My turn: Have we had enough bad news yet?

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Let's take just one edition of the Juneau Empire (Sept. 28), and you decide, as an Alaskan and an American, if there is any reason to allow the Republican Party to stay in charge of this state and country.

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On the front page is a young Juneau mother with a toddler named Tristan who needs heart surgery to live. The surgery will cost tens of thousands of dollars, and, like millions of Americans, this young family has no health insurance. Even if mom and dad both worked full time, they would be in debt the rest of their lives paying Tristan's medical bills. The Republicans have made it harder to declare bankruptcy, so that's out. In "the greatest nation on earth" and the richest state in the union, we're holding 5K runs and bake sales to save children's lives.

On Page A3, executives associated with the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority in Anchorage (a quasi-governmental agency funded by state and federal money) gave themselves big pay raises in an executive session.

On Page A4, we learn that the Congressional Budget Office reported that the deficit will be $60 billion below projections, but the article says the deficit is actually going to be $437 billion. That's a fairly substantial miscalculation. Also on Page A4, the House of Representatives passed a bill along party lines, Republicans for and Democrats against, to let the president tap our telephone conversations.

On Page A5, the headline reads, "VA shortchanging mental health programs, report says." The Veterans Administration hasn't spent $300 million they've had since 2005 to fill critical gaps in mental health services for returning troops and others. The Republicans spend more energy thinking of schoolyard taunts against Democrats than they do making sure the troops and veterans are getting what they need either in combat or after they return home.

On Page A6, there's a story about al-Qaida recruiting nuclear scientists to join their holy war. This story mentions a report that says, "Iraq has provided many recruits and an excellent training ground (for al-Qaida)." The president's main concern was who leaked the report. On Page A8, "Christian conservatives call for attack on contraception." Emboldened by the slavish acquiescence of the president and many Republican governors and members of Congress, evangelicals now want to deprive women of birth control. What's next for American women in a Republican-led America? Does barefoot and pregnant ring a bell?

On Page A11 there is a headline, "Poverty line needs overhaul, experts say." The key quote is, "Can you imagine the political fallout if they made the poverty line reflect reality?" says Amy Blouin, the director of Budget Project. "What politician wants to be in office when poverty officially jumps from 12 percent to 20 percent?" According to the article, "Studies show that 60 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 75 will live at least one year below the poverty line. Seventy-five percent will experience at least one year of life at 150 percent of the poverty line. And two-thirds of Americans will at some point need a social safety net program." Republicans have increased tax cuts for the rich and made the economic divide a gaping chasm.

The piece de resistance is the story on Page A7, with the headline, "$75 million Iraq police academy is a disaster." Parsons Delaware was the contractor on the police academy and made millions more on other reconstruction projects in Iraq. Aside from crumbling cement throughout the building, feces and urine are leaking through ceilings and light fixtures. (Check, July 26. This story barely scratches the surface.) Evidently, nobody from Parsons Delaware is going to jail or returning our tax money. There was no word of consequences for the Army Corps of Engineers officers in charge of oversight. Fraud is rampant in the reconstruction of the country President Bush and his team deconstructed. What must the Iraqis be thinking?

These are just one day's stories in our local newspaper. Enough is enough. Somebody must be held accountable. That is where we come in. Vote.

• Barbara Belknap is a Juneau resident.

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