Friday, February 20, 2015

"The most difficult cuts I've ever seen"





     Illinois was 50th out of 50 before.
     Dead last, of the 50 states, behind Mississippi, behind Alabama, behind Texas, for services to help people with disabilities live independently.
    That was five years ago.
     Now dig a hole, because Illinois is going lower, as Gov. Bruce Rauner's new budget, unveiled Wednesday, chokes off help to Illinoisans struggling to get by.
     "It's going to be huge," said Gary Arnold, spokesman for Access Living, which supports independent living for those with disabilities. "Tens of thousands of people are in these programs."
     Sister Rosemary Connelly, the 83-year-old nun who founded and directs Misericordia, the North Side residence for people with cognitive challenges, did not mince words.
Sister Rosemary Connelly, and Terry Morrissey
     "The budget scares me very much," she said, "because they're trying to resolve a problem on the back of God's most vulnerable people. It's so unfair, if this is a society that really cares about people."
     In addition to community support, care for the emotionally disturbed, as always, gets hacked.
     "Mental health always seems to get cut first," said Tiffany Taft, a licensed clinical psychologist in Oak Park. "Because of the stigma associated with it. It's easier to sweep under the rug."
     Taft pointed out that, in Rauner's defense, this kind of budget is nothing new.
     "It's been ongoing; Quinn did it too," she said. "I think it's horrendous."
     Taft can't take Medicaid patients, so spends hours on the phone trying to find public clinics whose waiting lists aren't three months long.
     "They cut options to people in crisis," she said, "and then they wonder why people go on shooting rampages."
    Like many private charities, Misericordia, uses public funding, and when that falls short, must make it up the difference with private donations. Last year that meant finding $15 million in donations. With the new budget, that jumps to $21 million.
     "I don't know if I have that capacity," said Connelly. "We're worried about the future."
     And they're in a better position than most.
     "So many people scared silly by this budget," said Connelly. "Looking beyond Misericordia, looking at Catholic Charities."
     "It's hard to tell right now," said Monsignor Mike Boland, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. "It'll affect a lot of our programs if fully implemented the way it is, it will greatly affect the most frail people in the state, especially frail seniors...The budget is balanced on the backs of every poor people. It'll affect all our early childhood centers. This has a negative impact, a very negative effect, upon all the populations we serve."
     Director of Catholic Charities for 15 years, Boland has seen austerity budgets. But never one like this.
     "This is probably the most difficult cuts I've ever seen," said Boland. "I never seen these kind of profound cuts proposed. It's just so incredibly challenging to all of us trying to care for people who oftentimes don't have anyone to speak on their behalf."
     For those long in the business of extracting funds from the government to help people, a common refrain is that the announced budget, dire though it is, isn't the end, but the beginning of the true battle.
     "We have a new administration; they've got a lot to learn," said Tony Paulauski, executive director of The Arc, the largest disability advocacy organization in Illinois. "We would like the opportunity to sit down with them and educate them of the importance of community living. This is the first step in a budget process that's going to go on four or five months."
     Access Living's Gary Arnold pointed out that one of the cruel ironies of the cuts is that since they dismantle programs that allow people to live on their own, they'll end up back in institutions.
     "You lose your independence and it costs more," he said."If the goal is saving money, we're going about it the wrong way. The right way is good strong programs that support people with disabilities in integrated communities and their own homes."
     Yes, Illinois is in a terrible financial hole. Cuts have to be made. But picking over the stories about Rauner's 2016 budget, all you see are programs for the poor, for children, for the homeless, for the mentally ill and physically challenge.d If there is a cut that's going to hit businesses, that's going to affect rich people like Bruce Rauner, maybe encourage them to own five mansions instead of nine, I missed it. The pain is going to be felt by the sort of people who never show up at Rauner's cocktail parties.
     Sister Rosemary said she has to wonder what motivates the governor.
     "I think it's a real indictment of a philosophy of resentment [that] there are people who need more help and have to depend on the goodness of others," said Connelly. "What we're doing is important. I wish the governor would come and take a tour."
     Paulauski did mention a bit of good news: Illinois is no long the last state; it has climbed to 49th when it comes to providing community services to people with disabilities.
     "We're ahead of Mississippi," he said. "I remain optimistic."









30 comments:

  1. Wait, you mean an across the board sequester might be a more fair compromise? I thought that was a terrible idea when it resolved the debt ceiling stand-off - that there'd be endless misery and no impact on the federal deficit. Oh, wait...

    Still, there's something off about the 5% lecturing the 1% - the only suggestion here is something that causes the very comfortable no pain, just soaks the ultra-comfortable!. Not that I don't favor progressive taxes - I do and I'm not against restoring the income tax hike - but that's a more difficult conversation to have with the 75-6%. And unlike the federal budget, which is where this debate really belongs, it's trickier with states because businesses and people can leave and then you're worse off than before. Yet California DID soak the rich and were very successful in doing so, while Kansas cut taxes on the rich and it's been a disaster. California might be a special case though (i.e., movie moguls and STEM executives find it so great to live there that they are willing to pay for it - I once read that white collar salaries in San Francisco were artificially low vis-a-vis the cost of living because people wanted to live there so much).

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    1. All budgets should be carefully balanced by looking at where there is the most leeway. The constant pounding that the programs that help our neediest take is just so sickening. Truly Rauner and his admin are heartless bastards.

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  2. Sorry for the run-on, but if I could make one point it would be this: For Illinois to ask taxpayers to give more money, the politicians have to do far more to get its own house in order. Think of the legions of crony capitalism examples that Mike Madigan and Quinn and the Combine are responsible for. Citizens aren't against giving more money to the poor, but they are against having a guilt gun pointed to their head and told "support our enterprise or the puppy (or disabled kid) dies!" Couple the tax increase with real reform (see Pat Quinn's reform commission, which he ultimately threw under the bus) for a start.

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    1. Anon-
      Tell us about the last time you visited Misericordia.

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    2. When i volunteered for family day last summer, moron.

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    3. Anyone who wants to meet me I'll post what corner downtown ill be at for candy days.

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    4. How interesting you leave out names of all the Republicans who had their hands deep down in this mess as well.
      Your guilt is your problem. And this is about people dying not puppies.

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    5. I said "The Combine" but the Democrats have been in control of the state for the last 12 years. The last 4 years they had a supermajority - the GOP was powerless - and they largely kicked the can (save a large tax hike they promissed would be temporary), and they're the ones that blue state Illlinois judged when they elected an inexperienced Romney 1%er. If you don't think Mr. Steinberg was invoking guilt you read a different column.

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  3. What's really disheartening is the realization that this is just what the people who voted for Rauner wanted.

    John

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    1. Many of them, but not all - clearly there were some swing voters who just couldn't stomach Quinn and/or Madigan anymore. I actually voted for Quinn for the "gun to the baby's head" reason I wrote about above, but this time it was a tough decision and I'm not sure I could have handled 4 more years of UNO-type reports and voted for complete Madgian-Dem control of the government again.

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  4. See all the good works that the Cath. church does as well, Mr. S.? Not all bad, like you often seem to think. I'd love to see you do a piece on some crooked, orthodox Rabbi sometime. Yes, I know, that rarely happens as opposed to the huge Church. And don't forget the crooked fundamentalist, evang. born agains, esp. on TV. I see the other day, from the paper, a Muslim cleric was caught abusing kids. Yes, I know, few and far between, or what is reported.

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    1. One big distinction is that there was no organized Jewish or Muslim group that was covering up for or staying silent regarding such individuals, or sending them to non-extraditable lands and setting them up with jobs. It should also be noted that the Bible teaches that no amount of good works can make up for sin against others, "lest any man should boast."

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    2. Actually, I never say it's all bad; you just conflate the slightest criticism into that so you can more easily shuck it off.

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    3. Anon not Anon, I've read of cover ups on a Rabbi in the ultra. orth, Hasidic Jewish Community in Brooklyn and same for communities who turn on those who report a Muslim cleric. Believe it or not, you don't know everything.

      Thanks for your reply, Mr. S.

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    4. anon not anon, your arrogance is amazing

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  5. The worse thing that happened is deinstitutionalizing the mentally ill, many then become homeless or dangerous if can't get to the meds or don't take them.

    As for some of the other poor, like in the hood-one question, where's daddy?

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  6. So what happened so there was no Thursday article? Everygoddamnedday But February 19?

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    1. @Anonymous -- Yesterday's post (2/19/15) somehow got combined with the post from 2/18/15 -- so you can rest easy now since there was a post on Thursday.

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    2. I fixed the dating snafu. I post every day, but sometimes the date gets mashed.

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  7. This is the way it is done.
    http://m.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/mark-dayton-minnesota-governor-profile-scott-walker

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  8. "all you see are programs for the poor, for children, for the homeless, for the mentally ill and physically challenged"

    What government programs exist specifically for the upper middle class? middle-aged? Those with well-kept homes? Those of healthy mind and body? Govt cuts to programs will almost impact any of these groups by default.

    The median household income is IL is $57,000. There are over 72,000 state pensioners receiving more than that that pay ZERO state income tax. For a private sector worker to equal the pensioner's take home pay of the $57K pensioner and save for retirement, he would have to earn $75,000/yr. Yet these retirees pay nothing in state taxes.

    I would encourage these groups to reach out to the un-taxed pensioners of our various state pension systems. There's a few hundred million dollars from that pool alone. Unless they don't care, that is.

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  9. hurray for Diana Rauner, publically dissed her hub's budget plan

    I like Madigan's idea of taxing salaries of those making a mill. or more

    http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20150220/BLOGS03/150229996/diana-rauner-criticizes-her-husbands-budget-plans

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  10. His first wife, maiden name Gessel was Jewish.

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  11. oops, meant Wessel

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  12. You know Anon-not-Anon from reading your first comment you came off as an asshole pretty quick. There was no need for you to call the man an asshole because he asked when the last time you visited Misericordia. Sooooo you worked candy days... Soooo you worked Family Fest. Have you actually worked close to the residents? Those days don't mean shit! I work there everyday. I see their struggles. I offer Terry a cup of coffee every morning (man in the picture). Do me a favor. Don't volunteer at Misericordia again. Seeing on how you act in this posting leave me to guess your a fucktard in real life. Good day!

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    1. Like "the man" you refer to, your question is loaded with stupid and wrong assumptions. Yes, I've worked close to the residents. I grew up with a severely disabled person. I have boundless admiration for the people who work there (well, now it's bounded for at least one person). And you're doing them a real service by telling all the people who do volunteer those days that their efforts "don't mean shit" to take a dig at me.

      I'm curious, what exactly is "obnoxious" in my first comment? That rich, but not super-rich, people shouldn't get all self-righteous if they're not going to suggest sharing -any- of the pain? That if you try to put it all on the backs of the "nine mansion" rich, they might - just might - bolt for another state? That an across the board budget cut is better than one that targets programs for the poor only?

      As for being a fucktard in real life - probably - I'm not an objective judge. But as Nietzche said, he who despises themselves still respects themselves as someone who despises. Have a great weekend.

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  13. well said to the anon above!

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  14. This exchange is surreal. And sad. Assuming today's challenging posting is the catalyst, is this really the conversation to be had?

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  15. China is practical about these things.

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  16. They don't show up to Rauner's cocktail parties simply because they are not welcome there.

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