Here, then, is a little reality for those starving for accurate information.
Let's begin with some very basic information from the U.S. Census Bureau.
In 1995, the last year that information has been correlated due to massive Congressional and Presidential budget cuts, showed some very sad facts, facts which are not one time events in these lives.
About 49 million people, or one fifth of the entire population, lived in a household whose members had difficulty meeting basic needs (sufficient food, failed to pay utility bills or had service shut off, access to medical care, and decent and safe housing).
More than one third (18.1 million) of all people living in these households are children (under 18 years old).
29% of all American children lived in a household where at least one basic need was reported as difficult to obtain as opposed to only 10% of Americans over 70 (which is still far too many elderly going without).
5% of all Americans lived in households where they did not get enough to eat.
Of the 17% of all Americans who experienced difficulties meeting their basic human needs, only 5% received any assistance whatsoever from their government. (1)
According to the report "America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being 1999", the situation for children hasn't been all that wonderful nor is it getting better in key areas of their lives.
The poverty rate of children has stayed at 19 - 21% between 1980 and 1997 (surprise, surprise! Thanks, Ronnie!) while those living in abject poverty has risen from 7 to 8% (living on less than 50% of poverty level income).
Teenagers are falling behind in having access to a usual and dependable source of medical care, with 27% of those 12 - 17 lacking a usual source of care. (2)
More information, this time from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, provides some mixed blessing for our children.
Percentage of low birth-weight babies rose from 6.8% in 1985 to 7.4% in 1996.
Infant mortality rate (deaths per 1,000 live births), however, fell from 10.6 to 7.3, thanks mainly to improvements in medical care available for preemies and infants.
Percentage of families headed by a single parent has increased from 22% in 1985 to 27% in 1996.
Percentage of children living in "high-risk" families has risen to 14%. (High risk families are those with four or more of the following characteristics - Child is not living with two parents - Household head is high school dropout - Family income is below poverty line - Child living in family in which parent(s) do not have steady, full-time employment - family is receiving welfare - or child does not have health insurance.)
Comparing California to the U.S., we see just a few of the results of so many years of conservative Republican domination and their abusive policies against children and the poor.
Births to teens (per 1,000 females aged 15-17) in California grew at a far quicker pace than the national figures. From 1985 to 1996, the national numbers grew from 31 to 34. In California, however, the rates went all the way from 31 to 39.
Nationally, the percent of children dropped slightly from 21% in 1985 to 20% in 1996. In California, the Republicans have forced more children into poverty, from 21% in 1985 all the way up to 26% in 1996.
California trailed the U.S. in percentage of 2 year olds immunized in 1997 with California's children being immunized at 76% compared to the national average of 78%.
Also, California is doing extremely inadequately in educating its children (a state that could once claim being first in nearly every category relating to the state's education system and its results), had 52% of its 4th grade students testing below basic reading levels while the nation, as a whole, saw only 39% of students testing that low. Even by the 8th grade, California continues to lag by 36% to 28%.
Even in the area of child support and alimony, California's children are being shortchanged by the state's refusal to legislate enforcement or fund the federally required computer system to follow dead beat Dads and the like (all the way cutting deeper and deeper into welfare benefits and school funding and everything else that didn't directly benefit the children only of conservatives, alone). The tragic result has been only 26% of California's children being supported by their non-custodial parent compared to 34% nationally.
Finally, California's children live in "high risk" families in greater numbers than nationally (using the definition above). With 145 of children in the U.S. forced to live such destitute lives, 17% of California's children are allowed to live in that desolate situation. (3, 4)
Finally, let's look at the most depressing and inexcusable information regarding the way this nation treats its children. This broke my heart to research and report. Nevertheless, here it is.
The fastest growing segment of the homeless population is families with children, constituting about 40% of all homeless. Children, alone make up 25% of all homeless in cities with families, single mothers, and children making up the largest segment of the homeless in rural areas.
Requests for emergency shelter for families is increasing with 30 cities reporting an average of 15% just between 1997-1998. Even with such huge increases in the need for shelter, 32% of all requests must be denied due to lack of space and funding. Tragically, 88% of cities surveyed expected the number of requests for shelter for families to increase even further next year but for federal funding to drop, once again.
Poverty and the lack of affordable housing accounts for the vast majority of homelessness, proving the Republican contention of drugs being the main cause the lie that it has always been. Naturally, Congress plans for further cuts in federal funding for housing assistance.
The total number of poor increased a full 41% between 1979 and 1990 (once again, gentle readers ... surprise, surprise!). Families with children account for more than half of that figure. Today, 40% of all Americans living in poverty are America's children. In fact, the national poverty for children, 19.9%, is nearly twice that for any other age group.
Real wages that are falling or, at best, stagnating plus the mean spirited changes in the welfare system are the primary cause of the increase in families living in poverty. With the Republican victory in destroying welfare and all of its existing programs for their corporate masters, welfare now provides assistance that is only, at the highest, one third the poverty level in all states. Considering that real worth Aid For Dependent Children and food stamps fell 47% between the liberal's War on Poverty and the Republican's War on the Poor, the current offensive level is barbarous.
The destruction of welfare, which forced women into Corporate America's clutches, is the primary reason that single mothers are another growing segment of Americans forced into poverty. Preliminary findings are already proving what any intelligent person knew before the War on the Poor was begun. First, many families forced from welfare into the bowels of Corporate America are faring very poorly due to wages that keep the workers and their families far below the poverty line as well as forcing the workers to pay for any emergency medical care due to the loss of Medicare. Naturally, the number of children falling into abject poverty due to these punishing circumstances is traced directly to the miserly and unforgivably miserly cash assistance and near slave wages paid by the reptiles in the executive suites.
With the loss of benefits that result from being forced off welfare and into low pay, no benefits jobs, families, particularly with children, are finding it impossible to afford housing, food and medical care. In fact, in 1997 alone, 675,000 people lost all access to medical care, of whom a full 400,000 were America's children. Following their diseased habit of insuring that the poor and their children are treated as inhumanely as possible, cuts in housing assistance has been so severely slashed that less than one in four applicants ever live in public housing or receive housing subsidies, forcing more and more working families into the oppressive world of the homeless. The difference between the need for affordable housing and the available number of such units has reached an astounding 4.4 million components. Even the few who can find housing fall into the class of families with "worst case housing needs", meaning that the family pays more than half of their total income for housing and utilities, are involuntarily displaced (usually evicted in order to either turn the units into condos or the building razed and expensive housing erected in its place), or live in substantially substandard housing.
Also, as the profit taking of corporations which own the majority of rental properties in cities rises dramatically year after year, fewer and fewer units are affordable to even low-income families, let alone those truly living in poverty. The waiting lists for public housing has increased 50%, from 22 to 33 months, for public housing. The average waiting list for Section 8 assistance has risen, as well, from 26 to 28 moths. This means, simply put, that from the time a family falls into homelessness and the time that are even eligible for voucher assistance or public housing is a minimum of over two years up to two and a half years, leaving millions of children living in boxes in your local alleys or invisibly under the freeway overpasses you drive through on your way to work.
Most distressing is the unassailable fact that a growing number of women and their children are falling into homelessness due to a home filled with domestic violence. As most of these women are already living in poverty (those better off have substantially better alternatives) the complete loss of financial support and the sickening lack of funding for facilities to assist these dispossessed families, far too many women find themselves faced with the choice of continuing to live in a home filled with violence and sexual abuse or to take their children out into the insecurity and danger of the streets.
Gentle readers, the obscene policies of the Republican Party (and the abominable excuse for a decent human being currently defiling the White House) have resulted in a terrible toll being taken on America's most vulnerable children. When 61% of homeless children in New York City had never received any immunizations (compared to 23% of all New York 2 year olds), that 38% of homeless children suffered from asthma (a rate four times higher than all other New York City children and the highest rate for any group in America), that homeless children suffer from inner ear infections 50% more often the national average (causing horrible medical and mental and educational problems throughout their lives), then the methods of the hideous Republican Party must be reversed as quickly and as forcefully as necessary.
When an estimated half of all children in shelters are under the age of five, these poor little spirits will face endless problems with physical and mental health issues as well as falling far behind in their education due to hunger, illness, huge barriers to enrolling and attending and being transported to school and difficulty providing residency requirements, an inability to provide prior school records and a lack of funds for clothing and necessary school supplies.
When even the parents are exposed to dangers and physical and mental health problems, with one third of homeless mothers attempting suicide at least once with the overall rates of depression far outpacing the national average, this nation must realize that we are all responsible for others, or else every Christian who votes Republican must admit their sins before God in good time.
When parents must leave their children behind in foster care or other depressing circumstances in order to spare them the dangers and ravages of the street (60% of parents in New York shelters had no children with them, 43% in Maryland and 54% of all street and shelter sampled in Chicago were parents but a full 91% had been forced to leave their loved children far behind), then America must cease its nauseating passion for more and more wealth with less and less responsible behavior or financial support for the nation which provides them this obscene standard of living. (5)
Any American that votes for either that malignancy on America's decency, the Republican Party, or for any politician who has ever voted in servitude to their corporate owners is wholly responsible for every child that is forced onto the streets. Every American who whines and demands even larger tax cuts will answer to whatever God they pretend to worship and whatever punishment they may receive will never be brutal enough. Whenever any American allows even one defenseless child to live under such appalling circumstances obviously has no soul nor conscience, those values having been easily replaced by greed and spite and malevolence and conservative religious "values".
Only we, you and I, still retain any hope of turning this nation away from its vile and evil self love and back towards a nation of caring, progressive and thoughtful citizens. If any of us choose to ignore that desperate need, then I grieve for America.
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