Saturday, October 29, 2011

What California affords -- High-Speed Rail -- and what it doesn't afford

In a very tight economic environment, a telling story is to look at what the state believes it can or should afford, and what, by default, it believes it can't afford.

Just about everything makes me angry connected to high-speed rail. Especially in California.  Our Governor is clinging to a project that is fraudulent, a scam on the taxpayers of our state. This state, as everyone knows, is in very deep financial doo-doo.  Our deficit keeps growing, even as budget slashing has cut into various services any reasonable person would say are critical to the survival of this state, like education.  And our debt also gets worse by the month.

However, one area about which there should be no disagreement between Democrat and Republican -- which both Parties should work together to solve -- is the homeless veterans issue.  Read this article. This is shameless. 

I jump to the conclusion that it is reprehensible that a state can't take care of its veterans, but persists in throwing state tax dollars at a stupid, sinking-ship project that never had any real reason for coming into existence, and will primarily benefit the affluent, including those who chose not to participate in the two brutal and costly wars in which this nation has been engaged.

Veterans have been obliged to do the "dirty work" for the rest of us, and, they -- survivors of nightmarish dimensions -- are also residents, citizens and taxpayers in and of our state.  They are our responsibility.  

The status of a nation and of a state must be judged upon how well it serves the least well-off of the population, not the size of its high-speed rail system. And on those grounds, we're not doing so well.

A further argument, which I won't pursue here, is the moral issue of high-speed rail; who benefits and who is harmed.  And, it's not what the train promoters are promising us, I assure you.

Study Finds Slight Decline in Veterans Using Shelters
Published: October 28, 2011
Homeless veterans are most likely to be middle-aged white men with a disability. Younger veterans are more than twice as likely to be homeless than nonveterans in the same age group. And California has the most homeless veterans of any state, accounting for about a quarter of the nation’s total.

Those are among the critical findings of a government report released on Friday that provides some of the most detailed data yet on the nation’s population of homeless veterans, which in 2010 stood at more than 144,000, according to the report.

A joint product of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the report underscored the Obama administration’s halting progress toward fulfilling its pledge to end homelessness among veterans by 2014.

According to the report, the number of veterans who used emergency shelters or transitional housing for the homeless in 2010 dropped 3 percent from the year before, to 144,842, from 149,465. But the report also found that veterans continue to be over-represented in the nation’s homeless population, accounting for 13 percent of all homeless adults in shelters, even though they are just over 9 percent of the total adult population.

Experts say the five-year goal, first outlined by the secretary of veterans affairs, Eric K. Shinseki, a former Army chief of staff, is ambitious at best and perhaps unrealistic. But the administration has used the pledge to advocate expanded measures to fight veterans’ homelessness, including vouchers for supportive housing for disabled veterans and grants to help veterans avoid homelessness by paying for security deposits or back rent.

“We have much work to do, but we are on the right track,” Mr. Shinseki said in a statement accompanying the report.
Among the more striking statistics in the report is that veterans are over-represented in the homeless population, since veterans tend to be more economically stable than the rest of the population, having higher median incomes and a lower poverty rate than nonveterans.

But the researchers found that once veterans fall into poverty, a higher percentage of them become homeless, about one in nine. Government experts said that might be caused by two major factors: many of the homeless veterans are single men with no family support, and most of them have a disability, which could include physical injuries, mental illness or substance abuse problems.

The data showed that more than 90 percent of homeless veterans in shelters are men, and more than half of those men are white and disabled. The largest segment of veterans in shelters, more than 4 in 10, were between the ages of 51 and 61.

Although veterans under 30 represented a small portion of the homeless veteran population, the report found that those younger veterans were twice as likely as their nonveteran peers to be homeless, raising concerns that combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are drifting into poverty and dislocation soon after returning home.

The demographics changed drastically among homeless families, who represented just 2 percent of veterans in shelters. In this group, the homeless were far more likely to be younger women from a minority group who did not have a disability.

The report found that while white men were the largest group of homeless veterans, minorities were disproportionately represented, as is the case in the nonveteran population as well. Experts said that might be due to the fact that nearly 7 in 10 homeless veterans are in urban areas, where the population is more ethnically diverse.

More than half of all the homeless veterans were in four states: California, followed by Florida, New York and Texas, all of which have large populations of veterans.

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