10/27/2005 03:49 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

End Child Poverty in 20 Years

How far out of the mainstream are Republicans? We got an unvarnished look just yesterday. I introduced an amendment that called on Congress to declare that it would end child poverty in America in 20 years. Republicans voted it down in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Instead, Republicans forced through a budget reconciliation measure that isn’t reconciliation at all; instead, it is simply a divorce from reality.

The Republican reconciliation is a declaration of surrender in the war on poverty, leaving 12.5 million casualties: American children who will go to bed tonight-- if they have a bed at all-- in poverty. And we’re about to turn help into helpless.

The record over the last five years of transferring America’s wealth to America’s wealthiest proves an investment in America’s middle class, the nation’s working poor, and our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens, especially 12.5 million children, was never made.

Wages and earnings for those at the top continue to soar, while real wages for the rest parents who pack their lunch and their kids’ lunch every day struggle to meet the added costs of healthcare, housing and education.

Workers at the very bottom of the income bracket fare even worse. A full time worker earning the current minimum wage cannot come close to raising a family out of poverty. Full time, at minimum wage, is a sentence to full time economic poverty in this country. In fact, the minimum wage as a percentage of poverty is at its lowest level in a half century.

Given these two trends, it should come as no surprise that American poverty is climbing again. It’s always been tough for single parents. One of ten families with a single dad is likely to be in poverty. Almost one in three families with single moms is in poverty.

Poverty rates have risen nearly every year since 2000. And every year since 2000, this Republican Congress justified another tax cut that benefited the greedy at the expense of the needy.

No ordinary America is left out of this equation. Poverty even among married, two parent families, is also on the rise. As a physician, let me tell you something. Poverty has direct, dire consequences on the physical and mental health of children.

So, I offered an amendment which would declare the stated policy of the federal government to eliminate child poverty in 20 years, and cut it in half within 10. 12.5 million American children have been stranded by an economic hurricane. They deserve a rescue plan just like the people in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and now Florida.

The United States has the second highest rate of poverty than any other developed country. We’re the richest, most affluent nation in the history of mankind, and yet we sit here knowing 12.5 million American children live in poverty and cope with its effects.

We can and should do better, but we’re doing worse.

We put a man on the moon. We can put food on the tables of 12.5 million American children that today live in poverty.

Republicans don’t need a wake up call. They need their walking papers.

A declaration of war against child poverty in America is long overdue. It will not happen so long as they run the country into the ground.