Terror Master Governor Schwartzenegger

Terminating items in a budget can be a fun affair. Just ask Gov. Schwartzenegger who is selling massive cuts to health and welfare services to the public in private California malls. All three of his major speeches last week were in malls with stores in the background and with consumers and small business owners as his target audience.

In Sacramento, the Gov.’s Department of Finance, headed by Director Donna Arduin (she has a reputation as a fierce budget cutter in Florida) is looking at health and human services and local government for the bulk of spending reductions.

The administration is considering massive cuts to health and human services in both the current year budget now in operation and for next year – including huge cuts to regional center services and another rate reduction for Medi-Cal providers, cuts to Healthy Families, In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS), and other health and human service programs. $385 million would be cut from In Home Support Services alone, a program that allows disabled persons to remain in their homes as opposed to being warehoused in institutions. $98,000,000 is on the block for programs for Developmentally Disabled persons.

Swartzenegger rescinded the car tax increasing the size of an already huge deficit. He got elected pandering to small business interests who cry hardship. The Small Business Action Committee, a group headed by former Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. (Prop 13) president Joel Fox sponsored the rallies.

Some activists expected he would take the easy route and go after poor peoples programs as he courted small businesses. Arnold’s mentor and advisor Pete Wilson did just that. Gov. Wilson did his best not to cross business and to balance the budget on the backs of disabled people. He eliminated the cost of living increase for those living on meager SSI benefits rather than ask business to pay a fair share.

Now the celebrity Gov. is giving massive public devastation a commercial glow by parading his act on California malls for small business and shopper appeal.

Meanwhile significantly disabled persons are living in fear all over this state. The screen persona terminator has become a real life terror master and is traumatizing disabled persons who rely on these programs.

Imagine that you depend on a paid worker to come help you with certain daily chores each day. Imagine you and your worker (who is a family member) are both faced with the possibility that a relative has left their job to provide services for the disabled family member (for pay) and is faced with no job if the Gov. has his way.

Significantly disabled persons who rely on the IHSS program know that if IHSS disappears they most likely will be subjected to negligent care in nursing homes that could kill them. Never mind that it costs more to reside in an institution than to receive services in the home ——-.

Further reducing Medi-Cal rates to doctors mean fewer physicians will take patients who have Medi-Cal ( this was already done once or twice). With public clinics closing and fewer hospital options, some people are sure to find it even more difficult to see a doctor when necessary.

Imagine you are developmentally disabled but in college. You have been protected by California’s Lanterman Act, one of the most progressive pieces of disability rights legislation (Welfare & Institutions Code, Section 4502). The act establishes that individuals with developmental and other related disabilities shall have specific rights and a guarantee of services to support those rights.

The rights are basic but essential. They include a right to dignity, privacy and humane care; a right to religious freedom and practice; a right to social interaction and participation in community activities; a right to physical exercise and recreational opportunities; a right to be free from harm, and isolation, and neglect; and a right to treatment and services and supports directed toward the achievement of independent, productive, and “normal” lives.

Gov. Arnold proposes to suspend the Lanterman act because it costs money to ensure these civil rights for disabled persons.

Is this anything short of terrorism?

While disabled people worry there is chatter that speechifying in private malls will be this governor’s trademark (he gets announced over the loudspeakers).

According to the LA Times reporter Joe Matthews:

“At malls, Schwarzenegger can reaffirm his populist credentials – the state Web site identifies him as “The People’s Governor” – by creating TV pictures of himself speaking to large crowds in a public space. At the same time, malls are legally private property, which allows his political team to control the look and feel of events – and keep protesters off camera.” (Dec. 8, 2003)

A private mall can ban signs, banners, any form of protest.

Private security guards are keeping it nice and tidy for the cameras by removing unseemly crips carrying signs that are opposing his cuts. The Times reported that at least three people using wheelchairs had been removed at one mall from the camera’s eye by private security guards.

If the owners of a mall can control “the public” by squashing dissent so easily, is the first amendment worth anything? Rights gone, democratic process gone, the celebrity obfuscates.

While the Gov. dreams of sugar and spice and trademark podiums, he has also instilled fear in disabled people: fear the suspension of the landmark Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act; enrollment caps and waiting lists for critical services; elimination of respite and other programs, In-Home Supportive Services Residual Program, and Medi-Cal cuts.

All mount up to a terrorist attack on poor disabled persons who know they have the fight of their lives ahead of them. A major protest is planned in Sacramento for December 10.

“It’s almost like a necessary pain that we have to go through,” Kevin McCarthy, the new Republican assembly leader, told the LA Times. “We have had a cancer growing on our budget and to cure this we are going to have to go through the chemo.”

There it is, in black and white: some Republicans really do regard old, disabled, and poor people as mere cancer cells on the body Americana. That is enough to rate a terror master.

Should we be surprised that Arnold with his stress on the perfect body builder physique and Austrian Secret Service lineage be so inclined to think nothing of wiping out programs that allow people with impairments some choices and freedoms in life?

What if Gov. Arnold’s approach is a test to see how well Californians can tolerate cuts like these, and if there isn’t much resistance, the Republicans will go on to inflict this model on the whole country?


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