Governor Schwarzennegger Balances California Budget on the Backs of the Poor

by on May 7, 2009 · 5 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Economy, Health

The Special Election being held on May 19th is being penned by the Schwarzenegger Administration as a way to fix California’s “broken budget system”. While it is understood that California’s budget woes are going to effect us for generations to come, before voting yes on any of these propositions we should take a look at who has been impacted the most by budget cuts that are set to take place over the next few months: the poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable people in our communities.

Nobody said this would be easy. The repercussions of a faltering economy in many cases are that some general services will be lost due to budget cuts. Here in OB, activists fought to protect essential services in our community of blue collar, hardworking people – Rec Centers and Libraries – and in the wake of winning that battle were used as ammunition for the Mayor and his cronies to propose salary cuts for city employees.

Nonetheless, many of the public servants effected by these cuts went along with the plan and agreed to the proposal. These people should be commended, and hopefully as San Diego’s financial situation improves the lost income will somehow be made up. Similar stories have played out in in other major cities nationwide, and they too should be commended for giving up a little bit of their own safety net for the benefit of their neighbors.

Unfortunately, the feeling of community that has bound many people together during these tough times is lost on the decision makers in Sacramento. As part of the February budget agreement, beginning May 1st recipients of SSI/SSP (senior, disabled and mentally ill) saw a reduction in the maximum monthly grant of over 4% – from $907/month to $870/month.

Another cut, of a little over 2%, is set to take place on July 1st bringing the MAXIMUM monthly income for the most vulnerable Californians to $850/month (not everyone receives the maximum grant, of course). According to the California Budget Project, the average person receiving this meager monthly income will see a loss of approximately $770 dollars between May 2009 and June 2010 – essentially undercutting the usefulness of the $250 dollar Federal stimulus check being sent to all Social Security recipients this month.

I can tell you from first hand experience working with people on fixed-incomes that its very tough to get by on just over $10,000 dollars a year. Imagine creating a personal, itemized budget with that kind of income: Rent, Food, wait can’t afford food, wait can’t afford rent, SHIT. I might as well move to Idaho. (or Sacramento or Reno or Seattle or Nashville or St. Petersburg…) Let us not forget that people receiving these monthly stipends are generally either: A) seriously disabled; B) seriously mentally ill; or C) seriously disabled by their mental illness.

If that doesn’t make you seethe – imagine telling Granny she has to move out of her Senior Living Facility because her monthly check just dropped $50 – the February budget agreement also included massive cuts to Medi-Cal services set to take effect July 1st. You may ask what services Medi-Cal could possibly cut. Well, the answer is, most of them. Starting July 1st, Medi-Cal will no longer cover adult dental (denti-cal), psychology, chiropractic, acupuncture, speech therapy, incontinence creams and washes, audiology, optometry, and podiatry. Okay, I know what you’re saying: Medi-Cal covers acupuncture?

Nonetheless, the more essential services (such as adult dental care and psychology) are a little more glaring in that grocery list of eliminations. Most damaging to the California economy (and that includes the clinics that provide most of the medical care to Medi-Cal recipients) is the elimination of adult dental care – which is why the California Primary Care Association has filed a lawsuit to block these cuts from taking place.

The state has tagged these services as “optional” in its most recent budget, but for community clinics characterized as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Centers (RHC), those services are part of their Federal and State definition. (You can read the basic talking points of the lawsuit here) I don’t know about you, but I can’t imagine the Governator dismissing his pearly veneers as “optional”.

Hopefully this lawsuit will provide a means in which to hold our Governor and his supporters in Sacramento accountable for their lack of compassion, although it seems as if subtracting services for the poor and disabled during lean times is a rite of passage for California Governors (see Deukmejian, George).

Access to health care is a basic human right, and only time will tell if the Republic of California is on the path to Third World status. We can start bucking that trend by dismissing any of the current budget reform talk and making sure that our sick, our poor, and our elderly continue to receive the economic and medical support they rely on to survive.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Dave Gilbert May 8, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Nice work Lane!

I think that the general public is starting to wake up and smell the coffee, I just pray it’s not too late.

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avatar Dave Gilbert May 8, 2009 at 7:51 pm

PS: As a rule, I don’t send chain e-mails because I can’t substantiate any of it but I thought it did fit in with the spirit of Lane’s piece. Please forgive the “all caps” at the beginning but that’s how I received it. DG

(From the Internet)

LET US SHOW OUR LEADERS IN WASHINGTON “PEOPLE POWER” AND THE POWER OF THE INTERNET. LET ME KNOW IF YOU ARE WITH ME ON THIS BY FORWARDING TO EVERYONE IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK.

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU ARE REPUBLICAN OR DEMOCRAT!

KEEP IT GOING!!!!

Propose this in 2009:

START A BILL TO PLACE ALL POLITICIANS ON SOCIAL SECURITY

———————————-

SOCIAL SECURITY:

(This is worth reading. It is short and to the point.)

Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions during election years.

Our Senators and Congressmen do not pay into Social Security and, of course, they do not collect from it.
You see, Social Security benefits were not suitable for persons of their rare elevation in society. They felt they should have a special plan for themselves. So, many years ago they voted in their own benefit plan.

In more recent years, no congressperson has felt the need to change it. After all, it is a great plan.

For all practical purposes their plan works like this:

When they retire, they continue to draw the same pay until they die.
Except it may increase from time to time for cost o f living adjustments..

For example, Senator Byrd and Congressman White and their wives may expect to draw $7,800,000.00 (that’s Seven Million, Eight-Hundred Thousand Dollars), with their wives drawing $275, 000.00 during the last years of their lives.

This is calculated on an average life span for each of those two Dignitaries.

Younger Dignitaries who retire at an early age will receive much more during the rest of their lives.

Their cost for this excellent plan is $0.00. NADA..! ZILCH…

This little perk they voted for themselves is free to them. You and I pick up the tab for this plan. The funds for this fine retirement plan come directly from the General Funds;
“OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK “!
From our own Social Security Plan, which you and I pay (or have paid) into, every payday until we retire (which amount is matched by our employer). We can expect to get an average of

$1,000 per month

After retirement.

Or, in other words, we would have to collect our average of $1,000 monthly benefits for 68 years and one (1) month to equal Senator Bill Bradley’s benefits!

Social Security could be very good if only one small change were made.

That change would be to:

Jerk the Golden Fleece Retirement Plan from under the Senators and Congressmen.. Put them into the Social Security plan with the rest of us
Then sit back…….

And see how fast they would fix it.

If enough people receive this, maybe a seed of awareness will be planted and maybe good changes will evolve.

How many people CAN you send this to?

Better yet……..

How many people WILL you send this to?

Reply

avatar annagrace May 9, 2009 at 5:16 pm

The Republicans lost in the November election. The Republicans lost big time in the last election. While we are witnessing a party in its death throes on a federal, state and local level, we shouldn’t be surprised that the unrelenting attacks upon the social and economic well being of the most vulnerable and poorest among us will continue. It’s always easy to kick the dog, isn’t it?

A significant amount of the private sector has been made a ward of the State- think AIG, Citibank, Bank of America et al. And of course GM et al. Not only are bonuses (to the best and brightest among us!) being handed out again, those same entities are paying lobbyists to petition the government (us, who bailed out those who were “too big to fail”) for special consideration.

So okay Mr. or Ms. Best&Brightest- go for it- it’s the American way. But it would be not only ethical, but really smart if you realized there is a relationship between you and the elderly woman in senior housing here, who worked all her life, outlived her husband and has $650 worth of social security and a couple hundred of dollars of SSI. (The latter will be reduced, as Lane stated.) You get to maintain the standard of living to which you have been accustomed at tax payers expense- she gets to decide whether she can afford her medicine and food because of our CA state budget process. What about those who are “too small too succeed” in this economic climate?

President Obama has threatened to rescind economic stimulus funds to CA if wages to unionized healthcare workers are not restored. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/08/obama-vs-schwarzenegger-o_n_199799.html

It’s right and appropriate for the President to raise this issue, but it does not go far enough. We are slated to receive @ $4 Billion in economic stimulus funds. Much of these funds are supposed to be used for stabilization. Reducing SSI and MediCal is hardly “stabilizing.”

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avatar Elcorin May 10, 2009 at 7:20 am

obrag.org – da best. Keep it going!
Elcorin

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avatar lane tobias May 10, 2009 at 10:03 pm

luckily many of the practitioners that include themselves in the council of community clinics network can provide certain treatment (including cancer screenings) on a sliding scale.

http://www.ccc-sd.org

and that includes psychological services.

http://www.ccc-sd.org/programs/mental-health.aspx

this is all still really ridiculous. As Anna pointed out this issue definitely has to be stabilized, and if thats what stimulus money is supposed to go towards, then we need to let our elected officials know how much this is hurting our communities.

have to say that i am continuously disappointed in the Governator’s overall perception of the real world.

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