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Don't let kids grow up 'red'
Mercury News Editorial
February 9, 2007

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up in "red" states.

That's the compelling conclusion of author Michael R. Petit, whose new book, "Homeland Insecurity," makes a strong case that children in red states are more likely to suffer from poor prenatal care, early death, child abuse and teen incarceration than children in "blue" states.

Petit's argument is that states with anti-tax, anti-government ideology are significantly harming their children's health. His book should be required reading for parents and lawmakers -- especially so in California, which is considering legislation that would significantly improve the health of its children. Petit, president of the Every Child Matters Education Fund and a former commissioner of Maine's Human Services Department, has been studying state government's impact on children for the past 25 years.

California ranks 19th on Petit's child vulnerability index, which is based on 16 different child-focused criteria. Ten of the top 11 states on the list are blue states. No fewer than 24 of the 25 bottom states are red states.

California would rank significantly higher in the overall rankings if it did a better job of insuring its children. More than 12 percent of California's kids -- roughly 800,000 -- have no health care coverage, ranking the state 42nd in the nation. The only states that are worse are all red states: Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma and Colorado.

California ranks considerably better in the number of deaths of infants per 1,000 (No. 7), per capita child welfare expenditures (No. 5) and child abuse fatalities (No. 21).

Just how big is the gap between red states and blue states on children's issues? According to Petit, a child in the overall bottom 10 states is:

  • Twice as likely to die by the age of 14.
  • Seven times more likely to die from abuse and neglect.
  • Twice as likely to be living in poverty.
  • More than twice as likely to be incarcerated as juveniles.

The well-being of the nation's children matters. The investment that blue states make in their children not only pays off ultimately in lower medical bills and less need to provide social services, but also creates a higher percentage of productive, well-educated members of society.

The nation's red states should be red-faced about their disgraceful health care response. Their selfish practice of being unwilling to part with tax dollars to help guarantee their children's future is in direct opposition to the American values they so often claim to cherish.

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