TERMINATOR GOVERNOR WREAKS MAYHEM!
ARNOLD CUTS TO THE BONE!
PITY THE POOR PEOPLE OF CALIFORNIA
By Bob Erlenbusch and Jay Levin
Governor Schwarzenegger is a man to whom “cut” means a scene is to stop. As “director” of California who pledged to be governor for all the people, the “scene” he’s chosen to end is state services for millions of impoverished Californians - real people, with real needs. Unfortunately, no stunt doubles will stand in and take the pain for disabled children and seniors, nor suffer for hungry families. And the deaths to come won’t be fake.
Rather than spread the pain, the Governor chose cruel Republican class-warfare, aiming the bulk of massive proposed cuts at the poor. The candidate who promised “no business as usual,” is blatantly playing from the same script as former Governor Pete Wilson – make those most vulnerable pay. The Arnold who claimed he’d lead with a fair hand, is even out-bullying his mentor, who tempered cuts with a short-term tax hike.
The new cuts are astonishing. For the elderly poor, blind and disabled who can't fend for themselves, there’ll be an end to Medi-Cal for up to half a million and cuts in cash support payments, topped by elimination of in-home and transportation aid to 75,000, leaving them to their own mostly non-existent devices.This last is a double whammy as thousands of working poor ($7.50 an hour) adults who assist the elderly will lose their jobs. Many will end up on public assistance.
There’s more hardball misery. Food stamps for tens of thousands of hungry families will go, as will a significant chunk of the stipend ($704 a month for a mom with two kids) that barely houses nearly two million mothers and children, forcing many into homelessness. And health care will be far harder to obtain, with reductions in Medi-Cal payments to doctors and a freeze on the Healthy Families program (which candidate Arnold enthusiastically promised to expand to meet intense need among children, whom he professes caring deeply about.)
And for poverty-area students looking to improve their lots in life, it's “hasta la vista baby” as essential college outreach programs go.
The timing is alarming. California is already in a poverty, hunger and affordable housing crisis. More than 4 million, including 25% of children, live below the federal poverty line. Based on actual California costs, the number hurting badly is likely double that. In some counties the official figures are at Depression levels of 30%.
Hunger is epidemic, especially in LA County, which leads the country in numbers and percentage of hungry people. According to the Center on Hunger and Poverty, 1.3 million Californians go hungry regularly and 4.4 million are "food insecure," meaning their next meals aren't assured and the quality may be unhealthy. One third are children.
While the Governor attacks food stamps, the state’s performance here is already scandalous. Program participation nationwide rose 22.5% last year (nearly four million new people). Due to vicious administrative practices, California’s actually fell by 4.4%. Only half those eligible in LA County actually receive food stamps – by far the nation’s lowest rate.
It's the same story for medical care.Nearly 4 million Californians have no health insurance and 2003 budget cuts already added significantly to the numbers of poor only partially covered.
Notably, this disaster bearing down on the poor and elderly was prefaced by Republican legislators last summer denying the one vote needed to pass a crisis-ending tax increase - at no expense to anyone but the wealthiest one percent of Californians.
During the campaign, sticking to his feel-good script, Schwarzenegger sidestepped questions about cutting poverty programs. He promised a happy movie ending where no one gets hurt but bad-guy politicians and wasteful bureaucrats. Imagine if he’d spoken his true intentions: I will protect the wealthy and balance the budget on the backs of needy children, hungry and homeless families and seniors.
Living in his Brentwood mansion with, count ‘em, six Hummers and his "liberal" socialite wife and Oprah ready to provide cover for his moral failures, there’s hardly the psychic space for a shiver of conscience to disturb the happy scene of Hollywood Arnold saving California. Shriver actually had the nerve –and PR presence – to ask to help at a Thanksgiving food pantry when her husband’s intended food stamp cuts became known – cuts that will force innumerable desperate folks to pantries for inadequate food supplies. (Overwhelmed pantries meet only 10-20% of the food shortages of their customer-base, the working poor, and are lobbying against the “let-them-eat-cake” budget.)
The only Californians as morally challenged as the Governor are those of us who will turn a blind eye to this latest form of molestation. Hopefully calls will pour in telling him where “the people" really stand. Call him at 916-445-2841 and press #1 and tell him where the "people" really stand. And asking legislators to cut this scene from our budget picture.
Erlenbusch is executive director of L.A. Coalition to End Hunger and Homelessness (lacehh.org). Levin is president of Share With Other LA (lapoverty.org). And was the founder/ publisher of the L.A. Free Press.
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