Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

W.Va. Harm ; Cutting Safety Net

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

W.Va. Harm ; Cutting Safety Net

Article excerpt

ACROSS America, conservatives endlessly try to reduce taxes on the wealthy. To offset the revenue loss, they constantly try to reduce government spending for safety net programs that help ordinary families, the aged, students, the poor, veterans and the disabled. This "reverse Robin Hood" - rob the poor to help the rich - approach may hit West Virginia as the Republican-controlled Legislature tries to cope with an impending $350 million shortfall in next year's budget.

Last month, the Joint Committee on Government Accountability, Transparency and Efficiency heard a right-wing expert suggest ways to slash $100 million from people-helping programs.

"Do we want our welfare programs to be paying people not to work? Josh Archambault of the Florida-based Foundation for Government Accountability asked legislators. He urged tougher policing of health insurance and food stamps.

If a poor family gets Medicaid coverage, he said, inspectors might find that they have gambling or lottery winnings that would disqualify them.

Whoa. Do Republican lawmakers understand what one-time money is? It's not dependable every month.

Have they forgotten one of the tenets of the Republican-led welfare reform of the 1990s? Congress decoupled Medicaid from other benefits to give low-income families stability in their medical coverage. Losing your ability to take the kids to the doctor every other month as your earnings fluctuated was considered unhealthy, inefficient and a disincentive to accept low-wage jobs that paid enough to disqualify you for all welfare benefits, but not enough to afford medical care. The thinking was, keep the kids and parents enrolled in health care, and that is one less obstacle to working.

The same "expert also said some low-income folks collect food stamps in several states - presumably by having fake addresses elsewhere than their homes. Of course, any fraudulent collections should be halted, but is this really such a big problem?

West Virginia is facing a budget hole partly because energy prices and revenues have been down. …

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