The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

The cracks get wider for people to fall through

Mar 29, 2004

While corporations keep laying off workers, they are also cutting back medical benefits and driving down wages.

At the very time the need is greatest, the states have been cutting back the money to pay for unemployment, Medicaid, and food stamps. And while demand for services is mushrooming, the number of caseworkers is dwindling down nearly 20% from two years ago.

In the state of Michigan, the backlog of cases at the unemployment offices is over 70,000. For an unemployed worker who can't use the automated phone-in system, this means three or four months' wait a check they needed in March may not arrive until June or July!

The understaffed state workers who handle food stamps and Medicaid cases have caseloads of about 450 each, compared to about 250 just 2 years ago. Families in poverty or on minimum wage, and mothers with infants, may qualify for food stamps, but they all have to go hungry longer before their cases are processed.

Medicaid patients are particularly hard hit. They must now re-qualify every month for their prescriptions and any ongoing medical care but caseworkers are too overloaded to keep the paperwork up to date. Diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure can't be controlled by taking February's medicine in May!

The state cannot keep up with child abuse cases. During the year 2000, about 11.3% of assistance cases were investigated for child abuse. During the year 2003, that dropped to 8.9% not because people got nicer to their kids, but because staffing is reduced.

While there is less and less state aid for that part of the working class in dire need, one group of state aid recipients is rolling in clover. All manner of tax breaks, subsidies, kickbacks, and sweetheart contracts continue to be loaded into corporate accounts as fast as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and other state agencies can work the shovel.

To restore health services and human services in Michigan would take only part of the accumulated yearly subsidies of several billion dollars now being given away to business interests. But as it stands, the state is doing nothing but taking the health of its poorest residents and coining it into corporate gold.