Last night Missouri Governor Jay Nixon gave his State of the State speech.
He spoke about jobs and education and so forth and so on, but the real focus of the speech was the budget. It always is, because programs and projects are fantasy without funding.
On the budget…well, we’ve got some problems. Federal stimulus money is drying up and Missouri now has to make up the difference or make a ton of cuts.
Gov. Nixon is setting forth a plan to balance the state budget without raising taxes.
Translation – we’re going to have severe cuts in funding…again.
There is far too little talk of what hits the cutting room floor when those elected to govern take out their legislative scissors and get busy.
Even when folks do talk about the programs getting cut, they do so with disdain and disrespect. They speak of food stamp recipients as if they are all freeloaders, Medicaid recipients as if they are all lazy hustlers and mental health care programs as if they are based on junk science.
In reality, when the state budget director says that the state is going to find savings by downsizing mental health care facilities, he’s speaking about facilities that allow people with the mental health issues to remain in the community and receive treatment…people who were once warehoused in institutions or on the streets…people who have families desperately trying to find a decent placement for them.
When the budget director speaks of cutting 432 jobs from the Department of Mental Health, he’s talking about slashing staff from an agency that is already cut to the bone…about letting go of more case workers and investigators who help ensure loved ones aren’t abused or neglected.
381 jobs cut from social services means that social workers’ case loads will get even larger, investigations into child abuse or neglect…elder abuse or neglect…will take longer and interventions will be delayed, if they happen at all.
Consolidating offices that administer Medicaid translates into making an inefficient process even more so…and people will pay the price.
These “cost savings” have names and biographies and hopes and dreams attached to them…they represent our true values and will place a burden upon communities and families that we will all feel…even if we don’t have a person in our lives who receives services.
Just once...just once, damn it...I'd like for people to ponder whether programs don't work or whether they have been set up to fail due to inadequate funding.
State budget cuts, and how we react to them, speak to our true values and to who is valued.
So as cheers rose up, as clapping resounded through the hall and those gathered in the audience gave their approval, many Missourians heard another solid “fuck you and yours” from their state government.
When the dust settles, I have no doubt that all lines of the budget will add up as required.
Just as I have no doubt at all that our communities will be left teetering on the edge…underserved and unbalanced as hell.
And I’m bracing for another year of trying to protect my autistic brother from the ramifications of this shit.
This isn’t just someone else’s problem.
It isn’t just my problem.
This is our problem.
Buckle up, y'all…cause it’s gonna be another bumpy ass ride.