The Base Closure and Realignment Commission (or BRAC, following the military’s penchent for acronyms) is a non-partisan commission established to review the closure and/or relocation of military bases around the country and the world based on recommendations from the Department of Defense. The BRAC website states: “While giving priority to the criteria of military value, the Commission will also take into account the human impact of the base closures and will consider the possible economic, environmental, and other effects on the surrounding communities.”
Fort Monmouth, NJ, nor far from the Jersey Shore, began life as a training camp, then became the home of the Signal Corps school in 1919. It’s gained permanent installation status in 1925. It has been the home of many technological advancements in communication and surveillance. Radar was developed there in 1938. Julius Rosenberg worked there from 1942 to 1943 as a field inspector and it was from there he passed secrets to the Russians. It trained replacement soldiers and even communications pigeons during WWII. Later is was the home of the Army chaplain school which was attendedat one time by Tool frontman Maynard James Ferguson.
Ft. Monmouth was where my mother spent the days of her life and was one of the major employers in the area, giving all the towns that bordered it (and many that didn’t) steady opportunities for economic growth. The gas stations that sat at its gates, the restaurants and local mom and pop diners, the dry cleaners that kept the soldiers’ uniforms pressed all thrived from the constant flow of activity at the base. The biggest (and probably only) downside to the ‘fort,’ our word for this town within towns, was the traffic. Many people on small roads that could not be made any bigger without destroying the hundreds of businesses that flanked them.
In 2005, Ft. Monmouth was picked by BRAC for closure and after leaving behind acres and acres of empty buildings and housing, officially closed its gates in September 2011. My mother had already retired in 2002. I’m pretty sure if she hadn’t retired because of medical issues and to take care of my father, she would have remained there until the very last day. In the wake of its closure, many communities were left reeling from the amount of jobs lost both from the fort itself and businesses lacking the steady revenue of so many years. The communities around the base and its locations off the main base are still reeling and trying to figure out what to do with the property. Much of the property was either left to decay or bulldozed over and the land waiting for its next purpose. And many people were left to find employment in an already faltering economy.
H.R. 899 states: “To terminate the Department of Education.”
Steve Bannon wants to “deconstruct the administrative state.” Bannon quite literally fancies Vladimir Lenin, echoing the notion to “bring it all crashing down.” In this vein, the newly anointed cabinet consists of billionaire ideologs put in place to continue dismantling the federal government as we know it by rampant defunding or at the very least, reducè the rank and file to bare minimum to carry out the few functions left. It is reasonable to assume that congressmen chomping at the bit to return favors to their donors will spew forth more one sentence death knells to more agencies. One saw this happening as nominees and their world views were announced. Real people share in the collective shudder we all feel. Whenever I hear the rhetoric, my mind instantly swings to, “the jobs. What about all the jobs?”According to some conservatives, 94% of the people working for the Department of Education are “non-essential.”
As I think about the functions of the federal government, I can remember my parents and grandparents moving into the middle class propelled by salaries they collected as civil servants. They all encouraged me to do the same, going to work for the people, whether it be teaching, in town hall, or at the military base where my mother would spend her entire working life. This is where my mother would meet one of her best friends. Scrambling to the top pay grades and retiring after 43 years, longer than I’d been alive. Her government pension, along with my deceased father’s benefits from his years as a law enforcement officer, is more than most two adult, four job households today. For my parents and for most of their friends, the security in being a public servant, from the lady who collected your money when you paid your parking ticket to the crabby lunch aid/hall monitor in the high school was worth the 40 years of tedium that came with the territory.
One of my mother’s job functions during the later years of her employment at the ‘fort’ was identifying who the ‘non-essential’ workers were in her particular department. This was usually when there was a pending government shutdown due to Congress’s inability to settle on a budget (hello Newt Gingrich). Her days were a little bit longer and she tended to have an extra glass of wine when she got home. I could only imagine the stress she went through knowing that she was essentially identifying people to lay off. I can only imagine what it feels like for anyone put in that position.
All over the country, people who work in any sort of capacity for federal agencies are now facing many questions. Will I lose my job? What will I do for my family if I do? When will my job be cut next? How much money, if any, is saved for the period of unemployment I may be facing? The attitude that I grew up with, that of become a civil servant, climb up the payscale for 20 or 40 years then collect a good pension, is quickly becoming a part of the disillusionment when it comes to job security.
The Department of Education has only five or six functions, yet all are necessary to ensure that the money the federal government provides goes where it needs to go so that our children are in fact LEARNING in a SAFE, NON-DISCRIMINATORY ATMOSPHERE. Without this particular department, there wouldn’t be PELL grants, without which many people would be unable to obtain the education and training to keep the United States a leader in economic growth and innovation.
These essential functions are performed by many people. The person answering phones with questions from a parent looking for clarification on Title IX is just as important as the people speaking to a coalition of school superintendents from Iowa. Jobs only exist when there is a fundamental necessity for them.
In Washington, DC, many people living in the run down neighborhoods rely on that low grade steady paycheck to get by. Sometimes that low grade steady paycheck makes all the difference in whether some young ambitious kid makes it to the Senate or dies of a heroin overdose. The same goes for any city with a local office of any part of the federal government.
But this isn’t just about the Department of Education. “Deconstruction of the state” means ALL departments that help us function as a relatively civilized society. The job loss from eliminating them has been never uttered from the lips of any who advocate for such a thing. Others dance around the issue as if they were stepping around a pile of dog poo that they almost didn’t see because they were on there cell phone.
The “deconstruction of the administrative state” will come with a great many jobs lost while the con man in the oval office talks about more good jobs with good pay. I don’t suppose this deconstruction comes with a commission to “take into account the human impact of the … closures and will consider the possible economic, environmental, and other effects on the surrounding communities.”