February 25, 2008
"the budget cuts $959 million from the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant...$65 million from Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships program...$2.9 million from the Thurghood Marshall Fellowship program...and $64 million from the Perkins Loan Cancellations program."--United States Students Association
Ahh yes. It is that special time again. No--not Christmas! Not the time of year when you give out presents to those who have been good and not to those who have been bad. Quite the opposite! It's the time when you give presents to those who have been naughty and not to those who have been nice.
It's government spending budget time!
The Bush administration released its fiscal year (FY) 2009 $3 trillion budget request on Monday, February 5. As Congress excavates through the President Bush' proposed budget looking for specks of political gold in this election year, something very real, very threatening, and very consequential is buried throughout the thousands of pages of the budget--and that is, how it will simply screw an entire generation.
The first and most glaring area is, not surprisingly, in the Department of Defense. It is no secret that President Grinch has consistently skewed his budget toward the military and corporate interest while hurting virtually everyone else--low-income communities, communities of color, women, etc. This budget targets a new community of people--specifically our community of young people.
The lame duck President is showing all of his cards, revealing what direction he believes this country should go in. Never mind the fact that the budget includes  a ridiculous $515 Billion for defense, which is $11.8 Billion more than what was allocated last year, but within that the most striking line item is the drastic increase in funds that would go toward military recruiting--a whopping $15.5 billion for increasing the size of the Army and a full $5 billion to increase the size of the Marines.
The goal is to have 43,000  more young people enlisted into the Army, which would increase the Army end strength to 532,400 soldiers. President Grinch would tell you this is obviously to "keep our country safe," but what he won't tell you is that the Army for three years  now has consistently missed their recruiting targets. So what did they do? They lied  in record numbers, spent over $200 million  on their new "Army Strong" campaign, changed all sorts of qualifications  for enlistment, extended tours of duty, involuntarily kept young people in the military through the "Stop Loss" program, and now, after all of that, are simply throwing even more money for another recruiting blitz.
Militarizing youth is just a fraction of how President Grinch wants to drastically limit possibilities for our future. At the same time (and these aspects of the budget obviously reinforce one another), with higher education costs and student debt soaring, funding for higher education is being slashed. According to the United States Students Association , "the budget cuts $959 million from the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant...$65 million from Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnerships program...$2.9 million from the Thurghood Marshall Fellowship program...and $64 million from the Perkins Loan Cancellations program."
The abuses on programs for young people don't stop there. In terms of job training, the Children's Defense Fund (CDF ) reports, the "budget proposes to reduce funding to Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and Job Corps programs by over half a billion dollars...and $92 million in cuts to grants to prepare low-income youth for academic and employment achievement."
In addition, CDF also looks at youth incarceration and points out, "juvenile justice...programs receive only $164 million, representing a more than 50 percent cut from FY 2008 funding levels."
Does it stop there? Of course not! Health care, global warming, and a massive national debt are all issues that are systematically going to hurt our generation more than any other.
So what will 2009 look like if President Grinch gets his way? More young people recruited to continue our illegal and immoral war in Iraq because there are no other options, less young people able to obtain college diplomas, less young people able to acquire decent paying jobs, and more young people caught up in the criminal injustice system.
And what is the moral of this budget-time story? 2008 must be a year for young people not only to jointly make their voices heard this election season, but we must also view ourselves as a community being targeted by these policies. We must not view this as just an anti-war issue, or higher education issue, or job-training issue, or juvenile justice issue, or health care issue, or global warming issue, but rather as a generational issue.
Saif Rahman is the movements coordinator at the Institute for Policy Studies and the Youth and Activism Editor for Foreign Policy In Focus. He sits on the Coordinating Committee for the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition and the Steering Committee for United for Peace and Justice.