Does America Hate Its Children?

December 2012,  Robert Reich wrote about America’s children   .   .   .    Remember the Children.

“America’s children seem to be shortchanged on almost every issue we face as a society.

Not only are we failing to protect our children from deranged people wielding semi-automatic guns.

We’re not protecting them from poverty. The rate of child poverty keeps rising – even faster than the rate of adult poverty. We now have the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world.

And we’re not protecting their health. Rates of child diabetes and asthma continue to climb. America has the third-worst rate of infant mortality among 30 industrialized nations and the second-highest rate of teenage pregnancy, after Mexico.

If we go over the “fiscal cliff” without a budget deal, several programs focused on the well-being of children will be axed – education, child nutrition, school lunches, children’s health, Head Start.

Even if we avoid the cliff, any “grand bargain” to tame to deficit is likely to jeopardize them.

The Urban Institute projects the share of federal spending on children (outlays and tax expenditures) will drop from 15 percent last year to 12 percent in 2022.

At the same time, states and localities have been slashing preschool and after-school programs, child care, family services, recreation, and mental-health services.

It seems as if every one of usual major interests have political clout – except children. They can’t vote. They don’t make major campaign donations. They can’t hire fleets of lobbyists.

Yet they’re America’s future.

If you follow the link to Robert Reich’s commentary you can read what major interests have the clout and dominate America’s interests.

Eight years later, January 2020 and Paul Krugman is asked a question by a correspondent.

“What important issue aren’t we talking about?”

His answer: “The state of America’s children.” And Paul asks a similar same question Robert Reich did 8-years earlier,  Why Does America Hate Its Children?

“On the Democrat side, it is not entirely fair to say we are ignoring the plight of children. Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren has laid out a comprehensive and fully financed plan for universal child care. Bernie Sanders says he is for it but he has not provided details. And as far as I can tell, all the other Democratic presidential candidates support doing more for children.”

Krugman: Congress is lazy when it comes to children versus other policies. The policy toward children attracts far less media attention than the debate over “Medicare for All,” which will not become a reality anytime soon — let alone the so-called Warren-Sanders “spat.” And my guess is that even well-informed voters have little sense of the grim exceptionalism of America’s child-oriented policies, which are Dickensian compared with those of every other advanced country.”

Describing the differences between the US and other countries;

“Every advanced country mandates some form of paid leave for new mothers, typically three or four months — every country, except America, which offers no maternity leave at all.

As I pointed earlier, Maternal healthcare in other countries is far less deadly than in the US.

Krugman: Most advanced countries devote substantial sums to benefits for families with children. In Europe these benefits average between 2 and 3 percent of G.D.P.  as opposed to the United States at 0.6 percent of G.D.P.

Even where the United States does help children, the quality of that help tends to be poor. In comparing French and American school lunches: French schoolchildren are taught to eat healthy meals while American children are basically treated as a disposal site for farm surpluses.”

And Healthcare?

Krugman: “What’s especially striking is the contrast between the way we treat our children and the way we treat our senior citizens. Social Security isn’t all that generous — there’s a good case for expanding it — but it doesn’t compare too badly with other countries’ retirement systems. Medicare actually spends lavishly compared with single-payer systems elsewhere.

So America’s refusal to help children isn’t part of a broad opposition to government programs; we single out children for especially harsh treatment. Why?

The answer, I’d suggest, goes beyond the fact that children can’t vote, while seniors can and do. There has also been a poisonous interaction between racial antagonism and bad social analysis.”

In 2006 Joel Garreau identified a changing population trend going from majority non-Hispanic white to majority minority to occur by 2040.  It is already in process as less than half the population in grade school is non-Hispanic white.  All of those things which may have a positive impact on children are under attack. Medicaid, Chips, subsidized ACA, SNAPs, etc. are under  constant attack by state and federal government.

Krugman: “These days, political support for programs aiding children is surely hurt by the fact that less than half the population under 15 is non-Hispanic white. But even before immigration transformed America’s ethnic landscape, there was a widespread perception that programs like Aid to Families With Dependent Children basically helped “Those” People   .   .   .   you know, the bums on welfare, the welfare queens driving Cadillacs.

This perception undermines support for spending on children. And it creates a widespread belief of aid to poor families creating a culture of dependency, which is blamed as the culprit behind the social collapse in inner cities. In response, aid to families increasingly comes with work requirements, or it takes the form of things like the earned-income tax credit, which is linked to earnings.

The result is a decline in assistance for the poor children who needed it most.”

Rather than rebuilding blighted areas, schools in those areas , and create jobs to sustain the people there; the population capable of doing so has moved just beyond the reach of the cities, establishing economic barriers protecting them (Detroit), and moved children to chartered schools. In effect, the nation is segregating the next generation  which needs the most help.

The Atlantic’s Privileged versus Poor Navigating Elite University Life touches upon the results of being segregated and later on being exposed to a different culture in our universities. Many drop out.

Krugman: At this point, we know the cultural explanations of social collapse were all wrong. The sociologist William Julius Wilson argued long ago that social dysfunction in big cities was caused, not by culture, but by the disappearance of good jobs. And he has been vindicated by what happened to much of the American heartland, which suffered a similar disappearance of good jobs and a similar surge in social dysfunction.

We have established a basic vicious system under which children can’t get the help they need unless their parents find jobs that don’t exist. A growing body of evidence says this system is destructive as well as cruel from early childhood into college age.

Multiple studies have found safety-net programs for children have positive long-term consequences. Children who receive adequate nutrition and health care grow up to become healthier, more productive adults. And in addition to the humanitarian side of these benefits, there’s a monetary payoff: Healthier adults are less likely to need public aid and are likely to pay more in taxes.
It’s probably too much to claim that helping children pays for itself. But it surely comes a lot closer to doing so than tax cuts for the rich.

So we should be talking a lot more about helping America’s children. Why aren’t we?

At least part of the blame rests with Bernie Sanders, who made Medicare for All both a progressive purity test and a bright shiny object chased by the news media at the expense of other policies that could greatly improve American lives, and are far more likely to become law. But it’s not too late to refocus.

Whoever becomes the Democratic nominee, I hope he or she will give our nation’s shameful treatment of children the attention it deserves.