Can You Imagine...
1. A country that is the
richest in the world with the highest Gross National Product, but
where one out of four children is born into “official poverty,” where
one out of four of these “officially poor” children lives in a family
where one or more parents work full time, year round, and where the
“official poverty” line is set well below the actual cost of minimally
adequate housing, health care, food, and other necessities.
2. A country that builds
schools to educate all its children, but only provides resources for
its preschool Head Start Program to enable 40% of the most needy 3-4
year olds to be ready to learn when they enter the school at 6 years,
and where its children rank 21st among the 26 industrialized nations
in eighth grade math scores.
3. A country that protects
over 90% of its children from the diseases of measles, polio, and
DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) through immunization, but
where almost 70 million people, including 11 million children (through
18 years) have inadequate or no health insurance, and where the infant
mortality rate (number of deaths per 1000 prior to 1 year) for black
children (15.1) is twice that for whites (7.6).
4. A country that grows
enough food to feed all its people and millions more around the world,
but where over 30 million (over 10%) are hungry and more than 50%
of the food stamp recipients are children and the number of people
using food banks and emergency food shelves has increased substantially
in recent years.
5. A country that is first
in the world in defense spending and in military exports, but last
among the 26 industrialized nations in protecting its children against
violence and where 1 in 680 is likely to be killed by gunfire before
20 years, a rate twelve times greater than the other industrialized
nations, and where over three million children are reported to be
abused and neglected yearly.
6. A country that has
laws to ensure the right of all workers to organize and join labor
unions and strike to achieve their goals, but where workers, such
as farm and textile workers, have often been harassed and intimidated
when they try to exercise these rights.
7. A country that claims
that “justice is blind” and strives to ensure that everyone is fairly
treated in its legal system, but where African-Americans, who comprise
14% of the population, make up 52% of those executed and over 40%
of those under death sentence.
8. A country that has
passed laws protecting its children from unfair, inhumane labor practices,
but whose government has done little to block the importation of merchandise
produced by exploited child labor and whose citizens purchase billions
of dollars of products from elsewhere in the world that are manufactured
in factories where children are abused and exploited.
9. A country that strives
to provide social security for its senior citizens and has poverty
rates for those over 65 years that are lower than for the population
as a whole, but where the poverty for females over 65 years is double
that for males over 65 years and where the percentage of African-
Americans and Latinos over 65 years in poverty is over 2.5 times that
for whites over 65 years.
10. A country that thinks
of itself as a “land of opportunity” for all, but where 40% of Hispanic
and African-American children and only 16% of white children are “officially
poor,” where full-time work at minimum wage pays below the official
poverty line for a family of two and where two out of three workers
who earn the minimum wage are women, where living standards are falling
for younger generations despite the fact that many young households
have two wage earners, fewer children, and better education than their
11. A country that has
a government department charged with the task of developing policies
and programs to ensure that all are sheltered, but where approximately
3/4 million are homeless on any given day and between 1.2 and 2 million
people during any year and where approximately 20% of those seeking
emergency shelter fail to secure it due to lack of resources.
CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT
THIS COUNTRY IS THE USA?
Inspired by and based on “Imagine
a Country” by Holly Sklar, in Z Magazine (July/August 1997).
Data Sources: Sklar, H. (1997).
“Imagine a Country,” Z Magazine (July/August); US Department
of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the
United States (yearly). World Bank, World Development Report,
NY. Oxford University Press, (yearly). Children’s Defense Fund, State
of America’s Children (yearly). UNICEF, The State of the World’s
Children (yearly). Bread for the World, US Hunger and Poverty