Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Homeless Kids, Working Poor Soar As Military Spending Rolls On

Photo source: United Way of Eastern Maine
A few weeks ago I spoke to the Maine Department of Education about new rules going into effect on teacher evaluation. Part of what I said was this:
Measuring learning is a tricky proposition. Most learning occurs over years, is largely invisible, and can at best be partially measured by means of a standardized test. What tests like the SAT best measure is how affluent and educated ones parents are. 
Addressing the growth of poverty, especially children growing up in poverty, would have far more impact on student learning outcomes in Maine than basing teacher evaluations on a test score will ever do.
Since I gave that testimony, new and even more disturbing statistics have emerged on the extreme poverty of homelessness among children. This week the U.S. Department of Education reported that for school year '11‐12 public schools enrolled 1,168,354 homeless students, a 10% increase from the previous school year, and a 24% increase from '09-10. 

Of the homeless children, roughly half failed to meet proficiency standards in reading and math as measured by an annual standardized test.

In my state, where freezing rain is falling on the day before Thanksgiving, we saw 58% growth in student homelessness for  '11-12 as compared with '10-11. Food pantries are tapped out, SNAP benefits have been cut, and the governor vetoed accepting federal funds to expand Medicare for the working poor.

Iraq Veterans Against the War offered this perspective in an email blast about poverty in our day: 
Multi-billion dollar corporations are continually increasing the gap between rich and poor. Their CEOs salaries continue to grow while worker's wages remain stagnant. Poverty is one of the biggest contributors to military recruitment - nearly half of all military recruits come from lower-middle-class to poor households. The conditions created by corporations like Walmart make it nearly impossible for people to find employment options that are more appealing than the military.
So what will the U.S. Congress do when they return from their Thanksgiving holidays? Vote billions more for the corporations who profit from military contracts. The Fiscal Year 2014 National "Defense"Authorization Act (NDAA) has yet to pass as FY14 bears down on the Lockheeds and Booz Allen Hamiltons sucking up around 57% of federal tax revenues.

Defense News reported:
The legislation, when Energy Department funding is factored in, would authorize about $522 billion in base 2014 defense funding. That’s about the same level authorized by a House-passed version of the bill. 
The Senate’s bill calls for $80 billion for overseas contingencies operations; the House-passed level is $85 billion. A conference committee would have to find a compromise war-funding amount.
Meanwhile Pentagon watchdog Bruce Gagnon has been sharing news of the U.S. "pivot" to the Pacific ramping up. Yesterday USA Today reported on buildups of U.S. military bases in Australia, Okinawa, and Guam. The Air Force flew B-52 bombers over air space China claims it needs to control for self-defense. Japanese citizens report their government is under increasing pressure to abandon Article 9 of their constitution, which prohibits anything more than a self-defense force for the former imperial aggressor nation. South Korean citizens report their government has stepped up repression of dissent and jailed many resisting the construction of a deep water port for warships that is destroying fisheries on Jeju Island.

Negotiations have stalled over the right to keep thousands of troops and hundreds of bases in Afghanistan through 2024. Can you name the nations that share a border with Afghanistan?
The people are hurting, but the CEOs and stockholders who profit from war and exploitation of natural resources have never been richer. Poster child Bath Iron Works, subsidiary of General Dynamics -- a defense contractor that has had several highly profitable years in a row -- received a $6.5 million tax rebate from the town of Bath, Maine. There they will continue to cut jobs while building war ships to menace China. 

Secretary of "Defense" Hagel even made a personal visit to BIW this month, giving elected officials like senators Susan Collins and Angus King a chance to grovel for future Navy contracts. The couldn't do it in person, though, "due to Senate consideration of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization bill" according to Collins' website. It is clear Maine's senators know which side of their bread is buttered.

It is long past time for people to rise up and demand to bring war dollars home to house, feed and educate our children. Before it's too late.

Source: Ha! Tea 'n' Danger blog

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