Katie Couric sees America through a very dark prism. On Monday, she launched a new “Children of the Recession” series, in collaboration with USA Today, with an op-ed in “the nation's newspaper” in which she speculated today's kids may become the “Recession Generation” since “in some ways, I think they already are,” or the “innocent victims could become the Lost Generation.”
Then, on Monday's CBS Evening News, she portrayed America as in such a bad way that it reminded her of the Great Depression, asserting the impact of the recession “may be” to children “what the depression was to an earlier generation.” In a story on the “Safe Families for Children” program that helps overwhelmed families hand their kids temporarily to other families, Couric raised the most ominous comparison: “Volunteer families stepping in during tough times is reminiscent of the Great Depression when parents in dire straits sent their children to live with relatives or other people in the community.”
In the May 18 USA today op-ed, “The recession's tiniest victims need help, too,” Couric denigrated the kind of news she's presented as dealing with “things and places that are cold, vague, incomprehensible” (quite an endorsement for her newscast!), before pivoting to how the real news is an anecdote-based recounting of the plight of a few kids:
A police officer in Chicago noticed a small child with swollen feet. The family had been riding trains and walking all day because they had nowhere else to go. He took the mother and her two girls to a shelter....
For months, journalists have reported on the housing crisis, the collapse of financial institutions, the stock market's freefall, the stimulus package, the AIG bonuses and the economy's hemorrhaging of jobs. Things and places that are cold, vague, incomprehensible.
But the real gut-wrenching stories of the economic downturn reach well beyond the offices of Wall Street or the corridors of power in Washington. You see, the collateral damage of this recession is felt by our smallest, and weakest, citizens our children. It's felt by a 5-year-old girl with swollen, bloody feet....
Couric soon wondered:
So how will the children living through this struggle be defined? Every generation gets a label. I'm a Baby Boomer. My parents come from the Silent Generation, and my youngest daughter, Carrie, is a Gen Z kid who is anything but silent. Those definitions usually are derived from the environment that shapes us as we come of age.
I wonder what today's children will be called if this recession has a lasting impact on their lives. Will they be the Recession Generation? In some ways, I think they already are.
In Phoenix, Children's Hospital reports a 40% increase in child abuse and neglect cases this year. In Cleveland, Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital has seen more middle-class families turning to the emergency room for basic health care because their children are uninsured.
Such stories of despair are repeated in cities from coast to coast....
An ancient Chinese proverb says, "One generation plants trees, the next gets shade." The character-defining lessons these children are learning, with the right guidance, can mold them into strong and sensible adults and even, perhaps, recalibrate their values in a culture that seems to have gone off-course. The Greatest Generation, as Tom Brokaw has called it, lived through the Great Depression and developed a foundation of family and core values that still support this nation today.
There are signs, we're told, that perhaps the worst is behind us, that our economy is on the mend. I hope that's the case. But a bull market or a bounce in our 401(k)s won't heal Isabel's [5-year-old] sore feet or give children the health care and education they need. That has to come from caring people who realize that if we don't start planting trees now, these innocent victims could become the Lost Generation desperately in need of some shade.