More Than a Flesh Wound: How the Budget Cuts Go Deep and Wide

By Dr. Nicole Dubus

The Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is known for his perseverance

It’s never just a flesh wound.

On Friday March 1, 2013, Congress let pass $85 billion in Federal cuts. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the following are some of the ways these cuts will affect healthcare: $20 million cut from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs; $10 million cut from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; $75 million cut from Aging and Disability Services Programs; $51 Million from Prevention and Public Health Fund; $44 Million from Affordable Insurance Exchange Grants. I include the following cuts as well because although they are not directly related to health care, they do impact our health: $184 million cut from Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research; $928 million from FEMA’s disaster relief; $6 million from Emergency Food and Shelter; $61 Million cut from the Hazardous Substance Superfund; $53 million cut from the Food Safety and Inspection Service. The lack of safe housing is a primary need for health. $199 million will be cut from public housing, $96 million from Homeless Assistance Grants, $17 million cut from Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, $19 Million cut from Housing for the Elderly, and $175 million cut from Low Income Home Energy Assistance.

What do all these large dollar numbers mean? It means that for years to come there will be fewer services for those who are in greatest need: women and newborns, those with substance abuse issues, people in need of mental health services, and services for our grandmothers, grandfathers, elderly parents, and disabled family members and friends. It means that there will be less help when disaster hits, less ability to clean up after hazardous accidents, and less oversight of our food safety. It also means that there will be less help for those who are homeless or soon to be homeless. It means that some of our grandparents, elderly parents will be without housing. If they do have housing, more will go without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the hot summer.

healthcare is a human rightWhose responsibility is it to take care of the disabled, mentally ill, elderly, poor, and vulnerable? Whose responsibility is it to take care of others during a disaster? Whose responsibility is it to clean up hazardous accidents or to keep beef free of ecoli? If you approve of these cuts then you believe the government is not responsible, and in turn we as members (and tax payers) of our society are not responsible. Government is merely the collective will of the people’s desire to care for each other. We must ask ourselves: what do we believe? Do we believe we live in a country that cares for all of us as an extended family, or do we believe we are a collection of individuals who must protect our individual interests over the collective good? Then we must ask: is it in our individual interest to let our grandparents, our disabled, our poor look out for themselves?

Dr. Nicole Dubus is Assistant Professor of Social Work at Wheelock College. Nicole Dubus has been active in the field since the mid-1980s, working in northern California and Massachusetts in public and private settings. Her research interests are in community-based research, home-visitation programs, early parenthood, culturally-sensitive clinical skills, and the experiences of refugees throughout the life course.