"...as much as these people needed mercy, they desperately needed someone (a governor, perhaps) to devote his or her energies to achieving something far more valuable.
These people needed justice.
More than thirty years later, I’m ashamed that Louisiana hasn’t done so well in either the mercy or justice department. More than thirty years of children have been born into poverty-stricken communities that haven’t changed much since the days when I first saw the despair that Monroe welfare office.
The sad fact is that those 30 years represent decades of lost chances to build opportunities for better lives for our children. They represent thirty years of injustice and suffering — because our state and national leadership has regarded poverty as an unfortunate fact of life — and not a scandal and a cause for national shame.
According to the National Priorities Project, almost 19 percent of Louisiana’s citizens, one in five, live in poverty. Put another way, that’s 825,000 Louisiana residents. See a chart comparing the states here.
But the numbers are far worse when you look at children.
According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual rankings of the states, Louisiana has ranked 49th among the states in overall child well-being since 2002. In its most recent collection of data, the Casey Foundation ranked Louisiana among the bottom ten states on nine out of the ten key measures of child well-being. See a summary of the report here.
If you are a child, Louisiana is one of the worst places in this country to grow up.
Twenty seven percent, almost a third, of all children in this state live in poverty. That’s 285,000 children. See a chart on Louisiana’s child poverty numbers here.
Louisiana ranks 46th out of the 50 states in the percentage of children in poverty. Only Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico and Mississippi fare worse. See the state rankings here.
It’s a depressing situation for a state whose leaders don’t seem even remotely willing to face up to the enormous challenges facing us.
Today, in Louisiana, we have the equivalents of three Tiger Stadiums full to the brim with children living in poverty.
So, I leave you with these partially rhetorical questions: How much time did legislators devote to addressing poverty in the 2012 legislative session (beyond a half-baked effort to improve the bottom line of faith-based private schools)?
How much do our leaders really care about ridding Louisiana of an economic cancer that threatens the future of 285,000 Louisiana children?
~dedicated to the legislative legacy of LA Rep. Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport). - DBE