Saturday, June 12, 2004

Plus C'est la Meme Chose 

Michael Bérubé posts an excerpt from Inventing the Feeble Mind: A History of Mental Retardation, in which author James W. Trent, Jr., recalls then-Governor Ronald Reagan's demand that California's state hospitals and institutions for the developmentally delayed cut their budgets by $17 million (a sizable chunk of loot back in 1967):
Angered by reaction to his proposals, Reagan remarked that state hospitals (and prisons) constituted the 'biggest hotel chain in the state.'
I don't imagine there was much of a clamor to book the weekend getaway package at Sonoma State Hospital after this review.

Now thirty-seven years have passed, and the Governor of California is still trying to balance the state's (Enron-depleted) budget on the backs of the disabled. In 2004, luckily, public outrage is making a difference:
Administration officials said at a Senate budget hearing that they would try to get the federal government to subsidize a state home-care program instead of cutting it as originally proposed in the GOP governor's January budget.

Advocates for disabled people and Democrats -- who had been lobbying for the $450 million in cuts to be withdrawn -- greeted the news with relief and said they were pleased that Schwarzenegger seemed to be flexible on social policy. But they also complained that the Department of Finance was reversing itself on budget cost-saving proposals that seemed to be hastily thrown together in the first place . . . .

Californians who receive the state-funded aid include people whose caregivers are their parents or spouses, people who only receive help with domestic tasks, and people such as Alzheimer's patients who receive protective supervision.

The reversal follows a similar change Schwarzenegger made soon after he unveiled his list of midyear budget cuts in December. Originally, the administration suggested capping enrollment in programs for people with developmental disabilities such as mental retardation, autism and cerebral palsy. To do that, he proposed suspending the Lanterman Act, a state law that guarantees treatment and support services to disabled people.

After an outcry, Schwarzenegger reversed that position, saying, "It was just one of those things that slip through when you make decisions very quickly."

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