How Much Worse Can It Get?
Jay Shaft
How Much Worse Can It Get?
Sat Jan 3 10:42:22 2004
How Much Worse Can It Get? When will mainstream America wake up?
Axis of Logic, January 1, 2004
By Jay Shaft*
Jan 1, 2004, 22:08

While most of America goes blindly about their daily routine of numbing their minds with lies and false feelings of complacency, the crisis deepens. While the masses dream of that new car , or the 60? plasma screen TV with the hip new surround sound system, we sink deeper into the muck of endless war and poverty.

I had an amusing conversation with a so-called "normal" American the other day. It was like d-vu from all the other conversations and arguments I have had with the mainstream middle class Americans. The topic was how bad it has become in America and the fact that the situation is not improving.

This well to do and very contented yuppie made the comment that it really wasn?t all that bad when you looked at the entire picture. I had to wonder what picture he had been looking at, and what amusement park had it on display. The facts he was quoting were in no way based on any current facts or figures on the plight of America. His facts painted a rosy picture of economic recovery, a winning trend in the war in Iraq, a victory over terrorism, and happy times for all Americans.

I was presenting him with the current figures on how bad it really is on all the issues he mentioned, and he acted like it was something he had never heard before. I realized that maybe he never has heard how bad it has gotten, and maybe he didn?t want to hear it. His shock and anger were immediate and vitriolic in nature. He denounced me as a liar and a bullshit artist, and claimed I was making these things up out of thin air.

The fact that most of the figures and facts I gave him were from US government agencies and the newest reports did not even slow him down in his attacks. I repeatedly pointed out that the facts were coming from his oh so loved government and he almost physically attacked me. I even showed him the printed reports from various agencies and he accused me of fabricating them completely.

It just did not seem to sink in to his head that the bare facts from his own government were so stark and awful that I had no need to make anything else up. I did not even go into the reports from private research groups and public interest groups. If he did not believe the facts I had already presented to him, I saw no need to even waste my time trying to prove the validity of other resources that I have access to.

The ignorance and unawareness so prevalent among the mainstream 9-5 sheeple constantly amazes me. People that are supposed to be our best-educated and most responsible workers and thinkers seem to never even think for themselves anymore. When they come across an idea that challenges their safety and comfort they attack it violently as lies and left wing propaganda. Any idea that deviates from their narrowly defined version of reality is met with scorn and sarcasm. You would think that these people would be the ones trying to figure out where America is going wrong.

When you bring up the cold hard facts of how bad it had become under George Bush there is usually a bunch of blank stares or outright hatred and anger. Sometimes they will actually engage an informed person in conversation, but it is rarely an intelligent or rational discourse. On the rare occasion that they admit that one of the facts sounds reasonable, they have twenty more arguments against the other facts presented.

These people seem to be totally oblivious to the fact that homelessness has risen by 40-50% on a nationwide level and that poverty has reached an all time high. They don't know that the US is last in education levels among first world countries, that the deficit is greater than ever in recorded history, that the unemployment rate keeps climbing despite Bush claiming otherwise, or all the other grim facts of life in America.

It is like they live in an alternate universe and just can?t quite see the world around them clearly. This is a great form of defense when you try to protect your assumed worldviews, but foolhardy in the end. By their unwavering refusal to accept how bad it really is, these people are helping the government perpetuate the crisis, if only by their complacency and nothing else.

It really sickens me when they spout the government rationality and reasoning like so many pre-programmed robots. The hand of the Bush regime is firmly implanted in these people?s buts, making them all giant puppets. They are like a squadron of zombies parroting Bush?s current speech and lies like blind men refusing to believe it if they cannot see it in living Technicolor images. An abstract ideal or outside thought is treated like a virus and exterminated with extreme prejudice.

I see some of the mainstream waking up and smelling the lies and corruption, but a very sad, small number. It is usually only after they have been hit with a layoff or spending cutback that they start to examine the real reasons and wonder why it happened to them. One of the statements I hear most is " Oh we?re doing fine, it won?t hurt us." More and more middle class Americans are feeling the pinch and squeeze, but often too late to make a difference in the overall scheme of things.

By the time most of the brain washed or self deluded get hit with a layoff or economic setback, it has usually affected millions of Americans that were not so well off. The idea and myth of "It can?t affect me" is a powerful illusion that many use to insulate themselves from the real problems we are all facing in America.

I am director of a community homeless outreach organization. I am seeing more and more Americans that were very well off just a year ago need services that are often no longer available. These people are joining the poor and destitute that have already been hit with government cutbacks to social programs and support. Only when someone who never faced it before is in the situation firsthand do they truly begin to get a real picture of our country?s desperate and dire plight.

I have personally seen some of the people I argued with and tried to explain the growing crisis show up looking for services they simply assume will be there. When they realize that many of the programs they were told are their safety net have been cut off, they become enraged. I see a rage and anger that was directed at me turn towards their beloved government.

It is sad that it takes something that tragic and harsh to wake them up to the reality of our self-serving leaders enriching themselves at the expense of our own people.

Many well to do and prosperous Americans are losing jobs, homes, and all material possessions in the wake of the current budgetary funding boondoggle of Iraq and other wars. The poor and needy were already well aware of the loss of many vital and important social programs.

In the aftermath of the government?s recent privatization, many programs and funding sources were eliminated completely, with the promise of a private agency picking up the slack. It did not happen that way, and I can tell you that from many hours of frustrated searching for someone, anyone, to help our poor, homeless, and underprivileged.

Many times I am unable to find shelter for families left homeless, or find food for the hungry children in enough quantity to prevent malnutrition. I am outraged on a daily basis by how many Americans can turn a blind eye to these very scary problems. I see people turn their head and get a look of disgust when they see a homeless person or family on the streets. It is so easy to ignore it, until you or your family are the ones in jeopardy.

I recently wrote an article about single family women sinking into poverty with their children. Living on the Edge of Disaster: Being a Poor Working Mother in America. Also see US Homelessness and Poverty Rates Skyrocket While Billions are Spent Overseas on Occupation

I see these women trying to keep a roof over their family?s heads on a daily basis, and the desperation they endure is heart breaking. I feel helpless and desperate myself when I realize that I cannot help them, or even refer them to someone whom can. There is often no source of help or support available to them anymore, and this is a new type of problem many support agencies are experiencing. I talk to many agency workers who have gone through these problems and you can read their desperation in their faces.

We are supposed to be the last line of defense for America?s poor and needy, and now we are facing the fact that often we cannot help the people relying on us for a safety net. There simply is not any available assistance, funds, or shelter to give these people who are counting on us to meet their needs. I am unable to find help many times and have to admit defeat on a daily basis. To have to look into the eyes of a child, and know there is nothing you can do to help is enough to tear any feeling person?s soul apart.

I get very angry and hostile when I hear one of the well fed and happy Americans tell me there is no problem, or that I am making it sound far worse than it can possibly be. I would like to force them to be the ones who have to tell a mother with three kids that because of budget cutbacks and lack of funding, there is no shelter or food for their children.

I wish I could make these blind or unaware Americans be the ones who watch as a family is ripped apart by child welfare because the parents lost their job and now have no house. I wish they could be there when the power is cut off to these families? houses, and they cannot even heat up a decent hot meal for their children.

I see some people waking up but a vast majority are still blissfully oblivious and does not want to know about how bad it really is. It might cause them to have to rethink every aspect of their morals and belief system, and they avoid that at all costs.

Anything to avoid having to think for themselves and possibly question their own government. It?s easier for them to keep on believing and regurgitating the mass of lies and deceptions than to think things through to the only possible conclusions.

There have been almost 300,000 US veterans who have lost their health insurance benefits under the cuts to the VA budget since Bush took office. House Republicans passed a resolution to cut $28 BILLION out of the Veterans Administration budget on March 20th just after the ground war in Iraq started. The cuts were later reduced to $14 BILLION, twice the $6.4 billion in cuts that the Bush FY 2004 Budget called for. Bush?s budget cuts are going to occur over 10 years, just as the much bigger House cuts are supposed to be enacted.

The final budget cuts still have not been totally finalized. One thing is clear, the veterans will pay the price no matter what.

On the same day the House passed the resolution, Bush went on TV and made a speech asking all Americans to support their troops in the war. Bush showed a huge amount of nerve and callousness by making the cuts in his FY 2004 budget, and then telling America that if they did not support the troops they were unpatriotic and un-American.

Bush completely supported the House budget cuts, and even praised them. I guess he does not have to comply with the same standards that he excepts the rest of the country to go by.

There are now over 250,000 US veterans who are waiting at least six months to even see a doctor because of all the recent health care benefits cuts. Here are some comments by the Senate minority leader that were made on Veteran?s Day.

"I cannot recall a time when the gap between the demands we place on our soldiers and the thanks we offer them once they return home has been wider," said Sen. Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota.

"Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom will join 250,000 veterans, who must wait six months now just to see a VA hospital doctor," said Daschle, who is a former Air Force intelligence officer. "This wait will be lengthened by the closing of seven veterans' hospitals in a budget that underfunds veterans' health care by $1.8 billion."

In August 2003, the Bush administration announced they were closing seven VA hospitals despite the increasing demand for care and the long waits to be seen by doctors. The closings were announced as part of an effort to "restructure" the Department of Veterans Affairs.

On January 16, 2003, the Bush Administration cut health care benefits to 160,000 middle class veterans. The cuts were explained away by referring to the so-called budget constraints. The veterans affected are all in the middle class income bracket and have been denied the right to VA healthcare that they earned by their faithful service to our nation. Bush, all the members of Congress, and the high level Pentagon officials are guaranteed free health care for the rest of their lives, and they all have an income much greater incomes than the veterans that have lost out.

Let me tell you who Bush considers to be well off veterans who can manage just fine without the VA. His cuts affect any veteran making over $24,500 a year. That is barely a living wage for anyone with a family, but according to Bush they are the "well to do" veterans who do not need the support of the VA health care system.

Here is the statement Bush made the very next day after cutting the benefits:

"Seeing the care that these troops get is comforting for me and Laura. We should and must provide the best care for anybody who is willing to put their life in harm's way." ~~ President George W. Bush, 1/17/03

The Bush administration also opposed a Senate addition to the Iraq supplemental funding bill that would have added $1.3 billion to veteran?s healthcare. Bush also proposed doubling the cost of prescription drugs for veterans. His plan called for a new $250 enrollment fee and a co-pay increase from $7 to $15 for veterans making over $24,000 a year. Thankfully the House Appropriations Committee decided to reject the Bush fees increases and fund the $264 million cost by ironically cutting administration funding costs for the VA.

Bush doesn?t ever have to worry about filling a prescription and having to cough up the co-payment. He is assured full payment of his medical expense for the rest of his life by the taxpayers. Many of those taxpayers are the very same veterans who make a "middle class" wage and pay the most amount of taxes.

Not only have the military families and veterans been affected by Bush administration budget cuts, the military children have also been helpless victims. Bush?s 2004 budget cuts $200 million from Impact Aid, a program that is designed to help military member?s children to receive a quality education. Bush tired to cut $3 million from Impact Aid in the 2003 and when that didn?t happen he made the new cuts.

I have brought this up many times in an argument with the right wingers and they all try to deny Bush would do this after promising to "Leave No Child Behind". They just can?t imagine that Bush would go back on the promise of quality education for all of America?s children.

Perhaps the greatest outrage the Bush administration committed against our troops was blocking Reservists and National Guardsman from receiving full benefits. In July, 2003 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent a letter to House and Senate leaders stating that the Bush Administration would not support any legislation that included full benefits for part time troops. A July 26th Pentagon memo stated that Bush would veto any Defense appropriation bill that included the full benefits.

Most people you talk to are not aware of the cuts or double standards Bush is going by. I have had people tell me there is no way Bush would do this to America?s soldiers and veterans. When presented with the facts on paper it is still hard to get them to believe it. I have the facts in black and white from several sources including the VA and even then I am called a liar when I show them to people. The story of the cuts to benefits has never really hit the mainstream press in any large scale

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