Herb Paine: For Ourselves and Our Posterity

March 18, 2013

Good morning, Arizona! Where the coyotes run wild, spring training is full throttle, the chickens of past political decisions have come home to roost — and children are the collateral damage of a politics gone awry.

The oratory of the State of the State and the State of the Cities has been delivered, each ringing with self-congratulatory pronouncements about the challenges we face and the things that government is going to do to solve them — and each ending with a thud on the ears of a public dismayed and frustrated by the failure of its elected representatives to remember whom they serve and to what ends. Politics has become a spinning wheel of broken promises and slow action, and kids are the casualties.

Let’s look at our state through the eyes of a child. See the disconnect between promises and fulfillment. Sally has no food at home so she gets free lunches at school. Mary is 16 and pregnant and must quit school. Joey makes more money selling drugs than working at McDonald's. Carlos can’t get a job.

See a state that ranks in the lower percentiles in critical areas of quality of life for children; that has the 5th-highest poverty rate in America and an unconscionable 25 percent of children living in poverty; where our investments in public education are among the lowest and our high school dropout rates are among the highest; where the gap between rich and poor is increasingly greater than in other states.
See the Dicks and Janes of state government talk about pistol-packing principals while they do little to arm teachers with the resources necessary to cultivate critical thinkers.

Something is seriously gone wrong in Arizona. It’s a lack of competence and ethics in the art and science of governing. A relentless promotion of harebrained bills and avoidance of action that promotes a just and civil society. You can’t blame it on the recession and shortfalls in funding — that excuse just doesn’t cut it with the kids anymore. The problem is political child neglect, and the solution is big investments in their future.

Here’s a message to the state’s politicians, straight from Luke: “To those to whom much is given, of them much is required.” So start acting as adults, for the kids’ sake.

Herb Paine is a business strategy consultant, former candidate for Congress, and social critic.