Thursday, March 05, 2015

Blessed are the Poor* (Offer not valid in America)

Why does this sign never seem to wear out?

Can we just say America is no country to be poor in?

Recent reports of "debtor's prisons" returning to America have come and gone.  Now they are being reinforced by stories about Ferguson, Missouri, financing it's city government on the backs of the poor.  

Pro Publica reveals how worker's compensation has been all but eliminated as a way to pay people who are injured on the job.  Worker's compensation was an idea that came out of Germany in the early 20th century, designed to replace the only recourse injured workers had: a tort claim in civil court.  It was the "no fault insurance" of its day:  the injured worker made a claim for compensation, which claim was paid based on a standard of payment for the type of injury incurred.  Although it came to involve lawyers (some of the first work I did when I was hired as a legal assistant by a law firm was worker's compensation cases), it was meant to keep contest out of the system, to lower the cost to everyone and get the money to the worker as quickly as possible.  Now it is a system for keeping money from the worker for as long as possible.

In Texas, the new Lite Guv (hat tip to the late Molly Ivins) is so concerned with the runaway cost potential of Medicaid he wants to drastically reduce the number of Texans eligible for Medicaid.  Seems the number of individuals who qualify for even the stingy Medicaid Texas allows has gone up too rapidly in the past few years.  Texas crows about the number of people who move here, a sure sign of our economic success and proper balance of government and bidness.  When that brings an inordinate number of poor people (because we have the highest percentage of population in the country earning the minimum wage), we solve that problem by making more poor people invisible.

The proposed solution is health savings accounts and co-pays placed on Medicaid recipients.  The problem with that solution is, the majority of Texans on Medicaid are children, pregnant women, the elderly poor, and disabled workers (back to worker's comp).  These are people living not paycheck to paycheck, but without paychecks.  Where they get the money to save for an HSA (or the life span, in the case of the children) and meet co-pays, is their problem.  People are too damned expensive.  Medicaid is "unsustainable," largely because the powers that be in Texas don't want to sustain it.

Sorry, poor Texans:  sucks to be you.

I'm not sure which is the greater scandal:  Ferguson, Missouri, or the absolute disdain for the poor in Texas.  The latter cuts across racial lines:  it's money that matters in the U.S.A., and without money skin color doesn't really get to be a factor.  It is hideous what the government of Ferguson did to its residents, and that it did so on the basis of skin color. But it more clearly acted on the basis of income, which makes it of a piece with Texas' disdain for the poor, and the nationwide scandal that is the worker's compensation system (each state runs and funds its own system).

This is America, where poverty and race go hand in hand.  But it's not about race, because it's never about race.  And we have no class system; to even suggest that, is to spark class warfare.

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