Tag Archives: budget

Day of action for education

Students and education advocates in California took to the streets today to protest budget cuts to public school programs. Youth Radio’s correspondents were following the story and collecting perspectives.

Asked what she thinks California will look like in ten years given what’s happening in public education today, 21-one-year-old Taylor Kohles said, “We need to change our priorities and fully fund education. If that doesn’t happen, it will create an education gap.”

Twenty-year-old UC Berkeley student Eddie Rivero said he has friends who will have to drop out of school because they’re undocumented immigrants who can’t get financial aid and are paying part of their tuition with scholarships. He said they won’t be able to cover costs as tuition rises.

For more on the protests, check out Youth Radio’s Twitter list of Day of Action participants.

Snow slammed

The east coast got a one-two punch of snow this week – but can they afford to? Snow removal budgets have been blown away, and with schools, the federal government, and most businesses shut down, how will the region make up for it?

NPR’s Planet Money takes a look at the DC area, which has been hit hardest:

“Virginia has already exhausted its [snow removal] funds for the season plus a $25 million emergency reserve, and the District of Columbia is also over budget.”

Snow removal is an expensive process, and typically Washington doesn’t get much, but when it does, the corners the city cuts to save money become clear. A Washington Post story elaborates:

In the mid-Atlantic region, every state has a snow budget, but it’s anybody’s guess as to how much snow will fall in a given year.

Does “budget accordingly” for the Washington area mean preparing for a season with 3.2 inches of snow (2001-02) or for 40.4 inches (2002-03)? Will it be a December with one-tenth of an inch of snow (2004-05) or one like this month, where a single storm drops more than two feet in some areas around Washington?

Getting necessities to those least capable of coping with two-feet of snow (whose numbers have certainly increased in the past year) is also a huge challenge. WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show spoke with non-profits delivering food to the homeless during the storm.

And a little further downtown, Capitol Hill came to a complete standstill, blocking votes on the jobs bill and stalling budget talks. Capitol News Connection’s Elizabeth Johnson spoke with Sens. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va)

If you’re going to have two snowstorms that break all records, there’s not much I can do about that so can’t look at what might have been. The bigger question is, what about the recess coming right after that? That’s more of a threat to progress.”

Congress breaks for the Presidents’ Day recess next week. If it now seems doubtful the Senate can vote on a jobs bill before then. Senator Voinovich, for one, isn’t willing to rush. He says both parties tend to play the same game.

But the city shutting down doesn’t mean the news stops. Here’s the NPR staff in Washington, braving the storm outside of headquarters:

NPR Staff in Washington/Credit: NPR (www.twitter.com/nprmorningprod)

NPR Staff in Washington/Credit: NPR (www.twitter.com/nprmorningprod)

One-sixth of what?

Spiral Galaxy/ Source: NASA

Spiral Galaxy/ Source: NASA

A statistic that gets tossed around a lot in the health care debate is that “Health care is one-sixth of the economy” – but what does that mean? The total U.S Gross Domestic Product is $14.1 Trillion, making one-sixth of that about $2.35 Trillion.

Those numbers for health care include programs like Medicare and Medicaid, as well as individual expenses and prescription drugs, doctors visits, healthcare workers’ salaries, insurance premiums – pretty much anything you can think of that involves the healthcare industry. While what counts as health care is likely loosely defined, no matter how it breaks down, it’s still a huge amount of money that’s really difficult to visualize.

I did a little search for two trillion to try to get a sense of what $2 Trillion looks like. Apparently there are only 400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, so that didn’t work. Then I found this – two trillion tons of ice melting in the Arctic – so think of a whole shelf of ice disappearing and being replaced with dollar bills, and maybe you get some idea. There was also this one – two trillion text messages sent every day. I guess I send about five, so if everyone with a cell phone also sends about five, that’s a lot of texts. Needless to say, $2 Trillion is a lot of money.

How does it translate into legislation?

ProPublica’s health care reform primers help analyze the numbers.

Olga Pierce looked at the competing bills:

“Until last week, President Obama took a hands-off approach health care reform. Instead, in February he included eight general principles [4] in the presidential budget. The principles laid out requirements of a plan — it must make insurance available to everyone and address rising costs, for example — but did not specify policies.

That left Congress to debate many of the contentious issues, including whether to have a public option, and whether everyone should be required to have health insurance.”

And for a look at how these changes may affect Americans, a survey from the Public Insight Network asked people to record their most pressing health care need:

A map plots the biggest complaints about health care, ranging from lack of coverage to prescription drug expenses.

Andrew Haeg of American Public Media looked at the responses and featured some of the best in a column.

“But nearly all people, regardless of income, age or insurance status, spoke of making choices — life altering choices — in order to affford health care.

For Jeannette d’Armand of Seattle, Washington, the choice is between doing work she loves and taking a mindless job for the benefits. D’Armand wants to be a singer and a voice coach, but is doing data entry instead because she needs the benefits to pay her $500-plus health care expenses to take care of her Type I Diabetes. “I just feel that if I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world,” says d’Armand, “I shouldn’t have to choose between health care and career.”

To share your story of dealing with health are woes, Tavis Smiley’s Faces of the Uninsured project is looking for contributions.

Still confused? Here are ten health care terms to know, from Youth Radio.

Financing the fires

Station Fire, Los Angeles. Credit: Anthony Citrano/ZigZagLens.com

Station Fire, L.A. Credit: Anthony Citrano/ZigZagLens.com

The fires burning in the Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles have already cost two lives and thousands of acres of protected land. How much will the emergency spending to control the disaster cost the already bankrupt state?

Patt Morrison of Pasadena-based public radio NPR station KPCC reported this morning that the California Department of Finance has spent $106 million out of a $182 million emergency firefighting fund.

Even before the latest fire, California’s resources were burned out on fire control costs. In this piece from last July, the LA Times reported that fire service costs had grown exponentially:

“Wildfire costs are busting the Forest Service budget. A decade ago, the agency spent $307 million on fire suppression. Last year, it spent $1.37 billion. Fire is chewing through so much Forest Service money that Congress is considering a separate federal account to cover the cost of catastrophic blazes. In California, state wildfire spending has shot up 150% in the last decade, to more than $1 billion a year.”

At the time I wrote this blog, the biggest fear for radio and television stations in the region is the threat the fire poses to Mt. Wilson, where most of LA’s communications towers are set up. Media blog LA Observed reports that “Several area radio stations without backup sites at other facilities could be especially vulnerable, although information coming out of the fire area is understandably incomplete.”

PBS station KCET has a warning ticker on their its Web site, noting that services could be interrupted due to fire damage on Mt. Wilson. By the time you read this the fires could have already consumed Mt. Wilson. In fact, fire officials were predicting that such an occurrence was only a matter of when, not if, it would happen. Endangered fire fighters were already pulled from the top of Mt. Wilson for safety reasons.

For the latest on the Station Fire, follow LA public media resources SoCal Connected (on Twitter, @socalconnected) and KPCC’s Patt Morrison (@patt_Morrison). KPCC is also asking readers to send in their images of the fires and stories from the local area.