Saturday, September 3, 2011

Political Atrocities Abound

Well, I haven't provided a recent example of Brownback-watch moments, even though every day that continues provides new examples of abominations in favor of the rich and famous.  I still haven't recovered from anger at the 31.5 million of jobs-creating-money that Brownback returned to the federal government because it would support a federally mandated part of the health-reform bill.  In this difficult climate where we just don't have enough money to pay for schools or for art or for local SRS (Social and Rehabilitation Services)  offices or for health care, apparently we do have enough money to return it to the federal government--and to amp up welfare fraud investigation.  Oh, yes.  In this interview with our new SRS czar Rob Siedlecki, he reveals that we have enough state funds to hire nine new fraud investigators, bringing the total number of investigators to 17.  He claims that they will pay for themselves in no time at all!  How inspiring!  So, I estimate that with salaries and benefits, each of these ***** fraud investigators is probably costing the state around $100,000.  Meaning that our state has an extra $1.7 mil to dedicate to finding all those evil poor people who are defrauding the system.  

If food-stamp benefits represent about $300/month for a family of four, that means that each of those fraud investigators will have to find thirty families a year to remove from food stamps to pay for themselves.  I am sure that, somehow, they will manage it.  Oh, yes.  When you create people whose jobs depend on finding fraud, somehow the fraud will appear, and thirty-six families per investigator per year will be liberated from food assistence.  I am so glad that when resources are supposedly scarce that we can invest $1.7 million a year in making sure that everyone getting them is appropriately poor.

(N.B. Yes, I am sure that welfare fraud actually does happen.  NPR did run a harrowing story this week on a grocery store owner who paid 50 cents on the dollar for people's food stamps.  Yes, this person is an asshole who should be in trouble for defrauding the government.  But still, I can't believe we are creating positions based on criminalizing the people who need services--shouldn't this be part of social workers' domain instead of brownbackers who profit from finding fraud?)

Also NB, I am furious about Lawrence having to pay a large sum of money to the state to get them to do their job providing benefits (see, and I see this as a low-level form of corruption--pay up or we won't give your part of the state services.  But there is nothing more I can do about that now.

Perhaps Brownback's least popular move so far was gutting the budget of the Kansas Arts Commission, which had received legislative support and is in fact the reason why some former Republicans of my acquaintance withdrew their allegiance to him.  It turns out that after slashing the budgets of everything that matters in our fair state, we have a surplus!  Go Kansas!  So some forward-thinking people have suggested that we restore funding to the Kansas Arts Commission,  which is apparently Right Out even though it would also make us eligible again for $1.3 million dollars in out of state funding.  Now, I am not a great mathematician, but I figure that the grand total of $2 million dollars, doled out across Kansas at maybe $10,000 a pop, would provide funding for 200 community organizations and efforts.  Two hundred life-enhancing organizations which provide jobs, rent, positive feelings towards neighbors, youth inspiration, and just make life in Kansas livable...but no.  We cannot have those things because they conflict with a rigid ideology of everything is private, nothing is held in common. 

Not that Brownback is the only person guilty of this right now.  Alas, alack.  I assume that most people have heard that Naomi Klein, Bill McKibbens, Daryl Hannah, and many other fine celebrities and non-celebrities have been arrested at the White House in protest against the Tar Sands oil project.  Naturally, I am sympathetic to their position, and also hope that Obama will decline to approve that pipeline (tar sands provide a particularly dirty source of oil because you have to burn a bunch of fuel to extract the oil, then burn the oil itself--in effect releasing a whole bunch of greenhouse gases).  But I don't see how that is going to happen in a world that is so dependent on oil, where we will look into all kinds of oil-company-profiting alternatives before we simply start trying to use less energy.  I mean, sure, I expect Obama to roll over on this one, but I don't think any potential president would do anything else to appease our oil-hungry world.

However, I would have expected Obama to stand up against smog!  Seriously!  It appears that Obama has backed off from his commitment to returning EPA-required ozone requirements to scientifically supported levels.  (another source:  Obama withdraws suggested EPA changes)  The standards for ozone/smog are supposed to be based strictly on health standards, not on economic considerations.  But cleaning up pollution costs a lot, and large corporations don't want to pay to do that.  So they don't have to! How easy was that?  This made me more depressed than all the other stories put together.  From my anarchist perspective, at least I can help build alternative organizations to meet  some of the social service needs.  I can help dream of a world that doesn't see oil as the ultimate good.  But there is not one thing that I can do to prevent creating that smog and help keep people from needless suffering.   Only a strong government with a lot of regulations and the foresight to see this as ruining the commons, or a mobilized public that destroys any business that causes this kind of needless suffering, can make that happen.  Since option A has failed...but I don't want to have to destroy stuff just yet.  :(

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