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Gary Horton: Our hearts are not with our children

Posted: February 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Most folks understand that the tax policies of the past 30 years have created a great wealth disparity in the United States.

Amazingly, today the top 1,100 individuals control a full 20 percent of all of America’s wealth, and the top 1 percent control approximately 40 percent!
Meanwhile, the bottom 25 percent of Americans own virtually nothing, while the lower 50 percent of Americans possess only 2 percent of our total assets.

That’s 180 million Americans with not much more than a rent bill, a paycheck, and the clothes on their backs.

So much for the “middle class.” That American notion is long gone. You, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clarita, may think there’s still a middle class, but if you’re sipping your coffee, reading this paper, you are actually far, far removed from the new American “average.”

Nowhere are the repercussions of this disparity of wealth more dire and pressing than on the lives of our children.

We’ve often heard it said that “Our children are the future of America,” but for a majority, our kids’ prospects look weak and their avenues upward are increasingly bleak.

Meanwhile, Congress continually berates the poor, cuts back on food aid, child health care and education — while simultaneously providing subsidies to corporate sponsors and reduced tax rates to elite Wall Streeters like Mitt Romney.

Our “For the People” government has been hijacked by the new elite, and nowadays exhibits scant regard for the day-to-day struggles of the vast majority.

I’m writing from Ithaca, N.Y., visiting my son and his wonderful young family. Chris and Trish have a young son with a daughter soon on the way.

Mom and dad are both professionals, both of whom had great opportunity and who’ve worked extremely hard to achieve their careers and success.

But for a truth, both were also launched well by caring parents with resources to help through all phases of their education. And not all kids get that, do they?

Chris’ son is enrolled in eight-hour day care three days a week. This allows the parents to pursue their careers while also providing enriched care for their son.

I visited the facility, and it was wonderful. It’s a neighborhood not-for-profit charging a sliding scale for clients, depending on ability to pay.

For Chris and Trish it’s expensive, but worth it. For those receiving a stipend, it’s a godsend.

The downside is the facility serves only 110 kids, and with just three others like it in Ithaca, that leaves plenty of working families with no affordable options for toddler day care.

Professional families like Chris and Trish will always be able to afford enriched solutions for child care. But all across America, a vast majority struggle to make work time, child care and financial ends meet.

So many struggle just to arrange any sort of supervision, let alone enrichment, while Mom or Dad are at work.

We have a gap in how America cares for its kids, and it starts from birth with a patchy health care system and continues right into toddler and preschool care.

Politicians talk about being “pro-life,” but their care about kids stops when we get to the price tag of child heath care, day care and quality education. Such politicians seem more “pro-birth” than “pro-life.”

Conversely, many European countries are very “pro-life” and provide community child day care as a community service.

Public day care is just part of the community structure, like we have elementary school.

Kids learn social skills and early education while mom or dad can work, secure in knowing everything is OK with the kids. Overall results indicate the public investment in parenting and child enrichment results in higher educational results, less crime and greater happiness.

Many decry such countries as “socialized,” but those who get upset at increased investment in our kids are brainwashed by their reactionary party’s sold-out-to-the-elite messaging.

Sane folks might think our American elite would prefer a well-educated, productive, peaceful majority rather than an increasingly desperate 60 or 70 percent. But apparently the elite have not yet come around to the advantages of an educated, productive and peaceful American populace.

Yes, providing something as basic as day care for hard-working Americans may cost $20 billion or $30 billion a year.

But as the world’s greatest incarceration nation, we’re already spending $200 billion a year putting once-disadvantaged kids, now criminal adults, behind bars.

We can adjust our tax and social priorities to help struggling families start their kids out with a fair shot while assisting working families in their quest for self-sufficiency. Publicly funded community child care is a win-win for kids and wage-earners alike.

So are our hearts with our kids, or are they chained to our rich? Are our hearts tender enough to spare a few tuppence for the kids, or do our rich need even more, and more, and more?

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.



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