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Urban Development Funds Slashed, as Billions Spent on Militarized Police

NJ Spent Over $1.6 Billion – Ranked Fourth in the Nation in Homeland Security Spending

Last week, I was disturbed by a page one NY Times story that reported that at a time US cities are suffering economic devastation, federal aid is being slashed:

Source: NY TImes

Cities Face Tough Choices as U.S. Slashes Block Grants Program

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — It is no secret that these are hard times for cities, with tax collections down, state aid dwindling, unemployment high and foreclosures pitting many blocks. So, as he sat in his office here, Mayor Ed Pawlowski of Allentown echoed the question mayors around the country are asking: Why has Washington cut one of the main federal programs for cities by a quarter in the last couple of years?

“It’s just insane,” an exasperated-sounding Mayor Pawlowski said.

The shrinking federal program, called Community Development Block Grants, was devised by the Nixon administration to bypass state governments and send money directly to big cities, which were given broad leeway to decide how to spend it. This year the federal government is giving out just $2.9 billion — a billion dollars less than it gave two years ago, and even less than it gave during the Carter administration, when the money went much further.[…]

So mayors were furious when Congress cut the grants program last month to $2.9 billion, a cut of 25 percent over two years. President Obama had sought to reduce the program, too, but by less: his budget proposal had called for a 7.5 percent cut. “This is a tough choice that balances the need to decrease the budget deficit with the tough fiscal conditions confronting state and local governments,” the proposal said.

NJ has some of the poorest cities in the nation – Camden, Trenton, Newark, Patterson – so cuts to these federal funds are particularly hurtful here.

Few NJ residents or Americans realize that these effective and vitally needed urban development funds have been so deeply slashed since the 1970’s, when they provided more than $10 billion in assistance to US cities during the  Carter Administration.

Fewer still understand that the bloated  and perpetually growing $700 billion/year imperial Pentagon budget – not counting trillion dollar illegal and immoral wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – divert scarce funds from domestic needs, and hurt millions of poor people living in devastated US cities.

And virtually no one is aware of how much money is being lavishly doled out to local police departments to buy military equipment for the local cops!

Maybe this can change, in light of a recent Report by The Center for Investigative Reporting. That report found:

States spend billions on local homeland security

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan represent only a fraction of the billions spent to battle terrorists since Sept. 11, 2001. Lawmakers in Washington have shelled out some $34 billion over the last 10 years to state and local law enforcement.

Much of this money is totally wasted in equipping local police forces with totally inappropriate military gear:

Local police stockpile high-tech combat ready gear

If terrorists ever target Fargo, N.D., the local police will be ready.

In recent years, they have bought bomb-detection robots, digital communications equipment and Kevlar helmets, like those used by soldiers in foreign wars. For local siege situations requiring real firepower, police there can use a new $256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret. Until that day, however, the menacing truck is mostly used for training runs and appearances at the annual Fargo picnic, where it’s been displayed near a children’s bounce house.

Thus stuff makes me absolutely sick. And I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

So, I looked at some of the data in the Report – I wanted to compare the lavish Homeland Security funding with austerity cuts to UDAG urban funds, but was unable to quickly find data on NJ UDAG federal funds.

But I did note that NJ spent over $1.6 BILLION on Homeland Security since 2002.

That ranks #4 in the Country.

Most of the federal grant money in NJ went to port security and what was called the “Urban Areas Security Initiative“. Here’s all I could find about that initiative from the FEMA website:

Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI)

Total Funding Available in FY 2011:  $662,622,100

Purpose: The UASI Program provides funding to address the unique planning, organization, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas, and assists them in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from acts of terrorism.  Per the 9/11 Act, states are required to ensure that at least 25 percent (25%) of UASI appropriated funds are dedicated towards law enforcement terrorism prevention activities.

So, let’s see if I got this right:

while the cops get ever more sophisticated and deadly military technology and expand even more repressive surveillance and methods of social control and suppression of dissent that threaten our fundamental Constitutional rights, our cities starve.

We need a “revolution in values” – as Dr. King said:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

… A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

And maybe an intrepid reporter out there night want to examine just how NJ officials spent that $1.6 BILLION.

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