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Monday, December 12, 2011

The War On The Poor, cont...

Dec 12th, 2011

It's often the timing of two seemingly unrelated stories that gets to me. Yesterday, Robert Miga reported for the AP on the likelihood of a terrible Winter for our nation's vulnerable citizens, seniors in particular:

"Thousands of poor people across the Northeast are bracing for a difficult winter with substantially less home heating aid coming from the federal government.

"They're playing Russian roulette with people's lives," said John Drew, who heads Action for Boston Community Development, Inc., which provides aid to low-income residents in Massachusetts."

This should surprise no one. We've been hearing the doomsayers in D.C. all year as they have ranted about how everything has to be on the chopping block.

"Several Northeast states already have reduced heating aid benefits to families as Congress considers cutting more than $1 billion from last year's $4.7 billion Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that served nearly 9 million households.

Families in New England, where the winters are long and cold and people rely heavily on costly oil heat, are expected to be especially hard hit. Many poor and elderly people on fixed incomes struggle with rising heating bills that can run into thousands of dollars. That can force them to cut back on other necessities like food or medicine.

"The winter of 2011-12 could be memorable for the misery and suffering of thousands of frigid households," New Hampshire's Concord Monitor newspaper said in an editorial. "Heating oil prices are expected to hit record highs, and federal fuel assistance may reach a record low for recent years."

Defenders of these moves would have us believe that such austerity is our only option. They behave as if we can't possibly find any other way to cut from the federal budget.

For the moment, let's put aside the question of how such an exceptional nation can't find an alternative. Let's also skip the debate over why we refuse to limit predatory commodities speculation which has displaced traditional supply and demand as the driving force in energy markets.

Instead, let's look at another little gem that hit the wires last week. Reporting for Business Insider, Robert Johnson wrote:

"We produce so much military equipment that inventories of military robots, M-16 assault rifles, helicopters, armored vehicles, and grenade launchers eventually start to pile up and it turns out a lot of these weapons are going straight to American police forces to be used against US citizens.

Benjamin Carlson at The Daily reports on a little known endeavor called the "1033 Program" that gave more than $500 million of military gear to U.S. police forces in 2011 alone."

The Pentagon is so overstocked that they're literally giving stuff away. They are doing so in a program that provides heavier hardware for our own police to aim at us. Of course, it does serve to deplete those stocks from the ledgers the Pentagon takes to the Armed Services Committee. That way we can order more. It's worth noting that the "1033 program" is estimating a 400 percent increase in such transfers next year.

Anyone who can look at these stories back to back and not admit there is an obvious solution has no place in government. Period.