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Mandate, schmandate

So we have a state budget and we perhaps think that all is good.

All is not good.

This economy is less like a roller coaster and more like a very slow sink into thick black mud. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll find a diamond down there in the mud, but for now, all we see is the muck.

I just noticed this comment in the Santa Cruz Sentinel about mental health funding for students:

“It’s a grave issue,” county Superintendent of Schools Michael Watkins said. “He took the funding, but it’s still a mandate, so the question is how can we get the money? With the legislature on recess and a new governor, trying to get something back in could be difficult.”

Also slashed with the stroke of a pen is state funding for childcare. Not my problem, you are probably thinking.

Problem is, it’s everyone’s problem. On the one hand, we want to do the right thing. We elect legislators who do things like create mandates for educating children. Poor children who need quality care. Any children with special needs. It sounds great! All children’s needs should be served.

The people to whom these mandates are given take them seriously. As I wrote in a previous post, our state-run preschools are a wonder. They do great things for families, for young parents, for education, for kids. We write a mandate, we send the money, amazing people like Teacher Debbie give their lives and invest their souls. Wonderful things happen.

Then with a stroke of the pen, it’s all gone.

I realize that this is a ridiculous economy. We can only see down. No one is seeing any diamonds sparkling above. We’re just hoping that there’s something to grab onto before we descend into the muck.

But as Watkins mentions in the Sentinel article, these investments save us money. Yep, a little spent, a lot gained. It’s like all the supposed furor being felt around the country for the health care bill. New taxes! New mandates! No matter that everyone who pushes a pencil around these ideas says that this will save us money. It is so much cheaper to catch diabetes early and provide medication and education, than to chop off someone’s legs then drop them a bill. Prevention works. Yes, rich people are more comfortable in countries with socialized medicine. Guess what? Rich people are already more comfortable here. The only thing that will change is that the poor might be able to keep their legs and continue to be productive members of society.

Right now we’re all supposed to be crying for those poor rich people who are going to feel a pinch in their extravagant lifestyles. Gimme a break while I go feed that woman begging outside of my window. She ran out of fois gras, poor thing.

Really, I just can’t believe that we can be so stupid, over and over. This is why old men are cynical, they say. But old women, according to the studies I’ve read, get energized and radicalized. I’m having trouble, right now, accessing that [very near] future of my radicalized old woman self. Instead, I read the paper and I wonder at the idiocy. No one has ever proven that higher taxes hurt the rich. Frankly, no one’s ever proven that the rich even notice.

(Hey, did you all notice that you took home more money last year? I read an article explaining that Obama changed Bush’s tax credit so that we got a small amount back each money by paying less in tax rather than getting a check at the end of the year. We all noticed that darn check, but we don’t notice Obama’s money. His is probably more useful in stimulating the economy, but no matter, we want our 600 bucks in paper form, darn it! Like the rich, we take home more money and we just don’t notice.)

There’s no guarantee that any particular government policy can stop this slow slide into the muck, but there is a guarantee that on a day sometime very soon, scores of low-income kids will be parked in front of a TV rather than watching an egg hatch in their classroom. They’ll be left with grandma (who lost her legs because there was no funding to teach her how to manage her diabetes) and grandma will know that she’s not doing the best for them, but what more can she do? The roof’s leaking, her grandson’s asthma medication is running out, and we’re all crying for the poor rich people.

Excuse me: she’s eaten her fois gras, and now she’s demanding I jumpstart her Jag. Rich people these days. I swear.

Posted in Culture, Education.

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