Spending on Social Programs – What Defines Compassion?

In expressing reluctance to cut social programs, some Democrat leaders in the General Assembly have placed such programs in the context of compassion.
In point of fact, Rhode Island spending on all social services in Fiscal Year 2005 was in the top third nationally [we are ranked fifteenth]. Our spending in the category of “Medicaid/Vendor Payments” was the fourth highest. Accordingly, lawmakers would have a good deal of reducing to do before they altogether “eliminat[e] whatever safety net we can provide”, to quote an unduly alarmed Senate President Joseph Montalbano.
It should be noted that from FY2004 to FY2005, Rhode Island spending on social services dropped from eleventh to fifteenth. The General Assembly is to be commended for taking this step in the right direction.
Inasmuch as the operating deficit is now conservatively projected at half a billion dollars and Rhode Island taxes are the seventh highest in the country, the work cannot stop there. Spending reductions must continue across the board. Marc reports that the House Republican Caucus has suggested “5% cuts in the current year for all departments in 20 days” and “10% cuts in the 2009 budget for all departments in the first 10 days”. Another goal for the General Assembly might simply be averageness in all above-average spending categories.
Returning to social spending, setting aside for a moment the question of the benefit of these programs – to the state as a whole as well as to recipients – and focusing on the matter of compassion, two issues arise. What level of spending constitutes compassion? If we were last in that spending category, would we not still be compassionate for offering such programs at all? No, says the poverty industry? How about being in the bottom third instead of the top third?
And secondly, is it possible, is it even appropriate, to discuss compassion – to contemplate compassionate programs – without bringing in the question of feasibility; i.e., affordability?

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16 years ago

How many ‘benefits’ will the social workers be able to provide when the state goes bankrupt?
Maybe they should focus on serving those who truly need it, and doing it efficiently in order to be able to continue doing it.

16 years ago

Remember SCHIP? -Known as Rite Care in RI. Only 3 states have more ADULTS enrolled in the State CHILDREN’S Health Insurance Program. Wanna guess who one of them is? Not that you’re surpised: http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2007/11/10/proposal_to_drop_adult_schip_coverage_sooner_draws_ire/ Proposal to drop adult SCHIP coverage sooner draws ire Move eyed as way to get GOP votes By John Donnelly, Globe Staff | November 10, 2007 WASHINGTON – The debate over expanding the children’s health insurance program has run into another battle: the coverage of adults. The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as SCHIP, currently covers about 6 million people, including nearly 700,000 adults. Negotiators in Congress who are working out details about the expansion of the decade-old initiative are considering a timetable to phase adults out of the program. Under the current legislation passed by Congress – and vetoed once by President Bush – adults would be shifted out of SCHIP, and possibly into Medicaid programs, in two years. But in an attempt to get more Republican votes and Bush administration backing, negotiators are now considering whether to shorten the timetable to remove adults. Some conservatives want them out of the program immediately. That has drawn strong criticism from liberal Democrats and several states, including Rhode Island. The children’s health insurance bill “was designed to focus attention on the most vulnerable, the kids,” Linda Katz, policy director at the Poverty Institute at Rhode Island College School of Social Work in Providence, said yesterday. “But there’s lots of research that when parents are covered, it’s more likely kids will be covered, too.” Bush, who has vetoed one SCHIP bill and has threatened to veto a second version passed by Congress earlier this month, strongly opposes including adults in the program even though his administration has consistently granted waivers that allow 11 states to cover low-income… Read more »

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