Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Law of Unintended Consequences

So far, the fight over Gov. Walker's Budgetary Repair Bill has focused on the rights of public employees to unionize and/or collectively bargain. What seems to be getting missed are the dirty little details which go beyond just that. The devil, it has wisely been said, is in the details. Let me show you some of the little devilry hiding in this particular bill:

For example, the Department of Health Services for the state is required to do a study to find ways to cut spending to Medical Assistance programs given to the poor and needy. No problem, there. But it's also required to request a waiver from the Federal Department of Health and Human Services for any new rules they might have to implement. Okay, here's the catch: If they don't receive said waiver from the Fed by the end of 2011, then ALL Medical Assistance to the poor becomes ineligible for those making more than 133% of the federal poverty line, which is the bare-minimum required under federal law. (Section 112)

'So what?' you might ask. But have you seen what the federal poverty line is? If you're single and under 65, the poverty line is little more than 11K per year. That's so low it's a joke! It means if you were barely scraping by on $15K per year (and you would almost have to live in your mother's basement to do so), you would not be eligible for aid if you contracted a serious illness.

Are you kidding me?

If you're a family of four with two kids, the poverty line is a little less than $21K per year. Meaning you're ineligible if you're at about $27K per year. Okay, maybe if your kids ate grass off the lawn you could live on that, but seriously, how likely is that to be the case? One of the kids gets whoping cough, and your shit outta luck? Your kid gets to spread the disease to anyone not immunized who happens to get too close? Bullshit!

Here's another tidbit my friend, Charlotte Schnook, shared with me. Under this bill, the state would gain the right to sell any public power, heating or cooling utility, with or without a bid. (Section 44.) That means that Wisconsin could sell off part or all of WE Energies. To whom? Well, the Koch company is the wild rumor. And it's a good bet that they won't hesitate to turn off the heat in the dead of winter if you don't pay your bill. Current rules prevent WE Energies from doing that.

Cutting funding to teachers is one thing. Hammering the poor is quite something else. Chris Rockwood asked me earlier about dire consequences. Well, there you go. One can hope that amendments will be proposed that will stop this nonsense from making a class of poor so desperate that drug dealing will be the only option left.

Yes, we want to keep the safety net from becoming a hammock. But there's a difference between booting the slumbering trapeeze artist off of it and throwing him off a jagged cliff instead! We can certainly find a way to balance a budget without doing that.

When we try to balance state and federal budgets by not asking the fattest to tighten belts, but rather telling the skinniest to go fucking die, I get off the patriotic bandwagon.

Eric


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