Monday, March 4, 2013

"It's despicable," Ms. Todman said. And the baby died.

Ms. Todman is the executive director of the District of Columbia Housing Authority.  She's talking in today's NY Times about the effect of the sequester on housing for the poor.  What is "despicable" is the huge and inhumane impact the sequester will have on the homeless.  Some now sheltered will be turned out; some who qualify for sheltering will be turned away.

Nationwide, about 40% of those affected by the sequester cuts in housing for the homeless will be elderly and children.  Another 25% will be the disabled.  Being "affected" is such a bleached media word.  It actually means being out on the street.  In the winter.  (Today it won't even get to 30 degrees here in Pennsylvania. It was in the teens overnight.)

As a nation, short of being Nazis, you can't be much more despicable than this  -  denying shelter to the most fragile and helpless of our people.  And who are the other 35% to be affected?  Many are veterans returning from war.  An estimated 175,000 veterans will be out on the streets.

And this is the nasty truth about the sequester cuts.  They are falling most heavily and cruelly on those least able to cope with them and least able to raise a voice of protest.

Where is Occupy Wall Street now that we need them?  Where is anybody?  The churches, the synagogues, the mosques, the service clubs?  The Democrats?  Organize for America?  You?

Are we going to have to have dead babies under bridges before something is done?

I'm looking back to the Reagan recession and his hard-hearted way with the poor.  That winter a couple drove through my county in California, and the husband stopped the car at the side of the road.  He took the suitcases out and set them down alongside the road.  Then he told his wife and little children to get out of the car.  Then he drove off, leaving them abandoned, his wife holding the baby.  He was weary and beaten by long unemployment and the search for a job that didn't exist.  A couple of nights later the baby died under a bridge.

The mother had found some cardboard for them to huddle under at night because there was no place to go.  When the baby got sick in the rain and the cold, the mother dared not seek medical help because she correctly believed that their homelessness  would be reported and the children taken away from her.

And so a baby died.  For no good reason.  A little, sweet, innocent baby died.  In the night, as we all slept unknowingly in our warm beds in our warm houses, that baby died.  It broke my heart when I found out.  And I have never gotten over it.

And now it's going to happen again.  Because the heartless Republicans are back in control even though we won the 2012 election.  They still control the House and thus the purse strings.  They will continue to protect obscene subsidies for profit-fat oil companies and similar outrageous tax provisions rather than reduce the deficit with some revenue increases instead of the sequester.

The blame for the suffering and dying that the Republicans are causing will surely fall on them on some sort of judgment day, but that isn't much consolation.  There is no consolation when a baby has died needlessly.

We have got to change the House.  Somehow we have to get those 17 seats in 2014.  Meantime, we have to find a way to shelter the homeless.  Why tell the beautiful story every Christmas of the shelter in a stable if we  -  the richest country in the world  -   can't even shelter our present day homeless families?

We have got to do better.  


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