Headlines Tell Of The War On Poor People

Most any day more attacks are leveled at poor people who rely on government programs such as health care and housing subsidies. Section 8 and Medicaid have particularly been targeted for cuts that will result in reductions in services.

It is clear that the states are in dire financial straits and clearer still that the Bush administration intends to sit back and do nothing to alleviate the economic stress.

While Congress has already approved of $126.1 billion for the Iraq war and an additional $25 billion is heading towards Congressional approval, for a total of $151.1 billion through this year, there is no bail out planned for the states. Rather Congressional leaders have promised an additional supplemental appropriation for the war after the election.

Author Doug Henwood has estimated that the war bill will add up to an average of at least $3,415 for every US household.

Economist James Galbraith of the University of Texas predicts that the war is likely to bring a decade of economic troubles, including an expanded trade deficit and high inflation. (Institute for PolicyStudies)

So while the focus and money is on Iraq what is happening to poor people around the nation? The news headlines inform. From California:

Stanislaus County Supervisors Approve Reductions in Health Spending, Eliminating Health Programs, Modesto Bee, 6/30 Approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, the plan will terminate the county’s participation in the California Healthcare for Indigents program and eliminate the Child Health and Disability Prevention Treatment program, effective within a week, to save an estimated $250,000;

* End an agreement with the Disability Resources Agency for Independent Living to provide “living skills” training for adults with serious mental illnesses. The move will effect an estimated 147 people and save an estimated $197,000;

* Reduce the level of non-emergency outpatient mental health services provided for the uninsured. The move will effect an estimated 600 people over the course of the year and save an estimated $1.3 million; and

* Close the East Modesto Regional Services office on Dec. 15 and transfer the estimated 350 uninsured people, Medi-Cal beneficiaries and people with other forms of insurance to other service sites beginning Aug. 1 to save an estimated $672,000.

Alameda County Budget Proposal Includes Funding Cuts for Indigent, Mental Health Care San Francisco Chronicle, 6/4.

This plan could eliminate community clinic and mental health services for thousands of uninsured county residents and eliminate health benefits for about 1,660 home health care workers making less than $10 per hour.

Contra Costa Supervisors Approve Budget Containing Funding Cuts for Health Programs, Contra Costa Times, 6/30.

The “deep cuts” are to the county Health Services Department: the supervisors cut $34.2 million from local social services programs and $18.8 million from the health services department. Together, more than 80 health services will be cut effective this week. The county’s psychiatric emergency services office will lose 25 clinicians and five staff members, while the psychiatric ward at the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center will lose about 15 workers.

No other industrialized nation in the world forces people to go without health care, rather the nations chose to provide health services as a human right. So much effort and productivity is wasted in the US, where health care is a luxury and often drives people into poverty.

For instance, on the national front:

Medical Debt Affects Some 20 Million Americans, Study Finds, Wall Street Journal, 6/30

One in seven U.S. families, or about 20 million total, had problems paying medical bills last year, and many of them had to choose among paying health care, food and housing expenses, according to a new report by the Center for Studying Health System Change.

Medicaid is up for cuts in several states. It took an Op-Ed in the New York Times rather than hard “news” but the example is shameless.

In “Punishing the Poor” (6/11) Bob Herbert says “If you want to see “compassionate” conservatism in action, take a look at Mississippi, a state that is solidly in the red category (strong for Bush) and committed to its long tradition of keeping the poor and the unfortunate in as ragged and miserable a condition as possible.”

I can vouch for that having grown up in Mississippi.

Mississippi approved the deepest cut in Medicaid eligibility for senior citizens and disabled people of anywhere in the US.

The state will end Medicaid eligibility for some 65,000 low-income seniors and disabled people – “people like Traci Alsup, a 36-year-old mother of three who was left a quadriplegic after a car accident” explains Herbert.

A Republican-controlled Senate and governor Haley Barbour, former chairman of the national Republican Party initiated the rollback of benefits.

Continuing on the national front, there is the devastating diminishment of Section 8 housing.

Control of federal housing voucher program may shift to states, ASSOCIATED PRESS, 4/4 2003

The Bush administration wants to give states control of federal vouchers that help nearly 2 million families pay the rent. States wouldn’t be required to abide by current federal regulations if HUD makes the switch. Additionally, the administration isn’t proposing enough money as it is to keep pace with rising rents. States may be allowed to limit the time someone is on vouchers, as with welfare programs.

Less is Less, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/6

Housing authority officials say they will lose 1,400 housing vouchers because of Bush’s proposed cuts. The Section 8 program would be block granted giving states more control over how they use the money. The reality now is that housing authorities nationwide have long waiting lists and not enough money to help needy families and individuals find housing.

HUD Cuts Hit Tacoma Hard; leaving mom, girl homeless, The News Tribune, 6/7.

People pay for the change in the way the US Department of Housing and Urban Development manages the Section 8 program.

Public Housing, Wrecking Section 8, americanprogress.org

HUD defies congressional mandate. The president’s housing advisers are misinterpreting the law to justify changes they want.

Housing Protest Targets GOP; Demonstrators Take Section 8 Subsidy Concerns to County Party Headquarters, The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y. 6/15

The president’s proposed 2005 budget would cut $1.6 billion from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program. Under the Bush proposal, the cut would increase in the next four years to $4.9 billion. That would knock some 250,000 people out of the program nationwide.

While socialism is promised to Iraqis at the American taxpayers’ expense in the form of rebuilding the infrastructure, jobs, housing, public schools, etc., the Bush administration is doing its very best to destroy the vestiges of civilization at home. The tiny US welfare state that never was enough is once again being shrunk.

–Marta RussellLos Angeles, CAhttp://www.martarussell.com/

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