The giant sucking sound you hear is the future going down the drain for huge numbers of Alabama kids -- 25 to 30% according to a recent report from the Brookings Institution.
Poverty is like a whirlpool, it sucks the future away for poor children and their future children. This is not rocket science. Here's the cycle:
• Poor kids perform less well in school -- not because they're less smart (although poor kids do tend to have higher exposure to environmental toxins) but because they're distracted by lack of food, clothing, shelter and parents with the time to help them.
• Poor kids achieve lower educational levels -- probably due to a combination of economic pressure and the fact that they perform less well in school. See above.
• Adults with lower educational levels earn less, so their children are more likely to live in poverty ...
... and have lower educational attainment ...
... and earn less ...
... and have kids of their own who grow up in poverty ...
... and so on, and so on, ad nauseum.
The number of poor children in Alabama is higher than it has been in a generation. What does that mean for the future?
Lower educational levels, lower earnings, even more kids in poverty. This is the fruit of a race to the bottom economy, based on cheap labor rates and a tax system that actually redistributes wealth from the middle and lower working classes to the rich.
The cycle of poverty is ugly and it's going to get worse in the future unless something is done to plug the drain and enable the working poor and their families to escape from the whirlpool.
Not to mention preventing even more middle class Alabamians from being drawn into the poverty vortex.
This is not a zero-sum game. If our society doesn't provide opportunities for the poor to move up, we're all headed down the drain.