U.S. children are threatened, especially poor, Black, and Hispanic children. Hazards mount in tandem with child poverty, as wealth ends up in fewer and fewer hands. Capitalist rule makes children victims of class war. Â
The ChildrenÂs Defense FundÂs (CDF) report ÂThe State of AmericaÂs Children 2011Â presents data on child poverty, health and educational outcome, juvenile justice, family structure, housing, and exposure to violence. http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/state-of-americas-2011.pdf.Â
Findings are correlated with childrenÂs ethnic origins. That emphasis takes on additional meaning from the suggestion of Vicente Navarro and others that race often serves as proxy for class.Â http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/24/2/343.
Child poverty increased 28 percent between 2000 and 2009 – 10 percent between 2008 and 2009. While one in 10 white children were living in poverty that year ($22,050 for a family of four), one in three Black and Hispanic children were poor. Of 15.5 million poor children under age 18 – 20.7 percent of all children – 11.9 percent were white, 35.7 percent Black; and 33.1 percent Hispanic. For children under five, comparable figures were 14.7 percent, 41.9 percent, and 35 percent respectively. By contrast, 8.9 percent of persons over 65 were poor. Â
The CDF report relies upon statistical associations between poverty and race and harm to done to children. For example, the U.S. infant mortality rate (IMR), the number of babies dying during their first year out of 1000 births, registered 6.75 in 2007 (the last year for which finalized statistics are available).Â The IMR for white babies was 5.64; for Black infants, 13.24; for Hispanic babies, 5.71. The United Nations reports the U.S. IMR, averaged over five years, ranked higher, i.e. less favorable,Â than 45 other countries.
The U.S. percentage of low birthweight babies has recently doubled. Mothers of Black and Hispanic babies are more than twice as likely as white mothers to lack basic prenatal care. Because of discrimination and bureaucratic hurdles, eligible Black and Hispanic children go without health insurance at rates almost three times those of white children.
Children suffer from loss of their mothers. Amnesty International recently reported that the United States ranks 41st in maternal mortality, a measure of women dying during pregnancy or shortly thereafter. Between 1987 and 2006, the U.S. rate doubled, from 6.6 to 13.3 deaths per 100,000 births. AI blames discrimination, poverty, and deficiencies in medical care. The risk of African-American women dying during childbirth is four times that of white women.
Only 60 percent of Black and Hispanic students graduate from high school; 81 percent of white students do. Almost 80 percent of minority students function well below grade level in reading and math. Homeless preschool children are up 43 percent over two years. Black, Hispanic, and American Indian youth make up two thirds of those entering the juvenile justice system.
In 2009, 80 percent of U.S. families controlled only 12.8 percent of all private wealth, down from 18.7 percent in 1983. By contrast, a mere one percent of households owned 35.6 percent of private wealth, the result in part of a 281 percent income hike between 1979 and 2007. Down the ladder, 19 percent of families controlled 51.6 percent of non-institutional net worth. http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/cwed/wp/wealth_in_the_us.pdf In 2007, white families claimed $143,000 in median net worth; Black households $9300; and Hispanic families $9100.
The wealthy run the show. Citing admittedly non-exact data, The Center for Responsive Politics reports in 2009 that 79 of 100 senators and 229 of 435 representatives were millionaires. President Obama was worth $4.96 million, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, $31.24 million. The average senatorÂs 2008 net worth was $13.99 million, that of House members, $4.67 million. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/25/your-senator-is-probably-a-millionaire/
What, one asks, is the U.S. government doing about a humanitarian crisis? In 2009, U.S. births totaled 4.1 million, with 26,531 infant deaths. If families then could have benefited from CubaÂs IMR Â 5.0 that year, 4.5 currently Â20,100 babies would have died and 6431 babies would have lived. In 2009, 609,552 African American babies were born, of whom 8,356 died. Had Cuban standards for infant survival prevailed, 3,045 would have died and 5331 would have lived. ThatÂs an annual loss matching multiple Twin Tower disasters.Â The totality of grief and hardship afflicting U.S. children extends, of course, beyond these dramatic numbers.
U.S. rulers look to the future, but not to a future for children, which depends entirely on thriving in the here and now. They would fight wars without end, free grandchildren of government debt, educate to compete, keep seniors from freeloading, and they speak of jobs. They quashed the idea of universal health care. Too bad: some of the babies and mothers would have survived. Instead, millionaires and their hangers-on shore up the military industrial complex and subject working people to fear and divisions.
With children under siege and many of them dying preventable deaths, the time for action and organization is now. Marxists, experienced in the history of class conflict, are surely fit to educate and lead in this struggle and many others.Â Socialists, including self-proclaimed Marxists, need no longer to wait around to be admitted into establishment circles, or for stages of struggle to evolve. They should break off from capitalist power brokers and an ideology of greed. Victims cry out.
A leading option for socialists is independent political action, initially education and agitation. Struggle for the children is one of many inviting scenarios. The fate of children teaches about the realities of class antagonism. Fighting for their survival becomes a crash course on combativeness. Inquiry into and advocacy for programs serving childrenÂs needs prepares socialists for the time of assuming responsibilities.