Kids Don’t Vote
At the tender age of three, I was placed in a foster home after being abruptly taken away from my biological family. I spent almost a decade as a ward of the State of Illinois. I would never wish this traumatic experience on any child. Luckily, I was adopted by a loving family and reconciled with my biological family years later. Reflecting upon those years in foster care, I had little power over important life decisions. I was at the mercy of adults. Too bad many adults could care less about the children.
I’m not a father, but I’m an uncle, a husband, a brother, and a son. I often think about how powerless I felt as a child. Millions of kids are left vulnerable due to the simple fact that babies, kids, and any teenager under eighteen years of age can’t vote. Thus the powers that be and many adults who speak about protecting kids often do very little to support actual children. With every election cycle and Supreme Court Justice nominee, the never-ending Roe V. Wade debate continues. Sadly, I wished some adults in charge of our nation hated childhood poverty as much as they hated the idea of a woman choosing to get a safe and legal abortion. It seems that our society cares more about potential babies than actual babies. The United States of America has some of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the ‘so-called’ developing nations. Conservatives and folks at the National Review will try to counter this fact, or even blame it on illegal immigration. The truth is, we as a nation have failed our youngest and most defenseless members of society.
Cry of the Children
The leaders of this nation and its citizens need to address the fact that one and seven children are born into poverty in the U.S. It’s a stain on a country that touts itself as the wealthiest nation on Earth. Here are some facts:
- The federal “poverty line” in 2014 for a family of 4 (2 adults + 2 kids under age 17) is about $24,000. But social welfare researchers say it would take an income of about twice that amount to achieve basic financial security. — U.S. Census Bureau
- 1 kid in 5 lives in poverty compared to 1 in 8 adults. That’s 15.5 million impoverished kids in the U.S. — U.S. Census Bureau
- Almost 40% of American kids spend at least 1 year in poverty before they turn 18. — Urban Institute
- Between 2012 and 2014, federal spending fell for kids’ education, nutrition, social services and early education and care. The government spends just 10% of the national budget on kids — a fraction of what other developed countries spend. — Urban Institute
- Poor kids are more likely to experience hunger. And food insecurity has a lifelong effect: lower reading and math scores, more physical and mental health problems, more emotional and behavioral problems and a greater chance of obesity. — Feeding America
Breaking the Cycle
I spent several years working at Chicago Public Schools and educational nonprofits in Chicago. I got to know many young people from low-income and troubled backgrounds. The raw potential that these intelligent and innovative kids and young people possessed was immeasurable. No child asked to be born into this world nor have any control over their family’s net worth. It’s easy to point the finger and make irresponsible parents the scapegoats. But it’s up to all of us to support our youngest citizens. Here are some excellent solutions as ways to end childhood poverty.
- Universal Pre-K
- Universal Child Allowance
- Raise the federal minimum wage
- Ensure SNAP and WIC are protected
- Affordable childcare for all
- Mandatory Paid Family Leave
- Healthcare for all
Critics will say these ideas are pie-in-the-sky or too unrealistic to enact due to our budget deficits and partisan divide. You mean to tell me the wealthiest country on earth can’t afford to take care of its own children? We’ll let Costa Rica, Sweden, and Germany outdo us when it comes to keeping babies out of poverty? This isn’t about handouts, it’s about investing in our nation’s future.
It’s not about the money either, the United States CAN afford it. Instead, we just chose to invest our tax dollars in war and defense spending at world conquest levels. This is a failure of the GOP and DNC (sorry, liberals).
“If we trimmed our defense budget down to the 2% of GDP that Trump demanded of the NATO countries, it would free up about $3 trillion over the next decade, as the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein noted.
What Ocasio-Cortez understands is that never-ending war, in her words, “damages America’s legitimacy as a force for good, creates new generations of potential terrorists, and erodes American prosperity.” There is a direct connection between claims that we cannot afford something like Medicare for All — despite similar systems existing across virtually all of the developed world”
So, people who claim abortion is evil and kills babies are wrong. And, they need to put their money where their mouth is to combat children born into dire poverty. Not just advocate for future babies. Because poverty is killing and harming children right now! Just because kids don’t vote doesn’t mean they don’t count. The ball is now in our court, adults. I hope we don’t let down our kids again, as we did on November 8th, 2016.