National Commentary

Save the Embryo, Starve the Infant?

The enormous, fabulously extreme, over-the-top disconnect between most Republicans, right-wingers and their Wall Street sponsors and matters of public health and the plight of the poor is swelling to almost cartoonish proportions.

The leading remaining Republican presidential candidates are either calling for ending contraception and homosexuality while ordering women back to their proper subordinate role to men in the home, or declaring problems associated with poverty a matter of marginal concern.

Also, the moves by lower-tier Republican officials, like those in the Virginia State Legislature, are drawing national attention for passing so-called “personhood” bills that would effectively outlaw contraception and mandate ultra-sounds prior to any abortion. Appallingly, one GOP legislator declared dismissively, “In the vast majority of these (abortion) cases, these are matters of lifestyle convenience.”

But given what GOP budgetary and monetary policies have done in the past dozen years to escalate not only a widening income gap between the rich and the middle class, but to subject millions of Americans, including young children, to downright poverty, you’d think that those allegedly advocating for society’s most vulnerable would wake up.

The same people fighting to allegedly protect embryos in the womb are, by their party’s policies, starving and ruining the chances of millions of living infant and very young girls and boys.

Yes, the disconnect is so bad that these self-righteous, hypocritical Philistines can’t see what is most obviously happening to our society by their cruel hands.
The statistics are stunning, as compiled recently by Time magazine’s Fareed Zakaria, citing data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), composed of the planet’s most developed nations.

On his weekly CNN show, the “Global Public Square,” Zakaria challenged Mitt Romney’s presumption that the poor are only five percent of Americans whose needs are adequately cared for by existing social safety nets.

According to OECD-compiled data, in fact, a whopping 17.3 percent of Americans are poor, a rate higher than all but three (Mexico, Chile and Israel) of the OECD’s 34 member nations. By contrast, the poverty rate in France is 7.2 percent, in Germany 8.9 percent, in the United Kingdom 11 percent and among the OEDC nations overall, 11 percent.

In the matter of child poverty, it is even worse for Americans. More than a fifth (20.6 percent) of all children in the U.S. live in poverty, according to the OECD, much higher than the rates in France (7.6 percent), the U.K. (10.1 percent), Australia (11.8 percent) and Japan (13.7 percent).

Studies have documented how children raised in poverty have higher levels of school dropouts, unemployment, drug use, children born out of wedlock and illness (all factors which, by the way, wind up costing society enormous sums).

A recent study of eighth graders in the U.S. showed that particularly bright children from poor backgrounds have less of a likelihood of finishing college than an average student from better-heeled homes.

Then comes the data about the infant mortality rate (children who die before their first birthday).

The U.S. has a current rate of 6.06 deaths per 1,000 live births, more than double the rate for Japan (2.78) and much higher than for France (3.27), Germany (3.54), Australia (4.61) and the U.K. (4.62).

The lack of prenatal care to the high level of poor women and the general lack of facilities and opportunities for the very poor are cited by the experts as the primary reasons for the high U.S. infant mortality rate.

Moreover, poverty begets poverty. A survey of sons of fathers in the bottom fifth of the population for earnings shows that in the U.S., 42 percent of them remain in the bottom fifth group, compared to 30 percent in the U.K., 28 percent in Finland and Norway and 25 percent in Denmark. In the supposedly upwardly mobile U.S. population, the poorest remain mired in poverty far more than citizens of other advanced economies.

Finally, child poverty has been on a steady rise in the U.S. since President G.W. Bush came to power in 2000, while it dipped sharply over the same time period in the U.K. due to a concerted push by Tony Blair’s Labor Party to end childhood poverty there.