War on Education

by Shadra L. Bruce

00military-economy-x-pslweb-org1Everywhere you turn in this country, teachers are getting a bad rap. In Idaho, they’ve passed a bill to cut teachers in place of laptops and online education. In New York, school districts are slashing teachers while paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for each small town to have is own Superintendent. The story is the same everywhere you turn: teachers have a tarnished image.

Wherever you live, whether you have kids in the school systems or not, you ought to be paying attention to what is going on with the education budget. Not only does education have an impact on individual health, there is no one thing more likely to stabilize and grow the U.S. economy than a well educated, competitive work force.

No, teachers should not get to keep their jobs just because they’ve been teaching for a long time and have earned tenure (which should go away). But implementing a high-quality, standardized national education system (no, we don’t have one now) is crucial.

What we are seeing on the national level with the budget, as the conservatives choose to target those least likely to be able to protect, defend, and advocate for themselves with cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other “entitlement” programs (we should be entitled to equal access to education, healthcare, and representation), is what we are starting to see at the local school district level as well.

Superintendents and school boards are building budgets that prioritize protecting their own high salaries, perks, and benefits at the expense of those who cannot fight back: students with special needs, students who benefit from arts and music programs, and teachers who perform but don’t have tenure.

We do have to make changes. If we have to make cuts, start looking at ways districts can be more efficient. Look at ways to combine small districts together. I think most parents wouldn’t even care if transportation budgets were targeted. Ten minutes longer on the school bus would be worth having a class size of 18 instead of 40, wouldn’t it?

Even though I’m not very good at math, I can do the math here:

  • From 2001 to 2010, we spent $1,291,000,000,000 on trying to recreate the world in our image in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • We have 3,823,142 teachers in the United States. Their average annual salaries are $44,053.55.
  • If we took the $1.291 trillion dollars that we spent on war and put it into education, we could pay every teacher in the United States their full annual salary for SEVEN full years.

It is time to stop prioritizing everything but the home front and start worrying about protecting democracy here.

Domestic Nonlethal Assistance Repealed

by David T. Bruce

Source: Mother Jones

As a society, we may have become numb to the reality that we have spent almost ten years in the Middle East, engaged in conflicts with Afghanistan and Iraq.  Now we find that we are compelled to join NATO in support of Libyan rebels.  To support our troops (an admirable incentive) and our habit, billions of dollars must be allocated for defense.

According to information provided by the National Journal, the Pentagon has requested $708.3 billion for this year, including $159.3 billion to continue our campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  During the first day of operation in Libya, the United States spent approximately $100 million.  Following the initial attacks on the forces of Colonel Gaddifi, we have recently pledged additional military assistance by sending armed drone aircraft into Libya.  This amounts to an additional $25 million of “nonlethal” [really?] military assistance.

At the same time, our representatives want to eliminate $1 trillion from the Medicaid program over the next ten years, or $84 billion a year.  This suggests that much of the money once used for healthcare in the United States is to be reallocated to support the habits of the Pentagon.

We have money enough to send “nonlethal” assistance to foreign countries, while we simultaneously propose cutbacks in what our representatives call “entitlements.”  The result of denying the disabled, elderly, and low-income citizens of America from having these “entitlements” is indeed lethal.  Apparently, saving lives of citizens in other countries is humane, while saving the lives of Americans at home is an entitlement.  Yes, we need to make changes to the Medicaid (and Medicare) programs, but perhaps the fault of the misuse or abuse is less of an indictment against the patients.

It is remarkable and yet interesting to journey down Constitution Avenue in Washington D. C.  Observe and take note of the buildings that line either side of the street: the Federal Trade Commission, the National Archives, the Department of Justice, the National Museum of Natural History, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Commerce, the National Aquarium, the Federal Reserve, the Albert Einstein Memorial, and . . . the American Pharmaceutical Association? . . . yes, the American Pharmaceutical Association.

Is it possible that the problem is not abuse of the system by the patients and more of an abuse of the system by providers and pharmaceutical companies?  Many incidents may be cited in which service was provided for no reason other than the bill was covered by Medicaid.  The cost of medication is on the rise, and I question whether or not pressure is being put on the pharmaceutical companies to keep their costs down.  Instead, patients are targeted.  At some point, voters must realize that our elected representatives lobby for large businesses when they should be lobbying for their constituents.

Tea Party Birther Plan: Democracy’s Future Stillborn

by David T. Bruce

president_barack_obamas_long_form_birth_certificateInformation provided by The White House tells us that the Constitution lists only three qualifications for the Presidency — the President must be 35 years of age, be a natural born citizen, and must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years.

Our first seven presidents are:

George Washington – born 1732 – President 1789-1797
John Adams – born 1735 – President 1797-1801
Thomas Jefferson – born 1743 – President 1801-1809
James Madison – born 1751 – President 1809-1817
James Monroe – born 1758 – President 1817-1825
John Quincy Adams– born 1767 – President 1825-1829
Andrew Jackson – born 1767 – President 1829-1837

We could argue that these men, George Washington in particular, are not natural born citizens, Washington specifically being a British subject prior to the adoption of the U. S. Constitution.  While we can agree that he was naturalized at the time the Constitution was ratified, he would still not necessarily qualify under the requirements written in Article II, Section 1.  We could also argue that the caveat allowing for those people who became citizens at the time the Constitution was adopted was a way for Washington, Adams,Jefferson, et al would allow for said citizens to serve as president of their new nation, with the populace’s best interests at heart.  We can also appreciate that these requirements were written with the intent to prevent a conflict of interest were candidates of foreign countries eligible to become President of the United States.  The ongoing debate, however, regarding the eligibility of President Obama under this article of the Constitution is in no way reflective of any respect for the Constitution or the Executive Office.

The argument vehemently debated prior to the nomination and election of Obama is again taking center stage, just in time for the 2012 election campaigns.  According to an article published in the Huffington Post, the Arizona Legislature approved a proposal requiring the current president and subsequent presidents to prove their citizenship prior to having their names placed on the Arizona state ballot.  Carl Seel, Republican representative for the state of Arizona indicated that the bill was not about opposing Obama.  Given the repetitive, vigorous political harassment of Obama since he assumed his position as President, Seel’s testimony is very difficult to believe.

The combined efforts of the Republican Party and the Tea Party have turned the past two and one half years into a partisan mêlée, in which little has been accomplished on behalf of American citizens.  Candidates are no sooner elected then they begin campaigning, undermining the efforts of each other, all in hopes of maintaining a life-style they all enjoy at the sacrifice of the working-class people of the United States.  The citizenship conspiracy theory is yet another political game being played by our elected representatives, in their efforts to take our attention away from the fact that they are poised to significantly diminish, if not eliminate, health benefits and food programs that help support elderly, disabled, and low-income Americans, while at the same time, they intend to extend or initiate tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest people and companies of this country, people and companies who already enjoy enough tax cuts and loop holes to pay virtually no taxes today.

If we can rationalize that George Washington was eligible to be president when the evidence was circumstantial, then we can certainly put to rest that Barack Obama is eligible to be president when sufficient proof has been repeatedly provided and courts have supported Obama’s eligibility.  This latest gambit from the Republican – Tea Party tag-team has nothing to do with loyalty to the United States or support of the U. S. Constitution.  This is yet more smoke screen and a method of maintaining the status quo that partners politics with capitalism, establishing a democratic government that works only for those who are educated, affluent, and high-ranking.

Your Health Insurance Policy Doesn’t Cover Broken Promises

by David Bruce

insurance_claim_formTwo and one half years ago, we elected a man to the office of the President of the United States.  Today, I am as disgusted with his job performance as I was elated that he was elected office in the first place.  “Change,” a word often perceived as cliché, was a sigh of relief when President Obama took office.  The citizens of our country had been manipulated by a man and his cabinet who lead us into two wars (one under false pretenses), eroded a federal surplus, destroyed an economy, and raised the unemployment rate to levels which have yet to see any significant improvement.  President Obama boldly inherited a mess he vowed to clean up by uniting Republican and Democratic parties.  We wanted to believe that Obama would kick some collective, conservative ass.

We should not blame President Obama necessarily for his failure to clean up the mess left by his predecessor, nor should we blame him for being unsuccessful in uniting the two parties, who rarely agree on any policies or ideals anyway.  On the contrary, his efforts at the beginning of his term were admirable. What I do blame him for is his lack of ability to demand a consensus among our Representatives and Senators, and in lieu of that consensus, an ethical line should be drawn that does not get negotiated.

The most recent compromise made by the President has permitted extensions of tax cuts awarded by former President George W. Bush and the erosion of Medicaid and Medicare benefits for the poorest of America’s populace.  Instead of summarily rejecting the 2012 budget proposal, President Obama gave in on the threat of a government shut down.  President Obama is demonstrating that he is still running for office instead of fighting on behalf of the people that elected him to office on the promise of “change.”  This is not change; this is business as usual.

The time for compromise is over, and time wasted holding out for a consensus is over.  This is clearly a case of knowing what is right and what is wrong.  Additional tax beaks for companies that already benefit from a plethora of tax loop holes are wrong.  Risking the health coverage for elderly and disabled Americans is wrong.  Yes, tough decisions need to be made.  Taxes need to be raised.  We can afford an increase in taxes.  We have found a way to live with exorbitant gas prices, and we can do the same for health care.

Of course, our representatives will promise us that taxes should not and will not be raised; they want their jobs.  At the same time, these are the same representatives that categorically state that there is no free ride.  Well, there is if you are an American company with lobbyists and votes to spare.  Let the government shut down.  The government is broken, and isn’t doing anyone (but the wealthy) a damn bit of good.

Si j’étais Président… (If I were President)

Even if it requires an across the board tax increase, you do what you have to do to take care of the people. Of course, if we would stop launching Tomahawk missiles that cost $1.41 million into foreign soil to protect our oil interests, we wouldn’t even have to worry about the state of our social programs. It’s time to focus our resources on the home front.

America – A Dream to Some, A Nightmare to Others

by David T. Bruce

dc-3My family and I just returned to our small village after spending four days visiting Washington D.C.  During our visit, we enjoyed the exhibits of a few Smithsonian museums, and we toured the obligatory streets and malls of the district in which resided the various presidential monuments and federal buildings, to include the Capitol and the White House.

Admittedly, I felt a sense of awe as we entered the District of Columbia via the George Washington Memorial Parkway and saw the Washington Monument behind a screen of haze and setting sun.

During our stay, I rekindled fond memories of the Apollo lunar program, satisfied the child within by exploring decades-old pop culture artifacts, and explored the history of the area that is our nation’s capital.

As a parent, I patted myself on the back for fostering the development of my children, introducing them to a history they had only skimmed in a text book or glimpsed in a Hollywood movie.  At the same time, as a citizen, I became more cynical as each day passed.

While the architecture is beautiful, the streets are clean and well cared for, and the transportation system is exceptional, I became increasingly sensitive to the disparity between what the District of Columbia represented versus what the reality of America is for the better share of the population of this country. While our family toured a region of America symbolic of freedom and democracy, our Representatives and Senators, perpetually embroiled in a debate over how to spend tax payer dollars, were gridlocked to the point in which the government is at risk of being shut down.

As I conclude this writing, the two disparate halves of our government have somehow come to a consensus that allowed for the budget to be passed and the federal government to continue doing business. Of highest concern, however, are those items that contributed to the heated debate: budget cuts that most affected elderly, disabled, and low-income Americans.  At the same time I and my family contribute tourist dollars to the District of Columbia economy, as our elected representatives and their families enjoyed the luxury of private schools, exceptional transportation, and an environment in which money is obviously no object, at least half of our nations representatives had the impudence to propose cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Planned Parenthood programs, directly affecting those who have little or no means to help themselves.

While the federal government proposes that funds be cut from the budget that, funds that support the elderly, disabled, and low-income citizens of America, and as the federal government proposes that states and the private industry (entities who are already in financial distress and have shown themselves to be incapable of providing adequate, affordable services) take over programs for the same, our government has exhibited little or no concern for these that have, as I say, no means to help themselves.  Those representatives that have raised their hand in support of such measure should be ashamed.

As an American and a father, I too feel shame, as I lead my children around a part of American they should be proud of.  Instead, these monuments and museums become mere shadows of what was and what could have been.  Today, there is to evident truth that all citizens are created equal.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are for those fortunate enough to be young, healthy, and God-fearing.  As a nation, we must come to grips with the reality that we will not survive as a nation divided.  At some point in time, we must all realize that “live and let live” means we must embrace our neighbors and offer a helping hand regardless of where they come from or where they are born.  Our government must begin to set the example by cutting the budget for everyone, by living within their means (as families do across the country), and by showing compassion for those who do not enjoy a fraction of the American dream that they do.  If America can spend in excess of $100 billion per year to take away lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, then perhaps they can spend at least that amount to help promote the health and welfare of America’s elderly, disabled, and low-income families.  The American dream is becoming a nightmare for many.