Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cash cuts impact all our communities

The social worker just shook her head when I asked her what all of the families about to be cut off from the cash assistance were going to do. There are about 11,000 of them who lost what I've heard to be an average of about $500 a month.

"What can they do?" was her refrain. "The best they can with what little they have."

When I heard that some prominent Democrats today were calling for President Barack Obama to step aside and let another candidate, Hilary Clinton for example, represent the party, I thought back to that conversation a couple of years ago. Desperation and accountability is what I thought about.

The Democrats I heard today claim that the president cannot run on his record because when Americans are asked if they are better off today than four years ago, way too many are likely to answer "hell no." There are members of 11,000 Michigan families who probably feel that way. Whether or not people feel it's Obama's fault the reality is that it is his watch so he has to bear the burden of criticism.

Despite the unenviable situation he inherited or the unproductive Congressional rancor on opposing sides of the aisle that has made enacting legislative reforms a nightmare, Obama's in charge. I can't believe there are people who think he faked a birth certificate in order to get this job at this point in our nation's history. Not saying it's worth giving up the White House and Leader of the Free World title, but I'd be willing to bet that a thought or two about being mayor of Chicago has crossed the president's mind.

4 Year Question Here

In Michigan, not only are thousands of people worse off than they were four years ago, many of them will likely never reclaim the lives they had eight years ago. That was about the time jobs started disappearing in droves and the housing boom was nosediving toward bust. I know my Detroit neighborhood looks nothing like it did eight years ago.

I wonder what records our elected officials are going to hold up to voters for scrutiny, when so many of them are hurting. Those long-term unemployed casualties of the recession are among the huge number of underemployed in our state who are about to lose a much-needed crutch. I know far too many underemployed people who had to take what they could get, as well as a number of people who have been looking for so long I'm hesitant to ask about employment when I bump into them.

Hassan Jabber, executive director of ACCESS, in Dearborn wrote on op-ed in the Detroit News last month which highlighted the impact of the cash assistance cut on all of our communities. Public cash assistance is used to cover expenses and are spent in neighborhood stores for things like food, gas, clothes, and rent. Business owners are being impacted, as are landlords, and the neighborhoods where empty houses will sit when fewer renters are able to pay. Most of those 11,000 are in Wayne County, so one part of the state is impacted to a larger degree. And it happens to a county that already has more than its share of problems.

Jabber wrote in the Detroit News, "After Michigan's 1991 foray in the welfare reform, in which 80,000 single adults lost general assistance, cutting $100 million from the state's budget, 20,000 former welfare recipients were evicted and 27,000 went without food. One person who lost her benefits, Eva Frederick, died because she couldn't afford her blood pressure pills."

He cited a study by the University of Michigan School of Social Work, that found Michigan doubled the number of shelter beds, but demand continued to exceed availability. The number of emergency shelters tripled, but the conditions of shelters was criticized as grossly inadequate. Now we're heading for more of the same, and people are going to clearly be worse off than they were before. I wonder how accountable they will hold leadership in Michigan when it's time to head to the polls.

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