Whatever happened to our Civil Defense System?

I recall in elementary school when we had the entire building participate in a Civil Defense exercise. Instead of leaving the building as we did during a fire drill, we were to leave wherever we were and escape to a designated area, usually the basement. Once gathered in our spots we’d crouch and hope that the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal doesn’t hit the United States and annihilate us.

With the Cold War in full force, we were prepared to run to these fallout shelters and wait for further instructions. There was an old adage that said, “Place your head between your legs and kiss your butt goodbye.”

The locations were familiar, the neighborhood school, church or another facility that was structurally sound and capable of holding large numbers of people below grade. Within sight there were stockpiles of food and water, enough to sustain those encamped for a period of time.

With natural disasters hitting our shores almost weekly isn’t it time to rebuild our Civil Defense System?

If we had local stockpiles of provisions we could feed people in case of earthquake, flood, fire, hurricane, tornado or, God forbid, another terrorist attack. Just putting the pieces together for a new system could energize every sector of the American economic system.

While we’re considering ways to rebuild our economy, we could invest in putting people to work rebuilding our ability to fend for ourselves on the local level, in case of a catastrophic event.

Why not generators for businesses so that commerce can continue, or satellite-based emergency Internet access to eliminate the need for a tower that would surely be disabled during an unforeseen event?

Instead of paying farmers not to produce, let us store up our harvest for times of famine and despair.

Instead of letting our young people languish in the streets without hope for living-wage employment, hire them and other chronically unemployed people to mobilize this reconfiguration of our nation’s ultimate safety net. The benefits outweigh the cost of this long overdue, localized “Homeland Security” action.

However, it appears most economic improvement ideas from Republicans involve giving more to big business, eliminating regulations and responsibilities for their actions. In the meantime, Democrats resemble “the little Dutch boy,” holding their collective finger in the dike to prevent the inevitable flood of program eliminations and cuts.

Unless we do something radically different to create jobs, we’re performing the same result-less task repeatedly expecting a different result.

Unfortunately, most jobs programs that have focused on infrastructure have bypassed the young African-American male. Since these job creation programs tend to focus on union jobs, where we’re woefully under-utilized, we’ll never get the big bang for the buck that this country received when Depression-era programs were created to build and repair bridges, parks, dams and other things.

If we continue to invest in maintaining the status quo, the unemployed will continue to fester in our cities and the gap between black and white incomes will continue to widen. Protecting “the people” from economic calamity is the ultimate Civil Defense.

9/9/11