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In the new class war, meet America’s army of child soldiers

Fri., Sept. 23, 2011, midnight

Now that “class warfare” has been declared, decried and duplicated in an impressive lockstep, maybe it’s time to take a look at one of the armies.

The big one, I mean. Not the one with all the power.

I’m not talking about the beleaguered wealthy. The folks, we’re told, who’ve been sadly relegated to the back of the bus. You wouldn’t know it given the number of politicians they own, but they’re actually a pretty small group.

No, I’m talking about poor kids. Kids living in families of four making $22,050 or less a year. Now there’s an army – and the recruits are pouring in.

I know it’s déclassé to talk about children as if there were any social obligation toward them. Sticking up for poor kids, I’m often told, is just one of the many liberal hypocrisies.

So color me a hypocrite. Because if we are indeed in a war – a real war, a life-and-death struggle with serious winners and losers – it’s not between liberals and conservatives. It’s between poor kids and rich adults.

Horrible to say so, I know. Just shameless. But in the current environment – where taxation is called extortion, where patriots hurl the word redistribution – I’m afraid we might forget who this is about. It ain’t Warren Buffett.

More than 15 million kids in America live below the poverty line – 15,749,129, to be exact. That’s according to census surveys for 2010 released Thursday. That’s an increase of some 3.5 million in the past decade.

That’s 21.6 percent of all kids. One in five. And it’s much, much higher among kids of color. Whoops – there goes another hypocrisy.

Fifteen million, seven hundred and forty-nine thousand, one hundred and twenty-nine.

Heck of an army. Not too well financed, but large in number. Nobody’s come up with a catchy little slogan to advance their cause and purchased lawmakers to repeat it ad nauseum, but maybe if they all pitched in their pop bottle money for several years, donated it to a candidate for Congress, put on tricorn hats and asked a belligerent question or two at a town hall forum, maybe they could get someone to mention it on cable news.

Fifteen million, seven hundred and forty-nine thousand, one hundred and twenty-nine.

One out of five. That seems about right, no? The poor are always with us, after all, so we might as well just accept it. I think it says that in the Bible. It’s not like those kids are living in real poverty, after all – not like some child in a Somali village or something. Lots of them have TVs, you know, if not unconstitutional health care. And some of their parents have made simply awful life choices. Hard to credit some of those decisions. Sad, really, how those children must be left to the consequences of their parents’ absolutely terrible decisions.

Fifteen million, seven hundred and forty-nine thousand, one hundred and twenty-nine.

Here in Washington, the rate of children in poverty is slightly lower, at 18 percent. That’s 284,045. In Idaho, it’s 19 percent, or 80,316 live human children.

Sorry. So hypocritical.

If only we had moved more quickly to lower taxes on the wealthy. Maybe they’d have been able to spring into action sooner and do something for these folks. Unfortunately, some people want to levy a very small tax on the very richest among us – money that might otherwise go into the creation of a job and rescue those children from poverty, once it adds up over a few years and is compounded by future tax cuts and relief from burdensome regulation, and once the millionaires get the proper assurances and deference and heinie-kissing from everyone else – and give it to the government, where it will be used to support crack habits and gambling addictions.

Terribly sad.

So, the army grows. You can look at this in other ways, as well. Nearly a third of American children live in a home where no adult has a secure, full-time, year-round job, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. That’s 31 percent. As with the poverty figures, it’s much, much worse for kids of color.

Overall, the poverty rate in the U.S. is 15 percent. Idaho’s is slightly higher (15.7) and Washington’s is lower (13 percent), and Spokane County sits at 14 percent, according to census figures and an analysis by the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

But hey – what about all that harsh rhetoric about the rich? Isn’t that just awful?

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@spokesman.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.


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