Incarceration, poverty and opportunity

In the current economic environment where despair and joblessness have become normal, 30% of New Mexico children are hungry and homelessness is on the rise. Investments in social services and mental health are being cut. It is not difficult to understand the rise in crime – in particular property crime, and a corresponding rise in the rate of incarceration.

The answer is not to jail more people but to truly improve the economic environment. Providing work and livable wages will lift people out of despair, help them feed their children, and have a real opportunity to change their lives for the better.

How do we provide a realistic possibility to rise from poverty and despair? How do we create tens of thousands of opportunities across the country?

There are needs all over the nation for creating new public infrastructure. Infrastructure for commerce, for transportation, for information, and for energy distribution to meet the challenges of the next century. We have neglected much of the country’s critical utilities and public works. The American Society of Civil Engineers have estimated the cost to bring the nation’s infrastructure back to “good” condition would be 4.6 trillion dollars.

With careful direction and a goal in mind, antiquated components could be upgraded and integrated into an new energy and transportation paradigm. An energy and transportation system built for a new energy economy and designed to serve the nations changing needs as we move to a less fossil fuel dependent economy.

Making this type of change is an enormous task which will require millions of people working to bring the needed changes. The job opportunities created provide wages which will encourage and improve the economy across the nation. It is not just a jobs program but a national revitalization program. The resulting improvements to commerce and industry will continue to build upon the efficiency of the newly revitalized systems.

The cost of a plan like this can be compared to the war efforts over the last twelve years. The present estimates are that the “War on Terror” and military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost 4.4 trillion. This is compounded by the interest as this money has been borrowed, adding to the ever larger national debt. Think of the country had we invested 4.4 trillion over the last twelve years here at home.

Getting people working will reduce incarceration rates, and reduce hunger and homelessness by providing livable wages while providing the infrastructure we will need in a changing economic and climatic environment.

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