Do We Care More About Cars Than Kids?

Published June 3, 2009

OK. So let me get this straight.

We don’t have enough money to drastically reduce world hunger. We don’t have enough money to send all of America’s children to pre-school. Katrina victims remain in shelters, because we don’t have enough money. But somehow, lo and behold, we have $50 billion to bail out a car company? Am I the only one who thinks something is very wrong here?

For $50 billion, we could send every honors high school graduate from a low income family to college for the next twenty years. I’m not talking about delinquents. I’m talking about good kids in Watts, East St. Louis, Houston, and elsewhere who go to school every day, get A’s and B’s, then never go to college because they cannot afford it or do not have the proper college admissions guidance to get them there. That $50 billion could help millions of low-income honors students go to college instead of working at a supermarket or movie theater or nursing home out of necessity.

That same $50 billion could also be turned into one thousand $100,000 loans to entrepreneurs in all 50 states. How? The Administration could hold a well-coordinated Business Plan Competition in each state, rewarding entrepreneurs with thoughtful plans, personal commitments and good teams with critical and hard to come by start up funds—perhaps in tranches of $25,000. How much would that revolutionize the meth-hit prairie states, or spur retail industry in East Harlem?

The list goes on. $50 billion could provide every teacher in America with an $8,000 raise, could build a thousand more of Oprah’s schools, could reduce every American households’ credit card debt by $322, could buy 25 percent of the Microsoft Corporation. I’m not saying it’s easy. But I am saying that with all of the once-in-a-lifetime spending going on, I’m disappointed not to have seen more innovative and forceful Congressional advocacy for the poor. I admire President Obama, but regret that there haven’t been creative legislators pushing him, and refusing to budge until he commits to spending this new debt more creatively and more equitably. To be fair, GM is not the only case in which I’ve wondered what else the money could be used for. It’s yet another.

And to be clear, I know that real people and real families are hurting. I’ve been there before: when a job is lost, when you’re not sure you can pay your bills, when stress makes it impossible to sleep or relate normally to friends and family. But when I think about GM, I can’t help but wonder: where are the Innovative Democrats or Innovative Republicans? Who is advocating for the poor? Do we care more about American cars than American kids? Count me among those who do not think the GM plan is a win.

Written by Carlos Watson

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