Gregory Robinson is dead. Shot in a car. He threw himself on a baby in the back seat while the gun fired from an unknown assailant. He was only 14. His family said he died a hero. He’s the 28th Chicago Public School student to be killed by gun fire this school year.
Last year, it was 26 students. The year before it was 36.
The same time Robinson’s death was hitting the airwaves, the news that the humongous — too big to fail — insurance giant AIG was giving $165 million in bonuses to executives that helped create the mess that made AIG have to go to the government and get billions of dollars in taxpayer bailout money. $165 million in extra pay! For what? Scamming people? Selling out people’s pensions, 401-Ks and homes?
When you hear $165 million — after hearing $700 billion or $1.2 trillion — it may not sound like much. But to ordinary people and their organizations it’s a fortune.
Take an anti-violence organization like CeaseFire. This is a grassroots group that actually has a track record of preventing gun and gang violence. A track record of saving lives by intervening before the shooting starts. They have field workers who are part of the community. Some of them are former gang members who realized that the thug life is no life. They get there before shots are fired.
CeaseFire had 75 percent of its budget cut in Illinois for 2007. A mere $6 million for a program that saves lives. Maybe it could have saved the life of Robinson, or Franco Avila or Johnel Ford or any of the other dozens of students in Chicago who were killed by gun violence. Six million dollars. How much is a life worth?
There is no guarantee that any of that AIG money would have made its way to Illinois to plug up its $11 billion budget deficit. But it makes you think. What are our priorities? And how can taxpayer money get to programs that can save lives, not destroy them?