Thursday, August 18, 2016

Ditat Deus: How Red-State Arizona's Failed Policies on Poverty Just Got a little Worse

by Nomad

Arizona is a showcase of Republican policy when it comes to helping needy families. But that's not meant to be praise. Poverty has become an intractable problem and legislators seem to be intent on making life more difficult for the poor.

No Hope, No Change

Arizona's state motto is Ditat Deus which in Latin, translates as "God Enriches" and, for some Arizonans that might be true, but for many others, God seems to have all but forgotten them. Actually, it's not necessary to lay the blame on divinities but on the easily-distracted Republican legislators. 

When the US Census Bureau updated its poverty estimates last year, the bad news about Arizona should have been hard for state officals to ignore. The state ranked third in the nation when it came to the percentage who were at or below the federal poverty line. That's an estimated 21 percent of the state's population.

You'd think those numbers would set off alarm bells that past policies just weren't working. You'd think politicians would realize that changes had to be made as soon as possible. 
That's not what happened. 
Last summer, coincidentally, Arizona became the first state to cut poor families’ access to welfare assistance to a maximum of 12 months over a lifetime.  With the passage of the law, Arizona will have the harshest limit of all the states, most of which offer benefits for five years, the duration allowed under federal law. 
As a local source noted last month:
It means an estimated 2,500 people — including 1,500 kids — will no longer qualify for the modest stipends the program provides. The average payment is $278.
Democrats lawmakers and advocates for the poor struggled in vain to keep the program at its two-year limit went unheeded.

In the debate, Republican Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City. delivered the standard Republican approach to poverty: 
“I tell my kids all the time that the decisions we make have rewards or consequences, and if I don’t ever let them face those consequences, they can’t get back on the path to rewards. As a society, we are encouraging people at times to make poor decisions and then we reward them.”
It's a pretty pathetic excuse for parsimony. Reagan taught us that the poor don't need our pity or our assistance. And ever since then, the conservatives have been saying that poor have only themelves to blame. We must assume such a rationalization allows them to feel superior and look at themselves in the mirror.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, a world-renowned professor of economics, observed:
“History is written by the rich, and so the poor get blamed for everything.” 
The rich do not just write history, but also public policy. The poor of Arizona have been told not to expect anything at all from their elected government.
Hope and change's just a catchy Democratic slogan, GOP politicians sneer.
The former governor and present-day Trump supporter, Jan Brewer, was adamant about where the problem lay.
So you know, I think that the federal government, the Democrats, and President Obama are selling a lot of hope and change, but no delivery of any of those promises.
Meanwhile, they themselves have not bothered to make any promises and have offered no real alternatives. 

They would much rather draft bills that would allow people to ignore the law and discriminate as they wish, as long as they can invoke the name of the Lord. 
The Republicans in Phoenix have kept themselves occupied by finding new ways to defund Planned Parenthood and make abortion illegal again.
Here's a fair list of the bills the Arizona legislators have decided were more important than the state's poverty crisis. 

As far as hope and change - for large segments of the population- there's not much to go around in Arizona. Unchanging and hopeless is how many young Arizona's could describe the situation. 

There's been enough time for the Arizona legislators to do something, if they cared to. As of 2012, almost one in five young people in Arizona between the ages of 18 and 24 were neither in school nor working. Despite Arizona's high rate of poverty and unemployment, in 2013, only 6.7% of unemployed workers in Arizona were helped by unemployment insurance. (Imagine what would happen if even half of those people actually voted?)

Since 2012, the state legislature has apparently seen no reason to review its policies.  The poor are too lazy to vote so who really cares?
In many respects, Arizona is another state that makes up America's Third World.  

Red-State Misery

Actually red-state Arizona is not unique when it comes to failed policy. 

In 2014, the Department of Agriculture assessed US poverty levels and found that every red state, from Arizona to South Carolina, have the highest poverty rates in America (between 17.9% and 22.8%.)
Those stats were supported by a report from the Children's Defense Fund, which found that one in four children in Republican-controlled Southern red states live in dire poverty.
In the last two years, the news out of Arizona seems to have gotten even worse.

One study, by a personal finance site WalletHub, revealed that Arizona finished 46th out of all 50 states (including District of Columbia) when it came to poverty.  

The study compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia based on the pervasiveness of certain “disadvantage” indicators, with metrics ranging from infant mortality rate to child food-insecurity rate to percentage of maltreated children. 

The findings demonstrate who get hit the hardest when politician neglect the needs of the most vulnerable. The state scored at the bottom  (45/50) in the category of  "early foundations and economic well-being"; a 41/50 in children's health; and a 43/50 in children's education.
When it came to food insecurity, Arizona took the 49th spot.

When it came to child welfare, only four states had a lower ranking, Georgia, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Mississippi. (New Mexico is the only state of that group which could be considered blue.)
In its best rating, in infant mortality rates, Arizona scored only average at 25. When your best is average, that's nothing to be proud of. 

Since then, the state legislature appears to see no reason to review its policies. In many respects, Arizona is another state that makes up America's Third World.  
Before leaving office, Brewer proudly told her Republican constituents:
Arizona is a red state, and we're going to keep it red.
Whether any of the red-state policies actually work for the neediest of the state's residents isn't something Brewer seemed overly concerned about. 
Party politics is what it's all about. 

Changing of the Guard Means No Change At All

True to form, the  current governor,  Republican Doug Ducey has followed in Brewer's footsteps. According to one source, Ducey seems to believe that the way to get more people working is by denying them government assistance.
Social Darwinism at its best. In Arizona, Christian ethics about helping the poor ( and justice for the poor is one of the clearest injunctions in scripture) must take a backseat to Republican realism. 

The new governor is pushing to cut the list of Arizonans on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. TANF, signed into law by President Clinton, provides cash assistance to indigent American families with dependent children through the United States Department of Health and Human Services. SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities.
There are some exceptions to the new restrictions but for the most part, dependent families will have to fend for themselves.

Angie Rodgers, president of the Arizona Association of Food Banks explained to Arizona Daily Star that around 15 percent of Arizonans traditionally receive SNAP benefits, including nearly one in three children in the state. The program is a critical tool to fight hunger in the state.
About 128,000 people visit Arizona’s food banks each week, she said, and about half of them also get SNAP.

The problem is obvious and yet the only solution anybody in Arizona has so far come up with is blaming the people who ask for assistance and punishing innocent children.

Another red-state triumph in the land where God was supposed to enrich all who live there.