July 22nd, 2010

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Anything but Help

Ritual Disclaimer:  I'm a Texan, and I love Texas.  

But I don't love how Texas (the organization) treats Texans (the people of Texas, which is not just guys in corner offices in Austin, Dallas, and Houston.)   A week or so ago, the local news stations were describing how wonderful a new Texas program was...instead of giving the jobless unemployment, it paid employers...to put them to work!!!!

Well, you might think that was a great idea, until you noticed that, um, the one job they showed as having been created in this program was tamping down hot asphalts on cracks and potholes as they followed a machine that was dumping the hot asphalt in a linear pile.   And there was no mention of the money actually going to the people doing the work, just the money going to the company.  Granted that there are a lot of potholes and cracks in streets, so there's undoubtedly work in mending them...but that's not going to be terribly useful to someone who can't do that kind of work (like the amputee in the monthly bulletin from the Capital Area Food Bank) and there's no indication that it pays enough to, you know, support a family.   So while there are plenty of people looking for jobs (and yes, I know other places in the country have a higher unemployment rate), the creation of a few piddly jobs suitable for a very limited number of people--and using that as an excuse not to pay unemployment---amounts to fraud.

But it's so easy to just say the unemployed are lazy...if you have a job.  If you have a career, even.   It's easy to say "Why don't they just..." all sorts of hoops you think people should jump through to prove they're worthy of having food on the table and a roof over their heads.  That is, if you're a Texas governor or legislator, it's easy. 

The Texas governor has steadfastly and proudly (bragging on himself) refused federal funds for programs that actually help people...while eagerly grabbing for every dollar, half-dollar, quarter, dime, and penny for that thrice-damned Border Wall and anything that increases money for the military bases in the state or law enforcement.  He doesn't want, you see, to feed the unworthy, or house the unworthy, or educate their unworthy children by letting them learn real history and real science...he wants them to "take responsibility" and "be accountable," which in his mind means "Be a rich white guy like me."   He'd rather build prisons than schools (and we have a much larger prison population, in proportion, than when I was a kid.)   He'd rather build prisons than create jobs (except for prison guards.) 

Spending money on the poor is only acceptable (to him and his cronies) if it's money spent to prevent spending more money on the poor.  For instance, the SNAP program (used to be called food stamps, but now it's the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.)   The state of Texas spent $1.5 million last year on "finger imaging" to prevent fraud.   Four cases were found; only one was prosecuted, and no damages were recovered (the poor don't usually have much of worth.)  So even if you count all four cases, that's $375,000 dollars to turn up one case.  Think the food was worth that much?  Got any idea how many people could have been fed with that money?  So this year...$1.7 million, because everybody knows, if something's not working, you just do more of it. 

Since the idea of the program is that all poor people are untrustworthy and probably criminals as well, it's not surprising that the people who need the food sometimes quit the whole program.   It's demeaning, it's another barrier to getting the food they need, their lives are tough enough already.   So...they don't get the food.  And, with numbers down, the agencies that supply the food don't get funding either.   This stupid, expensive, nonfunctional program not only doesn't work--it actively hurts the people the SNAP program was supposed to help. 

What would help the unemployed most is, of course, jobs.  But the Bush years proved that lowering corporate taxes does not increase jobs or job security for people in this country.   Throwing tons of money at banks and the auto industry did not increase jobs or job security for people in this country...because no strings were attached that connected to creating and maintaining jobs.  Corporations went right on downsizing and sending work overseas, using the tax breaks to plump up the bennies in those corner offices.  There's work that needs doing (pothole fixing, among others, but that's only one: maintenance of parks and playgrounds and libraries and roads and bridges and public water supplies and repair and maintenance of housing and so on)--there's a lot of work that could be done, but the private sector isn't hiring.  So either the public sector creates those jobs or the public sector should extend unemployment benefits, and food security. 

Without thinking, or treating, poor people like bad people.  Because they aren't bad people--they're people in a bad situation. 

Texas has always had a lot of poor people, and some very rich people...and the rich people (despite endowing buildings at universities, museums, concert halls, and the occasional hospital) have not done well by the rest of Texas' population, the poor, the middle-class, and the not-quite-rich.   It's time to put the Governor and his cronies in the legislature out on the street...strip them of their perks and their power, their big cars and their fancy homes and big corner offices...and let them feel the heat of a Texas sidewalk in the summer...let them try to find room in a homeless shelter on a cold winter night...let them stand in line with their children for something to eat and have to prove that they deserve it.  Maybe, if they actually had to experience such a life, if we could somehow change their faces and take away their IDs and make them be average for even a year, they'd catch on.  Or maybe they'd freeze under a bridge, or have a heart attack or stroke in the hobo jungle in Dallas and nobody would care.  Like they don't care now.

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

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