Children in poverty

Nov. 4, 2004
I can still recall conversations between my mother and father that took place when I was just a child.
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We lived in a small, close-knit town, and there was always a lot of gossip, especially when one of the local women announced that she was expecting a baby. A neighbor's impending blessed event would almost always get my parents talking about whether or not the expectant parents could afford another child.

Times were tough, and everyone understood that an additional-child put demands on household income. The prevailing attitude was that parents who had a decent sense of responsibility were supposed to weigh financial demands before enlarging their families.

What a quaint concept that has become. In modern times, the expectation that a couple not reproduce beyond their economic resources is viewed as a grievous abridgement of personal liberty. Ironically, the lower a couple is on the economic ladder, the more vocal the demands that nobody interfere with their right to reproduce.

This may not mean much if you are lucky enough to live in an area of the country not burdened by an enormous underclass. So you may be unaware of what is happening in the deteriorating large urban areas, and how it is altering the economic and political landscape.

What makes this topic particularly pertinent is a recent report from the Census Bureau announcing that last year there were 1.3 million more people in poverty than there were in 2002. There also were 800,000 more children in poverty, which means children accounted for 61% of the increase. Not to be ignored is that today's impoverished children become tomorrow's impoverished adults who, in turn, continue to produce even more impoverished children, ad infinitum.

I happen to have a front-row seat to much of this because I live in a suburb of the city with the nation's greatest percentage of impoverished citizens, according to Census Bureau figures. We have the distinction of outranking even Newark and Detroit in this regard, so we know what we are talking about when it comes to poverty.

We could just wring our hands over the matter, but the situation is having implications with regard to our economy and allocation of tax revenue. And in case you didn't notice, it has had political implications on the national level as well. Activists have been hard at work getting as many impoverished people as possible to the polls on Election Day. And they vote for politicians who promise more social programs paid for by taxes that penalize ambition, personal initiative, and the average citizen's desire to save for the future.

When you look at what is happening in the United States, you can see what historians mean when they say Rome wasn't destroyed by barbarians storming the gates. It was destroyed by barbarians who walked through the gates peacefully to enjoy the benefits of Rome. Satisfying the political wish lists of the underclass and their activists brings costs that have to be borne by business, industry, and gainfully employed taxpayers. This invariably weakens the entire U.S. economy and lowers the standard of living for all of us.

I sometimes ride mass transit through the most impoverished areas of our city, and almost always the young women who board the buses and trains are either pregnant, carrying babies, or have toddlers in tow. (Sometimes all three.) In most cases, these mothers and children represent third and even fourth-generation welfare households. So if society wonders why we have so many children living in poverty, it isn't because of penny-pinching conservatives. It is because my parents aren't around to tell the mothers they aren't supposed to have babies unless they can afford them.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor
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