Monday, August 09, 2010

Stories from the Road to Nowhere

Laura mentioned Paul Krugman's excellent op-ed. He and blogger Glenn Greenwald have been thinking along similar lines. Here are some of the stories that inspired them:

The city of Camden, NJ is permanently closing it's library system by the end of the year:

Camden is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free.

At an emotional but sparsely attended meeting of the library board Thursday, its president, Martin McKernan, said the city's three libraries cannot stay open past Dec. 31 because of severe budget cuts by Mayor Dana L. Redd.

"It's extraordinary, it's appalling," McKernan said.

All materials in the libraries would be donated, auctioned, stored, or destroyed. That includes 187,000 books, historical documents, artifacts, and electronic equipment. Keeping materials in the shuttered buildings is a fire hazard, officials said, and would make them vulnerable to vandalism and vermin.

Camden is a city of over 500,000 people, who will have no access to free books or to free library computers and internet.

Ripping up the roads:

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as "poor man's pavement." Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.

Remember when America's roadways and highways were something to be proud of?

Utah looks at making the senior year of high school optional:

The sudden buzz over the relative value of senior year stems from a recent proposal by state Sen. Chris Buttars that Utah make a dent in its budget gap by eliminating the 12th grade.

The notion quickly gained some traction among supporters who agreed with the Republican's assessment that many seniors frittered away their final year of high school, but faced vehement opposition from other quarters, including in his hometown of West Jordan.

"My parents are against it," Williams said. "All the teachers at the school are against it. I'm against it."

Buttars has since toned down the idea, suggesting instead that senior year become optional for students who complete their required credits early. He estimated the move could save up to $60 million, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

There's more. In the NY Times we learn of a Georgia public bus system being shut down completely:

Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.

and Hawaii furloughed schools:

Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation and sending working parents scrambling to find care for them.

We're in a big, big mess - and there aren't any real solutions being offered. Cutting taxes for the wealthy isn't going to dig us out of this hole. Worrying about the deficit isn't going to dig us out. Cutting food stamps or Social Security isn't the way forward. President Obama has said that everything other than defense is on the chopping block. We are supporting over 1000 overseas military bases. Is this really making us stronger or safer? If we can cut food to hungry families without even blinking, we shouldn't be afraid of reevaluating how we spend our defense dollars.

originally posted at MainSt/

1 comment:

DissedBelief said...

Absolutely unbelieveable! The discussion involving military spending was discussed I believe yesterday on NPR and many callers voiced the same concerns. Why do we need so many bases all over the world. The concensus is we are no safer than we were before 9/11. What I find even more baffling is the bickering between the Dems and Repubs. This must merely be smoke and mirrors for us lesser mortals. Since Obama was elected, I have joined the ranks of cynics who firmly believe we are a one party system regardless of who "gets in". The fact that W was allowed to get away with what he did, may be all the proof we need. Added to this the fact that libraries, once revered as the bastions of knowledge are allowed to return to rubble is indeed the frightening reality of our rapid backslide to self-destruction. And nary a peep from anyone?