As a child I wondered of my elders ‘where were you’ during WWII? Why had you not “done something”? And found always the vague responses unsatisfying, referencing uncertainty as to what (often as a child) could have been done and even uncertainty (unconvincingly) regarding what had been happening. The callow youth thinks: unsatisfactory, unconvincing, culpable.

But here we are as members of a drive-around society confronted every day with a small army of homeless, begging from every stop light, evincing unrequited misery and suffering over and over again; colonies below every bridge underpass and encampments inside every highway interchange.

What are we thinking? Where are we?? My children ask me this every day, and not as a past reference. This is the here-and-now. And I have no answer and I do not know what to do and I do not know why our political leaders so fail us all by failing to address economic inequality.

Are we not a “rich society”? A “developed” country? Can we not afford to treat and house such unfortunates? We read of, even speak of “Dickensian Times” with a smugness that belies our own involvement in analogous abominable treatment (never mind creation) of the poor.

We are living through a period of dreadful disregard for a vast underclass society, collateral damage of this war for boundless treasure being waged by the 1% on the rest of us. True, in the quest to hoarde every last one of the nation’s cookies inside fewer than 200 bank accounts, the middle class is shrinking and our working poor are in dire straights. Dreadful-er, still, is the condition of those cut out of the rat race altogether.

This matters. To absolutely every shred of our daily lives, every single time we draw a breath. All the fussing and scrambling and decrying of education policy is nothing but a shadow of importance beside the reality of imbalance forced upon children by economic inequality. It was always so. And it is so now for so many more children than ever before.

In the world of public education parents, we are left scrabbling between $1.4m here (the amount to fund schools with 40-49% poverty concentration denied funds by John Deasy in recent years) and $5.00 there (the amount board member Garcia says will make a big difference in the lives of every poor child’s education), pitting one under-funded school of poor families against another under-funded school of marginally-less-poor families. It is ridiculous, and it is all arguing trivia. Even with the much-vaunted (but probably chimeric) proposition 30 money, our schools are still desperately under-funded, and our middle class is also desperately under-employed. Think how many people would love to have the janitorial job of cleaning up after 1500 children attending schools of squalor where a typical classroom feels that janitor’s mop maybe once a month. Maybe. Or the job of fixing the air conditioning system that fails to cool legions when they return to school in the 100-degree temperatures of a Southern California August under Global Warming? Etc.

We have made problems for ourselves by failing to insist on what is right: seeing to it that our country’s wealth is distributed among us where it is needed. People need jobs and children need to learn from more people, who happen to be some of those needing jobs. Hungry people need food. Sick people need care. Homeless people need shelter. What else do we have an economy for if not to address need?

I do not know how to address my children when they ask how to mitigate the suffering living on the streets they travel along. Why have we employed political leaders if not to address this most fundamental of needs?