...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Monday, October 04, 2004
      ( 8:41 AM )
America The Beautiful

Nobody in this election is going to talk about the issues that really matter for this country - for our future as a community, a functioning democracy and a society that values human life. Of course not - that's not where the money is. And so far, campaigns and elections are all about where the money is. But I sense that there is a movement afoot - even when Democrats are in the white house again, this movement will need to grow. It's the progressives of this country starting at the grassroots and changing their communities from the bottom up. Our nation won't survive unless we start fixing it for REAL and stop putting on the bandaids that have held us together so far. The first step in making us truly beautiful again is to educate ourselves. So let's start with some reality checks.

Poverty line = $15,670/year for a family of three or $18,850/year for a family of four in 2004. The reality is that this figure hasn't changed in decades - so for instance, a more realistic figure of what a family of four needs just to get by and have adequate housing here in Portland, Oregon is closer $28,000.

- Every 44 seconds a baby is born into poverty.
- In 2002, 12.1 million children (16.7%) of all children under age 18, were poor - a larger percentage than any other age group.
- 4.1 million children experiencing poverty lived in families with at least one full-time, working adult.
- 6% of children live in extreme poverty with household incomes below 50% of the poverty level ($9425 for a family of 4 in 2004).

- Every fourth person standing in a soup kitchen line is a child.
- Children are twice as likely as adults to live in households where someone experiences hunger.
- More than 40% of low-income children live in households that are hungry or at risk of hunger.
- Out of 23 industrialized countries, the U.S. was the only country with children under 5 suffering from underweight, wasting, and stunting in 2000.
- Hungry children suffer two to four times as many health problems as those who are not and are more likely to be ill or absent from school.
- Hungry children are less likely to interact with other people or explore or learn from their surroundings. Hunger interferes with their ability to learn from an early age.
- Chronic hunger causes anxiety, low self-esteem and hostility in children.

- More than half of all Food Stamp recipients are children.
- Low-income children depend on the School Lunch Program for one-third to one-half of their daily nutrition.
- 40% of all clients using food banks or pantries are children.

- 40% of homeless people in the U.S. are children. About 1.35 million children, most pre-school and elementary age, will experience homelessness over the course of a year.
- Children without a home are in fair or poor health twice as often as other children, and have higher rates of asthma, ear infections, stomach problems, and speech problems.

- More than 9 million children in the U.S. do not have health insurance.
- In 2002, Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) provided health insurance coverage for 47.6% of all low-income children (children living in families with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line).
- 1 in 5 children have an untreated dental cavity. Children in low-income families are more than twice as likely to have untreated dental cavities and 20% more likely not to have had a dental visit in the past year.
- Poor children are twice as likely as non-poor children to suffer stunted growth or lead poisoning or be kept back in school.

The high school I'm working in right now has started the year with 61% of its students on free or reduced lunch. This is up from 28% in 1998. Up from 54% last year. These meals are often the only full meals these kids get in a day. The fact that they're not even nutritious is another issue altogether.

The only way for this country to survive is for us to realize that corporations now have more rights than people in this country, and that children, on whom this country's future rests, are the least cared for in any industrialized country. There must be the moral and political will to change these things. This election isn't the end of the work, it's not even the beginning - it's merely the first tool we must use to keep people awake and invested in change.

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