Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mars vs America's Youth. The winner is...

The other night I spent a considerable amount of time looking over the breakdown of the individual allocations in the Stimulus Plan. Regardless of your cause or agenda; finding alarming figures is a simple task. In my case; a very hot topic is the Juvenile Justice System. This is a system that has attracted very little attention since its’ conception.

NASA, which according to the U.S. Office of Budget and Management, operated under a budget of $17.1 billion in 2008. I am aware that there are many people who are fascinated by space exploration and the possibility of life forms on Mars. I can assure you that I am not one of them. Unless they strike gold, in which case we could hand it over to the auto industry to grant their request for an additional $14 billion, I could care less what they find up there. The administration apparently doesn’t share in my apathy. NASA was granted an additional billion dollars.

While NASA, whose most significant finding over the past decade has been water on Mars, received their billion dollars; the entire judicial system was given $350 million. Keep in mind, this money is earmarked for every level of the national judicial system. I am having a very hard time digesting the flaws in the prioritizing. Is the discovery of water that much more important than the care and guidance of our troubled youths?
While CEOs on Wall Street are crying over the restrictions imposed on them such as having to give up their private jets and multi-million dollar bonuses; reports that Juvenile Probation Officers have had to suffer through a drastic decline in numbers and salaries over the past year. These are people who are in a position to change the lives and futures of America’s troubled youths. This is an incredible responsibility and all too often, they find their caseload unmanageable. According to author Marilyn McShane, the accepted rate has risen to 30 to 1.

America has a system in place which has the ability to contribute to the future of this country; yet has all but ignored it over the years. The need to address this issue is long overdue and I hope this administration will recognize that. Unfortunately, my hopes were seriously deflated when I read that the plan included $650 million more to inform the public that they need to get a converter box for their television. I have been watching ads on this topic ad nauseam for close to a year. $650 million-I am not making this up. To put this in perspective; that amount would have paid for an additional 14,130 Juvenile Probation Officers.

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