“A budget is moral document” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yesterday, the group Priorities Michigan held a press conference to highlight the faces of real people who are victims of callous, unfair Republican budgets. Intent on diminishing the size and scope of government, Republicans have shrunk our state budget by giving billions of dollars of tax breaks to corporations. The resulting cuts to programs and services harm those who have the least while the reduced revenue stream benefits those who have the most.
“Our state budget is more than a spreadsheet and a bottom line but too often when crafting the budget our elected officials seem to forget that there are real people who are directly impacted by the choices they’re making,” Mothering Justice director Danielle Atkinson, a Priorities Michigan spokesperson, said. “It’s time for our elected leaders to be held accountable to ordinary people and make sure that the wealthiest Michiganders and corporations pay their fair share so that we can make much-needed investments in programs that best serve all people in Michigan’s communities.”
Priorities Michigan gives the example of over $3 million in funding cuts for the Department of Human Services in the Republican 2016 state budget. These cuts forced offices to close and made it harder for people who provide services to do their jobs. Republicans also cut the Food Assistance Program by $193 million, a vital program that helps poor families living on the brink to put food on the table. Even when they eliminated tax breaks for the wealthy, like they did in 2011 when they killed the tax exemption people can take when making certain charitable donations, they caused real harm to real people with food pantries ending up with empty shelves.
“I was a social worker for many years and in my work I’ve seen the devastating impacts that budget cuts can have on families struggling to make ends meet,” Myrtle Ferrande, a retired social worker and grandmother, said at the press conference. “The people of Michigan can’t afford more cuts and we shouldn’t have to. We can invest in programs that we all need and build shared prosperity in our state if everyone pays their fair share.”
Cuts to vital safety net services. Cuts to education. Cuts to local municipalities. All of these add up to making life harder for struggling Michiganders so that corporations and rich individuals can have more. The failure of “trickle down economics”, dubbed “voodoo economics” by George H. W. Bush during his 1980 presidential primary campaign, is playing out in full, destructive display in Michigan.
“Assistance programs and public school systems are designed to help parents and sustain families, but they’re failing us,” said Jade Chance, a mother and Mothering Justice member. “And the blame can’t all simply be placed on teachers or the people working in these establishments because budget cuts made by our elected leaders are making it harder and harder for those who’s job it is to help others to do their jobs well. And so many of us – real people with lives and struggles – become just another number or a stack of paper work. We can and must do better for our kids. We need a budget that prioritizes people and makes sure that every child can get an education. We need a budget that prioritizes making sure that everyone pays their fair share so that we can all prosper.”
This press conference was part of a series highlighting the concept of “The People’s Budget” that will take place through the beginning of 2016, ahead of the new budget year and the Governor’s budget address.
[Photo credit AnnieJo | Daily Kos, used with permission]