The Madness Of Cutting Social Safety Net Funding

The Madness Of Cutting Social Safety Net Funding


I think we can all agree that the die is cast on social safety nets. That’s why it’s more important than ever to find the most cost effective ways to implement them.

So when I read the following story in the NY Times about states slashing money for these programs, I just shook my head…especially since doing so will end up costing us more money in the long run.


Perhaps nowhere have the cuts been more disruptive than in Arizona, where more than 1,000 frail elderly people are struggling without home-care aides to help with bathing, housekeeping and trips to the doctor. Officials acknowledge that some are apt to become sicker or fall, ending up in nursing homes at a far higher cost.

Ohio and other states face large cutbacks in child welfare investigations, which may mean more injured children and more taken into foster care. Despite tax increases, California has ended dental coverage for adults on Medicaid, all but guaranteeing future medical problems.

“There’s no question that we’re getting short-term savings that will result in greater long-term human and financial costs,” said Linda J. Blessing, interim chief of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, expressing the concerns of officials and community agencies around the country. “There are no good options, just less bad options.”

And so…get ready…this is why state tax rates need to be raised across the board. Yes, not just on the wealthiest, but all of us who can afford it.

The reason is obvious…if we don’t we’ll all end up paying more in the long run anyway. Think of it like a leak in your sink. Fix it early and the floor underneath won’t be damaged. Well, we had that chance a long time ago, but it didn’t happen. And now the floor is close to being rotten.

So yes, there will be some pain and it’ll take a while to fix. But we have to do something about it immediately or risk having the whole floor give way underneath us.

How or why we don’t understand this is beyond me, but this country’s ability to be willfully ignorant is something that never ceases to surprise me. Because already people are talking about healthcare reform with words like “tyranny” and other such nonsense. I mean, making sure everybody has access to health care and other social safety nets is tyrannical? Really? REALLY???

Moving on…

  • Simon

    I think we can all agree that the die is cast on social safety nets.

    No, we can’t. We can agree that abolishing them entirely is politically impossible at this time, but we can’t agree that this situation will last forever, or that, the political realities of it aside, such “safety nets” are, in any configuration and at any cost, inarguably a good idea.

  • Nick Benjamin

    Frontline’s Sick in America was flawed, but it had one excellent example of why cutting social spending in tough times is dumb.

    Tennessee had a budget crises so they drastically reduced their MediCare program TennCare. One of the people thrown off was Nikki White. As a result she couldn’t manage her Lupus. She ended up in the ER (surprise surprise). The total bill was nearly seven figures. And she died anyway. So Tennessee lost a taxpayer, and spent nearly $1,000,000 in a vain attempt to save Ms. White’s life, but they did save like 2 grand on health insurance. If you ran a business like that Congress wouldn’t give you a bail-out. But Gov. Bredesen has gotten numerous accolades for his deft handling of the budget situation.

    Delphi, an auto parts company, tried to balance it’s health care budget by implementing plans with high deductables. The theory was if we pay for less we’ll pay less. Back in the real world their workers got sick, figured it would get better without a doctor’s visit, and decided to do some smart budgeting of their own and not pay for an unnecessary Doctor’s appointment. For most of them this worked out. But a select few didn’t get better. They got worse. When they fanally admitted they were in trouble thy were very expensive to fix. Delphi’s insurance bill actually went up.

  • TexasReed

    With a little bit of luck and a lot of debate, both Social Security and Universal Health Care will be shored up/created during the Obama administration. Unfortunately, passage or strenthening of such programs at a federal level doesn’t guarantee that benefits will — excuse the term — “trickle down” to the actual rank and file.

    Here in Texas we have a rabid right-wing governor who will not do anything for social programs of any kind if he can get away with it. And mostly, he can get away with it since the state legislature is controlled by the ultra-conservatives.

    Some people might say that the ultimate method of democracy to be practiced in the US must occur at the state level where “people” can decide for themselves. Texas is a state that belies that description — as is Utah, and many other conservative-dominated governments. That is where the ultimate battle over “safety nets” will be fought. Controversy and debate at a national level is the distraction that creates the reality.

  • kranky kritter

    I consider myself for the most part pro-social-safety net, especially when it comes to things like elder support and healthcare.

    But how can we be so sure that we’ll pay MORE in the long run? Suppose a state cuts 100 workers for at-home elder care and saves, oh, let’s say 8 million dollars for one year. How do we know that we the taxpayers end up paying more than 8 million dollars for the resulting extra cost of the acute care and so on that the less supported elders consume?

    My point is that if one desires to have a discussion about cuts on the basis of a cold, hard, cost-benefit analysis, you need actual data, fair and comprehensive. I am not troubled by someone arguing against service cuts on the basis of the cuts possibly being inhumane. But the fact that they may seem inhumane does not speak to their cost. At least not the cost in dollars.

    Here’s the thing: I don’t think many folks question that cutting services can potentially have a moral and emotional cost for society as a whole, or a concretely negative effect on those who lose these services. The narrow budgetary question is whether or not the total monetary costs to the state for services to the affected population actually go up after services are cut. What I see here so far is one quoted government official simply maintaining that this is so without reference to supporting data, and you (Justin) declaring that this dynamic is factual and proven.

    Here in MA, state agencies are making showy symbolic cuts geared to get people upset, and they are making extremely dire threats about gross cuts in services. These seem at least to me to be geared to soften public opposition to tax hikes. But I am still waiting for them to show us their books, and to find out where all that money went from the high budget growth of the last decade.

    I think it is very safe to say that at this point in time the people (at least those in MA) are extremely skeptical of budget fixes that work primarily on the basis of jacking up taxes. We want to see far fewer state workers making much lower salaries at the upper echelons (80k +) and we want to see pension reform that goes MUCH farther than closing a few of the custom loopholes that legislators have crafted for themselves and their buddies.

    I am NOT eager to see cuts to the jobs of the rank-and-file folks renewing licenses, checking unemployment and welfare benefits, or providing education and protecting public safety. But I would LOVE to see across the board cuts to the salaries of anyone making 80k or 6 figures, and I would love to see pensions reformed to put an absolute ceiling on the maximum annual pension benefit granted. I truly cannot see any reason why any state employee should get a 6 figure plus annual pension. Anyone making 6 figures as a salary should be able to set aside enough dough to comfortable supplement a pension of 60-70-80k, which many rank-and-file workers would LOVE to be looking at.

  • TerenceC

    It’s been my contention since the first tax cut 7-8 years ago that the only thing we succeeded in doing at the time was deferring a tax increase for 10 years – which is now. Tax increases are inevitable for many reasons, bloated state and federal budgets being just one reason. In NJ we pay more tax than just about anyone in the US (CT might be more), and the cost of living is actually higher than anywhere else in the US. I don’t know too many people in NJ who think we could pay more – there is already a net exodus of people to DE, PA, and even NY state due to taxes.

    I understand that “high profile” cuts are a loss leader to prepare the population for future tax increases – chumming the waters so to speak. What I am not clear about is what state governments can afford to cut. State governments are focused on their populations – that’s their charter. The federal government does less for most states on the East coast than their state governments do. I think it’s time for the tax “donor” states to start holding back from the Federal government.