Tuesday, January 10, 2012
I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t do this
When Jesus took the seven loaves of bread and a handful of fishes and fed the multitudes during the Sermon on the Mount, I doubt he applied a means test to determine who could afford to buy food themselves and who were absolutely destitute.
“You there! I see you have a heel of bread in your pocket. No loaves and fishes for you.”
“And you, little girl, you have a handful of olives. Sorry, I have to cut off your eligibility.”
“And you, pretending to have leprosy, do you expect me to lay on hands without making sure you are not ripping off the health care system with all your crumbling bits and pieces?”
Gov. Tom Corbett is definitely not a “what would Jesus do” kind of caretaker of our state’s poor and unemployed.
Last month, his administration announced that it has cut 150,000 people off Medicaid, 43,000 of them children, and today he has announced that after May 1, people will have to pass an “assets” test to determine if they are eligible for food stamps — that is they have to prove they don’t have any assets beyond a couple of thousand dollars in the bank in case they have to go to the hospital and/or die.
In addition, Corbett is completely ignoring the situation in Chester where public school teachers receive their last paychecks tomorrow, Jan. 11, and will try to keep going day to day after that.
All of this leaves me speechless, not least of all because nobody seems to care about any of these things other than the poor themselves and a handful of workers and teachers who are struggling, or will be struggling to deal with these cruelties and job cuts.
It reminds me of Pastor Martin Niemöller in pre-World War II Germany who famously said:
First they came for the communists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.
To paraphrase: First they came for the blacks and Democrats and public employee unions …
Of course, no one mentions race or voter registration or union membership in all the Corbett Administration’s machinations. Corbett has been lying very low when it comes to arousing the masses re unions, unlike Ohio and Wisconsin and Indiana, but he's quietly been going after the poor and after the state's black citizens.
Inadvertently, former Pennsylvania Senator and holier than thou Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum let the cat out of the bag last week when he said, “I do not want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money, I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”
Later he tried to backpedal on this statement saying first that he had really said “blah” people or ran two words together and said “plives” (no he didn’t), or that he was merely “tongue-tied” and didn’t mean to inject race into the comment at all.
That’s probably true. He never meant to SAY it, but his tongue betrayed his brain because obviously that’s how he thinks about poverty, that it’s almost exclusively a black thing.
Then there’s Newt Gingrich who told supporters he’d gladly go before the NAACP and tell its members, “I do not want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money, I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”
This is the same man who wants to fire union school janitors, repeal child labor laws and put poor (dare we say, black?) children to work scrubbing school toilets, so they can, you know, learn about the dignity of work.
How sanctimonious and supercilious and, I don’t know, just plain arrogant can you get?
Neither one of these jerks explains in any detail just how he would go about “giving” anybody anything, let alone “opportunity.” Mostly they’re about taking away what little is left of the social safety net, thus giving people the opportunity to freeze or starve.
Corbett is of the same ilk as these uncompassionate conservative Republicans who play masterfully on our fears. They make us so afraid that somehow, somewhere, someone is going to cheat us taxpayers out of something, that we helpfully get in line to deprive ourselves of it. That’s what happened with health care reform. Oh my God, an undocumented Mexican might use an American hospital to have a baby, so no health care coverage for anybody, anywhere, ever.
In the case of food stamps, this whole rigamarole may be because a man in Michigan won $2 million in the lottery last year and continued to qualify for food stamps. I hope this is not the case, because that would be stupid. Instead of disqualifying lottery winners, or even people with $2 million, you'd go after everybody with a couple of thousand dollars in savings. Hammer and gnat, just saying.
Republicans have long had a history of raising negative stereotypes about black people, portraying them as lazy children holding their hands out for government benefits, and they raise the same kinds of stereotypes about other minorities, especially Hispanics.
This is meant to get us white folks to hate these programs so we won’t holler when the Repugs cut them. Then when they grab enough power to cut Medicare and Social Security, which they loudly proclaim they plan to do, there will be no one to speak for any of us.
We are all just supposed to be like Santorum’s grandfather, who, he proudly says, was working in a coal mine with Black Lung when he was 72 years old. Yeah, that’s the future I what I want for everybody.
According to the Inquirer, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare claims only about 2 percent of the 1.8 million Pennsylvanians currently on food stamps would be affected by the assets test. If that’s the case, why do it? Why create all that paperwork for overworked, under-staffed caseworkers?
Pennsylvania has one of the lowest rates of food stamp fraud in the nation, one-tenth of 1 percent. So why mess with it? The state welfare secretary says he gets complaints about people abusing food stamps.
Yes, a lot of people seem to think that anyone actually USING food stamps is abusing them. Oh look, that woman’s trying to buy diapers with food stamps. How dare she! After all, you can’t eat diapers.
36 percent of all food stamp recipients nationwide are white while 22 percent are black (which is pretty close to black representation in the population). And here in this state, advocates for the poor estimated that 30 percent of the people who would qualify for food stamps never apply.
Medicaid is more problematic. We’re supposed to believe that 150,000 people, 43,000 of them children, can be dropped from the Medicaid rolls because they have died, left the state or moved on up into the Middle Class. In this economy, really? Since Medicaid pays for nursing home care for destitute seniors, maybe a lot of them did die.
It is virtually impossible to get on to Medicaid in Pennsylvania. You have to be destitute AND have minor children in your care to get it. Otherwise you’re on a waiting list several hundred thousand people long and your chances of getting struck by lightning are better than your chances of ever getting on Medicaid.
Getting on public welfare is equally as difficult. Again, you must have children and then you only qualify for federally funded welfare for five years. Remember when Bill Clinton did away with “welfare as we know it” back in the 1990s with the help of Newt and Rick? That still stands.
As for state welfare, if you are a single adult, you can only qualify for a few weeks of welfare each year, even if you are drug addicted, chronically ill or mentally ill, which is why you see so many people sleeping on steam vents.
Nevertheless, look for public assistance to be next on Gov. Corbett’s chopping block, I’d say in very short order, probably next month at the rate he’s going. And of course Congress will take care of unemployment insurance.
And what about those 3,600 kids in Chester? The state owes them a thorough and efficient education, right now! Corbett blames the elected school board for the mess Chester is in, but the state itself ran that school district for 15 years until mid-2010. Would we even be having this discussion if those kids were white and if their parents had not voted overwhelmingly Democratic last November?