Two stories last week illustrated more than anything just how messed up we are these days.
The first had to do with the Democrats in Congress questioning the mega-billion-dollar budget request that the Bush people say is necessary for Iraq.
Why, they wanted to know, are we going to spend $9 million to establish a ZIP code-like system in Iraq? Is it necessary to spend $100 million to hide the families of 100 Iraqis in the witness protection program? And, if we're going to spend all this U.S. taxpayer money, shouldn't we be asking that some of it be paid back someday when that Iraqi oil starts flowing again?
All good questions to which many taxpayers would like to know the answer.
The other story ran under the headline "1.7 million more living in poverty." No, that wasn't about Iraq. It was about us.
According to the Census Bureau, the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line has risen from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 12.1 percent by the end of 2002.
On top of that, the U.S. median household income dropped 1.1 percent. Here in the Midwest the news was even more grim. Household income was off a full 2 percentage points, meaning that the average family was struggling even harder to pay for rising health care costs, higher gas prices and other essentials that are outpacing its income.
That helps explain why so many American citizens are angry over this whole Iraq quagmire.
If, as so many Bush partisans insist, we really were helping combat terrorism by going to war in Iraq, most Americans would resign themselves to the costs and get behind the rebuilding effort.
But, now that they know that they were misled about everything from weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein's connection with the atrocities of 9-11, many are angry.
And they get angrier when they see our own problems go unsolved because we're out of money, thanks to that Iraq war and a host of tax cuts that the average Joe didn't get anyway.
So while we're spending millions on protecting Iraqi witnesses and millions more on dividing Iraq into ZIP code zones, we can't find a way to help young families with soaring health insurance costs - soaring so much that many of their employers can't afford to give them raises - or deal with any of the other strains on the average citizen's paycheck.
That's why more and more Americans are falling below the poverty line and family income is going down, rather than up.
Copyright 2003 The Capital Times