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Jim Webb: Kids need an equal shot

jim-webbFormer U.S. senator and potential presidential aspirant Jim Webb told Iowa children’s advocates on Sunday in Mason City that the American political and economic system must create and expand new opportunities for working families to ensure that kids get an “equal shot” at success.

Webb acknowledged there is “no magic wand” for new jobs and good wages. He lamented that inequality has become pervasive throughout our society, not only with regard to children’s opportunities. He said the “financial sector” is too dominant in both the economy and politics, and supported calls for a higher minimum wage, in part for the pressure that movement has put on large employers.

Webb also agreed that access to quality child care and preschool also are part of the solution and that funding for those should be prioritized. At the same time he emphasized the need for family nurturing at home and nodded approvingly when informed of Iowa programs aimed at improving parental skills.

Webb met for an hour with Every Child Matters at Chop restaurant downtown Mason City at a gathering that featured Rep. Sharon Steckmanfrom Iowa’s 13th District; Sen. Amanda Ragan, from the 27th District; Rep. Todd Pritchard from the 52nd District; The Rev. Mark Anderson, Assistant to the Bishop of the Northeastern Iowa Synod and chair of the Iowa Council on Human Services; Sheila Hanson, Director of Every Child Counts, a division of the Child and Family Policy Center; Cindy Davis, Head Start Coordinator, North Iowa Community Action Organization; EJ Wallace, Manager of Mobilization, Save the Children Action Network; Mike Penca, Executive Director, Learning Supports & Elementary Programs, Mason City Community Schools. ECM staff included Brian Ahlberg, President, ECM ;Kelli Soyer, Director of ECM in Iowa, and Jill Applegate, Field Organizer, ECM in Iowa.

Every Child Matters is seeking to meet with presidential candidates and campaign staffs of any party to talk about the “opportunity gap” that Harvard scholar and author Robert Putnam says threatens the American Dream. Since 2002, the organization has fought the decline in national investment in children’s programs while median income for families with children have likewise fallen.

Webb has long made inequality and economic and social fairness cornerstones of his public political stance. In his 2007 State of the Union response, he said, “When one looks at the health of our economy, it’s almost as if we are living in two different countries. …When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it’s nearly 400 times.” On Sunday, Webb noted that there are now more like “three Americas, not just two anymore” – pointing to the growing disparity in income and wealth even between the Middle Class and the rich, not only between the poor and the affluent.

– Submitted by Brian Ahlberg, president, Every Child Matters Education Fund