WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Behind President George Bush’s message to the world, September 7, on the cost of liberating Iraq and developing its bright future is the untold story of what America’s bright future would look like if the $87 billion he requested for Iraq were spent on liberating America’s deteriorating education system, high unemployment and an insufficient health care system.
“This budget request will also support our commitment to helping the Iraqi and Afghan people rebuild their own nations, after decades of oppression and mismanagement,” said the president.
“We will provide funds to help them improve security. And we will help them to restore basic services, such as electricity and water, and to build new schools, roads, and medical clinics.”
While Iraq is in desperate need of that and more, America’s cities are in desperate need also.
Fixing broken schools
America’s education system is ranked 18th in the world. According to the organization Rebuild America’s Schools (RAS), the average public school building is well past 40 years of age and cannot meet the demands of modern technology.
Of the nation’s 80,000 public school buildings, at least one-third need extensive repair or replacement and two-thirds have troublesome environmental conditions, such as the presence of asbestos or lead in water and paint.
It doesn’t stop there. RAS reports that roofs leak, ventilation is poor; heating and air conditioning systems don’t work. Lighting is inadequate; plumbing is a problem.
Experts contend that the cost of modernizing public school buildings can range as high as $322 billion above what local districts and states can afford.
“We need to give students the classrooms that will help them succeed. A clean, safe, modern classroom is more likely to help a child succeed than a dark, overcrowded, hot or cold, under-equipped classroom built for the 1950s, not the 21st century,” testified RAS Chair Robert P. Canavan before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means.
The present federal budget expenditure for education is $56 billion. The $87 billion that the president is requesting for Iraq would go far if used for education. It could drastically improve the school buildings America’s children go to.
That amount could also hire 986,798 new teachers at an annual salary of $52,500; provide 7,362,174 additional children with a Head Start education; and provide 1,320,805 additional four-year scholarships to public universities, according to Elias Vlanton and Niko Matsakis on their website, www.costofwar.com.
Last August, the country lost 93,000 jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job losses continued in manufacturing, information, and other sectors, while healthcare and construction added jobs.
Unemployment rates for the major worker groups–adult men (5.8 percent), adult women (5.2 percent), teenagers (16.6 percent), Whites (5.4 percent), Blacks (10.9 percent), and Hispanics or Latinos (7.8 percent)–showed little or no change in August. The unemployment rate for Asians was 5.9 percent.
“We’re in the middle of a horrible recession,” Dr. William Spriggs, of the National Urban League’s Institute for Opportunity and Equality, explained to The Final Call. “The deficit is getting larger and larger. The problem is that this deficit it is not creating jobs.”
“The government usually spends money which puts them in a deficit to create jobs. It’s a long-term investment. People then will pay taxes, so the money will be recouped in the long run.”
He added, “Now President Bush is just running up a debt to finance this war. At the end of the day, he’s just running up a debt like it’s a party.”
The 2000 Census Report found that 38,683,000 people were uninsured across America. Experts in the field raise that figure to as high as 41 million. The costs to insure those Americans, according to a report prepared in June by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured (KCMU), was $34-$69 billion per year.
“This study shows that the direct cost of providing care to the 41 million uninsured would be less than annual inflation in health spending–8.7 percent in 2001, but still would require a commitment of new resources in a time of fiscal deficits,” said Diane Rowland, executive director of KCMU.
The study also found that the uninsured receive less preventive care, are diagnosed at more advanced disease stages, and once diagnosed, tend to receive less therapeutic care and have higher mortality rates.
For the cost of war, America could liberate her people into better healthcare.
Better health according to the report would improve annual earnings by about 10-30 percent and would increase educational attainment.
“Much could be done to improve America if the cost of war was spent here,” said Dr. Spriggs. “Just pick your favorite department of the government and add the money. We could double what’s spent on education, add significantly to housing and much more.”
A country at war, a country at protest
Since the war began, Americans have protested around the country. The organization United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) will join International ANSWER in DC on October 25 for a national rally calling for an end to the war and occupation in Iraq.
At a spring rally in New York, UFPJ co-chair Leslie Cagan explained, “We are marching for peace around the world and justice in our city, highlighting the connections between military spending and budget cutbacks.”
Using “Bombs away, our cities pay” as its theme, the march protested massive spending for the military while city needs go unmet. In New York, proposed cuts to schools, hospitals, firehouses, and public sector jobs would disproportionately hurt Blacks, Latinos and other communities of color in that area, UFPJ asserts.
The true cost of war is more aptly summed up in the words of President Dwight D. Eisenhower who was the former commanding general of the victorious forces in Europe during World War II.
In 1953, after the war, he said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”