Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Don't let Mass. elected officials scapegoat poor people!

Looks like some politicians just can't pass up the opportunity to score a few points with the voting public even if it means eliminating a very tiny program that helps working families on public assistance. (Yes, it is all too easy in these low-wage days to have a job and still be eligible for public assistance.)

Thanks to the Drudge Report, a $400,000 program that has provided cars, a year's worth of auto insurance and a Triple A membership for 65 families who live in areas without public transportation may very well be scaled back or even eliminated by the Massachusetts Senate.

Gov. Patrick had planned to add a whopping $30,000 to the program this year.

We have a $5.4 billion state deficit (46 other states have budget deficits also) and this program is a target?

“Folks are calling for reform everywhere I go,” said Sen. Stephen J. Buoniconti (D-West Springfield). “We need to start taking a look at the welfare packages we give to folks, including the program in your article.” Boston Herald.

Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, wants to eliminate the AAA benefit, saying it flies in the face of common sense.

Oh, yeah?

Let's say you're a Springfield resident whose car breaks down on a city street and before you can get back to it, your car is ticketed by the Springfield police and towed by CJ's Towing, which holds the Springfield towing contract. You will pay an initial $250 fee for the ticket and towing, and then $20 a day for storage. When this happens to poor people, there's a good chance they'll never see their car again. (Hell, it's happened to me.) Compare this to the $63 a year cost of AAA.

I can guarantee you there's not a single Massachusetts legislator without towing insurance.

Brewer is also bothered by the fact that recipients who lose their jobs still get to keep the car, although all other benefits under the program cease. Won't that make it harder to get another job? How about if we limit it to people who have lost their jobs for cause?

Like it or not, we're definitely going to have to find a way to increase revenue in Massachusetts. But is there still waste in the budget? For sure (although NOT $5.4 billion dollars' worth). At times like these, I fantasize about being president in the movie Dave and bringing in my accountant friend to go through the budget line by line. As I recall, Dave did it in order to save funding for a homeless shelter.

There's a lot of pain for regular people in this year's proposed budget, and some of it isn't necessary. If you're a Massachusetts resident, call your senator and tell him or her not to scapegoat poor people. You can find senators' numbers here.

Photo from Patrick Docken's photostream at Flickr.

No comments: