The line that’s used so often by political obfuscators that it became a Simpsons cliché is again shown to be a smokescreen. According to a new UNICEF study, of the twenty-one “economically advanced” countries in the study, Britain was the worst and the United States the second worst place for children.
The study attempted to measure children’s well-being in several aspects of life: material, health, education, relationships, behaviors and risks, and self-perceptions. The results will doubtless provide fuel for the fires that power both ends of the political spectrum.
The social conservatives will call the situation unacceptable, and continue to oppose full funding for schools and health care for children. They’ll fulminate over impending socalism, and tell us we couldn’t afford it even if we adopted such a heretical policy. This view is belied by the report:
The evidence from many countries persistently shows that children who grow up in poverty are more vulnerable: specifically, they are more likely to be in poor health, to have learning and behavioural difficulties, to underachieve at school, to become pregnant at too early an age, to have lower skills and aspirations, to be low paid, unemployed and welfare-dependent.
Regardless of where you place yourself on some imaginary spectrum of political views, it’s hard to argue with that. It is of course impossible to measure the harm done to succeeding generations by inadequate provision for children, but it is not difficult to see the harm this causes to society, even if dollars are your only unit of measure.
The wimpy liberals, on the other hand, will wring their hands in despair over the terrible plight of the children, and compromise away another quarter of what the children have left. Perhaps they’ll agree to state that evolution is controversial, or to allow advertising in schools, or to hand over some schools to the private sector. They’ll find something to give away, some principle on which not to stand.
I can hear the sound of distant whining now. “All we can do is what the government can afford, and it can’t afford much because of all those tax cuts we gave to the super-rich. And we wouldn’t dare rescind tax cuts; we’d have negative ads run against us from then on by the super-rich, who wouldn’t vote for us in any case.”
Could it be that the capitalism we tout to the world is actually hurting our children? Well, it hurts everyone else, so I don’t see why the kids would be excepted. In its place I suggest a different standard by which to judge the value of an action: somebody, please, think of the children.
Oh, and one more thing: I wonder how much play this will get in US media. I’m not holding my breath.