Friday, April 17, 2009

Government Shortfalls And Their Effect On Disabled Children

A week or so ago my State Senator emailed a message to his constituents (including me) in response to the growing support for raising taxes to help with the budget shortfall.  In that message, he recounted the following:

“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine, great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved. …

“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.

“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ‘something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a hand-out.

“A lot of people are like that, too. They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s ‘shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come?

“Let’s not be gullible gulls. We … must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.” (“Fable of the Gullible Gull,” Reader’s Digest, Oct. 1950, p. 32.)

He uses this allegory to support his stance that no new taxes are needed.  We simply cut government programs and let people "learn to fish."  While that sounds good on the surface, if you look where the cuts are being made, a different story emerges.

Some of the government programs that seem to be getting the hardest hits are the programs that provide services to children with special needs.  Parents who use these services work long hard hours to give their kids the best possible chance at having a productive life.  These government services give their kids the training, therapy, etc. that are necessary to have a realistic opportunity to overcome their disabilities.  Unfortunately, nobody else seems to fund these services.  So if government cuts them, what happens?

These "gulls" that are starving are the special needs kids of Arizona.  Not only that, but the "fishing" is not good.  These kids aren't suffering because they're too lazy to go out and help themselves; they're suffering because the only help they had is being cut off.  That's where the allegory falls flat.  It's about those that can help themselves choosing not to, but the reality is that there are thousands (yes thousands) who can't help themselves that are suffering from these budget cuts.  Is it really right to let these "gulls" starve to death?

Now I'm not saying we have to raise taxes.  I'm saying that we need to be pragmatic.  Lets not get so caught up in ideology that we lose our grip on reality.  Our government has many tough choices to make but they need to make them with a full realization of the consequences.