Friday, November 28, 2014

Intersections

Poverty: I have a friend who is working three part-time jobs and still is wondering if she will be evicted from her apartment or will she have enough money to buy food. She would like to go to a community college but she can’t afford it or find the time after working 60 hours a week.

The average wage has been dropping and at the same time the safety nets are being cut. My friend makes too much to qualify Section 8 rental support and if she did qualify there is a long waiting list. At the same time Food Stamps (SNAP), WIC, and Head Start programs have all been cut and more are in the works. Cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security cuts are looming on the horizon.

Middle class jobs are being sent overseas. Ever since NAFTA the middle class has been declining and it will continue to decline as more “Free Trade” agreements are signed. It is a downward spiral down to the lowest common denominator; all we will be left with are service or government jobs, or jobs that cannot be exported.

While at the same time the one gateway out of poverty, education is being cut which is driving college education out of most people grasps. At the same time funding for secondary education is being diverted to charter schools where they can cherry pick their students and toss back to the public schools those student who do not make the grade. Meanwhile, public school funding is being cut because they are not meeting their achievement goals.

People have nothing to look forward to and are turning to drugs.

Drugs: With nothing to look forward to people are looking at the low hanging fruit, selling drugs. The users are coming from the white suburbs to buy their drugs in the inner cities. The buyers get a slap on the hand if they get caught while the sellers get thrown in jail. Jail has become the cost of doing business for the drug dealers, and jail has become a business.

As a result of President Reagan's war on drugs jail has become a big business, we now incarcerate as a percentage of the population more people than any other nation in the world! As a result prisoners in the U.S. are predominately black and Hispanic and when they get out of prisons they have no hope in getting a job.

In Louisiana prisons have become a major business, in 2012 about 1 in 86 adults were doing time; the inmates are housed in for-profit jails that is a $182 million industry.

Just like in Prohibition the gangs have intensify the violence in order to protect their turf with guns.

Guns: As the numbers of guns on the street increase so does the capacity and caliber of the guns. With no limits on guns, automatic weapons are on the increase, larger caliber armor piercing ammunition is becoming commonplace. Due to this weaponization and wild west mentality the police have developed a mentality of shoot first ask question later and over reacting to the situation with SWAT teams and armor vehicles, their attitude is “its them or us.”

On top of this mix is the “War on Terror” which has militarized the police force with armor vehicles and surplus military equipment. In addition, many of the new police officers are now ex-military personnel that were trained under different rules of engagement.

The majority of police officers are white middle income males which results in prejudice against minorities.

Discrimination: Discrimination is the fourth connection of the cycle, discrimination not only in the police force but also in the population. How many times have you heard people say that welfare recipients are all black welfare cheats or blacks are lazy? And the news media reinforces that image. Discrimination here in the U.S. has gone from overt to covert. Employers have learned not to use the “code words” of discrimination or they don’t hire anyone with a criminal record. Police target blacks and Hispanics and then use the arrest records to justify their heighten arrests. Meanwhile, the justice system gives whites a slap on the wrist and told not to do it again.

Out of the vicious cycle came Ferguson, the product of poverty, drugs, and guns and if you want to end the violence then you must break the cycle.

We need to refund the antipoverty programs. We need to restore SNAP, WIC, Head Start, and all the other programs. We need to have low interest student loans or better yet lower the cost of a college education. We need to fund the public school systems and not give all the money to the elite charter school that will only accept the best and the brightest, there should be room for both.

We have to reassess our “Free Trade” agreements and make sure they protect our workers and not the big corporations. We cannot allow big corporations to export of jobs to countries where the workforce is basically working for pennies a day with no benefits.

We need to end the “War on Drugs” because what it really is is a war on us. We need to legalize marijuana and treat the other drugs medically not criminally. We need to get the profit motive out of drugs. Just like in Prohibition once alcohol because legal much of the gang violence ended once there is no money to be made selling drugs the gangs will get out of the business.

Lastly we must have sensible gun controls back to the pre-Reagan era. Limit those who can own automatic weapons, large caliber guns, large capacity magazines, and we need to have background checks for all guns sales, including private gun sales and gun shows. We need to go after those people who make straw purchases for criminals.

We need more minorities in the police force and not just middle class blacks and Hispanics but also lower income blacks and Hispanics. We can’t just try to reform police departments because the underlining causes are still there; poverty, discrimination, guns, and drugs, and they all have to be attacked at the same time because focusing on just one of the four will not break the cycle.

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