Sunday, July 19, 2009

Taking Sides

It's pretty obvious who is going to pay for the California budget crisis by class: the rich and near rich reap the benefits of intact programs and corporate subsidies, while programs for the poor and the working middle class are cut or killed.

The winners and especially the biggest losers are divided by age: the very young whose nutrition and health programs are cut, the young whose education is shortchanged, and the elderly who may see home health care killed entirely.

But the losers are also visible by race, that most obvious and ugly remnant of how America apportions its bounty. This is not only because the social and health programs being cut and killed disproportionately affect blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. It's because cuts to education also deprive them most directly. Education is their path to a better life, that the well off already have.

But in taking sides, the Terminator is deeply wounding the state of California, and the country's future. Every layoff by the state is lost revenue as well as lost talent. California cannot prosper without good schools and an educated population. But schools from primary through college are in state-caused chaos, as well as suffering from decades of neglect. That California is close to becoming a majority non-white state, a mainly black and brown state, makes these decisions destructive to education all the more racist.

As for the national economy and the nation's future, President Obama made this point in his stirring address on the 100th anniversary of the NAACP:

"The state of our schools is not an African American problem; it is an American problem. Because if black and brown children cannot compete, then America cannot compete... We used to rank number one in college graduates. Now we are in the middle of the pack. And since we are seeing more and more African American and Latino youth in our population, if we are leaving them behind we cannot achieve our goal, and America will fall further behind -- and that is not a future that I accept and that is not a future that the NAACP is willing to accept."

But it a future that the Terminator's California is not only willing to accept, but a future it invites.

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