Presidential Debate Question
The election is down to the wire and political pundits have focused on the upcoming presidential debates as critical to the success of either candidate. As I watch the debates, I’ll be looking for questions that address the issues of vulnerable children, youth, and their families– questions that might indicate the candidate’s position regarding education, children’s services, youth development, family supportive services, and poverty. The candidates may be wise to avoid specifics, but somehow their response to these issues may provide us with a glimpse into how they might lead.
The overriding issue impacting the vast majority of those we serve is poverty. The US Census Bureau statistics released in September indicate that 6.4 million Californians, almost 17% of the state’s population, are living in poverty. The impact of these numbers on children is frightening. While individuals under 18 account for only one quarter of the state’s residents, they account for one-third of Californians living in poverty!
There is no question we are living through an unprecedented time of financial challenges as a nation. No candidate can venture to offer assurances without running the risk of miscalculating the Herculean task of stabilizing the country financially. However, the issue of poverty and its long-term impact are essential parts of how we develop a path that leads the country through this challenging time.
From lower levels of educational attainment to lower earnings as adults, the lasting consequences are significant for children who grow up in poverty. The impact is not only felt by the individual raised in poverty, but the significant cost imposed upon communities and systems left to assist those who have been affected by poverty. It is a pervasive problem we struggle with, and there are no simple answers.
Clearly, if the debates are meant to provide an opportunity for a serious discussion on issues that have a significant impact on our society, I will expect poverty somehow will be addressed. This is not about two very different philosophical approaches to the issue, but importantly, it is about the impact these positions have on those struggling in the grip of poverty.
Each year our Family Center programs offer assistance to those families who need help with food, lodging, and transportation, some of the basic needs to get them beyond crisis and trauma to receive necessary treatment. For those we serve who are struggling, how these candidates address poverty is not a matter of political posturing, but rather one of survival. Let’s see what the candidates have to say.