The Complete Blindness To Long-Term Consequences

Robert Cruickshank pretty well covers the disaster that will be the upcoming budget “deal” between legislative Democrats and Arnold Schwarzenegger.  By the way, this is BEFORE the Yacht Party tries to enact a few more goodies for the privilege of letting Democrats vote for $26 billion in cuts, gimmicks and raids on local government.  We’ll see a big sigh of relief from lawmakers over the next few days that will be wholly unwarranted.

Particularly galling is the targeting of city and county budgets to cover the state gap.  By siphoning off almost $1 billion in gas tax funds slated for cities and counties, not one pothole in California will get filled this year.  With the loss of $1.7 billion in redevlopment funds, not one project like affordable housing will get initiated.  And by taking $1.3 billion in local property taxes, lots of city and county employees, particularly in public safety, will end up out of work.  It’s really robbery on a pretty grand scale, and it will offset any economic recovery through stimulus funding throughout the state.

One of the major consequences of this cuts-only budget will be, paradoxically, higher costs for individuals and the state.  When you eliminate or severely restrict social services programs, those individuals who rely on them will have to go elsewhere for those services.  The alternatives are more expensive for everyone.

Irene Steinlage has trouble walking, getting dressed, making her bed, taking a bath. She has stayed in her Folsom home with the help of a health aide, one that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says the state can no longer afford.

The governor’s plan to take away such care is meant to save money. But it could end up costing California more by forcing the 85-year-old, who has Parkinson’s, osteoporosis and other ailments — and thousands like her — into nursing homes.

“I couldn’t possibly afford a nursing home,” Steinlage said. So the state could be saddled with a Medi-Cal tab that is triple the cost of her home care worker, who receives $10.40 an hour five days a week […]

Others say the experience of governments that have closed gaping deficits with deep program cuts suggests that the price of doing so is hefty.

“It’s pay now or pay later,” said Nicholas Freudenberg, who co-wrote a study of the long-term effects of service reductions made in the aftermath of New York City’s fiscal crisis of 1975.

His 2006 study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that less than $10 billion in cuts to healthcare, education and law enforcement in New York City over four years led to at least $54 billion in additional costs over a 20-year period, using 2004 dollars and adjusted for inflation. Consequences included higher rates of HIV, a worsened tuberculosis epidemic and a spike in homicides.

“Those potential epidemics that are being seeded by Gov. Schwarzenegger’s cuts will not come in his term or the terms of people who are making these decisions,” Freudenberg said. “It will be several years down the line.”

The sick thing is that the Governor, and maybe even some in the Yacht Party, know this.  The consequences of program cuts are easily seen.  Eliminating the Poison Control System, for example, means that people calling the emergency number (many of whom don’t need to see a doctor based on poison accidentally swallowed) will instead go to the ER, and many of those visits will be from people on Medi-Cal, leading to higher costs.  Cutting adult day care will send many into nursing homes, at a higher cost to the state.  Losing Cal Works welfare funding will send children into foster care, at a higher cost.  Cutting the meager drug treatment and vocational training in prisons almost assures an even higher recidivism rate, at a higher cost.

This is not a difficult calculation to make.  We fund social services programs not only because we have an obligation in a developed society not to see people dying on the street, but because we can create programs that get people back to self-sufficiency at a lower overall cost.  There is only one reason not to fund such programs – because an arrogant and entitled right wing refuses to fund these government obligations in the short term, preferring apparently to pay more in the long term.  There has been enough money in the last few budgets to produce massive corporate tax cuts, but not enough to get someone with a chemical dependency the treatment he or she needs.  There’s been enough money to protect California’s unique status as the only oil-producing state not to charge corporations for taking our natural resources out of the ground, but not enough to provide long-term care services that relieve the burden of nursing home funding over the long term.  There’s enough money to keep in place useless enterprise zones that create nothing but tax giveaways, but not enough to keep the state from becoming the first in the nation to put poor kids on a waiting list for affordable health insurance.

We hear about the “generous social services programs” in California that simply had to be cut, but they’ve been reduced to the point where they are almost unanimously the worst in the nation.  That depresses the business climate, that moves bodies out of the state, that alienates the public.  And Arnold Schwarzenegger knows this, and he did it anyway, to keep a promise to what little of his base he has left.

Ultimately, this system isn’t designed to produce good budgets.  Without a media that cares, no amount of activism or public pressure can be brought to bear on a shameless and unaccountable minority.  If you need proof of the need for a complete rethinking of how to structure government in California in the 21st century, look at the last seven months.

12 thoughts on “The Complete Blindness To Long-Term Consequences”

  1. Excellent detail and you put a face on this political tragedy.  As a teacher I am in there everyday struggling to teach traditional values of hard work, responsibility, being humane, and what I would say are traditional American values.  It is going to be a lot harder to reach our young people. I’ve had 36 students for the last two years.  I also have had some great test scores.  But now our students are going to be at 30-1 at least instead of 20-1.  How many more will be lost to the popular culture and particularly gangs?  How are teachers going to provide one-one help, or small group help to students with such a large group to manage and no aide time or easy access to special services?  Also, I think of students who are on asthma medication, what if they don’t get it through Medical?  I think one of the unspeakable outcomes of the Republican approach is increased childhood mortality while they wait on some bureaucratic list.   Our elderly are going to be hit hard, especially if they are disabled.  It is a real downslide for California and if some of these Republicans worked with kids everyday, they wouldn’t be pulling the rug out from under them, or the people who are there to help their lives along.  In the long run the health and social costs of these cuts is a disaster, but the so-called conservatives can’t see the long-run expenses.  Of course Arnold would rather look at himself in a mirror.

  2.   Why don’t Democrats (or the unions, or someone) support the

    (already qualified) recall against Schwartz?  His only defense is “it’s not my fault”, but that didn’t work for Gray Davis, and it really wasn’t his fault.  Given the economy, the fact that the tax increases go away after the 2010-11 budget, and the repayment that needs to be done to local government/schools, we desperately need the majority rule fee swap/tax increase.  This won’t happen while Schwartz is there, but if the recall is done now, it will be on the ballot in June and we’ll have a new governor for the new budget.

  3. should march down their streets so communities can start putting actual human faces to the budget cuts.

    Whenever people start complaining about the lack of services, start actually putting blame on folks who are making millions of dollars who don’t want to contribute to “the commons.”

    I’m just so pissed off. We’re so sc******d.

  4. and we have to prepare for the 09/10 cuts, those we couldn’t forestall with an MOU this year.

    People are already going to have to move, or lose their house then move, or lose a car.  Lots more have a big pay cut coming in 09/10, plus higher health costs.  That’s a done deal.

    Which also means a local chapter loses members.  The only upside is that laid off union members have a network to pull them back into the workforce, and those who’ve been service fee payers are starting to say, what the hell, I want a voice in this, and are signing up.

    We’ve lost this battle, but we can win the war.  We can fire up all the unions, tap the netroots, and focus on the legislature and Governor, and get some budget authority in 2010.  And happily, we’re already doing that.  

  5. because it is class warfare and racist in its effects.  The prime victims are children, old people, the sick and the poor, and the primarily black and brown kids for whom affordable education is most crucial.  The rich and corporations are untouched…until they hit a few potholes, or need a fire hose. That they can get away with this would be unimaginable, except that it’s happening.

    We’ll see what the media response is today, but I’ll bet it’s about the crisis solved, the banks reassured, the Terminator triumphant.          

  6. Actually, Stand For California, offering what can only be called a You-Boob:

    I don’t know from video editing, but this excretion is dying for a little creative improvement.  Anybody up to the job?

  7. Sorry if I’m not in a gloom-and-doom mode but that never suited my personality.  I’m a problem solver so I want to get to it.

    Question 1:  This is Calitics, right?  The best and the brightest of CA, or am I at the wrong address?

    Question 2: Who wants IN on a project which may help things out in a significant way?  Step up.  I’m looking for volunteers.  I’ll check your responses later today. (This could be sooo much fun!)

  8. >not one pothole in California will get filled this year.  

    And every one of those potholes should have yellow caution tape around them with a sign:

    “Courtesy of Governor Ruprick and your Republican Legislators”

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