The Rush to Abandon the Poor
While some governors and lawmakers are searching for new revenue sources, others are using the downturn as an excuse to end a long tradition of states being the final backstop for society’s neediest.
Over the last year, for example, eight states have cut or eliminated cash welfare payments to their poorest residents. It happened last week in Pennsylvania, where 61,000 residents — almost all of whom are disabled and poor — were told that they would abruptly lose their $200 monthly general assistance payments, all to save $150 million a year. Our hands are tied by a tightening budget, welfare officials told astonished recipients, though Gov. Tom Corbett’s hands didn’t seem restrained when he handed out $300 million in business tax cuts earlier this month.
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio has cut hundreds of millions from education, but when the state found itself with a $235 million surplus a few weeks ago, he announced that it would all go into a rainy-day fund, doing nothing to deal with rising classroom sizes. In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage — who compared the health care reform law to the Holocaust — signed a budget bill in May that will reduce or eliminate existing Medicaid coverage for 21,000 people.