To prepare you for the following stories, here is some context. You might remember that just a few weeks ago Washington passed an extension of the huge tax cuts for the rich and as an added bonus cut the tax on inherited income way, way down. This added approx. $400 billion a year to the deficits. In a vote last week the House refused to end tax breaks and government subsidies for oil companies. Many of the largest, most profitable corporations pay no taxes at all. Congress recently extended special tax break incentives for sending jobs out of the country. Congress has given hedge fund managers, some of whom have incomes of a billion dollars, a special low tax rate of only 15%. The richest 400 Americans have as much wealth as 50% of us combined. That is just a few recent items to consider as you read today’s post.
60 Minutes: Homeless children: the hard times generation
Scott Pelley reports on the growing number of children who are falling victim to the financial crisis
One of the consequences of the recession that you don’t hear a lot about is the record number of children descending into poverty.
The government considers a family of four to be impoverished if they take in less than $22,000 a year. Based on that standard, and government projections of unemployment, it is estimated the poverty rate for kids in this country will soon hit 25 percent. Those children would be the largest American generation to be raised in hard times since the Great Depression.
A pacemaker and defibrillator fitted to carpenter Douglas Gravagna’s failing heart makes even rising from the couch of his Phoenix-valley home a battle. But it is not congestive heart failure that is killing him, he says. It is a decision by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to stop funding for some organ transplants as the state struggles to reduce a yawning budget deficit.
“She’s signing death warrants – that’s what she’s doing. This is death for me,” says Gravagna, 44, a heavy-set man who takes 14 medications to stay alive. Gravagna is among 98 people denied state Medicaid funding for potentially life-saving transplants and at the forefront of a harrowing battle over the state’s public finances.
Las Vegas Sun: Budget cuts threaten Family Services lifeline
On any given day, 3,000 children in Clark County are living outside their homes because they’ve been removed for their safety. Richardson is one of the frontline soldiers with the difficult and unheralded job of trying to figure out what to do next.
Just as these families are in crisis, county officials worry that state and local budget cuts will erase the gains made by Family Services since 2006, when the county had one of the worst child welfare systems in the country, as a federal official said at the time. Childhaven was overrun with 265 children, and caseloads were more than twice what is recommended by experts.
Under the proposed budget of Gov. Brian Sandoval, caseloads would balloon because the county would have to slash frontline staff by 22 percent.
Pittsburgh: Mental health cuts hit jobless hardest
The cycle works like this: A bad economy leads to job layoffs and government funding cuts. Unemployed people lose their health insurance as well as their income, causing stress, anxiety and depression. The uninsured wind up seeking treatment for these problems from the public mental health system, even as its funding is being cut. Growing demand meets shrinking supply.
The scenario is already well under way. States have slashed $2.2 billion from their public mental health systems from 2009 to 2011, according to a new report, even as nearly 60 percent of them reported increased demand for community-based mental health care and crisis services.
“These services are at the heart of every public mental health system in the country, and a means of keeping people with mental illness out of more expensive psychiatric hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing facilities and jails,” said Kevin Martone, president of the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, which presented the report Feb. 16 at a U.S. Senate briefing.
Atlanta Journal Constitution: Job training in crossfire of deficit battles,
Mullins hopes her fortunes turn with the help of a federal job-training program that proponents say leads to full-time work for three of every four participants. She is wrapping up five months of computer training. IT is one of the state’s hottest growth industries.
Congress, though, is considering killing the $3.6 billion job training and assistance program. Georgia received $65.2 million in Workforce Investment Act (WIA) money last year, along with $88.3 million in federal stimulus money for job training. The labor department says the schooling helped thousands of Georgians get back to work.
“The people in Washington who are making these decisions have no idea what’s going on,” said Mullins, a fifty-something former special ed teacher in Fayette County. “I really don’t think they care.”
Lansing State Journal: Cutting jobs agency won’t help Michigan
A U.S. House plan for balancing the federal budget would cut funding for job placement agency Michigan Works, which has Capital Area Michigan Works offices in Lansing, Charlotte and St. Johns.
Michigan’s unemployment for December was 11.1 percent. The nation’s was 9.4 percent, but dipped to 9 percent in January. Facing such statistics, the notion of slashing funds for an organization that helps people find work is counterproductive.
Director Doug Stites said last week that loss of federal funding would “just pull the linchpin out of the middle and everything would collapse.”
For Miriam Alvarez, who does a lot of work on the computer, the neighborhood public library has become her home away from home.
“I don’t have internet access. I’m trying to cut down on my expenses,” said Alvarez.
Problem is, so is the city of Houston. The city’s libraries will bear the brunt of it, slashing its overall operating budget by 27 percent even though library visits are up by 13 percent.
Back to context. We spend more on military than all other countries on earth combined but cuts in military spending are “off the table.” Income inequality is at record levels. A few at the top now take in more income than millions upon millions of us. Most of the very same Wall Street executives who caused the financial collapse and received bailouts from US are still in the same jobs and are still receiving million-plus bonuses.