Friday, March 20, 2009

Well, I WAS happy about it...

I spotted this bit in Obama's plan about meals for seniors, including specific allocations for Native programs. Without too much detail, I happen to know a little bit about the great importance local Native programs have right here in Anchorage - including having restrictions on how many seniors they can serve due to funding. As the details of the stimulus package are reported, it was awesome to see programs like these - very easy to ignore - get attention in such hard times.

I was very happy.

But today, with the announcement that Palin is rejecting nearly half (there's different numbers around) of the Alaskan allocation of the stimulus package so we don't "grow government", I saw this tidbit:

Palin is also turning down money for weatherization, immunization, senior meals, child care development, employment services, air quality, justice assistance grants and other programs.


I would love to, and still might, make an argument for all of those things. Immunization? Child care, when we need it now more than ever? EMPLOYMENT SERVICES? When the biggest newspaper in the state just announced today it had to cut 17% of its staff?

I like my irony funny, not tragic.

But the senior meals really hit me. Really? The "I'm making a point here" argument wins out over Elders who just want a hot meal?

These battles will be taken way beyond what I can argue - both Sen. Begich (Alaska Report) and Anchorage school superintendent Carol Comeau (Alaska Dispatch) had words about the biggest chunk Palin turned down - $170 million for education (again, heard different numbers here.) The ADN article about the school official's reaction further drove home the irony of Palin arguing she only wanted money that would help "alaskan jobs":

Much of the stimulus package money for education -- about $74 million -- was designated for poor schools and special-needs kids. It was to be spent over the next two academic years.

Most of the other money is meant to help prevent cuts to classrooms, staff and critical services.


The article pointed out some of the rural impact:


Aleutians East superintendent Phil Knight hopes Palin reconsiders.

Knight's district of six schools, all of which are accessible only by boat or plane, has 250 kids. He had planned to use his district's slated $84,000 to keep open smaller schools threatened with closure next year.

Northwest Arctic Borough superintendent Norman Eck reacted to the news in an e-mail: "I am stunned," he wrote.

His district is under intervention by the state Department of Education because of poor test scores year after year. He said he had planned to use his $1.2 million for education materials the district otherwise could not afford. High electricity and fuel costs hit his budget hard this year, and ended up being taken from money otherwise meant for kids in classrooms.

Even if Palin's argument that the funding would "only be around for two years" - Holy crap! That's TWO MORE YEARS of having an accessible school for some of these communities! In two more years, the economy could be better, the energy costs might not be diverting from the education costs - in short - you just don't know. Two years is a long time in the life of a child, and incredibly long in their education life. Why on earth are we worried about losing the programs/materials/staff two years from now when we are going to lose them right now?

It's like that sad friend you have that always cuts her relationships short because "she knows she's gonna get hurt"... My advice to that frustrating friend has always been - take a risk. You could absolutely lose out in the end, but it's just stupid to prevent the present from also being a good thing. Living with the constant anticipation of losing just means you will never have anything to lose.

Maybe analogies like that are why I'll never be balancing anyone's budget, but Palin is going to have to do a much better job of explaining why she's selling out Elders, disabled children and the unemployed.

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