It's not just lip service. Children really have to be our No. 1 priority.
Yet, consider the fact that no one who is paying any attention believes Georgia's children will get what they need in 2004. No one.
That tells you the state the state is in.
Then you talk about Medicaid. And you talk about the possibility of closing prisons and stacking inmates even higher in local jails.
Brace yourself for a tough year in Atlanta.
And just accept the fact that many of the things you'd like to ask government to do will simply have to be done the old-fashioned way: with the blood, sweat and tears of volunteers and the civic-minded.
This is not all bad. Government is a poor nanny anyway. And the more we rely on government for our welfare, the less freedom we have: Those on the receiving end of government money are usually tied up in knots from all the strings attached, and those on the other end have less freedom by having their money confiscated.
The state's financial woes mean you can't sit back and expect the government to take care of everything. More than ever, mankind needs to be your business. Everyday people will need to take the place of government.
That's especially true with regard to the welfare of children.
Last week was Children's Week here, featuring a number of events coordinated by the Augusta-Richmond County Community Partnership for Children and Families Inc. The events included a legislative breakfast intended to share with the area's legislative delegation our priorities for children in the upcoming session.
Sen. Don Cheeks, R-Augusta, didn't mince words. There isn't money. And if anyone is thinking of raising taxes in an election year, he said, "Just get that out of your mind."
The General Assembly can do some things that don't cost much, certainly. The top priority there should be the proposed bill making child endangerment a felony. Georgia is the only state in the union not to have such a law on the books.
As for the child advocates' many other recommendations - including programs that provide after-school and summer opportunities for youth, and family planning and "male involvement" in bringing down pregnancy rates - they'll either have to wait forever, or the private sector will have to do it. It's that simple.
The thing is, many of the recommendations by the ARCCP are preventive in nature - meaning they could actually reduce the state's costs in social service programs and in corrections. But preventive programs are a tough sell in good times; they're a non-starter this year.
We just can't look to the government for everything these days.
It's going to take some work, some creativity - and a lot of volunteer labor. But if these things are worth doing, they're worth sacrificing for.