Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the May 15, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper
Capitalism is dangerous to children and other living things.
In recent years the stock market has soared and the United States ranks first in the number of millionaires and billionaires. At the same time the number of children living in deep poverty is also rising.
Children are the poorest group of people in the United States. One out of every four children under the age of six now lives in poverty. The figure is one out of every two African American children. Thirty percent of all Latino youngsters live beneath the poverty line.
By 1995, some 15 million children lived in poverty inside the U.S. This number had grown by more than 2 million since 1989, according to the Children's Defense Fund. The CDF has just published an excellent book entitled "The State of America's Children; Yearbook 1997."
Contrary to the stereotypes commonly used to demonize poor people, two out of every three families with poor children had at least one full-time worker during the year. In 1995, the average family in poverty got more than twice as much income from work as from welfare.
As a result of conscious policy and legislative decisions by President Bill Clinton and the Republican leaders in the Congress, the number of children in poverty is about to increase.
According to a study commissioned by Clinton's own Health and Human Services (HHS), the welfare legislation adopted in 1996 will plunge another 1.1 million children into poverty. Eight million families, mostly the working poor, will lose an average of $1,300 per year largely as a result of food stamp cuts. Other provisions of the 1996 welfare law will cut off monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for about 250,000 families with disabled children.
Millions of children face a staggering health care crisis in the United States. What is the nature of their crisis? They are not entitled to go to a doctor if they don't have enough money to pay exorbitant doctor and hospital bills. As a result, 10 million children have no health care.
Since 1989, according to the CDF, the number of children lacking private health-care coverage has risen by an average of 1.2 million per year--almost 3,300 more children a day-- because more workers are in jobs that provide no health insurance benefits or that require the workers to pay unaffordable amounts for family coverage.
In 1848 Karl Marx explained in the "Communist Manifesto" one of the fundamental features of capitalism: that society's wealth becomes more sharply polarized even when the economy is growing. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
In the modern economy, as corporate CEO's downsize the work force and cut health-care benefits, this law of capitalism has a specially venomous twist for children.
Since 1969, the childhood poverty rate has risen from 14 percent to 21 percent, even though the gross domestic output doubled in these 18 years.
Although the growing impoverishment of children means that at least 10 million are without health coverage, it is precisely these children who are most in need of medical care. Poor children are twice as likely to have stunted growth, iron deficiency and severe asthma. Health officials in Maine and Kansas report that low-income children are three times more likely to die in childhood.
Why are so many children poor? One obvious reason is government policy. Under both the Democrats and Republicans, the government policy has been to slash and destroy what has been labeled the welfare state by right-wing propagandists. Since the costs for welfare, AFDC and food stamps account for less than 2 cents of every tax dollar spent, the notion that a huge welfare state exists is a conservative fantasy.
There does exist a very real warfare state that has sucked up close to $4 trillion in weapons production over the last 20 years. This warfare state exists in peace time as well as wartime. While 100,000 children are homeless, tens of billions of dollars are poured each year into the coffers of Lockheed, Boeing, Grumman, General Electric and other producers of weapons of mass destruction. Under capitalism it is profitable to make B2 bombers and less profitable to house poor children.
The other reason that children are getting poorer is that their parents are getting poorer. The latest statistics again validate Marx's assertion. Between 1979 and 1995, the income of the wealthiest 5 percent of the population increased by a whopping 43 percent. During the same period the poorest 20 percent of households experienced a drop in real income from $8,473 in 1979 to $8,350 in 1995, when adjusted for inflation.
Even more telling is that the hourly wage rates for young workers in their childbearing years--20 to 29 years old--are 20 percent less than what their parents were earning in 1973.
Why is Marx so hated by the ruling class? Because he not only predicted that the rich would get richer. The "Communist Manifesto" also insists that those made poorer, in spite of the odds, will awaken to political life and struggle to vanquish the system that visits so much unnecessary pain and suffering on millions while it allows a tiny fraction of corporate barons and bankers to live in opulence.
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