Friday, May 22, 2009

Who Gets Tossed From the Lifeboat Says Everything

It has happened in the past. The lifeboat is overloaded. Somebody has to get thrown overboard lest the boat capsize and everybody die. In school we read a case from the early 1800s where the skipper stood trial for just this and lost - not because he threw someone over the side but because he didn't toss the black porter first. California isn't about to make the same mistake.

California is a fiscally overloaded lifeboat in danger of being swamped by far too much debt. The state budget process is such a political football that Governator Arnie can't get consensus on a deficit deal that would save the state. Stuck with a $21-billion shortfall, something obviously has to give. Teachers, firefighters, even cops - sure their ranks will be cut but wait, what about the black porter up in the bow? Doesn't he go first?

In this lifeboat, the black porter is California's poor and the state's needy students and they're headed straight for Davey Jones' locker. According to the LA Times, California is about to indulge in a bit of budgetary Darwinism:

To balance the books, Schwarzenegger is eyeing the dismantling of the state's CalWorks program, which serves more than 500,000 poor families with children, as well as the elimination of Healthy Families, which provides medical coverage to 928,000 children and teens. Mothballing the two programs would save the state about $1.4 billion in the coming fiscal year, officials said.

If the proposals to slash the safety net come to pass, they would completely reshape the state's social service network, transforming California from one of the country's most generous states to one of the most tightfisted in aiding the poor.

Also potentially on the chopping block is CalGrants, a financial assistance program that offers cash grants to lower- and middle-income college students each year. The governor's proposal would eliminate the 77,000 new grants awarded each year at a cost of $180 million, but that saving would eventually grow to more than $900 million as students graduated and the program was phased out.

In so many ways California seems awfully progressive but its willingness, in tough times, to turn on the weakest and most vulnerable, especially those kids, puts all that in a much less flattering perspective. Eliminating health care for a million poor kids? I guess in California, poor is the new black.,0,4603538.story


Jo said...

That's how California ends up with little 11 year-old boys like Tristen Clarke, homeless and sobbing into his hands saying, "We need people to help." I guess little 11 year-old boys like Tristen Clarke are the new black porter.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi Jo. I read the account of Tristen Clarke on your page and, yes, he is one of thousands of California kids who'll have a hard time keeping it together this year. That such a small minority of Californians could turn their state abjectly Dickensian is sickening.