Wednesday, May 19, 2010

This Is Fiscal Austerity: California Sacrifices the Old, the Disabled, the Children of the Poor

To solve its budget crisis, California has decided to dismantle programs that preserve the lives and health of its most helpless citizens.

Faced with a fiscal deficit that totals 20% of its annual budget, Governor Schwarzenegger decided that the best path to austerity was to cut support for those who cannot defend themselves. The trouble is that, because the Federal government also contributes money, court judgments have prevented California from going through with attempts to scale back these programs. So, the Terminator proposed a budget that will do away with the programs entirely.

The programs eliminated include home healthcare for the elderly and disabled, a nearly $2-billion program that serves 440,000 Californians, and the Healthy Families program, which uses federal money to help provide health insurance for about 900,000 low-income children.

As the San Jose Mercury noted last week, more single mothers and their children will be homeless and hungry, more mentally ill people will be in jail, more old people will be forced into nursing homes. In California, no one will look after poor children while their parents work, look after shut-ins, buy food for low-income seniors, of take in the homeless.

These are the kinds of actions and consequences that reveal where the values of our country's supercilious voters and politicians really lie. These are the kinds of values that put to the lie to the self-righteous rhetoric of "value" obsessed electorates.

Rather than bear the consequences of their own past foolishness, the politicians and the vast bulk of the electorate will simply shift the punishment onto the helpless. Presumably, the electorate and their leaders will have no trouble ignoring the suffering that they cause now, any more than they were troubled by their past foolishness.

Maybe citizens should be more concerned about how fiscal austerity is implemented.

Do they think that today's poor are the only losers? Think again, because there are more jobs to be lost, and more homes to be foreclosed.

Do they think that fiscal austerity is only for other states or other countries? Think again, because California isn't the only state in budget trouble, and Greece isn't the only Western country in budget trouble.

Painful fiscal austerity should soon be coming to more states. Just hope that it is not coming to your home.