A Post–9-11 Reality Check

The Soaring Cost of Iraq 'Peace,' the Soaring Cost of Life in America

Homelessness and poverty: The worsening unemployment situation is reflected in a 19 percent increase in requests for emergency shelter, in a survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors that covers the 2001-2002 period. The fastest growing segment of the homeless population? Families with children, making up 41 percent of all the homeless, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. More than 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness every year. In 2002, the number of Americans living in poverty increased for the first time in eight years. The Census Bureau's new America Community Survey shows that the total proportion of people in the U.S. living in poverty jumped to 12.4 percent—that's some 34.8 million people.

Education: With state governments broke, education is one of the first casualties. Says the National Education Association, "States and local communities are struggling with the worst budget shortfalls since World War II, and many have cut back on instruction time or laid off quality teachers and school staff. Parents and students are holding bake sales to pay teachers and save music, art and other student activities."

Health care: As Congress fiddles with a lame prescription-drug bill, health care costs go up, and there are more and more people without insurance. The usual figure is 41 million Americans without health insurance. But earlier this year the consumer group Families U.S.A. released a study showing that 75 million Americans lacked health insurance sometime in the past two years. Bush's answer: Last week the administration began to cut costs by relaxing rules governing hospital management of emergency rooms so as to let them in certain circumstances turn away people who can't pay.

Energy: Fuel oil and natural gas costs are at all-time highs and set to go even higher. The federal Energy Information Administration reported in late August that retail gasoline costs are up more than one-third over a year ago, with a gallon of gas on average costing $1.74. The cost of electricity is set to go up in the wake of the big blackout, as consumers shell out at least $8 billion for transmission improvements.

Military: Even harassing the U.S.'s own troops, the administration wants to reduce the amounts of money paid to military families and cut combat pay for our soldiers and sailors. In the scramble to meet Iraq costs, the Pentagon has said it can't sustain pay raises instituted in April for the very troops that are doing its dirty work: The $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" for battlefront troops and $150 a month in "family separation allowances" will be scrapped, come the end of this month, if the Pentagon has its way and Congress votes against extending them.

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