Slow Boil & A Thousand Cuts in the “Golden” State

Most everyone has heard the saying about the frog in the pot on the stove. The heat is raised ever so slowly that the frog doesn’t really notice.

Of course, the frog eventually dies in boiling water.

It’s similar to the Chinese “death by a thousand cuts,” or the term “creeping normalcy,” which refers to major changes that are accepted as normal when they happen slowly.

This all came to mind last week when I read that the local Easter Seals in Humboldt County is closing. Another small cut in our community life, partly due to state budget “trimming.” A few more area residents experiencing a diminishing of their quality of life.

I thought more about this when I went to do a swim work-out at the Arcata Pool. I was remembering my first two years going there on specific nights when patient, caring swimming instructors worked with developmentally disabled youth. They had a great time.

I realized that I hadn’t seen them there in a long time.

Later, while shopping at Wildberries, I noticed a table asking for donations to save HSU’s Natural History Museum. I looked across the street to the darkened windows of this facility that has been such an asset to the community and Humboldt County.

It’s closed now, except for special occasions. Quality of life. Community. Cuts.

Driving back to Eureka, I thought about a person I hadn’t seen at a work meeting that day. She’s always been an active asset to our community and was frequently seen around town.

In her electric wheelchair. She has a disability and she’s a senior. She couldn’t get out of bed that day because she can’t find an IHSS (In-Home Support Services) care provider. Now she’s worried because the Governor has proposed cutting that program altogether and that she might be forced into a nursing home.

Another disabled person I know, who lives in his own apartment thanks to the IHSS program, says he would prefer dying to ending up in a care facility. It’s a matter of quality of life. One more little cut. One more devastated life.

This made me ponder the phone message that I saved at work, from a woman in Orick who was despondent over further state cuts to her meager SSI.

She said that she’d been having to choose between heat and food over the last winter even before recent cuts. I thought of the blog comments I’d seen referring to “deadbeats” to “get a job.” I note the state’s unemployment rate, which will increase significantly if Arnold gets many of his cuts. I thought of the disabled acquaintance who wants to start working through Calworks, also proposed for elimination, and the number of local jobs not available to the disabled because the work sites are not accessible.

These people certainly notice that stove’s been turned up.

The next day a co-worker told me about an agency consumer with schizophrenia who had her prescribed meds eliminated due to MediCal cuts. She’s now in the hospital and not in her own apartment. Quality of life? Hardly. Not to mention a greater cost to the community.

Another degree or two or five on the stove.

I looked at the newspaper that day and read about Eureka City budget deficits and necessary cuts that are partly due to the state “borrowing” money from local governments. Sacramento won’t ask for an oil extraction fee, but your local taxes will subsidize those corporations’ right to a hefty profit.

Cut a policemen here, close a zoo there. Quality of life. Cuts.

I heard about a community in California that is now charging $300 for 9-1-1 calls. Pay up, or your life is forfeit. The commodification of CPR.

I read about 900 teaching positions being slashed in the Bay Area and of police and fire jobs being cut. I thought of protesters yelling about high taxes, but then complaining about the potholes in the road and the slow response by the police to their calls.

I talked to a friend who can’t afford to continue in college and heard someone complain that they took time off to take care of business at a state agency, only to find it closed that day.

Notes to the Eagles “Hotel California” played somewhere in my head, but Don Henley was singing “They’re killing them off at the Hotel California.  It’s so very clear, the common good is long gone here.”

Feel the temperature rising yet? Is the water tepid or just lukewarm? Is that just another paper cut on your finger?

Grover Nordquist once said of government that he would like to “get it down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” Would he be referring to  government that’s for and by the people?

Grover would cheer the Golden State plan being enacted: golden for the chosen few and a rain (trickle down?) of fool’s gold for the rest.

I think of Arnold, with his budget cuts year after year after year. I hear E-Meg regurgitating “no taxes, more cuts, no taxes, more cuts” and signing a no tax pledge during the greatest recession since the Depression. Sure, let’s turn government into a business appendage and run it properly! Just like Enron and Exxon-Mobil and Bank of America, right?

I think of Republican legislators refusing to even discuss raising any taxes and cowed (majority?) Democrats forced to make “the hard decisions” of cutting the budget (just a few more cuts on the arms and legs; just a few degrees up on the stove, just ONE more time).

I think of the state’s citizens saying that just 500 cuts aren’t enough, but PLEASE don’t kill the patient–clinging to their “have our cake and eat it too” belief system while the cupboards are laid bare and the landlord laughs all the way to his barely taxed mansion. Oh no! Prop. 13 was ONLY about saving grandma’s little house in the neighborhood (wink, wink). We can’t EVER touch that!

So one more Easter Seals closes. One more senior becomes homeless. One more person can’t go to college. The death by a thousand cuts, creeping normalcy, frog in the pot–it’s all the same. Elimination of checks and balances, destruction of the common good and civil society, wiping out government “by the people,” reign by the unregulated chaos of free markets on steroids growing into corporate monopolies, and the entrenchment of a new aristocracy mouthing platitudes to the democracy that they’ve bought and sold out.

But…but…we want to save the poor frog, the people whisper. Then they turn away as the forces of corporate rule wielding their subsidiary government arm turn up the heat another notch. They never notice that it’s most all of us inside the pot.

And that many are already scalded. And that we’ll all soon join them.