More alarming still, in the US nearly 60% of
single mothers live in poverty, compared to 30% in Russia
and 5% in Sweden.
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.
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
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
- One of every 10 US households suffer from "food insecurity."
One in 5 children don't get enough to eat. Yet 55% of Americans
- 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.
- 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
- privatization of many public services, including prisons,
- cutbacks in state welfare, food supplements, and "Head
- 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.