The New York Times vs. fiscal discipline, once again. Monica Davey reported emotional anecdotes from Michigan Wednesday against attempts by the state to rein in costs: 'Families Feel Sharp Edge of State Budget Cuts.'
Here in Michigan, more than 11,000 families received letters last week notifying them that in October they will lose the cash assistance they have been provided for years. Next year, people who lose their jobs here will receive fewer weeks of state unemployment benefits, and those making little enough to qualify for the state's earned income tax credit will see a far smaller benefit from it.
Some political leaders see these sorts of cuts as unfortunate necessities to help bridge their state's financial gaps. Others see them as overdue limits on out-of-control government handouts - some lawmakers here fumed, for example, that 30,000 college students, newly dropped from the state's food stamp rolls, should never have been allowed to collect such benefits in the first place.
Whatever the motive, such policy changes come as the downturn has left a growing number of low-income families in worse financial trouble.
The percentage of children living in poverty rose during the last decade, particularly once the recession hit and unemployment soared.
Signs of new poverty are already evident. A project by the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book found that by 2010, nearly 11 percent of the nation's children, or 7.8 million children, had at least one parent who was unemployed, when only about half as many were in such circumstances in 2007. And since four years ago, the study found, at least 5.3 million children have been affected by home foreclosures.
Davey found an odd, surely atypical example of poverty allegedly caused by state stinginess:
Six states have approved reductions in the length of state unemployment benefits. The notion appalls people like Jeananne Bishop, who has been desperately searching for a job since July 2010 and found herself washing her hair with laundry detergent at one point because she could not afford shampoo.
It's not Davey's first foray into the cruelties of cost-cutting by Midwestern states. On June 23, Davey co-wrote a similar emotional jeremiad against fiscal responsibility in Indiana, summarized by the line: 'Fiscal conservatism, in other words, comes with its own costs.'