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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Musings on the 2016 election, being pro-life, and social safety nets

I  read an article today noting that  many of the people who voted for Trump are now  feeling voter’s remorse. They feel Trump lied to them and misled them.  Too many of the comments and responses from  my fellow liberals amounted to a lot of name-calling and blaming,  implying that  Trump voters were  all  ignorant racists. Some of them may be uninformed or misinformed, and some may  be hate-filled racists, in fact many of  Trump’s supporters  seem to make an effort to prove that point with  hateful  racist comments,  and worse, directed at anyone who   is of a different ethnic group, nationality, or religion.

 But I have met quite a few people who didn’t vote FOR Donald Trump  as much as they voted  AGAINST Hillary Clinton.  The people I’m referring to for the most part are not racists, they are not ignorant, but they are devout Christians, and the reason they give for voting against Clinton is that she “believes in abortion” or is “pro-abortion.” It does little good to point out to them that Clinton is pro-choice, which is very different from being pro-abortion.  Trump made some of these dog-whistle charges in an October  19, 2016 debate, when he said, “I think it's terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying . . . In the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”  Clinton responded to these scare tactics by stating, “You should meet with some of the women that I've met with—women I've known over the course of my life,” she said. “This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make. And I do not believe the government should be making it. . . I’ve been to countries where governments either forced women to have abortions like they used to do in China or forced women to bear children like they used to do in Romania, And I can tell you the government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, [and] with medical advice and I will stand up for that right.” Despite the rhetoric from her political opponents, she does support a ban  on late-term abortions and has held that position consistently for years. In an Oct. 8, 2000, debate, Clinton said: "I have said many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected. I’ve met women who faced this heart-wrenching decision toward the end of a pregnancy. Of course it’s a horrible procedure. No one would argue with that. But if your life is at stake, if your health is at stake, if the potential for having any more children is at stake, this must be a woman’s choice." 

When I tell these people that I wish they were as concerned about protecting children after they’re born as they are in protecting the unborn, they note that rather than being aborted, babies can be adopted by loving families. But information compiled by indicates that

on any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States.
In 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. According to  recent statistics, there are 107,918 foster children eligible for and waiting to be adopted. In 2014 50,644 foster kids were adopted — a number that has stayed roughly consistent for the past five years. The average age of a waiting child is 7.7 years old and 29% of them will spend at least three years in foster care.

Every year, about 23,000 children age out of foster care without finding a  permanent family.  Only 2% of children who age out of foster care will go on to get a college education, and 80% of the prison population comprises adults who were in the foster care system at some point on their childhood. (Source:

And then there are the children who are abused: In 2012, U.S. state and local child protective services (CPS) received an estimated 3.4 million referrals of children being abused or neglected. CPS estimated that 686,000 children (9.2 per 1,000) were victims of maltreatment.
Of the child victims, 78% were victims of neglect; 18% of physical abuse; 9% of sexual abuse; and 11% were victims of other types of maltreatment, including emotional and threatened abuse, parent’s drug/alcohol abuse, or lack of supervision.

Then there are the equally alarming statistics on child hunger and poverty.  13.1 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2015. Twenty percent or more of the child population in 22 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2015, according to the most recent data available.  In 2015, the top five states with the highest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Alabama, and Arizona. Most of the time, these families shield children from hunger. The adults will go without meals so the kids can eat. Still, the government says there were about 274,000 households in 2015 in which children went hungry at some point during the year. As bad as that was, it was the lowest level since before the Great Recession and a big decline from 2014 — when 422,000 families reported that their children went hungry at some point.

And yet these voters   put a man into office who, along with other Republicans in Congress, has voiced  an intent to cut the  very services that  provide a safety net to these vulnerable children and their families.  And  those families are not, despite the hateful rhetoric, lazy do-nothings.  Many of those receiving SNAP (food stamp) benefits are   people with disabilities, the elderly, and the working poor. According to the USDA , 55 percent of SNAP recipients, are bringing home wages. The problem is, those wages aren't enough to actually live on. Even more startling is that in 2014 more than $84 million-worth of food stamp benefits were spent at military commissaries, indicating  that there are active and retired military   members who need food stamps in order to make ends meet and feed their families.  This, in a nation with the highest military budget in the world.  

If we’re really pro-life, let’s make sure that we take care of the children already born. Let’s make sure they have enough food to eat, that they have educational opportunities to pursue their dreams, that they have shelter, and clothes to wear, and  medical care, and that they receive love and attention.  There are many who say this is  the responsibility of parents, not the government.  But  in a society where the  middle class has been steadily shrinking, where median income has been declining, where poverty has been growing and where there is a large level of income inequality, it is imperative that the government take steps to combat poverty by providing  a safety net for its citizens.  The Center for American Progress  notes that economist Harry Holzer of Georgetown University found that poverty costs our economy 4 percent of gross domestic product per year, or more than $500 billion as a result of low productivity and earnings, poor health, and high levels of crime and incarceration among adults who grew up poor.  They also report that ,”Similarly, Brandeis University professor Donald Shepard and his colleagues have calculated that hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion per year in lost economic productivity, public education costs, avoidable health care costs, and food charity. Public investments in the safety net—specifically, programs that target poor children—have been shown to generate exceptionally high returns that benefit all Americans. For example, University of Virginia professor Chloe Gibbs; University of Chicago economist Jens Ludwig; and University of California, Davis, economist Douglas L. Miller estimate that Head Start produces a benefit-cost ratio of more than 7-to-1”
(Source: Providing that safety net can also help insure that parents  are not so stressed, so overworked and so worried about making ends meet that they don’t have quality time to spend with their children.

And let’s make sure that women  have access to  reliable, affordable birth control. Abortion rates have been steadily declining.  In 2014 the  abortion rate was 19%,  the lowest abortion rate since the supreme court handed down Roe v Wade in 1973,  and the number of abortions between 2011 and 2014 also fell, by 12%.  Researchers have found a strong link between the lower rate of abortions and the wider availability of very effective contraception. If plans to repeal  the Affordable Care Act are successful, that availability will be in peril.

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