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No Trump Towers For Poor Kids

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch.

The plight of impoverished children anywhere should evoke sympathy, exemplifying as it does the suffering of the innocent and defenseless. Poverty among children in a wealthy country like the United States, however, should summon shame and outrage as well. Unlike poor countries (sometimes run by leaders more interested in lining their pockets than anything else), what excuse does the United States have for its striking levels of child poverty? After all, it has the world’s 10th highest per capita income at $62,795 and an unrivaled gross domestic product (GDP) of $21.3 trillion. Despite that, in 2020, an estimated 11.9 million American kids — 16.2 percent of the total — live below the official poverty line, which is a paltry $25,701 for a family of four with two kids. Put another way, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, kids now constitute one-third of the 38.1 million Americans classified as poor and 70 percent of them have at least one working parent — so poverty can’t be chalked up to parental indolence.

Yes, the proportion of kids living below the poverty line has zigzagged down from 22 percent when the country was being ravaged by the Great Recession of 2008-2009 and was even higher in prior decades, but no one should crack open the champagne bottles just yet. The relevant standard ought to be how the United States compares to other wealthy countries. The answer: badly. It has the 11th highest child poverty rate of the 42 industrialized countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Winnow that list down to European Union states and Canada, omitting low and middle-income countries, and our child poverty rate ranks above only Spain’s. Use the poverty threshold of the OECD — 50 percent of a country’s median income ($63,178 for the United States) — and the American child poverty rate leaps to 20 percent.

The United States certainly doesn’t lack the means to drive child poverty down or perhaps even eliminate it. Many countries on that shorter OECD list have lower per-capita incomes and substantially smaller GDPs yet (as a UNICEF report makes clear) have done far better by their kids. Our high child-poverty rate stems from politics, not economics — government policies that, since the 1980s, have reduced public investment as a proportion of GDP in infrastructure, public education, and poverty reduction.  These were, of course, the same years when a belief that “big government” was an obstacle to advancement took ever-deeper hold, especially in the Republican Party.  Today, Washington allocates only 9 percent of its federal budget to children, poor or not. That compares to a third for Americans over 65, up from 22 percent in 1971. If you want a single fact that sums up where we are now, inflation-adjusted per-capita spending on kids living in the poorest families has barely budged compared to 30 years ago whereas the corresponding figure for the elderly has doubled.

The conservative response to all this remains predictable: you can’t solve complex social problems like child poverty by throwing money at them. Besides, government antipoverty programs only foster dependence and create bloated bureaucracies without solving the problem. It matters little that the actual successes of American social programs prove this claim to be flat-out false. Before getting to that, however, let’s take a snapshot of child poverty in America.

Sizing Up the Problem

Defining poverty may sound straightforward, but it’s not. The government’s annual Official Poverty Measure (OPM), developed in the 1960s, establishes poverty lines by taking into account family size, multiplying the 1963 cost for a minimum food budget by three while factoring in changes in the Consumer Price Index, and comparing the result to family income. In 2018, a family with a single adult and one child was considered poor with an income below $17,308 ($20,2012 for two adults and one child, $25,465 for two adults and two children, and so on). According to the OPM, 11.8 percent of all Americans were poor that year.

By contrast, the Supplementary Poverty Measure (SPM), published yearly since 2011, builds on the OPM but provides a more nuanced calculus. It counts the post-tax income of families, but also cash flows from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), both of which help low-income households. It adds in government-provided assistance through, say, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Medicaid, subsidies for housing and utilities, and unemployment and disability insurance. However, it deducts costs like child care, child-support payments, and out-of-pocket medical expenses. According to the SPM, the 2018 national poverty rate was 12.8 percent.

Of course, neither of these poverty calculations can tell us how children are actually faring. Put simply, they’re faring worse. In 2018, 16.2 percent of Americans under 18 lived in families with incomes below the SPM line. And that’s not the worst of it. A 2019 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study commissioned by Congress found that 9 percent of poor children belong to families in “deep poverty” (incomes that are less than 50 percent of the SPM). But 36 percent of all American children live in poor or “near poor” families, those with incomes within 150 percent of the poverty line.

Child poverty also varies by race — a lot. The rate for black children is 17.8 percent; for Hispanic kids, 21.7 percent; for their white counterparts, 7.9 percent. Worse, more than half of all black and Hispanic kids live in “near poor” families compared to less than a quarter of white children. Combine age and race and you’ll see another difference, especially for children under five, a population with an overall 2017 poverty rate of 19.2 percent.  Break those under-fives down by race, however, and here’s what you find: white kids at 15.9 percent, Hispanic kids at an eye-opening 25.8 percent, and their black peers at a staggering 32.9 .

Location matters, too. The child poverty rate shifts by state and the differences are stark. North Dakota and Utah are at 9 percent, for instance, while New Mexico and Mississippi are at 27 percent and 28 percent. Nineteen states have rates of 20 percent or more. Check out a color-coded map of geographic variations in child poverty and you’ll see that rates in the South, Southwest, and parts of the Midwest are above the national average, while rural areas tend to have higher proportions of poor families than cities. According to the Department of Agriculture, in rural America, 22 percent of all children and 26 percent of those under five were poor in 2017.

Why Child Poverty Matters

Imagine, for a moment, this scenario: a 200-meter footrace in which the starting blocks of some competitors are placed 75 meters behind the others. Barring an Olympic-caliber runner, those who started way in front will naturally win. Now, think of that as an analogy for the predicament that American kids born in poverty face through no fault of their own. They may be smart and diligent, their parents may do their best to care for them, but they begin life with a huge handicap.

As a start, the nutrition of poor children will generally be inferior to that of other kids. No surprise there, but here’s what’s not common knowledge: a childhood nutritional deficit matters for years afterwards, possibly for life. Scientific research shows that, by age three, the quality of childrens’ diets is already shaping the development of critical parts of young brains like the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex in ways that matter. That’s worth keeping in mind because four million American kids under age six were poor in 2018, as were close to half of those in families headed by single women.

Indeed, the process starts even earlier. Poor mothers may themselves have nutritional deficiencies that increase their risk of having babies with low birthweights.  That, in turn, can have long-term effects on children’s health, what level of education they reach, and their future incomes since the quality of nutrition affects brain sizeconcentration, and cognitive capacity. It also increases the chances of having learning disabilities and experiencing mental health problems.

Poor children are likely to be less healthy in other ways as well, for reasons that range from having a greater susceptibility to asthma to higher concentrations of lead in their blood. Moreover, poor families find it harder to get good health care. And add one more thing: in our zip-code-influenced public-school system, such children are likely to attend schools with far fewer resources than those in more affluent neighborhoods.

Our national opioid problem also affects the well-being of children in a striking fashion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2008 and 2012, a third of women in their childbearing years filled opioid-based medication prescriptions in pharmacies and an estimated 14 percent -22 percent of them were pregnant. The result: an alarming increase in the number of babies exposed to opioids in utero and experiencing withdrawal symptoms at birth, which is also known as neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, in medical lingo. Its effects, a Penn State study found, include future increased sensitivity to pain and susceptibility to fevers and seizures. Between 2000 and 2014, the incidence of NAS increased by a multiple of four. In 2014, 34,000 babies were born with NAS, which, as a CDC report put it, “is equivalent to one baby suffering from opioid withdrawal born approximately every 15 minutes.” (Given the ongoing opioid crisis, it’s unlikely that things have improved in recent years.)

And the complications attributable to NAS don’t stop with birth. Though the research remains at an early stage — the opioid crisis only began in the early 1990s — it suggests that the ill effects of NAS extend well beyond infancy and include impaired cognitive and motor skills, respiratory ailments, learning disabilities, difficulty maintaining intellectual focus, and behavioral traits that make productive interaction with others harder.

At this point, you won’t be surprised to learn that NAS and child poverty are connected. Prescription opioid use rates are much higher for women on Medicaid, who are more likely to be poor than those with private insurance. Moreover, the abuse of, and overdose deaths from, opioids (whether obtained through prescriptions or illegally) have been far more widespread among the poor.

Combine all of this and here’s the picture: from the months before birth on, poverty diminishes opportunity, capacity, and agency and its consequences reach into adulthood. While that rigged footrace of mine was imaginary, child poverty certainly does ensure a future-rigged society. The good news (though not in Donald Trump’s America): the race to a half-decent life (or better) doesn’t have to be rigged.

It Needn’t Be this Way (But Will Be as Long as Trump Is President)

Can children born into poverty defy the odds, realize their potential, and lead fulfilling lives? Conservatives will point to stories of people who cleared all the obstacles created by child poverty as proof that the real solution is hard work. But let’s be clear: poor children shouldn’t have to find themselves on a tilted playing field from the first moments of their lives. Individual success stories aside, Americans raised in poor families do markedly less well compared to those from middle class or affluent homes — and it doesn’t matter whether you choose college attendance, employment rates, or future household income as your measure. And the longer they live in poverty the worse the odds that they’ll escape it in adulthood; for one thing, they’re far less likely to finish high school or attend college than their more fortunate peers.

Conversely, as Harvard economist Raj Chetty and his colleagues have shown, kids’ life prospects improve when parents with low incomes are given the financial wherewithal to move to neighborhoods with higher social-mobility rates (thanks to better schools and services, including health care). As in that imaginary footrace, the starting point matters. But here the news is grim. The Social Progress Index places the United States 75th out of 149 countries in “access to quality education” and 70th in “access to quality health care” and poor kids are, of course, at a particular disadvantage.

Yet childhood circumstances can be (and have been) changed — and the sorts of government programs that conservatives love to savage have helped enormously in that process. Child poverty plunged from 28 percent in 1967 to 15.6 percent in 2016 in significant part due to programs like Medicaid and the Food Stamp Act started in the 1960s as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Such programs helped poor families pay for housing, food, child care, and medical expenses, as did later tax legislation like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Our own history and that of other wealthy countries show that child poverty is anything but an unalterable reality. The record also shows that changing it requires mobilizing funds of the sort now being wasted on ventures like America’s multitrillion-dollar forever wars.

Certainly, an increase in jobs and earnings can reduce child poverty. Wall Street Journal odes to Donald Trump’s tax cuts and deregulation policies highlight the present 3.5 percent unemployment rate (the lowest in 60 years), a surge in new jobs, and wage growth at all levels, notably for workers with low incomes who lack college degrees. This storyline, however, omits important realities. Programs that reduce child poverty help even in years when poor or near-poor parents gain and, of course, are critical in bad times, since sooner or later booming job markets also bust. Furthermore, the magic that Trump fans tout occurred at a moment when many state and city governments were mandating increases in the minimum wage. Employers who hired, especially in heavily populated states like California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, had to pay more.

As for cutting child poverty, it hasn’t exactly been a presidential priority in the Trump years — not like the drive to pass a $1.5 trillion corporate and individual income tax cut whose gains flowed mainly to the richest Americans, while inflating the budget deficit to $1 trillion in 2019, according to the Treasury Department. Then there’s that “impenetrable, powerful, beautiful wall.” Its estimated price ranges from $21 billion to $70 billion, excluding maintenance. And don’t forget the proposed extra $33 billion in military spending for this fiscal year alone, part of President Trump’s plan to boost such spending by $683 billion over the next decade.

As for poor kids and their parents, the president and congressional Republicans are beginning to slash an array of programs ranging from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program to Medicaid — $1.2 trillion worth over the next 10 years — that have long helped struggling families and children in particular get by. The Trump administration has, for good measure, rewritten the eligibility rules for such programs in order to lower the number of people who qualify.

The supposed goal: to cut costs by reducing dependence on government. (Never mind the subsidies and tax loopholes Trump’s crew has created for corporations and the super wealthy, which add up to many billions of dollars in spending and lost revenue.) These supposedly work-ethic-driven austerity policies batter working families with young kids that, for example, desperately need childcare, which can take a big bite out of paychecks: 10 percent or more for all households with kids, but half in the case of poor families.  Add to that the cost of unsubsidized housing. Median monthly rent increased by nearly a third between 2001 and 2015. Put another way, rents consume more than half the income of the bottom 20 percent of Americans, according to the Federal Reserve. The advent of Trump has also made the struggle of low-income families with healthcare bills even harder. The number of kids without health insurance jumped by 425,000 between 2017 and 2018 when, according to the Census Bureau, 4.3 million children lacked coverage.

Even before Donald Trump’s election, only one-sixth of eligible families with kids received assistance for childcare and a paltry one-fifth got housing subsidies. Yet his administration arrived prepared to put programs that helped some of them pay for housing and childcare on the chopping block. No point in such families looking to him for a hand in the future. He won’t be building any Trump Towers for them. 

Whatever “Make America Great Again” may mean, it certainly doesn’t involve helping America’s poor kids. As long as Donald Trump oversees their race into life, they’ll find themselves ever farther from the starting line. 

Rajan Menon, a TomDispatch regular, is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of International Relations at the Powell School, City College of New York, senior research fellow at Columbia University’s Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, and a non-resident fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. His latest book is The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention.

Copyright 2020 Rajan Menon

Democrats Demand Border Patrol Explain Deaths Of Migrant Children In Custody

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

After a ProPublica investigation into the death of a teenager in Border Patrol custody, House Democrats are ramping up pressure on the Trump administration to explain how six migrant children died after entering the U.S.

“I find it appalling that (Customs and Border Protection) has still not taken responsibility for the deaths of children in their care,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

Thompson said that while some of the children’s deaths may not have been preventable, Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency that first deals with children who cross the border, seems “all too quick to pat themselves on the back for their handling of children last year. These deaths happened under their watch. I remain skeptical that real changes have been made.”

The Homeland Security border subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday to examine the administration’s efforts to treat sick migrant children. The six who died in government custody between September 2018 and May 2019 were the first such deaths in a decade.

ProPublica’s December investigation into the death of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in a South Texas Border Patrol cell, raised concerns about actions by Border Patrol agents and contract medical personnel and whether the agency was truthful about the circumstances of the teenager’s death. The boy died on the floor of his cell on May 20, and a surveillance video obtained by ProPublica showed he was left alone for hours as his illness worsened.

Carlos was the last of six children to die. Three children died from flu-related complications, one died of a massive bacterial infection and two died from chronic conditions they had before crossing the border, according to autopsies and other medical reports.

A spokesperson for CBP, the Border Patrol’s parent agency, said the department has made sweeping changes at the border in the past year. About 300 contract medical personnel work any given day at 40 border stations, up from 20 trained medical providers in December 2018, the spokesperson said.

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General in late December issued one-page findings on the December 2018 deaths of two Guatemalan children. Investigators “found no misconduct or malfeasance by DHS personnel” in the deaths of Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8.

“The inspector general’s one-page summaries on the investigation into the December 2018 deaths are clearly insufficient. Congress has yet to get a full accounting of how the investigation took place and how the inspector general came to its conclusions,” Thompson said.

The inspector general rejected Thompson’s criticism, saying the agency has fully briefed his staff on the investigations.

“We stand by our investigations. On Jan. 10, 2019, the Office of the Inspector General provided the Committee on Homeland Security staff a comprehensive briefing on both investigations and our conclusions. We have also provided the complete reports of investigation to the committee, per the chairman’s request,” inspector general spokeswoman Erica Paulson said. She said complete reports can’t be made public because of privacy laws.

A committee spokesman said the inspector general’s office has declined to testify at Tuesday’s hearing.

Jakelin died of streptococcal sepsis two days after she and her father crossed the border in remote southwest New Mexico. Felipe died of flu complications six days after he and his father crossed the border in El Paso, Texas.

The DHS inspector general continues to investigate Carlos’ death. He died of flu complications in a cell in Weslaco, Texas, a week after crossing the border.

The DHS inspector general is not investigating the deaths of three children who died after being released from Border Patrol custody, a CBP spokesperson said.

Two of those children — a 10-year-old Salvadoran girl in September 2018 and a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy in April 2019 — died after being sent from Border Patrol to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. No autopsies were conducted, but the cause of death for each was listed as a chronic condition that predated their arrival.

An HHS spokesman didn’t respond to questions about whether that agency was investigating the deaths of those two children.

The sixth death involved a 2-year-old Guatemalan boy who died in El Paso in May, several weeks after he and his mother crossed the border. Both were released from custody while he was in the hospital. An autopsy found that the boy, Wilmer Josue Ramirez Vasquez, died of the flu and other respiratory and intestinal infections.

Four of the six children who died were taken into custody by the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector. Rep. Veronica Escobar, an El Paso Democrat, said Trump administration officials have refused to provide her with information on the deaths of the migrant children, citing the need to protect internal investigations.

Escobar in July asked DHS and CBP to preserve videos of border detention facilities since December 2018 and asked for copies of videos of the detention of children and adults who died in custody. In November, Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan sent a letter to Escobar telling her that videos are routinely erased.

Morgan said the agency’s policy “does not specifically outline video recording standards.” He said that because of limited storage capacity, the agencies’ video systems overwrite recordings every 30 to 60 days.

Morgan said videos are preserved for investigations “where a death in custody occurred in a CBP controlled space.” Carlos was the only child to die in a CBP facility; the others died after being transferred to outside medical facilities.

“It’s disappointing, obviously, that my request that the videos be preserved isn’t being followed,” Escobar said. She added that other records of the deaths haven’t been provided by the Trump administration to Congress, which may have to use its subpoena power to obtain them.

ProPublica obtained video of Carlos’ death through a request under Texas open records laws to the Weslaco Police Department, which briefly investigated the boy’s death. CBP provided video of Carlos’ cell from the morning of his death to Weslaco police, though the video included an unexplained gap of more than four hours.

On Dec. 30, CBP released a new medical directive on the care of migrants in custody. The policy replaces an interim plan created in January 2019 in the wake of the deaths of Jakeline and Felipe.

“We take our responsibility to provide adequate health care to everyone in our custody extremely seriously and will continue to make adjustments and improvements as the situation changes,” the agency said in a statement.

But a leading public health expert said the medical directive is so vague that it is essentially meaningless.

“What they’re saying in the press statement makes it sound like things are moving and going on, but in the official document there’s nothing there to be able to parse out to say what are they truly going to do,” said Dr. Paul Spiegel, director of the Center for Humanitarian Health at Johns Hopkins University.

The directive calls for agents to tell migrants to report if they’re feeling sick. In a second phase, Border Patrol agents would provide a health interview to all migrants under 18. In a third phase, if funding is available, all children under 12 would get a medical assessment.

In the fiscal year 2020 funding bill for DHS that passed in December, Congress directed CBP to develop a medical policy that included clear metrics to determine if detention conditions were creating a public health crisis. The “explanatory statement” for the appropriations bill also calls on CBP to develop a “peer review process for deaths in custody.” The Dec. 30 medical directive doesn’t mention metrics or a review process when migrants die in custody.

The CBP spokesperson said the agency “is working with DHS headquarters, multiple federal agencies and other stakeholders to address the items noted in the FY20 appropriations bill.”

Ivanka Says Family Separations ‘Not Part Of My Portfolio’

In an interview on Face The Nation, Ivanka Trump told host Margaret Brennan that she would not comment on her father’s policy of separating migrant children from their families because “immigration is not part of my portfolio.”

“Obviously, I think everyone should be engaged, and the full force of the U.S. government is committed to this effort of border security, to protecting the most vulnerable. That includes those being trafficked across our border,” she added, avoiding comment on one of the most controversial and damaging policies of the administration, in which she serves as a “senior adviser” to her dad.

Ivanka Trump has consistently tried to avoid getting entangled with the policy despite its centrality to the Trump administration’s approach to immigration.

Last year, as stories circulated of her alleged behind-the-scenes comments that the policy looked bad, she declined to use her massive social media reach — at least 18.5 million followers — or her media platform to speak out against the policy.

But Ivanka Trump has not been entirely silent on the issue. When faced with a question on the policy a few months later, she referred to it as a “low point,” but then went on decry “incentivizing behavior that puts children at risk,” putting the blame on immigrant families, rather than admitting her father’s anti-immigrant policy played a role in harming children.

Later in the year, Ivanka Trump appeared to lie to provide cover for her father’s statement that he approved of refugees being seriously hurt or  murdered at the border.

Donald Trump’s chief of staff authored a memo giving troops stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border the power to use “lethal force, where necessary.” In an interview, Donald Trump echoed this official noting, “If they have to, they’re going to use lethal force, I’ve given the okay.”

When a reporter asked Ivanka Trump about the harsh approach, she claimed it hadn’t happened.

“I don’t believe that that’s what he said,” she told ABC News. When reporter Robin Roberts showed her footage of Trump endorsing the approach, Ivanka Trump replied, “He always has to be able to protect the border. He’s not talking about innocents.”

The Trump administration changed policy from previous Republican and Democratic administrations and chose to prosecute all border crossers. This led to children being separated from their families, a harsh outcome that prompted multiple legal challenges.

Family separation resulted in overcrowded detention facilities where disease and mistreatment were documented by government watchdogs.

Federal courts forced the Trump team to return children to their families, but in multiple instances the children were lost in the system and permanently separated from their parents.

With her “portfolio” remark, Ivanka Trump is again sidestepping an unpopular — and bigoted — policy espoused by her father’s administration, while looking to benefit from her prominent position.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Who We Are Now Will Be Our Legacy

We are in the last days of this year, and many of us will spend at least a portion of them in the company of children we love.

Never have I been more mindful of this privilege. Most of us want to believe that we will live on in the memories of the children in our lives, but I wonder how many of us have thought about what our legacy will be.

As I write, the House of Representatives is in its sixth hour of one- and two-minute speeches in either support of or opposition to the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. By the time you read this column, the president of the United States will have been impeached. He will soon face trial in the Senate, and Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made no secret of his intentions.

“I’m not an impartial juror,” he said earlier this week. “This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision.” This flies in the face of precedent and procedure — senators must remain seated and silent throughout the trial, for example, under threat of imprisonment — but he clearly does not care.

His Republican colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham, was even more blunt: “I am trying to give a pretty clear signal I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here. … I will do everything I can to make it die quickly.”

One common refrain in recent weeks is that history will remember how these members of Congress voted in this time of crisis in our country. But they aren’t the only ones who will leave behind a record. In this historical time, families are weaving their own historical narratives. How will we be remembered by the children we leave behind?

Our children and grandchildren, our nieces and nephews — they will be adults in a world that is more diverse and inclusive than the one they were born into. Most children grow up to become adults wondering how much their roots contributed to the complicated people looking back at them in the mirror. Our roots are our beginnings, not our excuses, and these younger generations will have plenty of evidence to help them understand the difference.

I often wonder how Trump supporters with young children in their lives think they’re going to defend their allegiance when their kids are old enough to demand accountability.

Most of us have moments when we wince over things we did when our kids were little. Sometimes they’re funny, and sometimes we have to apologize and ask forgiveness. But how would I have any credibility in telling a daughter or granddaughter that no man should touch her without her permission if I voted for a man who bragged about being a sexual predator? How would I explain that one? This is something I think about a lot.

What if a child we love falls in love with a black person or a Latino? What if they have children? What right would we have to even know these children if we were willing to vote for a racist who regularly described Mexicans as rapists and murderers?

How do we, years from now, convince the grown children in our lives that we love their babies when we defended that racist after he separated thousands of young migrant children from their parents at our border? We don’t yet know the extent of Trump’s legacy, but we know that what he was willing to do to innocent children will be a primary part of any legitimate account of his presidency.

If we aligned ourselves with Trump, what makes us think our children will want anything to do with us? How do we look into their grown-up eyes and tell them his hatred for large swaths of America was good for the country?

Millions of Americans will gather in churches this Christmas, and the adults will be reminded anew how children make the holiday. They’ll stifle laughs during the annual pageants and nativity reenactments, and pull the little ones close in the pews as they help them hold their candles during “Silent Night.” Grown-ups will choke back tears at the sight of their little hands clasped in prayer and wish they could freeze them in that moment forever.

It doesn’t work like that, of course. Children grow up and away, and one day they’ll be old enough to know who we were and what we stood for, in this historical time in our country.

It will matter, and that will be our legacy.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz ( and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at