Mike the Mad Biologist

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According to Florida Republicans, these are freeloading parasites not worthy of your tax dollars (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)

We typically think of budgets as boring, dry things, the charge of the green eyeshade brigade. But they are a profound statement of what we think is important, of who we fundamentally are. And Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott’s budget proclaims him to be a monster. Republican Gov. Scott has recently ordered massive cuts to group homes for the developmentally disabled:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered deep cuts Thursday to programs that serve tens of thousands of residents with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other developmental disabilities.

Though a range of state services face cuts from this year’s Legislature, the governor invoked his emergency powers to order the state Agency for Persons with Disabilities to immediately roll back payments to group homes and social workers by 15 percent — an amount providers say could put them out of business and threaten their clients’ safety.

“lt’s not like, ‘Gee, does this mean I have to skip a vacation this year?'” said Amy Van Bergen, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida. “Potentially, these cuts have life and death implications for these people.”

An estimated 30,000 Floridians with severe developmental disabilities receive services that help them live outside of nursing homes — typically with family or in small group homes. Aides help them eat, bathe, take medication and otherwise care for themselves.

Here’s one social worker’s view:

“No one has gotten any notice,” said Linda Cumbie, an Orlando social worker who coordinates services that clients need to live outside of a nursing home — which would be a more expensive arrangement for the state. “We have to find out through the newspapers.”

Cumbie said funds for the disabled already had been pared back to skeletal levels. She personally is holding a carwash and bake sale to help out one young disabled client so he can attend a daily workshop program.

They’re going to need a lot of carwashes and bake sales.

For many people in these programs, this aid is not optional. We’re talking about people with severe cerebral palsy, autism, and other problems that require supervision or assistance to cope with very basic needs like eating and essential self-care. And these workers don’t have easy jobs, to say the least, and are already cut to the bone:

But at the Threshold Center for Autism in Winter Park, former CEO and current board member Bob Wright said something has to give. Staffers there work with children and adults who are severely impaired and sometimes violent.

“If this were any other workplace, you would consider it a war zone,” Wright said. “My staff gets bitten, hit, kicked, spat upon, defecated on, urinated on — for $8.23 an hour. And every time we start talking about giving our guys a pay raise, the governor comes along and cuts the rates.”

This is the real face of ‘fiscal responsibility.’

It is not courageous. Courage would consist of approaching the wealthy and successful businesses and demanding that they help the least among us–both the needy and those who care for them. Just how lost and damned does one have to be to cut aid to someone who has cerebral palsy?

It is shameful. We are all brought low by this, not strengthened by it. And to the rich who have so much, yet refuse to help even these desperate people, how dare they claim their indispensability in the light of such selfishness, such slavish devotion to greed. They are not our betters, not by a long shot.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, Republican congressman Paul Ryan’s ‘welfare reform’ Plan would ensure this cruelty coming to a state near you (italics mine):

My brother-in-law Vincent has a chronically-infected big toe. The problem reflects his compromised circulation, brought on by morbid obesity, and by accompanying dermatological problems. It doesn’t help that he removes the uncomfortable band-aids that cover the sore. It also doesn’t help that he likes to rub saliva over his sores to keep them clean. My wife works with the staff at his group home to address the problem. A podiatrist is on the case. This isn’t a huge deal. It’s just another thing.

Vincent’s services are mainly financed by Medicaid and Medicare. He also receives food stamps, which he signs over to his group home to support his rather Spartan lifestyle. He’s entitled to keep $50 per month in discretionary money. That covers everything from a tee-shirt to a trip to the occasional McDonald’s trip. That $50 is all many of Vincent’s co-workers at his sheltered workshop will have for the rest of their lives….

Nearly 60 million people, including 30 million children, rely on Medicaid for health coverage. About 4.3 million of these adults and children receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)–traditional welfare. The typical Medicaid recipient is elderly or disabled, or resides in a household headed by low-income working adults. Two-thirds of Medicaid expenditures support services for the elderly and the disabled.

As I’ve noted here, my wife’s parents cared for Vincent in their family home for 38 years, literally to the day my mother-in-law died. If it weren’t for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security’s “disabled adult child” program, Vincent might well be languishing in the back ward of some forbidding public institution.

These programs do not foster welfare dependence or dysfunctional behavior. They allow millions of American families to endure joblessness, illness, and disability with a modicum of dignity and security. Social insurance protects each of us against burdens that would crush any one of us, if we had to face this alone…

Person-for-person, Medicaid is probably the leanest program in the American healthcare system. Unfortunately, Medicaid recipients are probably the weakest constituency in the American political system. Hence they are vulnerable to things like Ryan’s proposed budget. I trust the American people will have the decency to reject these foolish efforts.

Unfortunately, it’s not up to the people, but a batshitloonitarian Republican party and a cowardly and craven Democratic party. Both have no decency, and they are not worthy of our trust.

Anger is the appropriate emotion.

Comments

  1. #1 Constance Reader
    April 7, 2011

    Well said, sir.

  2. #2 Min
    April 7, 2011

    Social Darwinism is not dead.

  3. #3 D. C. Sessions
    April 7, 2011

    Anger is the appropriate emotion.

    No. Anger burns hot and then burns out.

    I recall John Campbell’s observation on Winston Churchill (I can’t find the exact quote online; I have it in rather fragile hardcopy) but it was to the effect that while others shook their heads at Hitler, clucked their tongues at Hitler, were dismayed and appalled at the things that Hitler did, Churchill stood out by being wise enough to hate Hitler and everything he stood for. Because dismay is forgotten as soon as something else comes along, but hate can sustain a long and hard struggle through severe setbacks.

    Isn’t it about time we got serious?

  4. #4 dean
    April 7, 2011

    Wait – the right wing originally made up death panels in order to attack the president, now they’re implementing them?

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    April 7, 2011

    Wait – the right wing originally made up death panels in order to attack the president, now they’re implementing them?

    Innocence is so cute.

  6. #6 Birger Johansson
    April 8, 2011

    I assume the next logical step would be more… robust efforts to rid society of “life unworthy of life” (the original German phrase has more schwung).

  7. #7 nichole
    April 9, 2011

    Rick Scott, he’s the one who was in that Medicare fraud thing, wasn’t he? Like, his company got fined a billion dollars for defrauding the system or something? Biggest fine ever levied for such a thing, IIRC.

    The man’s a criminal with a history of screwing Medicare. These recent hijinks do not leave me surprised. He’s a fucking predator who got rich literally defrauding taxpayers, and some of that money he stole from us he used to finance his campaign… and he won…

  8. #8 hakaneren
    April 11, 2011

    Yep. I have it in rather fragile hardcopy) but it was to the effect that while others shook their heads at Hitler, clucked their tongues at Hitler, were dismayed and appalled at the things that Hitler did

  9. #9 Wow
    April 11, 2011

    More linkspam at 8, copying DC this time.

  10. #10 Karma Tsering Lhamo
    July 21, 2011

    Republicans are heartless disgusting monsters…greedy pigs! Their karma will catch up with them in their next life…like the rest of us humans (those with hearts & compassion) they, the Republican cronies will one day die in this life…all they will take with them is their karma. You reap what you sow, if not in this life, then the next. There is no escaping true justice. If Jesus where alive today, I think he would be vomiting at the words spouting form the mouths of some of these so called “righteous-extreme right Republicans”…there is no compassion in any of them, I feel sorry for them…maybe Jesus does too? But, I know none of them are going to be meeting Jesus in heaven after this life is over. And so it goes….

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