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60 Minutes uses Florida kids to document historic fall of middle class children into poverty



60-minutes-florida1.jpgWhen correspondent Scott Pelley wanted to document the historic slide of children from middle class lives into poverty, he came to Florida -- Seminole County, near Orlando -- where he notes the school buses stop at dozens of cheap motel rented by families week to week.

The story he told Sunday was jarring and surprising -- the best qualities of a good 60 Minutes' piece. Under everyone's noses, kids are forced to try and get through school while coping with homes lost to foreclosure, parents' jobs lost to layoffs and incomes slashed by wage cuts and work slowdowns.

This is the face of poverty that some politicians prefer the public not consider; people left underemployed, unemployed or homeless through no fault of their own -- hard workers trying to carve a life out of the most unforgiving economy for a working man (and woman!) since the Great Depression.

Pelley predicted that within a year, the poverty rate for children will get close to 25 percent -- one in four children. In an Overtime segment, he describes choking up as the bulk of a roomful of children in Seminole County raised their hands after he asked: "Who in here has had the lights turned out in their homes?" Check out other kids' stories here and here.

high-speed-rail-2-0223_rdax.jpgIn the 60 Minutes' segment, he features a family of five who lived in their car after a foreclosure, losing many of their valuables when they fell behind in payments on a storage space and the items were auctioned off. According to Pelley, 1,000 students in Seminole County's schools recently lost their homes -- one social worker said the district sees between 5 and 15 new homeless kids each day.

Stories like this are hard to discuss without bring up political contexts. As fat cat legislators of all stripes talk tough about cutting government programs and paring back programs, citizens of good conscience are left to wonder -- if the world's richest nation can't help people like these, why are we worrying about anything else?

I wonder how many of these families, near the path of the proposed high speed rail project, might have gotten a hand out of poverty by the jobs that project would have provided.

I also wonder how long it's going to take for Gov. Rick Scott to make good on his claims of creating jobs. Governor - these families need your help yesterday. Maybe you need to take your own advice and get to work getting THEM work.

[Last modified: Monday, March 7, 2011 1:35am]


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