Monday, May 01, 2006

When Did We Stop Believing (In Opportunity)?

Why did we stop?

“…among the top tier of private liberal-arts institutions, application rates have grown by one-third or more during the last five years alone. Meanwhile, the available spaces have remained the same and the number of high school seniors, the baby boomers' baby boom, has hit its peak.

Beneath all the statistics lies a widely heeded yet thoroughly unexamined truism — that the student who does not get into Stanford or Yale, or at least Emory or Skidmore, will lose out in the contest for the supposedly finite amount of opportunity in America.”

Not so long ago even those totally locked out of the American Dream believed the opportunities were real and abundant. A dreamer dared dream that ‘one day’ his ‘little children’ would ‘be judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.’

That dream has not only eluded our grasp, but seems about to escape the American imagination. No one out of power or in believes there's a slice of the pie for everyone. Those with the resources or power to apportion, make sure they get their piece.

So NASA had to redirect half of its planned education spending, 5 percent of its exploration systems budget and 4 percent of its science budget to Congressional vanity. The Department of Homeland Security, as part of the budget law passed last year, was ordered to hire the American Association of Airport Executives, an aviation trade group, to process applications for a new tamper-proof identification card for maritime workers.

…judging from revelations that hordes of greedy senators and representatives have siphoned more than half a billion dollars from NASA's budget for the 2006 fiscal year to finance pet projects

Documents have circulated in Washington showing that the association, before the budget bill became law, was offering prospective investors a role in future contracts in exchange for an investment totaling up to $25 million. While the prospectus mentioned the identity card contract, it made no reference to the legislation.

The money would be used to set up a for-profit company that the group would hire as a subcontractor to handle the soon-to-be promised government work.

The contracts with Homeland Security would produce $50 million in profits over three years for the new partnership, the business plan projected. Daon, an Irish biometrics company with offices in Reston, Va., ultimately bought 51 percent control of the new entity, said Andrew J. Sherman, a Washington lawyer who helped handle the transaction.

Government records show that the new company, the Security Biometric Clearing Network, was incorporated last month in Delaware. Daon's board includes Tom Ridge, the former Homeland Security secretary, and the company has already sold its software to the government for some of these same programs.

…One thing is obvious, these people have their thumbs on the scale, and they're making sure some people get to skim the cash register while promising the rest of us a day's wages for a week's work.

It's easy to believe they're monsters, but the deviation in their moral compass is caused by the their deep belief that there's not enough of anything to go around. Somebody's going to do without, and it's not going to be them or theirs.

In 1968 they slew the dreamer. Since Inauguration day in 2001, they've been killing the dream. Budget cut, tax cut, you don't have to slice an artery or reach a vital organ, if you nick enough veins.…

con·cept: When Did We Stop Believing (In Opportunity)?