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Nicholas Kristof wrote an important article in the New York Times about our national indifference to the well being of our children. Kristof knows that nothing we do is more important than reducing the child poverty rate, which is scandalously high. We have hundreds of billionaires, but millions of children who live in extreme poverty. Instead of spending billions of dollars on standardized testing, what if we directed that money to helping children have a safe and healthy childhood and helped their families achieve a decent standard of living?
Imagine you have some neighbors in a mansion down the road who pamper one child with a credit card, the best private school and a Tesla.
The parents treat most of their other kids decently but not lavishly — and then you discover that the family consigns one child to an unheated, vermin-infested room in the basement, denying her dental care and often leaving her without food.
You’d call 911 to report child abuse. You’d say those responsible should be locked up. You’d steam about how vile adults must be to allow a child to suffer like that.
But that’s us. That household, writ large, is America and our moral stain of child poverty.
Some American children attend $70,000-a-year nursery schools, but 12 million kids live in households that lack food. The United States has long had one of the highest rates of child poverty in the advanced world — and then the coronavirus pandemic aggravated the suffering.
Now we could have a thrilling breakthrough: President Biden included a proposal in his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that one studysays would cut child poverty by half. We in the news media have focused on direct payments to individuals, but the historic element of Biden’s plan is its effort to slash child poverty.
“The American Rescue Plan is the most ambitious proposal to reduce child poverty ever proposed by an American president,” Jason Furman, a Harvard economist, told me.
A couple of decades from now, America will be pretty much the same whether direct payments end up being $1,000 or $1,400. But this will be a transformed nation if we’re able to shrink child poverty on our watch.
So the most distressing part of 10 Republican senators’ counterproposal to Biden was their decision to drop the plan to curb child poverty. Please, Mr. President, don’t budge on this.