Clam fest and tuition forgiveness

Posted July 21, 2009, at 6:52 p.m.

What a great weekend. Perfect weather for the Yarmouth Clam Festival and the town was packed. My son and his best friend won the battle of the bands, which came with a $500 purse — a helpful little handful in these tough times. Although the economy didn’t seem to be hurting the festival very much, I suppose festival-goers might have come out to the event and not spent any money.

Of course, yuppie Yarmouth was crowded. Maybe we should wait for the Bangor or Skowhegan state fairs to see if fair season will help get all of us back on our feet — not just the band competition winners.

The other great thing about good weather is that it really brings Mainers out in public. Let’s face it, you can get pretty grateful around here when it stops snowing or, in this summer’s case, raining. Consequently, you run into your old buds and catch up. In my case, that means you discuss politics.

One of my favorite folks to talk politics with is a filmmaker not a politico. He has a keen perspective and puts things succinctly — maybe it’s all those years writing screenplays. He has to get to the point in his dialogue before the school bus blows up or the mobster gets away with the loot.

And let’s face it, there’s no shortage of villains making off with the loot in our current political and economic times. My buddy was fit to be tied over the price of college tuition and our country’s lack of priorities when it comes to our own people. Now it makes sense that my peer group would be concerned about the price of college. I’ve got that student loan boot pressing down on the back of my neck as well. Still, some parents and their kids thought that they had planned ahead by enrolling in loan forgiveness programs for students who studied for badly needed but low-paying jobs.

But this is where my friend’s argument rang truer than ever. It seems according to a recent New York Times article that with all the other bills the government has to pay — such as the AIG bonuses and other obligations — the states don’t have enough cash to keep their promise of forgiving student loan debt. If you listened to NPR on Monday morning then you know that the governors met in Mississippi this past weekend and discussed their overall 24 percentage revenue shortage.

At any rate, some kids who made a deal with their states to prepare for “high-value, low-wage jobs” are losing their homes to avoid defaulting on the same loan payments their state governments promised to pay but now can’t. You can check out the May 26 New York Times and see the various repayment programs eliminated nationally.

So, my friend complained that while we’re defaulting on promised payments to our kids, we’re continuing to make payments to the private contractors in Iraq. So I ran home and looked it up and you know, that filmmaker is right. In fact, our Congress knows the exact same stuff that my buddy from Hollywood knows.

If you go to the white paper prepared by the Congressional Research Service for our senators and representatives — it’s available on the Web just like that New York Times article about students getting the short end of the stick because they were willing to become math teachers — you’ll learn that between March 2003 and March 2009 $49 billion has been appropriated for Iraq reconstruction mostly paid to private industry.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a total “you broke it, you fix it” kind of girl so I’m glad we are building hospitals and schools. But the money is going to businesses that have consistently ripped us off, companies like the Parsons corporation that was paid $186 million to build 150 primary health care facilities and only six of them were completed. And that’s just one of the projects they’ve been cited for not completing.

Maybe someone can explain why it looks as if more money would have been allocated for the folks at the Yarmouth Clam Festival if we had bombed Main Street than there was available to our college kids there.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.

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