Nov 022014
 
 November 2, 2014  Posted by at 9:34 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , ,


John Vachon Boy on porch of general store, Roseland, Virginia April 1938

I often find myself wondering what people, people in the street, western people in general, my readers perhaps, think when they see something like the recent Unicef report, Children of Recession: the Impact of the Economic Crisis on Child Wellbeing in Rich Countries, which states that child poverty in developed nations has risen significantly.

How many of you who live in Europe still see the EU as something good and beneficial when you see that not only does Greece today has 25% unemployment and 55% youth unemployment, and its child poverty rate also went up from 23% to 40.5% since 2008? Or do you put the blame not with the EU, but elsewhere?

It’s not just those numbers, I wonder to what extent you Europeans think the numbers are about yourselves, to what extent you feel responsible, what they do about it. Same for Americans, who live in a country where 1 in 3 children grow up in poverty. How much of that do you think has to do with you? What would you say you can or cannot do to make those numbers better, and what do you actually try to do?

Do you even think less child poverty is better for society, and for yourself, or that less unemployment is a good thing, or do you see that as perhaps for instance the proper way to generate growth in an economy, Darwin-style? Lots of people seem to think that way, so at least you wouldn’t have to feel alone.

Obviously, the UnIcef report should be linked to recent reports that state the number of billionaires in the world has doubled in the same time slot, the past 5-6 years. One can’t very well argue that these things have nothing to do with each other. What the two combined say is that our societies are changing in very fundamental ways.

And at some point you need to ask yourself what you think about that. And if you find this a negative development, what you can do to correct it, as well as what you are in practice doing, today. If there’s too large a discrepancy somewhere in that picture the next question is obvious: why don’t you do more?

Are you comfortable getting up in the morning, go to your job, come home and watch TV, go to sleep and rinse and repeat? Are you not doing something, or not doing more, because you’re afraid if you do your own private daily rinse and repeat routine will be disturbed?

It’s an interesting issue, to which extent we share responsibility for those around us, and for the societies we share with them. We need to realize that if and when we allow large, and growing, numbers of people around us to be desperate, the societies we cherish will of necessity change. When we allow more children to grow up in poverty, our societies will change for many years to come.

There’s no inbuilt mechanism that will revert them to a situation that we would prefer; we have to put in energy to make them what we would like them to be. Our rinse and repeat lifestyles put zero energy into improving, even maintaining, and so they deteriorate. Like anything else in the world.

And there’s always that same question: why do we allow for it to happen? Are our little private cocoon lives really so important to us that we willingly allow the world outside of them to go to hell in a handbasket? Do we just not care? Or do we maybe trust a bunch of people we vote for every so many years to solve all related problems for us, so we can watch TV?

In most western countries youth unemployment is over 25%, in some it’s much higher. For those young people that do find work, wages and benefits are much lower than for their parents’ generation. Still, these young people have to compete with their parents for the amenities of life, like housing, pensions etc., and they haven’t got a chance. Unless they literally fight. is that what you want?

The EU was supposed to be a union, all for one and one for all. But it hasn’t worked out that way. The richer countries have the edge over the poorer, and within nations the richer boomers squeeze the younger generation, their very own children. While all politicians, in every country and from every faith and creed, promise a return to growth waiting just around the corner that will solve all problems.

Not one even dare suggest that growth may not return, and that even if it does, it’s immoral to sacrifice millions of children’s lives while we wait for it. That in other words, a redivision of our wealth may be needed that enables the young to find a meaningful goal in life, even if the older generations would need to give up part of their lifestyles to achieve that.

The choice we are all making right now is to make our own riches more important than the poverty that is increasingly rampant among our children. It’s hardly a political choice, because our political systems don’t offer a way out. They offer different approaches to achieving – more- riches, but none to anything other than that. A true political choice would venture beyond that narrow frame.

If you vote, you vote for more growth, even if that’s an entirely obsolete thing to do. You do it anyway because it soothes your worries, and it allows you to think you can hold on to what you got. While most people in the west could be just as happy – or unhappy – with a bit less than what they have and spend so much time trying to keep. And while you try to keep holding on to it, it slips through your fingers.

And you tell yourself that child poverty is not really your fault. It happened while you were busy doing other things. Maybe it’s time to change your priorities. Like first make sure the society you live in is alright, that the people around you live good lives, and only after that put energy into increasing your own comfort level even more.

We are the richest people who ever lived, and who ever will. We are tens of millions of medieval kings and queens. What is it that is going so horribly wrong that we need to let our children live without purpose, even without food and shelter? I think it must be a short circuit in our brains.

Most of us could easily give up half our incomes and wealth and be at least just as happy, we could save the planet and do much more that would benefit those around us. But instead we choose to destroy it all, just for some imaginary wealth we don’t even need. And blame it all on someone else. It’s not our kids who are the lost generations, we are. We’re very busy losing everything.

Home Forums How Do You Feel About Child Poverty?

This topic contains 14 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  lessof 4 years, 11 months ago.

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  • #16304

    John Vachon Boy on porch of general store, Roseland, Virginia April 1938 I often find myself wondering what people, people in the street, western peop
    [See the full post at: How Do You Feel About Child Poverty?]

    #16305

    rapier
    Participant

    I was set to do a post on today’s debt rattle about this. Not child poverty so much but poverty and lives of want overall. My point was this is a desired feature of Anglo American conservatism. The hallmark of all conservatism is the support of aristocracy. A necessary corollary of an aristocracy dominating a nation is that it presupposes a lower class which is subservient to the aristocrats. It is thought that the poor, the less worthy will be subservient, not make waves, know their place in order to keep what little they have. In other words they will act conservatively and this is the proper social order.

    Here is a link to a brilliant essay on this
    https://examinedlife.typepad.com/johnbelle/2003/11/dead_right.html

    In the US the aristocrats have always been the monied and financial elites. The lower classes were non white. Blacks of course but then various immigrant groups. In the US southern Europeans were not considered white until probably after WWII.

    My point in the context of what people think of Spanish, Italians or Greek children is that they are less worthy and deserving of their status. The list of undeserving world wide and here in the US is rapidly growing again, overtly. Now Russians are included. I’m not claiming Americans are any worse than any other people in this regard but simply that they are no better even if they lie to themselves and say they are. Usually under some sort of rational based upon freedom. Freedom for Syrians and Ukrainians now, Iraqis not so long ago.

    No appeal to thoughts of children in foreign lands will register with the empire. In the defense of the American empire until very recently the amount of absolute desperate poverty world wide had been shrinking. Now, with deflation taking hold old justifications for poverty of the masses are being resurrected.

    #16307

    V. Arnold
    Participant

    A very timely piece.
    My guess would be that poverty is an abstraction for most of the posters here.
    Poverty is a prison with no visible walls. It’s self perpetuating. A very hard cycle to break.
    The poor make bad decisions. When given choices the poor tend towards the immediate rather than the long term. Being shunned by society at large they “know” their place and don’t consider alternatives.
    If education is available it is generally substandard and likely won’t be contiued beyond the legal requirements. In S.E. Asia that would be the age of 15. Even the “legal” minimum wage is out of reach due to a lack of skills.
    Even when the government has programs designed to help the poor, they are ignorant of those policies and fail to get help. The poor lack phones and computors and governments are lacking when it comes to outreach.
    In Thailand there are programs for the poor and healthcare is available to everybody, regardless of income. This is true of education as well, but going on to university is very difficult if even possible for the truly poor. Women of course, are the majority affected by poverty followed closely by children.
    The U.S. is at war with the poor and blame them for their poverty. The bloodless politicians have cut benefits across the board and want more cuts. The U.S. Government/politicians are the largest generators of poverty in their race to the bottom. Humanity is MIA.

    #16308

    John Day
    Participant

    In times past, people grew their food, grew gardens, and it is still like that in most of Thailand, which was just mentioned.
    The kind of starving-in-asphalt-jungle poverty that now exists in the industrialized world is extremely harsh, indeed.
    There is no growing of food, no useful chores to do, just exploitation and dehumanization.

    #16309

    rapier, I’m not appealing to an empire, but to you: why do you let it happen? Why do we so easily let ourselves see this as something we have no control over? Because it feels easier that way? Because we have a get out of jail free card by pointing at ‘the elites’?

    #16310

    HansSuter
    Participant

    I feel bad about child poverty but I have no idea what I could do about it. I give money to charities but individual action seems pointless to me. Once upon a time I could have voted for a party that had in its program the fight against child poverty. No more.

    #16311

    Caith
    Participant

    Ilargi,

    I work the job and pay the rent and feed the kid. If I stop working the job and paying the rent and feeding the kid child poverty goes up right now, in my household. I can see the problem. I’m first generation poorer than my parents; my kid will be second generation. What I can’t see is which way to move. I can’t even vote for the good guys, because the way the voting system is set up here the good guys come nowhere and voting for them means you’re not voting against the worst of the people who may actually win. I can’t quit the job because it pays the rent. I can’t take the kid out of school because I’m not home to homeschool her because of the job. I can’t keep chickens because the landlady doesn’t like the idea. I can’t grow salad in the windowboxes because the landlady doesn’t like the idea. I can’t move because the job isn’t secure enough to get through letting agency verification. I can’t move significantly far away because the kid has to stay in touch with the father. We don’t have a car, and I try not to heat the house but the landlady complains that it isn’t good for the house not to be heated. Every damn direction, any move makes it worse. So we’re stuck.

    You’re talking to the generation above us, I think, with houses and pensions. Or maybe the top half of our generation, with mortgages and employment contracts. I’ve got casual work and rent. That’s better than unemployment and god-knows-what, which is clearly coming (how is my kid going to be able to live at home, if there aren’t jobs, if I haven’t got a home? my brother can do that, because he’s first generation poorer, but second generation poorer won’t).

    Talk to us. What can we do? We can’t fix up our housing; rental contracts forbid it. We can’t grow food. We can’t vote usefully. We can’t stop running. I can’t be a revolution on my own.

    #16312

    Raleigh
    Participant

    A few weeks ago I said mothers entered the work force back in the 60’s and 70’s because of inflation, they were forced to because of rising costs. Ilargi disagreed, which got me thinking back and asking some questions. Women were enticed into the work force during WWII, then encouraged out of it after. But later came the advertising, the marketing of new household devices, the vacation home, and on and on and on. No doubt the government wanted women to enter the work force, churning up more money changing hands, more taxes, etc. Besides that, you saw your neighbors benefiting from a second income, and so you joined the crowd.

    But, in the end, it was us who bought into it, just like we’ve bought into everything else. More, more, more, can’t get enough of things we don’t need, but think we should have.

    We sit still while the central bankers/politicians/financial elite rob us blind, creating greater and greater inequality, and part of the reason we aren’t rioting is because we think they won’t come for us, that somehow we’ll be okay. We fool ourselves again. Same with the raping of the planet and the fact that people are living in poverty. As long as our house prices remain high and our stocks and gold keep climbing, we really don’t give a shit.

    We have lost the skills our grandparents had, and our families are falling apart. The world is becoming a very angry place. Our politicians are not listening to us, and we don’t care enough to make them.

    Why we are not rioting in the streets is beyond me, but I guess it hasn’t hit most of us hard enough – yet.

    #16313

    polistra
    Participant

    The solution is simple. MAKE THINGS.

    The UNICEF report shows an instructive comparison between Greece and its neighbors.

    Greece is among the “most affected” (ie worst child poverty, worst change since 2008) while neighbors Bulgaria and Turkey are “least affected”. All are in the same geography, and share the same post-Ottoman history to some extent.

    What’s the big difference?

    Data from CIA Country Factbook shows:

    Greek economy is 16% industrial.
    Bulgarian economy is 30% industrial.
    Turkish economy is 27% industrial.

    Bulgaria and Turkey have focused on industrial policy, which means they have jobs that ordinary men can do. Greece has not focused on industrial jobs.

    #16315

    Charles Alban
    Participant

    Caith…you’ve just about summed up the problem. You can’t do it alone. You have to join with other people. I suggest you check out Michael Tellinger’s UBUNTU movement https://www.ubuntuparty.org.za/. There are chapters in most western countries..see facebook. This is based on the idea of “contributionism,” like a tribe, where you give to others in your tribe without using money. That way, you are never short of money since you don’t use it. We are working on the idea of UBUNTU communities worldwide. These are land-based communities that will take care of their own needs. They will have a common income source in which all members will share (this may be the local production of biofuels). There will be no “unemployment,” child or elder poverty in these communities. Everybody’s needs will be met by others in the community. Humanity lived like this for thousands of years.

    #16319

    Jb
    Participant

    “We’re very busy losing everything.”

    Perfect summation.

    Coincidentally, I bought a loaf of bread from a farm in Roseland, VA. (Vachon’s photo above) at the farmer’s market on Saturday. https://littlehatcreek.com/

    #16320

    polistra

    the main difference between Greece and its neighbors is that one is in the eurozone, the others are not.

    #16321

    caith, I hear you

    and it’s personal only up to a point, but it’s striking to me to what extent people feel disempowered, how people feel they just live in this world, but it’s not really theirs

    #16327

    rapier
    Participant

    Ilargi, ultimately isn’t it the message of AE that tragedy is going to be the outcome for billions of people? Poverty being perhaps the least of it for many? Against the backdrop of severe economic dislocation increasing poverty is built in, for all ages. The locations and timing of the declines determined by powerful forces, actors, and the forces within different countries and their culture. Greece is obviously a case where history strongly suggests the modern world is going to crush them early in the process, Spain next. Italy? Got me. Each will struggle in their own ways.

    I’ll confess, rightly or wrongly, feeling powerless to affect the children of Greece.

    #16331

    lessof
    Participant

    I have a somewhat darker take on the child

    poverty situation. I have seen several times

    in my life that some poor people will choose

    not to be poor any longer. The solution to

    their particular problem will be they will

    turn to crime. Crime is always hiring.

    There’s big money to be made in human

    trafficking, kidnapping the 1%’s children, and

    extortion. Drug dealers lights are always on,

    their homes are heated and their children are

    fed. They don’t worry about income taxes,

    property taxes, who is in the white house, or

    what the federal reserve or the Bank of japan

    is doing. Local police departments usually

    get paid out of property taxes, when those go

    down because the populations fortunes have

    diminished, well, they have to make that up

    somehow. Usually it’s drug/asset seizures,

    but if you keep doing that, well the cash

    will dry up. The dealers will just pay some

    of the police to look the other way and the

    other officers will get tired of locking up

    offenders because there are so many of them.

    It also increases their chances of getting

    killed. We have all seen the pictures of

    tables about to fall in from the sheer weight

    of seized cash laying on them. A cop barely

    able to make it can’t be exposed to that

    kind of temptation too long, it’s basically

    untraceable and can relieve a lot of people of

    a whole lot of burdens. I see a couple of

    things that are going to happen in the

    future, unemployment is NOT going to go down,

    and there are a lot of soon to be released

    middle east combat vets with small children

    who are NOT going to stand by and see them

    hungry for too long. I had read there are

    over 15,000 gang members in the Los Angeles

    area. Thats just one city in the US, and

    thats an army, now imagine what’s in mexico,

    and central america. Those are poor children

    that capitalism failed and NAFTA threw away,

    so they developed their own system. Going to

    prison to them is like going to college for

    us. They get networking opportunities with

    other criminal networks, job training in

    crime, and an elevation of status in their

    own particular organizations when they get

    out. They even run their operations from

    prison. We all have seen the refugee problem

    of children coming from central america,

    they are running from gangs, violent gangs

    that have killed family members, or others

    because they wouldn’t join, or they couldn’t

    pay. Every time you turn on the news, they

    are finding another mass grave in Mexico, and

    they are not even looking for them, they are

    stumbling upon them, by mistake. Mexico is

    what you get when you put poverty, crime,

    corruption, and free trade together with no

    accountability. If we don’t do anything

    about the income inequality in this country

    and let the 1% dictate how things go in this

    country, places like Mexico, Kosovo, or

    Chicago will resemble our future. Our

    democracy, can’t survive that.

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