A Few Facts About the ‘Other America’ BY GEORGE WILLIAMS IN HIS FAREWELL address to the Republican National Convention in New Orleans President Reagan kept repeating the words, “Facts are stubborn things.” Facts are indeed stubborn things, and the President’s attempts at dragging some of them out for public exhibition left many of them sadly mangled. But, more significantly, he didn’t even try to drag out many, many other stubborn facts that would have revealed considerably more about today’s America than did the hyperbole of the entire Republican National Convention. Most of the stubborn facts that would have given a more honest picture of today’s America could have been found in the government’s own publications particularly in the Economic Report of the President, 1988 and the Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1988. These facts reflect not only the Reagan administration’s failure to attack seriously many of the sad problems that have troubled Americans for decades \(racism, sexism, health costs, environmental pollution, education, slums, decaying inner cities, growing personal situations worse. Here are some stubborn facts that the Republican convention left lying in the documents: About 20 percent of American children under 16 live below the poverty level an increase of 33 percent over the preReagan decade. One-half of America’s black children, one-third of her Hispanic children, and onesixth of her white children live below the poverty level and the numbers have increased while Reagan has been in office. Forty-one million American children are so poor that they must be partly sustained by government food programs just to stay alive and their numbers have increased while the sustaining programs have steadily diminished since Ronald Reagan became President. Two-thirds of American children below the age of 13 are latchkey children. Among developed nations, the United States ranks 19th in infant mortality rate with 40,000 infant deaths annually, at least George Williams is professor emeritus in the department of English at Rice University and author of the novel The Blind Bull. nalf of them resulting from conditions associated with poverty. Leaving official government publications for a moment, an article by J. Larry Brown in the Scientific American for February 1987 summarized the conclusions of over 20 national studies and estimated that about 12 in America go to bed hungry every night and the number has increased steadily since 1981. An article in the April 1987 issue of Contemporary Policy Issues shows the percentage of children in poverty in six advanced nations United States: 24.1; Canada: 16.8; United Kingdom: 10.4; West Germany: 6.3; Norway: 5.6; Sweden: 5.2. The America Ronald Reagan and the Republicans stubbornly ignore It has been officially estimated that an American family in the late 1980s can enjoy a moderately acceptable, or fair, standard of living on an income of about $26,000. But the median annual pay \(assuming full American workers in manufacturing, mining, construction, transportation, wholesale trade, finance, insurance, and real estate is about $19,000. And the median annual pay \(assuming full and unskilled workers, household workers, and service workers \(a group constituting more than 50 percent of the American work THERE HAVE BEEN some pluses for the Reagan administration. But most of the gains have been for America as a national entity not for Americans as individual entities. There is a vast difference here. A ric’h and powerful America is not synonymous with a population of prosperous and happy Americans. By way of illustration, England as a nation was never more rich and powerful than at the height of its 19th century Industrial Revolution yet great masses of its people were at the same time never more poor and miserable. So it has been with the Reagan Revolution. During the Reagan administration, the percentage of individual Americans living below the poverty level has increased by 13 percent and the percentage of American families living below the poverty level has increased by 17 percent over the average percentage for the 1970s. And during this time the average work week for urban workers increased slightly ‘ weekly earnings in constant dollars demeanwhile the Consumer Price Index in constant dollars increased by 37 percent. To take care of the gap between earnings and prices created during the Reagan administration, the American people have gone deeper into debt. The ratio of personal debt to private income has increased, during the Reagan years, by about 35 percent. We are a debtor people as well as a debtor nation. Another way of helping close the gap between family income and family debts and spendings has been for wives and mothers to enter the job market. In fact, though the Reagan administration boasts of reducing the unemployment rate by one to three percent, the ratio of employed males to the total population fell slightly between 1980 and 1987. But the ratio of female workers \(who can be employed for 30 to 40 percent percent. Still another means of helping close the gap between family income and family ‘ expenditures and debts has been to put young people to work and keep them out of school. Despite a population increase of almost nine percent between 1980 and 1987, the actual number of young people in school has decreased by 2.5 percent or roughly a 10 percent drop in the number of young Americans trying to get a better education. “Women and children first” has a very special meaning for the Reagan administration. And take a look at how the Reagan Revolution has affected those at the top compared to those at the bottom: The wealthiest 20 percent of America’s families now receive more than 40 percent 10 SEPTEMBER 16, 1988
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