Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Budget Cutting Doesn't Lead to Prosperity

Interesting article in the NY Times today explaining why budget cutting at a time when the economy is so fragile is likely to cause more harm than good.

It's really very simple. Two years ago, we were on the brink of a depression. Had the government not flooded the economy with cash in the form of stimulus spending, it would have been even worse. You don't pull money out of circulation at a time when the economy is anemic and needs an infusion of cash.

Today, we're still not out of the woods. And I am afraid that pulling money out of the economy will cause the double-dip recession that economists have been warning us about.

Not to mention where the cuts are. In Connecticut alone, the GOP cuts would mean:

• 2,923 jobs in Connecticut community health centers.
* $300,000 less for Maternal Child Health Block Grant programs by $300,000 in Connecticut.
• $900,000 less in teenage pregnancy prevention grants.
• $262,000 less in Community Mental Health Services block grants.
• More than $1 million in Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment block grants.

And that's just health care-related spending.

The Tea Partiers, who want smaller government at any cost, will, I'm afraid, make things far, far worse. They would cut regardless of the consequences because they believe reducing the size of government is a good thing, no matter what. But what would they do for the sick people who can't get health care? If they think private philanthropy will step in, think again. I see no indication that pulling billions out of the US economy will stimulate charitable giving.

Arizona is cutting 250,000 people from Medicaid. Pennsylvania is cutting 42,000 people from a low-income plan that provided them with health care. Every state is looking for ways to cut Medicaid and other health care expenses. In Connecticut, that means Medicaid recipients will have to pay copays -- which means they'll skip health care entirely. It means poking real holes in the safety net, as I explain in a commentary published by the Connecticut Mirror.

So here's my question for the budget cutters out there: What do you want sick people to do when they can't afford insurance and can't afford health care, so they just get sicker and sicker until they end up in an emergency room, which is the most expensive way you and I could possibly end up having to pay their bills? Do you want the hospitals to turn them away too? Because they can't afford to absorb all the cost that government used to help with. So what? You want people just dying in their homes, in the streets? You want people in such agony that they can't work and cost the system way more by becoming disabled? What exactly do you want sick people to do?

Because until you answer that question, you have no business cutting budgets. Cutting budgets doesn't solve the problem; it creates a new set of problems. Until we have answers, we'd better tread lightly. Jennifer

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