More alarming still, in the US nearly 60% of single mothers live in poverty, compared to 30% in Russia and 5% in Sweden.Fig. 4  Graph of Child Poverty Rate  in US compared to other countries	and Fig 5. Graph of Single-Mother Poverty Rate

Poverty among children and single mothers is worse in the US mainly because there is less public assistance to vulnerable groups.

And in the last 2 decades, welfare assistance has been sharply reduced. Across the board, social progress has been rolled back. Taxes have been lowered for the rich and raised for the poor. Government subsidies for wealthy corporations are much greater than for destitute citizens. Regulations to prevent corporations from harmfully exploiting people and the environment have been dangerously weakened.

Fig. 6 Poverty Rate of Single Parent Families in the U.S.This role-back of social progress is now being globalized. In virtually every country, the welfare system is under attack, public services have been privatized, and relative poverty has deepened. Britain's National Health Service is under fire. Even Sweden has suffered conservative setbacks.

But nowhere has the imposition of the deregulated market system had higher social costs than in the Former Soviet Union (FSU). With the conversion from Communism to Capitalism, poverty has increased 7-fold. A third of the population now live in poverty. [Nation, Mar 27, 2000, p. 20] Deteriorating living conditions have caused a resurgence of tuberculosis and other "diseases of squalor." Life expectancy has fallen by 5 years [from 70 in 1990 to 65 in 1997]. Adding to the plight of the poor, public services have been sharply cut back. With privatization of hospitals, millions cannot afford services.

By comparison, in the United States:

  • Today 35.5 million Americans live below the poverty line.
  • In the 1990s, cutbacks in public assistance for low-income children pushed an additional 1.1 million children into poverty. Every year over 10,000 American children die of poverty-related causes.
  • One of every 10 US households suffer from "food insecurity." One in 5 children don't get enough to eat. Yet 55% of Americans are overweight.
  • The immunization rate in the US is 58%, with only 10% coverage in some inner-cities. (By comparison, many poor countries have coverage of 80% or higher.)
  • 43 million North-Americans have no health insurance, up 1.5 million since 1996. The high cost of profit-oriented services and private insurance makes it hard for the poor to get care.

The growing socioeconomic inequality in the US is leading to signs of system failure.Fig. 7   Rising homicide rate in US

  • For example, many mothers of young children have to work outside the home, not because of "women's liberation" but because their husbands' wages can no longer support the family. As a result, millions of children spend less time with their mothers. Today only 15% of American mothers exclusively breast feed their babies.
  • As relative poverty increases, the numbers of homeless persons, street children, and juvenile prostitutes have escalated. The murder rate in the US has increased 6 times faster than the population.

Structural Adjustment in the USA

We hear a lot about Structural Adjustment Programs in the Third World. But similar measures have increased hardships for the poor in the United States. America's "Structural Adjustments" include:

  • privatization of many public services, including prisons,
  • cutbacks in state welfare, food supplements, and "Head Start" programs,
  • deregulation of corporations, leading to monopolistic mergers and down-sizing for higher profits, and
  • overall weakening of the role of government, on the theory that "free market forces" will automatically lead to the best of all possible worlds.

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