OPINION – It’s just flat-out embarrassing.
For a state that likes to brag about its family values and concern for children, Utah is turning in abysmal numbers when it comes to children living at the poverty level, particularly Southern Utah where nearly 25 percent of our kids are living on the edge of desperation.
That’s the bad news, revealed in a report issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation last week.
But wait, as the guy on those late-night infomercials says, there’s more.
According to all of the experts, the most important key to breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty is education and guess what? Utah is at the bottom of the pile when it comes to per-student spending.
More bad news.
The Legislature, in its wisdom, has financed studies over the years to try to solve this problem, which was exacerbated by failed economic and educational policies initiated more than a dozen years ago at the federal level that led to a recession that has plagued these poverty-stricken kids, following them, in some instances, from the day they entered kindergarten.
The results are always the same: educate the kids so they can find better-paying jobs.
The problem is, however, that despite all the spin, the economy is still in the dumpster. Those better-paying jobs are fewer, and farther between these days, particularly in Utah, where they give away the farm to draw companies without realizing, or, perhaps, caring, that the light manufacturing jobs come to this state because employers realize they can pay their employees less than elsewhere and make out like a bandit because they are lured to the area by tax breaks and other incentives that make it a sweet deal.
We’ve seen that happen a lot, whether the deals were made with companies looking to relocate or longtime Southern Utah companies that wanted to expand. Some were honest and refused the deals, stating upfront that they didn’t want to have to pay the higher salaries. Others struck deals then found loopholes that allowed them to follow the guidelines of the agreements while not complying with the spirit of those agreements.
Don’t look for this latest report to do much more than inspire some theatrical gnashing of teeth and faux concern because, you see, we just had a mid-term election that continued the Republican Party’s hold on the House and gave it control of the Senate.
Now hungrily eyeing the White House, you can count on the GOP to be even more obstructionist than before, and that was pretty bad. They will sell this country’s soul to put their man in the Oval Office.
There is no love between Speaker of The House John Boehner and the administration. There is even less between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House.
So, if you liked a gridlocked federal government these last two years, you’ll love these final two years of the Obama administration as the warring factions seek to do as much damage to the other side as politically possible.
We thought we saw it get as bad as it could be when the Republicans shut down the government, but, I guarantee, that was a cakewalk when compared with what lies ahead.
Already, the lines have been drawn as McConnell and Boehner have promised to zero in against the president on immigration, equality issues, and, of course, the Affordable Care Act.
The president, on the other hand, has responded by saying he has a pen and he knows how to use it, whether to veto the histrionics of a Congress soon to run amok or enact by Presidential Authorization measures vital to our well-being.
You can look to Congress to continue its coy relationship with Corporate America, offering even more tax breaks for the uber-rich while hammering the rapidly disappearing middle class and ever-expanding poverty class to make up the difference, which will not only extend the nation’s economic woes, but undo what little progress has been made to solve them.
That is the real effect of trickle-down economics, you know.
When things go well, the money stays at the top, meted out among investors and fat cat CEOs who already live lives of ease and excess. When things go south, these captains of commerce do all they can to preserve their lifestyles and those of their investors, meaning the working men and women of the nation suffer, whether through salary freezes, furloughs, or even worse, layoffs to keep the cash flow strong.
What that does, in turn, is sink even more people into poverty. The problem comes when you have a cold-hearted Congress that doesn’t want to budge on extending unemployment benefits, as we saw several years ago, and desires to curtail social programs to assist those in need.
Mark my words, by this time next year, we will see a rise in unemployment, a rise in foreclosures, a rise in the number of people living below the poverty level.
The states will see a decrease in federal funding for vital health and education programs which means those at the bottom will be steeped in even greater need as conservative lawmakers try to stick to their “no new taxes” promises, which are never kept, by the way, and insistence on holding on to rainy day funds even though there is a torrential economic downpour of bad news.
Add it all up and what have you got?
More people out of work, more kids leaving school early in hopes of finding some kind of job to help the family make ends meet, fewer young people attending college, and deeper pockets of poverty handed down to the next generation.
Meanwhile, Congress sits safe in the knowledge that it will perpetuate itself and its high-paying jobs and benefits without understanding that in their zeal for returning control of the White House to the GOP, they will crush the very people who put them in office.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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