Poverty affects American children

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By Dominique Smith / Staff Writer

By Dominique Smith / Staff Writer

There is an epidemic plaguing the United States, and it’s called poverty. Its No. 1 casualty?

Children, and it’s hitting close to home. An estimated 16.4 million children are starving while funding across the nation is rapidly decreasing.

In Riverside County, stiff budget cuts are contradicting the phrase, “no child left behind.”

At a record number, child development, child welfare, and early start education programs are going to be cut, and those are not the only ones.

Why is it so easy for the politicians on Capitol Hill to gamble the future of millions of children?

To take a closer look at this, we would have to look at our nation’s military budget, which is continuing to grow at a rapid pace in combination with our spending overseas.

The real war on poverty has been placed on the back burner for the time being by Republicans who think President Obama’s proposed budget will turn the United States into a “Class Welfare.”

While Democrats and Republicans continue their dog fights in the House of Representatives, the clock is ticking amongst millions of children who don’t have a place to sleep tonight.

What’s most alarming about this, however, is the numbers that follow suit.

The State of California alone generates enough revenue to have it listed as the eighth largest economy in the world. However, this statistic must have been calculated from the hills of Hollywood because if you live in the Inland Empire, the sight of the desecration and impact poverty has on all of us is much too obvious.

The unemployment rate within the state has staggered to an alarming 12.1 percent since August.  It is also estimated that to live in a two-bedroom household in this area, one will need an income of roughly $24 an hour.

With most people working minimum wage at $8 to $10 per hour, how can we expect children, unable to work under the circumstance of age, to carry this burden?

What is even worse is that the majority of impoverished children come from families with both parents working.

The Republicans seem to be the ones making “class welfare” by keeping all of us poor. We should be more concerned by child poverty.

With the cutting of programs, such as K-12 education, community colleges, Cal States and UC budget cuts, it will be increasingly harder for children and adults from the ages of 18 through 25 to continue furthering their education.

Many students who receive financial aid have found that federal work study has been cut from the package. Other K-12 school programs like day-care and head start are being cut. This will generate more latch key children, higher drop out rates, increased gang activity and imprisonment.

We’re not just taking a step backwards. Congress might as well hand us the shovels to dig our own graves because we won’t even be able to afford that by the time the fiscal year starts in June 2012.

It should not be a question of sparing education. It should be mandatory, just like spending $573 billion from now until 2028 is “mandatory” for our military.

I’m all for safety and implementing defense, but our military workers should receive the same fate as the public service workers such as men and women on the police force and other public safety workers who will be receiving pay cuts.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

Republicans find it easy to cut these programs because they think they do more harm than good. An estimated 17,000 children will be cut from these programs should those cuts be allowed to pass through Congress.

Since 1997, 400,000 parents have graduated from the welfare to work program.

Seventy years of progress will be ripped apart and construed in such a way that it’s impossible to envision the future President Obama mapped out for us four years ago when he instilled the hope for change in all the minds of American citizens.

As Malcolm X said in his autobiography, “I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.”

There are programs such as the Children’s Defense Fund and other non-profit organizations that are leading the fight against child poverty, but with such oppressive tactics being used from the lawmakers in this country, will the work they do be enough to help in the long run?

We are a new generation of people, one of which not exclusively categorized by gender or nationality, but by the gap that grows, and will continue to do so, between the rich and the poor.

Unless something immediately changes on a federal level to help in the war against poverty, the effects will be felt all the way to our children’s children.

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