End childhood poverty by ending adult poverty
The state Senate Select Committee on Children and Poverty scheduled a community meeting in Wheeling for June 19 - the day before the celebration of the 150th anniversary of statehood.
How fitting. After 150 years - the last 80 under Democratic Party control of the Statehouse - West Virginia still struggles with poverty.
"Child poverty is a very significant problem in West Virginia, and we must dedicate our full attention and resources to addressing it," said Committee Chairman John Unger, D-Berkeley.
Indeed, child poverty is a major embarrassment for the state. But West Virginians already devote much of their resources to attacking poverty.
* Nearly one in five West Virginians now receives food stamps. This program has been in place in this state since Mr. and Mrs. Alderson Muncy of Paynesville received the first food stamps in 1961.
* Head Start is 48 years old. It was supposed to improve the academic readiness of poor children.
* The National School Lunch Program began 67 years ago to offer free or reduced-price lunches to children in poverty. Today, 53 percent of schoolchildren in the state qualify, but only 36 percent participate.
* Breakfast was added in 1975.
* This spring, the Legislature signed up for a federal program that gives "free" meals to all kids, regardless of family income.
* The state just launched its annual Summer Food Service Program, which provides meals when school is out.
These programs, all well-intentioned, have failed to eliminate childhood poverty in West Virginia.
In fact, the liberal Center on Budget and Public Policy said childhood poverty rose from 19.1 percent in 1969 to 23.2 percent today.
Government programs, at best, treat only the symptoms of poverty. The root cause of childhood poverty in West Virginia is the lack of good jobs.
Expanding government has not worked and strangling the private sector has not worked.
West Virginia's leaders could help more children more rapidly if they rushed to adopt tax and legal policies that welcomed investment and job creation.
The cause of child poverty is parental poverty.
The cure is allowing adults to thrive.