Irwin Redlener, president and co-founder of the Children’s Health Fund, says, “We have to completely readjust our thinking about this being a land of opportunity.” (WashingtonPostLive Production/Washington Post Live)

Irwin Redlener

President and co-founder,
Children’s Health Fund

The country is filled with almost one in four children who are wallowing in poverty and in ways that they cannot pull themselves up by the bootstraps. There are no bootstraps.

Here’s what we need to do: We have to understand that there’s a responsibility of society, of government, to provide a basic safety net [and] opportunities to advance that cannot be manufactured in a family living in the South Bronx or rural Mississippi.

[There is little] ability for people to be economically mobile in a society where small businesses are contracting, where it’s much more difficult to get a job and make it without a college degree. We have to completely readjust our thinking about this being a land of opportunity. Otherwise, we’re going to find ourselves 25 years from now still dealing with a population of children who are living in poverty. And it’s unconscionable. This requires some grown-up investments in a generation that we care about and want to succeed.

What are the tools to help? They need money. They need support. They need rent money. They need to have a basic fair minimum wage, so when they go to work, so they’re not in poverty, even though they’re working full-time. Children need to get opportunities to be educated early on in life. We see children falling asleep in classrooms because they’ve been up all night coughing because they have asthma that wasn’t treated because they didn’t have a doctor.

And this cycle of drying up the resources for children and their families is going to end in a situation that we will sorely regret.

We spend $26 billion for an aircraft carrier. We’re about to invest unbelievable billions of dollars in the F-35s, which are a jet fighter system that military officials don’t want. And we have money all over the place, even though we’re in austerity. We have to figure out how to prioritize our budgets, prioritize our investments, so we have our children growing up with appropriate opportunity.

For Irwin Redlener’s full bio, click here.