Romney spoke about how he would fix the safety net for poor people “if it needs repair.”
Let me suggest one place to fix things: end child poverty.
Whatever the causes of poverty, when children grow up in desperate circumstances - circumstances that they had no role in creating - studies show that they will be more likely to drop out of high school, be unemployed, use drugs, have children out of wedlock and get ill.
In other words, they will be unproductive members of society and cost taxpayers huge amounts of money over the course of their lives.
We know that we have an education problem with the poor. Seventy-seven percent of our kids who entered high school graduated. Compare that with other rich countries: 90% in Switzerland, 91% in the UK, 93% in Finland and 97% in Germany. Studies show that dropouts are twice as likely to slip into poverty than high school graduates.
Children in extreme poverty do badly even when they are smart. A recent U.S. study tracked a group of eighth-graders in 1988. It found that students who did very well on a standardized test but were poor were less likely to get through college than their peers who tested poorly but were well-off.
On indicator after indicator, the U.S. compares badly with other rich nations on not only how impoverished it is but on the facilities and opportunities it is giving the poor. That’s why social mobility has stalled in America. Compared with other rich countries, poor Americans are more likely to stay poor. More than 40% of American men whose fathers had earnings in the bottom fifth end up in the same bracket. Britain, Denmark, Finland and Norway all perform much better.
The sad part is, these statistics are reversible. Compare child poverty rates in America and the UK. You’ll see that the UK’s rates were halved within a decade from the mid-1990s. The U.S. has actually risen since then.
There’s no secret sauce. Tony Blair’s Labour government simply made reducing child poverty a priority through various programs.
So, Romney: Yes, the media took your comments out of context. But you do need to be concerned about the very poor. We all do.