children. To make matters much worse, the Republicans’ spending cuts eliminated millions of jobs many people of color held with no chance of them ever returning. But maybe subjecting more people of color and their children to a life stuck in perpetual poverty is part of a grand scheme to keep the next generation unemployed and under educated. It seems that everything Republicans are doing is meant to keep the majority of the population in poverty because they have made absolutely no attempt at creating jobs or giving struggling Americans the help they need during a tough economy that is not of their doing.
It is sad that there are Republican legislators who can look at children and know that some of them will never have the opportunity to succeed because the their party would rather help the ultra-rich instead of minority children. Educators have known for decades that children who arrive at school well-fed and rested are successful in school and that it translates into a successful life. Unfortunately, the income disparity in the wealthiest country in the world is becoming wider and as long as Republicans continue decimating the safety nets and killing jobs, there will be even more people and their children living in poverty until America becomes a third-world country. Don’t think that it cannot get any worse because Republicans only control the House and if they ever control the Senate and the White House, the majority of Americans will work for minimum wage (if there is one left) and the number of people living in poverty will be greater than any third-world country. At the rate the GOP is going, expect that eventuality within five years and that is being very optimistic; troubling, but optimistic all the same.