Well over a decade ago, I was performing my favorite Tucson activity. I was leaving it.
The immediate game plan was to head to Phoenix to catch an evening Arizona Diamondbacks ballgame.
I chose a Holiday Inn Express about 1.5 miles away from Chase Field. The hotel set me back about $125. I purchased a low rent ticket in the unoccupied upper stands. It was a warm, no wind evening with the Chase Field retractable roof in the open position. I took in the game, its ambiance and felt happy and content. I sauntered back to my hotel on unpeopled and quiet Phoenix streets.
With these feel good thoughts in mind, I signed onboard for Phoenix’ opening round of the World Baseball Classic. A five day, ten game baseball marathon. I booked a four night stay at the same Holiday Inn Express. Total cost, about $1600. Upon my arrival, I noticed a homeless man asleep in the gutter. Adjacent to his horizontal form was a shopping cart filled with his worldly possessions.
(New York Times Photo)
When I checked in the staff were firmly asking another homeless man “to leave the building or the police will be called.”
Welcome to Phoenix.
Oh well, I’d least I’d have sunny skies, warm evenings and baseball to enjoy at Chase Field. Wrong! The retractable roof was closed for all ten games. (A vital part broke about a year ago). Baseball was seen under bright flood lights, funky shadows, trapped Covid germs and compressed crowd noise. A highly disappointing venue.
(New York Times Photo)
But so was the downtown Phoenix scene. The prevalence of homeless folks was difficult to ignore. I began to actually recognize individuals, where they slept and the bus stop benches they occupied during the day. It was very distressing on many levels for these unfortunates and me.
I began wondering…
How can the richest country in the world (Source the International Monetary Fund) allow 582,000 citizens (2022 estimate from the Department of Housing and Urban Development) to live on the streets of major cities, small cities (Yes! Even Durango), towns and villages?
(Durango Herald Photo)
It’s because America’s spending priorities are not civilian friendly. That’s why.
In 2022, $766 billion (12%) of the Federal Budget went to Defense spending.
Add $6.1 billion for Border Patrol.
For comparison shopping let’s look at America’s expenditures for education, housing, environmental protection and my beloved National Park Service.
Department of Education: $102 billion
Department of Housing and Urban Development $68.7 billion.
Environment Protection Agency: $11.2 billion
National Park Service: $3.2 billion (Chump change)
When some politicians are queried about our lopsided Sparta-like spending they’ll answer.
“The Military and Border Patrol are protecting our American Way of Life.”.”
For me this rationale should be shot up with an M-16 rifle and then torpedoed into oblivion.
The American Way of Life where a young woman recently diagnosed with MS resorts to “GoFundMe” to pay for necessary medical treatments.
The American Way of Life where an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle has more rights than children who get blasted before they reach middle school. “Thoughts and Prayers” aren’t preventing the mass mayhem in our Churches, Temples, Mosques, Grocery Stores, Shopping Malls, McDonald’s, Universities, Cinamas ETC ETC. BUT! The sacred Second Amendment Right of Gun Ownership is wrongly embedded in protecting the American Way of Life. (Or Death).
The American Way of Life where one major political party passes tax breaks to the Uber Rich so they can purchase spaceships and Twitter instead of spreading the wealth. Ah, the Fake News of Trickle Down Economics persists while the gap between the “Haves” and the “Have-nots” widens.
As of January 2021, 37.9 million Americans lived in poverty, accounting for 11.6%of the total population, according to the latest report from the United States Census Bureau.
The American Way of Life where 42 million receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (Formerly called Food Stamps). Source: US News. March 2023.
I could go on and on but I made my point. America’s policies are letting many people down. Homelessness, hit or miss gun violence, income inequality, poverty and hunger need and should be addressed.
Zero are the number of struggling citizens who state. “Yeah, things are tough and stressful, but I’m so proud our government is outspending the next nine or ten countries combined on military expenditures. After all, they are protecting the American Way of Life.”
If ever the two political parties see the logic behind being a kinder, gentler and more caring Nation some of the above problems might be lessened or vanquished. A reevaluation of our funding priorities would be a correct place to start.
BTW. I forwarded this post to President Biden and House Majority Leader McCarthy. I’m hoping this will focus their attention to the people they are serving. (Or preventing a debt default.)
Maybe if the budget has a few bucks left over the Feds could fund that vital part for Chase Field’s retractable roof. Doesn’t that fit in with baseball and “the pursuit of happiness.”?
Cheers from a former Homeless by Choice guy.