Statistics, dry as they can be, can point to some hard truths when we really pay attention. Last week I wrote about the new Census numbers on child poverty, which indicate that about 1 in 5 Nebraska kids is poor. That translates to 82,000 children, or the entire populations of Bellevue, Papillion and La Vista combined.
Only the most callous among us are unconcerned with whether children’s basic needs are served: housing and food and health care and a way to get to school. A brilliant column by Sen. Bernie Sanders, appearing on the Spotlight for Poverty and Opportunity web site today, paints the nation’s poverty problem as not one of discomfort but of life or death.
He writes of the ongoing political quagmire in Washingon, in which our social safety net is endangered by disagreements over how to handle the deficit problem. Many wish to solve the deficit on the backs of the poor.
Despite an increase in poverty, some of these people would like to cut or end Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, home heating assistance, nutrition programs, and help for the disabled and the homeless.
To the degree that they are successful, there is no question in my mind that many more thousands of men, women, and children will die unnecessarily.
Sanders’ claim – that thousands will die of poverty – surely is dramatic. But even if his projection is partially true, we as a nation have much to answer for by ignoring solutions that are awaiting implementation.
And we as Nebraskans must ask ourselves about those 82,000 impoverished kids in our own state. Are we the kind of state that just lets this happen? Are we the kind of people who stand by, watching our own kids fall through the cracks?