Poverty is increasing in America, with 17% of our citizens living in poverty, including 16 million of our children-our future. In several of our southern states, nearly 25% of the population lives in poverty. These states come close to Romania, considered an industrialized country, where their poverty rate is 25%. According to UNICEF, one American child in four is poor. When an educational minister from Finland, the country with the best educational system in the world, was asked what he could offer the United States as advice to enhance the educational status of the United States, his response was sobering – “nothing, there is too much poverty.”
One shining light is the slow gains we have made in health care. For the first time in 37 years there are more Americans enrolled in a health care system. College students who will be buried in college loans now have affordable health care available to them. Our most vulnerable population now can enroll in a health care system with a pre-condition such as chronic illness; health promotion, wellness and disease prevention now are gaining some traction over the costly business of the latest and best technology, new and questionably safe medication; the unnecessary growth of some medical subspecialties and hospital surgical units, emergency rooms, and hospital executive office suites.
So, what is our political response to this? Let’s randomly cut food stamps without offering a positive and sustainable alternative. The poor will work it out as the politicians go home to their comfortable homes and excellent health insurance, the best in the world in fact. And, this is their alternative; keep your food stamps, but let’s stop funding health care, even changes that have helped and will continue to help millions of our most needy.
So, what should our response be as these politicians go home to their comfortable well- kept family and homes? Our educators and physicians, especially pediatricians, need to speak up. This, however, is a challenge and I will offer my opinion why in my next blog message on our ignorant and uncaring politicians.