Welcome to the Poor House, Virginia

Virginia eyes 3

Much of the sequester talk in the main media outlets is abstract, focusing on the political story line, the tactical advantage one side might potentially gain over the other. House Speaker Boehner even said he ‘wasn’t sure’ what the overall impact on the economy might be—which is remarkable given the estimates that are out there.

The effect on the economy will be bad, there’s no doubt. Nearly all economists agree. Business leaders also agree, austerity cuts when our economy is still on life support is the worst kind of policy, guaranteed to make our recovery long and painful. But the effects, both long-term and short-term, on individuals across this nation are going to be deeply harmful. Back in July, 2012 the Senate Appropriations Committee compiled an estimate of the sequester cuts, broken out by states, and then by individual departments and programs within those states.

Below are some of the greatest hits for Virginia. Top of the list? One of the most successful educational programs in this country: Headstart. Ten million dollars is being cut from the Headstart budget in Virginia—essentially a third of its budget. That’s 301 jobs down the toilet and 1,444 children who will not be able to access the program.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Headstart provides comprehensive early childhood services for low-income children and families. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee, “High quality early childhood education has been proven to have lasting effects for children and families and save taxpayer dollars in the long run by reducing costs for welfare, special education, and criminal justice.”

Aside from the obvious economic advantage in training early, there’s an obvious societal benefit in doing so. Who exactly benefits by cutting this program?

Unfortunately, the list of cuts doesn’t stop there. It’s like an acid addled Grover Norquist with a butcher cleaver was set loose on the state. In the health and human services area, the toll is going to be horrific:
Child Care and Development Block Grant, $3,388,746 cut: 1,090 fewer children receive child care subsidies

Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, $948,491 cut: 32, 273 fewer women, children, and families served

AIDS Drug Assistance Program, $1,753,360 cut: 293 fewer patients receive life saving drugs

HIV Prevention and Testing, $525,132 cut: 13, 128 fewer people tested for HIV

Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening, $77,821 cut: 309 fewer women screened for cancer

Childhood Immunization Grants, $375,882 cut: 5,502 fewer children receive MMR, Tdap, flu and Hepatitis B vaccinations

People, lots of people will suffer and die because of these cuts. Inevitably they will be our elderly, our poor and our least powerful citizens.

An energy assistance program is sliced by over 5 millions dollars, because, God knows, we can’t raise taxes on millionaires just to make sure someone doesn’t freeze to death this winter now, can we?

Oh, yes, we’ll cut food programs for old people as well. Up to $1,171,915 is to be cut from a program that delivers meals to needy seniors. Thousands no longer served.

Over 20 million is cut from our educational block grant funds, effectively gutting the program. But after all, this makes sense, because if you are going to impoverish an entire nation for the benefit of a handful of wealthy plutocrats and preening mouthpieces that purport to represent the people, you want to make sure those same people aren’t able to read or communicate this effectively. In the same way you would make sure to reduce any funds that would be provided for work-study or learning centers, etc… All of which this sequester effectively accomplishes.

The numbers are astounding and once you see them you realize how badly this little self-inflicted political kabuki is going to play out. Many people will be hurt in Virginia and all across the nation. But keep in mind, the purported rationale for this is so we can balance the budget without having to raise taxes on millionaires. This is all so we can continue to maintain subsidies for corporations (8 billion and counting for the fossil fuel industries, alone) and, for the insane purists like Grover Norquist and the libertarians and their tea party acolytes, so that we can drown ‘big government’ in a bathtub. Here’s the thing, you don’t drown ‘big government’: that’s an infantile abstraction.

You drown people.

Rather than disturb the rich enclaves of the new plutocracy, we’ll cut grants for workers who have lost jobs to the tune of $1,281,545. We’ll cut veterans retraining benefits by over $300,000. Why? To ensure that folks who fought and died to preserve our ostensible freedoms will not unduly burden our wealthier citizens with their own petty struggles to survive. Welcome to Dickens’ London. With our apparent nativist distaste for immigrants, we won’t have to greet the tired, the poor, the huddled masses on their way to Ellis Island, anymore. We’ll just grow them here, on our own.

Below is the Senate Appropriations Committee study:

http://www.harkin.senate.gov/documents/pdf/500ff3554f9ba.pdf#page=172&zoom=100,69,720

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