Same old Dem story: Help for state’s ailing, needy not priority

Jan. 12, 2013

By Chris Reed

On the California revenue front, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, the Democrats who control Sacramento are far more likely to help out the middle-class teachers who are the key force in their political coalition than the poor or needy.

That was hammered home again this week in the 2013-14 budget offered by Gov. Jerry Brown. While it does have a whiff of “social justice” about it in that the governor wants troubled schools to get disproportionately more money than the upscale schools where veteran teachers are concentrated, similar efforts have failed in the past. If that happens again this budget cycle, that will mean that schools were the primary beneficiaries of the billions in new revenue coming from Proposition 30’s higher taxes. And when I say schools, I mean teachers. Here in San Diego, without anything approaching a real debate, the city’s giant school district has committed to restoring a 7 percent raise for all teachers that had been put on hold because of state budget woes.

Meanwhile, advocates of social services for the needy and infirm are grousing, and asking when the deep cuts forced through by Gov. Brown will be restored. The answers from the governor amount to “not soon” and “tough luck.” Here’s KQED’s report. Here’s Dan Walters’ column on the same topic.

Revenue swell didn’t lift all ships

None of this is remotely surprising. Consider what happened during the state’s economic boom from 2002-2007, when state revenue surged 26 percent, from $80.6 billion to $101.3 billion.

The state Department of Social Services, which is responsible for child and family welfare, food stamp administration, help for the deaf and blind, and much more, saw its budget go from $8.15 billion to $9 billion. That’s 10 percent increase doesn’t even keep up with inflation over the same span.

In immense contrast, education spending went up 42 percent, from $26.85 billion to $38 billion.

To frame it another way, education spending went up by more than the entire Department of Social Services annual budget in any of the years from 2002-2007.

The poor and the needy, it seems, need to form a union to get some love from the party that says it’s all about protecting the vulnerable.

Here’s what I wrote about the implication of these budget stats when I first compiled them in August 2007:

Progressives should consider these numbers and realize the obvious: By the same logic with which you see Republican lawmakers as corporate stooges, you should see Dem lawmakers as union stooges.

This has become even more obvious in the 64 months since. Back in 2007, it would have struck me as far-fetched that Democrats would block efforts to quickly fire classroom sexual predators after a horrific scandal in which Los Angeles Unified had to pay off a teacher who fed kids semen to separate him from the school district. Little did I know.

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