The politicians are talking about "sharing the pain" and "making tough choices." But as the The State notes in the first installment of a series on the losers in the political game of cutting vital state services, it is the "least of these" who will bear the brunt of South Carolina's morally and fiscally bankrupt government.
Medically fragile children, elderly shut-ins, the mentally ill, families rent by addictions: these are the losers. The winners will be the political elites who will wag their heads in mock compassion, and cut deep and wide. There's nothing we can do, they will intone, our hands are tied. We have this pledge, you see, that says we will never raise taxes, and since we no longer have the money to build Soybean Museums or establish endowed chairs in Southern Studies, we must cut services to the sick and the poor. Of course, the politicians remind us, they are sharing the pain. They are making tough choices.
February 1, TANF payments to South Carolina's poorest families (what used to be called "welfare") will be reduced by 20%. This means that those families receiving the maximum payment of $271 a month will now receive $216 a month. Of course the politicians remind us, they are sharing the pain. They are making tough choices.
The politicians have a great notion, that the faith community and the nonprofit community will step in to rescue them from their malfeasance. That could happen, I suppose. But if the past is any guide to future, I'm not very hopeful. In 2010, the largest nonprofit funder of health human services in South Carolina, the United Way, raised $55,000,000 from generous donors around the state. The sounds pretty impressive until you realize that the deficit in health human services in the next six months is more than $250,000,000, nearly five times as much as the United Way raised in a year. The great notion of South Carolina's political elite was borrowed from the blues singer, Leadbelly, in Goodnight Irene:
Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in the town,
Sometimes I get a great notion,
To jump in the river and drown.
South Carolina is getting ready to jump in the river and drown. Shared pain. Tough choices. Not a life preserver in sight.