Testing My Medium Out

At Root of Economic Inequality, There’s More Than Just Income Gap

Updated July 24, 2007 12:01 a.m. ET

Brink Lindsey attributes economic inequality to a “lack of elementary self-discipline” in America’s underclass (“The Culture Gap,” editorial page, July 9, 2007) and argues that our nation’s schools are contributing to the problem. His shocking lack of empathy for the poor is not really shocking at all — very few middle or upper income Americans know what it is like to live in true poverty with all its encumbrances. I would like to put a face on the people he is talking about.

Imagine you, or one of your own children, are born into a “family” where the adults who are supposed to protect you belittle you and beat you on a regular basis. You experience hunger even as a toddler. You babysit yourself beginning as early as four years of age for up to 20 hours per day. You are surrounded by filth, ignorance, drug abuse, alcoholism, disease and violence. You watch your siblings suffer the same torture and by your early teens you are filled with shame and rage.

Emotionally crippled children cannot be fixed in the public schools they enter. There are many studies that firmly link early childhood neglect and abuse to antisocial behavior — behavior for which society as a whole pays a steep price.

A little investment now could pay huge dividends later in terms of reduced subsidies to the poor, fewer demands on the judicial system and reduced costs to Medicare and Medicaid. Providing girls with meaningful incentives to delay childbearing until age 24 or 25 would likely reduce poverty in the long run, and perhaps even in the next generation or two. Given all the facts, I believe a majority of Americans would support policies that would make this happen.

Mr. Lindsey would do well to open his heart, his impressive intellect and some of his institution’s considerable resources to that end.

Jessie Dodge, M.D. 
Wilmington, N.C.

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