The Spark

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

California:
Slashing the Safety Net

Jan 12, 2009

One out of every 12 people in California was unemployed, as of November. There were 2.5 million workers in the state, either unemployed or “underemployed,” that is, working part-time when they want full-time work.

In addition, one out of five people under the age of 65 has NO health care coverage – close to 6.5 million Californians. Those figures came from the beginning of 2008, so the number of people without health care has certainly increased since then.

Local county social service offices are swamped. Applications for safety net programs, including cash assistance, health care and food stamps, have increased 40% in the last year. Yet many people are denied any aid at all. Those who do get some aid, don’t get nearly enough to survive.

“I’ve given up trying to eat every day,” a 30-year-old injured veteran told the San Jose Mercury News last month, as she waited with her young daughter on line for a free holiday food basket. Her unemployment benefits had just run out. She is homeless, and has to depend on handouts and charity to feed herself and her daughter, who has a number of medical problems. “I’ve almost given my daughter up at a fire station at least four or five times since we’ve been homeless,” the veteran told the reporter. “I’m waiting to go under.”

Just at the moment when government assistance is most needed, when the private economy is cutting jobs right and left, the governor and state legislators have announced what they intend to do: they want to cut social programs still more. Their message to hungry Californians: tough luck for those who need a safety net.