Before the tea party descends on capital hill, before the 90 something new republicans have had time to more than find their office space, before they have done more than announce their vehement plans to repeal healthcare reform, the impact of budget cuts comes home to roost. All the talk of belt tightening, budget crises have hit individual states in a tangible way, none more than Arizona where upwards of 96 people where remove from the transplant list, not because of lack of needed organs or failing health beyond help, but because of the cost to the state via Medicaid. Enacted cuts slated to do 15 less transplants per year. One such cut, an actual person, is a young woman in her 20’s born with cystic fibrosis whose story aired on national news; soon after concerned individuals were able to raise the several thousand dollars to cover her surgery. She was lucky; 2 have already died since cuts were made in October, waiting for a liver and bone marrow transplant respectively. It is a classic example of possible scenarios democrats and independent political analysts have pointed to saying, oh yes everyone wants to talk about cutting spending, but then what do you cut?
Not surprisingly members of the medical community condemn what governor Brewer signed off on, citizens shocked it has gone this far, that of all the things chosen to be cut, organ transplants was one of them. Many businesses have pledged donations in an effort to put these desperate people back on the list quoted in related news articles saying they could not sit around and watch people die. One of few statements media outlets have managed to attribute to the Arizona governor involves her saying the state is broke. Even more insidious than what they cut, is who, not people whose life choices might possibly have contributed to their current condition, but at least one individual born with a disease causing the need for transplant, someone possessing no control over that eventuality. In Missouri cuts were made to in home help for seniors on Medicare, forcing a majority of help recipients into nursing homes, again targeting the most vulnerable. Ironically likely to cost said state more money when these people drain their resources, end up on Medicaid and their nursing home stay, potentially for the rest of their days, ends up being paid for by the state.
And it’s not just healthcare, California reported the possibility of reducing pay for state workers from $20 per hour to national minimum wage of 7.25; president Obama has previously announced a freeze in state worker pay for Washington D.C., where he has jurisdiction. At the same time revenue generators such as toll roads and red light cameras seem ever increasing in numbers. Shortly before the political changing of the guard, as it were, the governor of New Jersey was on NBC’s Meet the Press; discussion centered around what reducing the national debt really entailed, things they had done in New Jersey to reduce their own state budget including cuts to education, rejection of stimulus funds to build a commuting bridge for workers to travel between them and neighboring areas for employment. Continued conversation encompassing pointers for national implementation, being willing to put everything on the table, unpopular things like raising the retirement age, reducing healthcare, raising taxes. One has to wonder what he would say to the two people in Arizona, now dead, how he would justify that ideology to their families, seeing what actually happens when everything is put on the table.
Meanwhile incoming republicans who campaigned on deficit reduction, spending control, who vowed early on to reduce spending by a whopping 100 billion, pledged to reduce their own operating costs, but, at 35 million estimated savings, that covers a faction of one percent of their original promise. Healthcare is painted as the albatross around government’s neck, touted by aforementioned party as something constituents do not want, hints an impending vote to repeal Obama’s reforms, back tracking coverage for children with preexisting conditions, backtracking coverage for seniors in the so called doughnut hole, the gap between dollar limits for medication and Medicare catastrophic coverage, backtracking removal of lifetime spending caps, heading off regulations slated to take effect in 2014, mandating all employers provide health coverage or pay a fine. However, truthfully, it is about 6 of one half dozen of the other; there are Americans who support parts of the reform, others who condemn it, and still other sections who think it doesn’t go far enough. No doubt pointing to insurance companies who just announced rate hikes as high as 59%, while state laws give no power to governing bodies over such things to stop them. Capitol hill’s advice, write your congressmen, push to change the law. 3 separate, closely related facets of the same problem, setting the stage for what happened in Arizona to be just the beginning.
Yet healthcare it is not the spending giant it is portrayed to be; military and defense spending houses the largest budget nation wide. Once again it’s a case of what then do we do; especially considering the decision to have working age military retirees pay their own healthcare costs, a mere drop in a very large bucket. Are we going to be for pulling troops out of Iraq, Afghanistan as fast as we can get physically transport them out leaving the people high and dry, making all the death, all the sacrifice, all the injury in vain, because we no longer want to pay for it? Do we make more enemies out of bitter, resentful people left behind, let those regions become vacuums for Hamas, Al Qeada, any terrorist group, radical faction? Similarly do we let Iran become a threat to not only to the US but its allies, for that matter the whole world, if their growing nuclear prowess is treated as the alarm gage it should be, because we were too preoccupied with money, somewhere in the future follow through on the attitude, UN sanctions have failed, diplomacy has failed but we will not act because we cam’t afford it? Or, do we own up to being a superpower, handle our position as world’s policemen, in the interest of 6 billion inhabitants, most of which would not survive nuclear war, nuclear fallout? Looking toward our own borders, our own security do we slash domestic spending involving counter terrorism, when homegrown terror is an ever-growing source of anxiety, when those charged with handling and preventing it admit they can barely keep up. Do we dare put these things on the table?
Republicans outside the tea party have suggested easing new financial reforms, environmental reforms along with scaling back healthcare reform in the name of job growth, ultimately creating a more business friendly atmosphere so they will begin hiring again rather than hording cash for an uncertain future. Oh yes lets; we’ve already kept hold of Bush era tax cuts, a decision largely forced by republicans, why not return to the Bush deregulation years, deregulation leading to the financial crisis, deregulation leading to the BP oil disaster. Yes this could potentially entice businesses to loosen their purse strings, hire more workers, expand their operations, yet at what cost, another recession that almost became a depression, a double dip recession inevitably, increasing man made disasters like the BP explosion, nearly sinking a regions already fragile economy caused by mother nature. An economy, by the way, effecting the entire nation, whole sections of ocean and other bodies of water, areas like wetlands environmentalists have no idea when or even if they will recover; because despite government assurances claiming 80 to 90 percent of the oil was cleaned up, scientists are worried it simply settled on the ocean floor, river and wetland beds. More importantly, floors and beds usually teaming with life are dark and dead, consequences of a lack of oversight.
Assuming no one wants the depictions above and/or other drastic problems not detailed, not yet seen on the horizon, then few alternatives exist. From Washington and states government point of view, it’s take a page from the airlines nickel and dime-ing passengers to death charging for meals, pillows, extra leg room, exorbitant fees for a second checked piece of luggage, just for starters. Do we really want that kind of “revenue generation” all across the country; do we want to be taxed for golf course usage, limo rides on prom night. Do we want to be charged above and beyond original prices, sales tax, utilizing a personal trainer, getting a hair cut or shave from a barber, hiring a plumber, handyman, babysitter? Outrage would be the collective response to any such attempt, coming back again to what do you cut what action do you take? Watching news broadcasts some see ways for Pennsylvania avenue to change its ways, not spending on lavish getaways for politicians, not allowing continual pay increases, ceasing funding for useless, unwanted and pet projects. Despite bipartisan voting to end such funding, so called earmarks, you return to the one drop, large bucket metaphor. And yes government buildings could turn off lights after hours when no one is present, working, they could have not mailed stimulus checks to thousands of people already deceased, because of poor record keeping, they could have better tacked TARP bailout funds, but with all of that, people would still be looking at these type of budget slicing, service cuts, program deletions to meet Washington’s deficit reduction goals.
Further, addressing why states are broke in the first place, has less to do with media implied corruption, mismanagement or basic human error and far more to do with the financial and housing crises plaguing everyone. States across the board aren’t getting property taxes on foreclosed homes, residential rental properties, business spaces behind on their payments, sitting vacant because previous owners went out of business and there is no one willing or able to take their place. Adding to the lack of funds, many Americans are hiding money under their mattresses instead of spending it as they normally would, only buying necessary items, meaning states are getting less in sales tax as well. Though consumer spending is on the rise, pockets of low spending still exist and it takes time to recover monies lost, time states who were just getting by don’t have, leading to the current situation.
Lastly confronting why states are employing extreme, extraordinary measures, why Arizona felt it appropriate to literally endanger lives, why the public is putting so much pressure on government about spending, is people worry about the deficit, the national debt because they are told to. For most, the national debt does little to effect their daily lives, has no discernable impact on where they spend their money or how, save Washington media releases, national news headlines fearing we will end up like Greece, Spain, members of the European Union, needing international funds to stay afloat. However it is another case of chicken littleism; we are not those countries, even top financial analysts say we should worry less about short term spending, focus on job creation, putting people back to work, getting people back to spending, increasing our business community, growing our economy. And yet you have the taxed enough already party, people anxious, biting their nails, hoping this nations debt doesn’t swallow them.
The biggest problem politicians have is communicating to their public what spending cuts mean, what deficit reduction means, what reducing taxes means, if America knew that the human face, human cost of national belt tightening meant removing people from the transplant list, only for them to die for lack of funds to do surgery, eliminating assistance for seniors to stay at home, pay for their medication they wouldn’t want it. If they knew it meant denying coverage to sick children, soon possibly removing prenatal care for poor women, early childhood intervention for delayed children or preschool programs giving kids a better shot at a bright future, because this is what is meant by everything on the table, they wouldn’t want it. If they understood that cutting taxes, slicing spending meant less national, internal security, increased likelihood of incidents like the time square bomber and the incendiary packages mailed to government buildings in the northeast, actually succeeding, killing people, damaging property, not to mention the nation’s psyche, because bean counters reduced said departments funding, they would perhaps stop holding signs, creating a political platform called the taxed enough already party. If they realized money rhetoric regarding Iraq, Afghanistan meant making America more of a terrorist target, our impending tightwad choices made us look selfish, self absorbed, indifferent to catastrophic plight in other places, thus inciting global envy, they would at least stop and think, maybe just stop.