GOP's appalling silence 

A new report detailed the rise of childhood poverty. Guess what Mitt, Newt, Rick and Ron has to say about it.

Well, the presidential primary is over, and the various roving bands of locusts have left our state for the next tent show.

The packs of journalists have gone too, trailing after the throngs of campaign functionaries and toadies. Rick "Man on Dog" Santorum, Former Mitten State Mitt and Ron "Atlas Shrugged" Paul took off too.

I'm sure we'll miss them, especially for the light they shed on key issues, such as affordable health care being a terrible thing, and that the bailout that saved the auto industry was worse.

Far as I can tell, all the candidates agreed that saving our economy was bad, even if they disagreed on important stuff, like whether contraception of any kind was evil, or whether government should only prevent women from controlling their own bodies.

There was, however, one issue they ignored entirely. Well, to be fair, they actually ignored a lot of issues, mostly those relevant to real people who live somewhere in America.

But perhaps the most appalling was that they failed to address this: During the last week of the campaign, a new report showed that the number of poor kids in our state has skyrocketed. Detroit has more children forced to live in concentrated poverty than any other major city in the United States of America.

Two-thirds of all Detroit kids live in such neighborhoods. We're talking about families of four scratching by on less than $22,314 a year. We're talking about kids who live in, or among, houses that lack heat and electricity, houses that people fire AK-47s into late at night, killing babies. Homes without roofs.

Houses next to crack houses and houses that have burned down. Of course, some live in shelters, or mainly on the street. 

The report, called Data Snapshot on High-Poverty Communities, was released Thursday by the Kids Count project. Based on the latest data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, the record tallied 341,000 children living in high-poverty communities in our state in 2010. That's more votes, by the way, than Mitt Romney got in the 2008 primary here.

Except, of course, that these kids can't vote, and the politicians don't give a damn about them. Leastways, they never mentioned them, or this report, during the waning days of the primary campaign.

Not as far as I could tell, anyway. Oh, I suppose I could have tried to get a response from some of them, but it was clear that it would be something like: "This is just another proof of President Obama's failed policies. Repeal minimum wage and child labor laws and weaken unions, and these kids will all be doing fine."

By the way, not only are these kids not all inner-city blacks in Detroit, as many seem to think, lots of them aren't in cities at all.

According to the report, the places with the highest share of kids in poverty include deeply rural, up-north areas like Chippewa, Roscommon and Isabella counties. Those are places with high rates of alcoholism and abuse, perhaps especially in winter.

Yes, a few of these kids will somehow get out, usually thanks to a devoted teacher, parent or other caregiver. Some will get a halfway decent education, a job and some kind of better life. But the vast majority won't, just as the vast majority of kids shooting hoops somewhere this afternoon will never make it to the NBA.

Their lives are likely to be mainly nasty, brutish, occasionally incarcerated, and, for the most part, shorter than average.

Which should concern us all. Things are getting worse. Compared to 2000, there were 125,000 more poor kids in our state in 2010. Since then, we've cut at least 30,000 children off cash assistance, with more to follow. 

Nationally, the number of kids living in such conditions increased by more than 1.5 million in the decade. Michigan, once one of the nation's richer states, is now one of the seven worst when it comes to child poverty. This is scary, and a disgrace. But almost nobody said anything about this last week. Nobody, except the small community of those who advocate for the less fortunate. Somebody needs to do something for these kids now, by any means necessary. This is a problem, that, left untreated, will have the effect of a cancer on the rest of us.

For we are creating a huge new underclass with the potential to destroy us. Once upon a time, even the capitalists had figured out you needed to pay a decent wage, and have a safety net in place, so people could afford to buy their products and buy in to this society.

Today, we have one major party taking a woman-hating, medieval jackass like Rick Santorum seriously. This is a man who said last week that the president was a "snob" for thinking everyone should be able to go to college. "There are good decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren't taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them." Naturally, that patronizing idiot has three degrees. Well, we have thousands in Michigan today that are testing their nonexistent skills by rooting through garbage bins.

Unless we do something soon, they may outnumber us someday. I saw a movie once about what happens then. It was set in Russia, in 1917. See you at the next exciting Republican presidential debate.

 

Mitt Romney & the bridge: The editor-in-chief of the Toledo Blade was all set to endorse Romney last weekend. The newspaper circulates in both Ohio, which has its primary next week, and in Michigan. But he wanted to know how Mitt stood on building a new bridge over the Detroit River. The newspaper's editors strongly support a New International Trade Crossing, as does just about every intelligent life form not in the pay of Matty Moroun.

I told the editor I didn't know, and began calling sources in the Romney campaign and staffers for Gov. Rick Snyder. The guv, who endorsed Romney, is strongly in favor of the bridge.

But nobody in either camp knew how Romney stood. Most didn't return my calls. Finally a reporter for The Blade asked Romney, who just grinned and refused to answer.

Later, the campaign released a wishy-washy statement: "Governor Romney believes that it is up to the people of Michigan to decide if another bridge is in the best interest of their state. Governor Romney has confidence that Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature will come to an agreement on this issue."

That is exactly what they have been unable to do. Now, it is true that presidential candidates shouldn't meddle in purely local and state affairs. But the nation's most economically important border crossing is both a national and international issue.

Calling Romney's evasion a default of leadership, the paper said that as a result, they couldn't endorse him, "not yet and maybe not at all. ... Mr. Romney won't get to evade tough issues as president. He shouldn't play duck-and-dodge now," the newspaper wrote.

Apparently Romney, who used to be accused of constantly changing his positions, now finds it better to have none whatsoever. However, he might want to think twice about this one: The Pennsylvania primary is April 24, and the editor-in-chief of the Toledo paper also is in charge at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

More by Jack Lessenberry

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