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The Worst of Both Worlds

Underfunded and Underserved.

by Barnabas
December 11, 2002

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The Worst of Both Worlds_Barnabas-Underfunded and Underserved. Yesterday the banner headline in our daily proclaimed a projected deficit in the state budget of four and a half billion dollars. The projected budget deficit in the neighboring state, where I live, was only two and a half billion, so I guess we are comparatively lucky.

It comes down to $416 for each man, woman, and child in the state. This $416 is, of course, above and beyond the taxes we are going to pay, because both the new governor and his principal opponent made the expected promise that he would not raise taxes. This promise assumed that economic prosperity and social stability is a given, even with the accumulating evidence of the last two years to the contrary. The politicians of the right now cannot fulfill their promises to the affluent, and those of the left cannot fulfill theirs to the helpless.

One wonders what the governor will do for cash. Money at the state level is available only from earning it, being given it, and taking it, legally or illegally. Taxation is the only legal form of taking it, unless you think cheating is legal.

Cutting expenses perhaps could do it. This might translate into a form of cheating—breaking promises to the helpless, such as the severely mentally ill and poor children. An example: in our county at this time, children who are part of the state’s dental insurance plan cannot get their teeth fixed by a resident dentist, because the law is so written that no dentist is required to take them as patients. Dentists who do are swamped, and cannot afford to serve that many patients at the rate the state is willing to pay. Unless and until their colleagues share the burden, they also must turn patients away.

That’s an efficient, though cynical way for the state to save dollars: offer an insurance program for which the taxpayers pay premiums and the beneficiaries cannot collect benefits.

The governor and his colleagues around the country could take the lazy way and expand the tax base by legalizing more gambling--expand sin-tax revenue by expanding sin. It remains to be seen whether this is truly profitable to the state, considering the new welfare cases that gambling spawns each year. Many of the poor (and not so poor) have been deceived by lotteries and casinos into the belief that gambling is their only hope for true prosperity.

Besides, we have a casino in the county that will serve the poor, even if we don’t have a dentist.

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