Saturday, July 6, 2013
Wildfires From Alaska To New Mexico, And Nearly 27 Millions Americans Can't Find Full-Time Work
Right now, "More than two dozen wildland fires are burning from Alaska to New Mexico," and since 2000, 145,000 square miles of America's natural areas have burned to the ground. That's the equivalent of "New York, New England, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland combined...". Indeed, "Eight of the nine worst fire seasons on record in the U.S., as measured in acres burned, have occurred since 2000, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho."
And the wildfire problem is expected to get worse. One of the (many) problems is that there is a lot of wildfire fuel on the ground (e.g., dead trees and dried-out vegetation). The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, has cut the budget for fire prevention and firefighting. At a time when wildfires are destroying record amounts of land, and are forecast to destroy even more, our Congress--in its supreme foolishness--has reduced our ability to address the problem.
America did not always have to deal with a Congress incapable of action and rational thought. During the New Deal, the WPA & CCC employed millions of jobless Americans to fight fires, build fire towers, and remove wildfire fuels. Furthermore, WPA workers constructed over 6,000 miles of new firebreaks and CCC boys planted 3 billion trees to help reforest areas denuded by fires or excessive logging.
The New Deal connected the dots of unemployment and the needs of our natural areas. Our current Congress, on the other hand, ignores theses issues. House Republicans, for their part, are too busy figuring out ways to cut off food assistance to low-income families and children to be bothered with record-setting wildfires.
Of course, we're told that "we can't afford" to do anything about the country's problems, and that we're "spending too much." Meanwhile, taxes on the wealthy are historically low (even former Reagan adviser Bruce Bartlett has highlighted this), federal revenue is at a 60-year low (see columns to the far right here), we've lost $3 trillion in revenue since 2001 because of tax evasion, we're losing billions in revenue due to corporate tax avoidance (see here and here), and government spending (as a % of GDP) is about the same as it was during the Reagan years (i.e., it's not out of control or historically horrible, see columns to the far right here).
The fact of the matter is that we have record-setting wildfires at the same time that we have nearly 27 million Americans who can't find full-time work, over 6 million young adults who are "neither in school nor in the workforce", and over 4 million long-term unemployed Americans who are actively discriminated against by employers (some of whom may never work again because of such discrimination).
And our federal government can't figure out what to do.
(WPA poster images courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Emoticon courtesy of www.freesmileys.org.)