No doubt about it, while everyone is feeling the pinch, children are the biggest losers in the long-running saga of economic debates, dysfunctions and debacles. In his column “The Decade of Lost Children” New York Times Writer Charles M. Blow summaries a recent report from the Children’s Defense Fund on the economic condition of children in this country. Blow cites this data from the CDF report:
– “The number of children living in poverty has increased by four million since 2000, and the number of children who fell into poverty between 2008 and 2009 was the largest single-year increase ever recorded.
– “The number of homeless children in public schools increased 41 percent between the 2006-7 and 2008-9 school years.
– “In 2009, an average of 15.6 million children received food stamps monthly, a 65 percent increase over 10 years.
– “A majority of children in all racial groups and 79 percent or more of black and Hispanic children in public schools cannot read or do math at grade level in the fourth, eighth or 12th grades.
– “The annual cost of center-based child care for a 4-year-old is more than the annual in-state tuition at a public four-year college in 33 states and the District of Columbia.”
Alarmed? Read the full report “The State of America’s Children 2011”. You may find it hard to sleep.
The Children’s Defense Fund report comes on the heels of a new report from the Pew Research Center that found that the white-black wealth gap has widened since the recession. White households have wealth that is 20 times that of Black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households. You can read that full report here.
Meanwhile, this nation’s moral, economic and political capital has been squandered in shameful displays of bigotry, self-interest and mindless partisan politics at the expense of true governance. The triumph of fringe elements in Congress means that more children will live in poverty, fewer families will be able to move back to self-sufficiency, and the roots of social distress will run deeper into those wellsprings of anger and bitterness that will ultimately erupt in devastating ways. And, meanwhile, corporate titans continue to take home out-sized compensation packages — but God forbid they should pay more tax on all that wealth in order to help educate children, care for the sick or alleviate poverty.
Our nation’s moral compass is gyrating out of control. Some of the very people who put on the biggest displays of piety and religious fervor work actively against ensuring the most basic elements of human rights and dignity. I agree we should be pro-life, but that commitment should and must extend to every single aspect of human life. Social justice is a central pillar of Catholic teaching, and the tenets of social justice extend from the protection of life through to the care for our neighbors, option for the poor, the rights of workers and solidarity with those in need. Sadly, at a time when this nation needs clarion calls to justice, the voices of the faithful are muted.
As we look toward starting a new academic year at Trinity, I will be returning to the reports cited in this blog and the urgent issues of poverty and the condition of children in this nation. Our faith commitment calls us to work for justice. Our educational commitment calls us to use the best resources we have available — great teachers, wise scholars, eager students — to bring our intellectual and social capital to bear on learning more about and finding solutions to the grave problems of this nation, especially those that leave our future generations even more impoverished.
Let’s start by challenging all members of the Trinity community to read the reports cited above — click on the links below to obtain your own copies: