Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pondering the state of my state after the State of the State…


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.

Shit.

Pause...sip coffee...continue.

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.

3 comments:

haphazardmusings said...

As usual, a thoughtful post. They say you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable. By that measure, we should all be ashamed.

Anonymous said...

Problem is the people who make these decisions have convinced themselves that they don't use the system or benefit from it. When in fact, they benefit the most. They don't ever decrease their own pay, the amount of insurance they get, the benefits they get. We pay their salaries, we are their bosses. We need to remember this. This is the other problem. We forget that they work for us. We don't pay our taxes they don't get paid. Instead of taking our place and title we have embraced the servant or slave mentality. We sit around waiting to see what they are going to do to us next instead of taking charge and saying this is what we want and this what you are going to do.

Know what I mean? We need to act like bosses instead employees. It makes me crazy that we let these people tell us what they are and aren't going to do. I am angry with "we the people."

Every single time something like this happens it is an opportunity for we the people to really take control and we don't. I for one am going to change this in my own life.

phoenix1027 said...

As a frequent visitor to STL, I am not sure how much worse it could possibly get. All of the people I know live in IL and work in STL to avoid the high taxes already. If STL found the money to build the park downtown that very few people use at the expense of things that support people.....shame. Coming from a poor family that depended on food stamps and WIC coupons, I can attest that there are people out there that the difference between them making it and not making it is help from government. We live in scary times if the only people we are worries about are ourselves. State budgets are an excellent place to see that in action.