Monday, October 27, 2008

Screw you poor people

The 40-something degree days in October caught me off guard, so I've been scrambling to stock up on cold weather clothing and accessories for my young sons. After I realized that the boys were losing a glove and/or hat almost every time they walked outside the door I have become particularly fond of Target's hat and gloves sets for $2.99.

Finding scarves (important for my son who sometimes has respiratory trouble) proved a bit more problematic. Target did not have them and neither did WalMart, so I visited The Children's Place - a store I happen to love. Of course they had scarves - for $6.50. They also had gloves and hats - some $6.50, some $8.50 for a single hat or pair of gloves. That is more than four times the cost of the Target ones. The TCP hats and gloves were obviously better quality, but I would not say they were four times better.

I was annoyed not just at the effect on my pocket, but also at what I think is the disparity between the access of the haves and the have-nots. Here is the scenario: A poor family includes a young boy with asthma. His doctor suggests he wear a scarf over his mouth and nose and a warm hat to control his episodes. The family can only afford the cheaper items from WalMart or Target - not lined, not as warm - so he has more episodes. He gets sick because his family is poor.

Ok, that takes some imagination and a leap of faith, but the disparity is glaring in other areas. Besides the obvious benefits of smaller class sizes and better resources, children who are not going to wealthy private schools are not making the connections that will have fiscal benefits in the future. Families who rely on WIC or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program often cannot afford to feed themselves. In order to buy enough food, they make decisions to bypass fruits and vegetables - usually more expensive than less healthy options. (What is the healthy equivalent to McDonald's $1 menu?) Is there any wonder diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart conditions are rampant through poor communities? The poor medical condition of destitute families is exacerbated by the lack of preventative and routine medical care - due of course, to their inabililty to pay for insurance or uncovered doctor's visits.

Say what you will about John Edwards's adulterous scandal, but when he was in the election race at least there was a real conversation about poverty in this country. With all due respect to President-in-waiting Obama, the $250,000 mark he banters about is a dreamworld away for waitresses and day laborers supporting families on less than the minimum wage.

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