Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Excuse my rant...

War on poverty not people

As everyone's probably heard by now, Bush has asked for $74.7 billion to pay for the next six months of the war in Iraq. The amount itself is scary. Even scarier is that he still wants a tax cut. Even scarier than that, is that the amount seems so little when I think of the devastation we'll be leaving behind. I shouldn't be surprised. After all, we are the richest nation in the world and we've done such a good job of helping to rebuild Afghanistan.

And then there's our own people. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has similar philospsohy to Bush's. He's made drastic cuts to Health and Human Services and other programs to balance the state budget. He still plans on giving a tax cut to the rich, citing years of government "over-spending." (Taking care of people and investing in our society is over-spending?) His rationale for the cuts to services for the poor and others, such as those with disabilities, is that Minnesota will still be more generous with its benefits than surrounding states. Like Bush, he keeps talking about faith and other community groups stepping up to the plate to provide services that the government shouldn't be providing. We already are and there's not a lot more that we can do. Last week, I was talking to one of the shelter dinner volunteers. She had spoken that day to food shelves in Minneapolis and in Bloomington. They've had huge increases in food requests, over 30% in the suburbs and 40% in the city. I'm hearing the same thing from all sorts of human service agencies. With donations, governement and foundaiton funding all down, many nonprofits are laying off staff and closing down programs. Need for all of our services is increasing, not going away. How Pawlenty expects us to serve more with less money is beyond me. More importantly, cutting assistance to the poor only shifts that costs down to the local level and often increases them. When someone doesn't have money for health insurance anbd access to healthcare, they tend to wait until a condition requires emergency care or they use the emergency room for things an ordinary doctor's visit can cover. Medication and treatment for conditions such as diabetes is a lot cheaper than hospitalization. Pre-natal care is a lot cheaper than the complications caused by the lack of that care. Providing a mat in a shelter is a lot cheaper than a night in medical detox. A night in a shelter is a lot cheaper than hospitalization for exposure or the effects of a mugging (sleeping outside in the summer is often more dangerous than during the winter). All of the programs for children and youth are an investment in making the world a better place for all of our children. I know that everyone who pays taxes would like to take more home, but everyone I've talked to agrees that this is a time to increase taxes once they've learned how deep the cuts are going to be.

You can give balancing the state budget a try on MPR's website: The Budget Balancer

Okay, one more thing, we just found out we'll be paying part of our health insurance premium to help cover a 40% increase in insurance costs that came on top of our other budget shortfalls. Personally, I wouldn't mind paying more for my own health insurance if I thought it was going to help pay for those who can't pay into the system right now because of health problems or for those who can't afford it. It doesn't work that way, though, does it? And with Bush in office, I'm not holding my breath for any useful healthcare reform, either.

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