Grace Carlson Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Grace Carlson

Will a “Baby Bonus” Safeguard
Child Victims of Profit System?

(23 June 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 25, 23 June 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On April 6 of this year, Senator William Langer introduced a bill into the Senate providing for the payment of “baby bonuses.” Under the terms of his bill, parents of a first child would receive $500, of a second child, $750, and of a third child, $1,000.

I don’t know what became of this “baby bonus” bill. I never saw any other reference to it than, the one-inch Associated Press report which appeared in the N.Y. Herald-Tribune. I expect that the silence about this proposal is due to a certain embarrassment over its resemblance to the “baby bonuses” paid by the late and unlamented Benito Mussolini in Italy.

Births Declining

Langer’s proposal to reward parents for having large families is intended, no doubt, to deal with the fact that the birth rate in the United States is declining. The 1940 census showed that there were almost 3,000,000 fewer children under nine years of age in the country than there were in 1930. It is expected that the 1950 census will show a further decrease in the number of children, as well as a reduction in the number of youths, 10 to 19 years. Like Mussolini in his time, Langer is probably beginning to worry about where American imperialism will get cannon fodder for its next war!

I would certainly not oppose the idea of giving parents some extra financial aid – but it should be much more than $500. How far does that go in raising a child? If Senator Langer were really sincere about aiding parents, he would be trying to help workers get higher wages, so that working-class parents could take proper care of the children they now have. Every year, thousands of the ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed children of the poor are driven into early graves in this “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Take just one childhood killer – rheumatic heart disease. At the ages of 10 to 14, it is the leading cause of death; between the ages of 15 and 25, it is second only to tuberculosis. The annual death toll from rheumatic heart disease is 30,000 each year. Many other hundreds of thousands became cripples for life – heart cripples – because of rheumatic heart disease infection.

The Poor Suffer

But, according to the eminent authority on chronic disease, Dr. Ernst Boas: “Rheumatic heart disease would largely disappear if decent housing and wages became the order of the day.” Surveys among school children in New York City, Boston and Philadelphia have shown that rheumatic heart disease is eight times more frequent in children attending school in the poorer districts than in those attending private schools.

A germ or a virus causes rheumatic fever but poor living conditions – damp or overcrowded sleeping quarters, inadequate diet, lack of sunshine, poor ventilation – are known to be predisposing factors. Many early cases of rheumatic fever go unrecognized because the main symptoms, pain and swelling of the joints, are often dismissed as “growing pains.” In about 90 percent of the cases of rheumatic fever, the heart is damaged and rheumatic heart disease results. The more attacks of rheumatic fever the child has, the greater the damage to the young heart.

Like tuberculosis, rheumatic heart disease requires long, costly medical care, and, also like tuberculosis, this disease strikes most often at the children of workers least able to pay for these services. Even fairly well-paid workers find it impossible to pay for this expensive but essential medical care for their sick children. Free public health facilities for the proper care of rheumatic patients are totally inadequate. The result is that thousands of children with early rheumatic heart disease, who might be restored to a near-normal life by proper treatment, develop, serious heart conditions and die prematurely.

Hope for rheumatic heart sufferers is said to lie in the use of sulfa drugs to prevent recurrences of the rheumatic fever attacks, Now if there were only a drug to abolish the damp, dark, over-crowded tenements in which rheumatic fever is born and flourishes! Millions of babies would be saved and grow up to be strong and healthy men and women. We wouldn’t need any “baby bonuses” then.

Grace Carlson Archive   |   Trotskyist Writers’ Index  |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 31 October 2018