A society will inevitably be judged by how it treats the least of its members. In America we are failing the task of caring for those most vulnerable.

The latest news on this front is that the welfare of Oregon's children is at its lowest point in 12 years.

The watchdog group Children First for Oregon cites the growing number of children without health care insurance, high unemployment and a lack of affordable housing and child care.

We are growing a generation of Americans that we might not recognize if this trend is not turned around.

The good news is more 2-year-olds are up to date on their immunizations and teenage pregnancy is down, as is the high school drop-out rate.

But that good news is overshadowed by the overall measurement of the state of our children compared to the goals set by the Progress Board, chaired by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

Needless to say, the Children First report card didn't set well with the governor's office. It characterized the the report as being from an "advocacy group" and criticized it for not taking into consideration budget shortfalls and voter-rejected tax increases which result in service cuts.

Hold the phone.

The lack of resources requires our society to carefully prioritize where those scarce resources will be spent. The governor and the Legislature have the responsibility to set those priorities. We, as constituents, must send them appropriate cues as to how we think.

The Children's Report Card - no matter what the advocates want - provides the public with an opportunity to reflect on state-funded priorities.

Failing to care for our children, our sick and our aged cannot be subject to the whimsy of leadership or held hostage against no-growth tax revenues.

We have, as a society, a need to care for those least able to care for themselves - it's the hallmark of any progressive society.

That we're not making straight As in this class is embarrassing to us all.

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