March 7, 2013

The least of these get the least attention

As people like Rand Paul cheer the sequestration and want even more cuts, the rest of the country appears to not care about who will suffer most from the cuts.
Poor Face Most Pain As Automatic Budget Cuts Take Effect - Unless a deal is reached to change the course of the cuts, housing programs would be hit particularly hard, with about 125,000 individuals and families put at risk of becoming homeless, the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated. An additional 100,000 formerly homeless people might be removed from emergency shelters or other housing arrangements because of the cuts, the agency said.
I have had conversations with several conservatives about this issue.  None of them believe they are uncaring about the poor.  To the contrary, they get quite annoyed with me when I suggest that.  Yet the numbers are quite stark.  Republicans want these cuts to the poor to happen.  My conservative friends vote Republican because they say they believe in some form of fiscal responsibility.  Yet, those cuts will make more poor people suffer--of that there is no question.

I don't doubt that my conservative friends care about the poor and most of them either donate or volunteer to help the needy.  But as I have pointed out several times, that help is unlikely to increase now that there are more people in need.  It will not increase enough to make for these 200,000+ people who are now at risk for homelessness.

Who will make up the gap?  No one, is the likely answer.  Some charities will try, no doubt.  But all of them are over-burdened now as it is.  I have one friend who seems convinced that these cuts will be covered by some other government agency.  He has no idea if such an agency exists, but is sure someone will keep these people from dying in the street.

And yes, someone will, probably.  But that doesn't take away from the fact that this is a horrible and completely immoral way to address poverty.  If you haven't watched the new documentary on hunger, "A Place at the Table," it is well worth the rental.  One of the points they make very clear is that charity, while important and good, is not a long term solution.  It is there for emergency help, not long term change.  One of the more poignant images in the film is the cop who has not had a raise in years.  He now has to use local food pantries to make ends meet.  A cop.  A public servant is paid so poorly that he requires public assistance to eat.  And that doesn't even cover the impact of poor nutrition and hunger on developing children, or the shame and fear that accompanies this inability to feed their families.

So this is the upshot.  Conservatives want less government programs because they believe government cannot help poverty.  They want private charities--who cannot address systemic poverty. They can help here and there, and they are keeping people from starving.   But they cannot fix wage issues, healthcare, access to education and training, etc.  Yet, my conservative friends want to cut those government programs that help, turn things more over to the private charities who can only provide bandaids--all while tacitly acknowledging that they themselves will do no more to help the increasing number of needy.

Don't tell me they care about those needy who fall behind.  Or at least, let's acknowledge that that concern is a poor substitute for food or jobs.

No comments: