30 Mar 2007

Child poverty - socialists on the back foot

The Guardian has reacted quickly to the news that 'child poverty' is actually getting worse now under New Labour.

"You can't talk about children's well-being unless you dare talk about the inequality of their life experience" [whatever that means], wails Polly Toynbee.

"Here is even worse news: inequality grew again and is now back up to the level when figures were first collated (the Gini coefficient) back in 1961. This looks grim; here was one solid rock on which Labour could stake its moral claims. That astonishing promise to abolish all child poverty by 2020 was Labour's trump card when it faces the sullen looks of its shrunken remaining troops. Whatever Cameron may pretend is his "aspiration" to keep lifting children out of poverty, if his plans don't add up he has been let off the hook for now....."

"Sure Start children's centres are the best hope of reaching every family to give every child a chance - but the 3,500 new centres are being rolled out without anything like the funds needed for intensive professional help. Everywhere, brilliant pilots and small schemes show what can be done: an opportunity tax should supply the funds to make them universal. None of that will happen unless voters will it. The child poverty target can't be hit by stealth."

All the more reason for the ONS to publish a Social Capital Index by neighbourhood so we can see what effect Sure Start's "brilliant pilots and small schemes" - and the programmes provided by other organisations - are having on social and domestic cohesion, as well as the effect they are having on the other indicators of deprivation.

But there is not a squeak so far from the Guardian about the need for a Social Capital Index so that the evaluations can be undertaken.

"Until now, the very word "inequality" has been banned from the political lexicon. But now the wealth gap is widening, Labour has to confront it. In the last decade every £100 increase in GDP growth has seen £40 go to the richest 10% of the people: the other 90% have had to share out the rest - and this pattern is accelerating. This argument hasn't yet been put, these facts are not out there in the political battleground, but here is prime territory for Labour to lay down a challenge" Polly Toynbee declares roundly.

Actually, the taboo is not "inequality" but "marriage", as most socialists can't seem to utter the word without choking on it.

"Sure Start children's centres are the best hope of reaching every family to give every child a chance" claims Polly Toynbee, as if it is an assertion that should go unchallenged. But surely "the best hope of reaching every family to give every child a chance" would occur if the fathers marry the childrens' mothers, love them, and remain married to them? Is that not something to be promoted?

"Gordon Brown yesterday admitted the government faced a big challenge to reach its key child poverty target but refused to pledge more money to address the problem" says Ashley Seager also in the Guardian.

"Giving testimony to parliament's Treasury select committee, the chancellor also faced accusations that last week's budget had left many poorer people worse off. The government was stung this week when its own figures showed that child poverty had increased for the first time in six years while overall poverty had risen for the first time under this government........... Figures out yesterday also showed take up of the pension credit had fallen last year."

"This is further proof that Gordon Brown's obsession with mass means-tested benefits is failing to help the most vulnerable people in our society," said Lib Dem work and pensions spokesman David Laws.

Meanwhile, in "The Politicizing of Poverty" Janice Shaw Crouse [27/3/07] is writing in the US:

"A headline about changing family structure wouldn't be effective, however, for two reasons. One, it would make reporters' eyes glaze over, and two, it does not lay the blame for increased poverty at the door of the current administration and its so-called "tax cuts for the rich." A third reason is that the problem relates to irresponsible sexual behavior. Much of the poverty problem is related to the growth of single-parent families, a fact that is recognized further down in the Brookings report in the following statement:

'Three of the most effective ways to reduce poverty are to increase work levels, reverse the growth of single-parent families, and improve educational outcomes.'

Note that even liberal social analysts must come to terms with the negative outcomes of dysfunctional sexual behavior. They try to formulate policy proposals to deal with the consequences of non-marital sex in terms compatible with their world view that sees social structures as the sources of problems and government programs as their solutions. So, they seek funding for yet another iteration of government programs rather than acknowledge the root moral-values issues, [my italics] which, to be fair, are the purview of today's religious leaders, many of whom have forsaken the true message of their calling.

We know, too, that ever-larger funding for education is not going to change the reality that children who grow up without a father present often turn a classroom into barely controlled chaos where learning is a very difficult proposition. But these realities have not yet penetrated the culture. The downward trend in the marriage rate among unmarried women age 15-44 continues. The marriage rate today is a little less than half of what it was in the mid-1960s. Also the unmarried birthrate of women 20 and older continues to rise year after year.

The charge has long been wielded that the rise in unwed birth rates was the consequence of poverty. Yet, with the advent of the abstinence movement, the rise of the unwed birthrate among American teens miraculously stopped climbing in the early 1990s after rising almost every year since WWII. The unwed teen birthrate has since declined by 25 percent. Funny, after listening to the left incessantly sing the song that youths could not control their raging hormones, yet another myth has been swept into the trash can..................

Sadly, it's not politically correct to focus on moral values and responsible sexual behavior but as the public relations folks at Brookings recognize, there is always a good market for yet another press release full of hopeful promises about governmental programs [my italics]."

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