“One thing I’m going to do,” the gentleman said to a large audience, “is to raise the level of public debate on how best to help our children. I’m going to talk and talk and talk until our country is working together to reach our children.”
That was George Bush speaking, while campaigning for the Presidency on October 5, 1988 at Littleton, Colorado. Over four years later, those words continue to mock anyone naïve enough to have believed him. Coming off Reagan’s two terms when children’s programs had to be saved again and again by the Congress from the White House depressor, including a demand in 1981 to cut the successful infant nutrition program, Bush has not seen any new lights in this decade of darkness for America’s little ones.
As President, Bush can’t find any interest in spearheading a genuine jobs program that would contain or remove the deadly peeling lead-based paint on decrepit tenement walls which year after year poisons millions of poor children. Better the money should go to boondoggle B-2 bombers at $850 million a plane.
Many schools have serious asbestos problems to which school children are exposed. George Bush doesn’t seem to want you to read his lips on that one either.
The President, who Jim Hightower has quipped was “born on third base and thinks he hit a triple,” has given a curled lip to Congressional support for a law that would give parents two months of unpaid parental leave after the birth of a child. Unpaid leave!
Now comes a poignant little booklet of 96 pages titled “Leave No Child Behind: An Opinion Maker’s Guide to Children in Election Year 1992” by the Children’s Defense Fund to remind Mr. Bush and other Presidential candidates that America is anything but number one when it comes to caring for its children.
Children of course have no voice, no votes, no campaign contributors; they only have their sad eyes when they are hungry, battered, abandoned, sick, injured or frightened. The booklet is full of comparisons with foreign countries and domestic details that show how much neglect children have been given in our country.
Some examples: Seventy nations worldwide provide medical care and financial assistance to all pregnant women. The United States does not.
Seventeen industrialized nations have paid maternity/parenting leave programs. The United States does not.
Sixty Three nations worldwide provide a family allowance to workers and their children. Not our country.
Sixty One nations ensure or provide basic medical care to all workers and their dependents. Not the USA.
Some might say we simply can’t afford it. “Leave No Child Behind” answers that question in powerful ways. Absent prenatal care costs the taxpayers far more over the life of the ailing infant. Head Start properly funded leads to less special education, crime, welfare and other costs later.
What about the enormous dollar waste on corporate welfare programs (giveaways, subsidies, bailouts, inflated government contracts) and what about the $80 billion in less annual taxes that the superrich (over $225,000 annual income) used to pay in 1979 before Reagan gave them such relief.
Watch for George Bush start to “talk and talk and talk” about children on the coming campaign trails. Watch whether the press, citizen groups, or the parents with babies in their arms ask him any tough questions about his last four years when much suffering by children could have started to diminish.
(Interested readers may obtain a copy of “Leave No Child Behind” by writing to the Children’s Defense Fund, 122 C Street, NW, Washington DC 20001.)