Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Anybody got 4.2 million dollars?

I was going to write this long rambling post about how frustrating my day at work was, but I've changed my mind because a) I just wrote a long rambling post, and b) it'd just make me angrier. And frankly, that would be pretty goddamn angry. So I'll try to keep it short, but honestly, this post is more for my sake than yours.

So here's the thing. I work in the field known as "Low-Income Housing". Known in the vernacular as "the projects". Basically, the government gives us a certain amount of money, and between that and the rent we collect (based on the resident's income), we manage and maintain housing for poor people. There are many types of agencies that do this, but I work for a housing authority. It's one of the bigger ones in Massachusetts, and as you can probably imagine, it's not exactly easy work. Working with low-income (read: dirt poor) families is frustrating, fascinating, fun, infuriating. There are days when I absolutely hate my fellow man. There are days when I wish I worked in corporate America for big money. And there are days when I sit back, put my hands behind my head and think... Man. I fuckin' love this job.

Today was not one of those days. Why? Because we're doing our budgets for the next fiscal year. And, surprise, there isn't enough money. I won't lie, I'm ridiculously liberal when it comes to things like welfare, social security, and housing. I believe that we as people of moderate to wealthy means have a duty to pay our taxes, and we will not always benefit from them. Some of what we pay goes to helping those who lack the proper means, education, or whatever to take care of themselves. This includes food stamps, free day care, and low-income housing. It's part of the price you pay to live in a "civilized" society.

Doesn't work so well right now. We're broke. We've got buildings in dire need of repair, leaks, infestations, we're short-staffed and frequently underpaid. We've got a crime and drug problem that we're struggling to stay ahead of. The government, in it's infinite wisdom, has created a system of inspections that are unbelievably (and intentionally)harsh. The kicker? If your properties fail the inspection, what happens? They cut funding.

And without funding, you can't fix the problems that led to the failure in the first place. See where I'm going with this?

Now, I work for one of the better Authorities out there. In fact, it's something of a model agency, which is awesome and much better than when I worked in Philadelphia, or Boston. But it's still tough. And today, after listing all of the crucial things that we need to do to keep our buildings safe and clean, and to develop programs that would empower our residents and lead them on the road to self-sufficiency... well. We listed all of those things, and then cut them to pieces. Because we don't have enough money. We need about 6.5 million dollars. We're receiving about 1/3 of that.

Incidentally, the B-2 Stealth bomber costs about 2.2 billion dollars. The cost of the war to date? Approximately 357 billion dollars. In case anyone's wondering? For less than .2% of the cost of one bomber, I could fix every housing problem in my city. For less than 5% of one bomber, I could fix every housing problem in my state. I ran the numbers on the site above, and for the cost of the war itself, we could have paid for a year of Head Start for 47 million kids. Or hired over 6 million teachers. Or provided over 17 million four-year college scholarships. Or given 213 million kids health insurance.

Let's just say this is not a day when I am proud of our government. But I am proud of the people I work with for soldiering on, as I am every teacher, doctor, parent and child who works their way through this.

Shocker, this was longer than I intended. I'll try to make with the funny tomorrow, but right now... I don't really have it in me.

1 comment:

slouchmonkey said...

I'm with you, pal! I drink this beer for you.

When I get off work, of course.