In yet another example of how different people view the budget problems and the budget solutions in Sacramento, Governor Schwarzenegger’s Director of Finance Mike Genest defended how so many of the budget solutions are falling on the poor and most vulnerable in California with this statement:
“If you look at what the government does, the government doesn’t provide services to rich people. We don’t provide many services even to the middle class. . .”
Wait a minute. To be fair, I think I know what he’s trying to say, given the question, but it came out so garbled as to be counterfactual–especially if Californians need to understand the nature of these cuts.
Let’s just be clear: State government provides services to all Californians. The big categories are education, health + human services, and then public safety–essential services for people of every region, income, class, and ideology.
More than half of the state budget is education, both K-12 and higher education. Most children are impacted by these cuts. There’s a lot of students who go to public schools or the University of California.
The next biggest item is healthcare. The big item is Medi-Cal, which is provides health coverage to 6.8 million mostly low-income children, parents, seniors and people with disabilities. But in covering 1 of 5 Californians, many middle-income families benefit, since it covers their grandparents. Medi-Cal is such a major funding source for the health system on which we all rely–and sut to Medi-Cal really do impact all of us.
According to the California Health Care Foundation, Medi-Cal:
“Is the nation’s largest Medicaid program in terms of the number of people it
serves, 6.6 million, and is the second largest in terms of dollars spent, $40 billion.
“Is the source of health coverage for:
• Almost one in five of Californians under age 65;
• One in three of the state’s children; and
• The majority of people living with AIDS.
• Forty-six percent of all births in the state;
• Two-thirds of all nursing home residents; and
• Almost two-thirds of all net patient revenue in California’s public hospitals.
“Brings in more than $20 billion in federal funds to California’s health care
Given that we go to the same hospitals and providers, there’s no way that you make the proposed cuts to health care, and patients throughout the state won’t be impacted–through reduced services, reduced quality, increased waiting times, and more crowded emergency rooms.
With health care and other “safety net” services we should remember that these services are there in part for middle-class families–as a safety-net–when times get tough. When a family member loses a job, gets a divorce, or comes down with a medical emergency, these services help provide health coverage, take care of child or an elderly parent, or help pay the college tuition. They can help take care of a family member with a disability.
There’s been a lot of focus on the closure of state parks, and other cuts that visibly impacct everybody. But when we talk about the big items that state government funds–education, health care, and public safety–we all are impaccted, even if it isn’t as visible.
It’s a fundamental misinterpretation to talk about even about the social services that are focused on low-income families as something that is a cut to “them.” These services are ultimately insurance for “us.” They help “middle-class” folks during life-changing moments. And they help people who happen to be low-income as a given moment to become “middle-class.”
Maybe this mentality–that it’s really just “those” poor people being impacted–is why the Administration is so comfortable choosing to announce these cuts, rather than to support revenues, and so what it takes to get the votes, to avoid these cuts.
These cuts are the Governor’s choices and priorities. I don’t think they are those of Californians.