Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Unequal Distribution of Pain

A look at how state budget cuts will affect California's Central Valley. From the LA Times:

The vast fruit fields, picturesque farmhouses and rolling foothills of Tulare County mask an ugly reality: Nearly a quarter of the population in this Central Valley agricultural hub lives in poverty, and one in three residents receives state aid — the largest proportion in California.

With the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown slashing billions of dollars in government services to help balance the state budget, few places will feel the effects more deeply. Local officials fear that when roughly $8 billion in budget cuts take effect, some as early as July 1, the poorest residents will tumble into homelessness.

The federal budget cuts impact the states, creating more budget cuts - and those whose lives are most precarious will have the safety net kicked out from under them. Expect a return of the tent cities we saw in 2009.


Local leaders say they are already struggling to meet the demand for social services, public safety and higher education after years of cutbacks in rural communities plagued with chronic unemployment. Much of the work here — harvesting oranges, packing boxes — is seasonal and low-wage. Among the largest private employers is Wal-Mart.

Chronic unemployment. Have you noticed that we never hear about jobs any more? Jobs, jobs, jobs were all we heard about during the elections last year. Now there's no more talk of jobs - just deficits and spending cuts.

For those who live in poverty, education is the way out - but the local college is being forced to make cuts:

To offset $400 million in reductions to the state's community college system, the campus has cut 10% of its classes and is giving admission preference to those who are closest to finishing degrees. That keeps out new high school graduates and the unemployed seeking job training.

It's hard to view this as the "shared pain" we keep hearing about. Just as the US has an unequal distribution of wealth, we also have an unequal distribution of pain. The pain is reserved for the least wealthy among us.

cross-posted at MainSt/

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