Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's 2011 in the United States, and yet...

Two of the top US stories on CNN.com at the moment are:

The school board in Memphis says it won't open schools until the city comes up with $55 million. The City of Memphis owes the school district $151 million.

The Commercial Appeal [Memphis] reports:
Classes for Memphis City Schools will not start this fall until the City Council deposits $55 million -- the amount the city has budgeted for schools from tax revenue -- in the district's account, school board members decided Tuesday night.

The board voted 8-1 to delay the start of the school year indefinitely, putting the system in the limelight as the district attempts to force city leaders to make good on funding promises.

"We've been patient; we've cut 1,500 jobs," said board member Tomeka Hart. "We're not going for everything. We're not saying give us everything you owe. We are just saying we have to have the money in the bank from our city so we can pay our bills.

Meanwhile, twenty-four cities in the Southeast and Midwest may soon be without airline service:
Facing mounting cost pressures, including the cost of fuel and losing some $14 million a year, [Delta] plans to cut flights to small cities that are not profitable for it anymore. The cuts would have a huge effect on the economy and be a devastating blow to small towns mostly in the Midwest.
These are the cities Delta says would be affected:

Muscle Shoals in Alabama; Fort Dodge, Mason City, Sioux City, Waterloo in Iowa; Hibbing [sic, last I checked, it was in Minnesota], Alpena, Iron Mountain, Pellston, Sault Ste Marie, Escanaba in Michigan; Thief River Falls, International Falls, Brainerd, Bemidji in Minnesota; Greenville, Tupelo, Hattiesburg in Mississippi; Butte in Montana; Devils Lake, Jamestown in North Dakota; Pierre, Watertown, Aberdeen in South Dakota.
Delta was flying to these cities in conjunction with the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, created to ensure small communities continue to have access to passenger air service.

In some cases, airline service in EAS markets is subsidized by the government to the tune of $200 million a year. Those subsidies are scheduled to expire in 2013 if not approved by Congress.
You may remember that Delta recently merged with Midwest-based Northwest Airlines. Whoops! The invisible hand strikes again. It's always doing that in Hibbing.

So here we are. We can't find money for education. We can't provide services (or pay private companies to provide services) to help keep our smaller cities connected to the rest of the country (see also: Postal Service, United States).

Actively or passively, we in the United States are fostering our own isolation and ignorance. We deserve better.