Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thoughts on the State Abuse Scandal

Vince Leibowitz at Capitol Annex had a great overview of the state school abuse scandal, if anything about this tragic story deserves the term "great." It's worth coming back to the issue today, because one of the state schools mentioned is here in Denton County.

The Dallas Morning News story quotes Jeff Garrison-Tate of Advocacy Inc., who cites the lack of guardians as one part of the solution. (He also wants smaller, community facilities.) Guardian ad litem programs certainly have their merits, but it's worth emphasizing that they are often volunteers. Some of society's most vulnerable citizens are being cared for by some of the health care industry's lowest paid employees, in a system where cost-cutting, not need, has determined the level of acceptable care, and it won't be fixed by an act of charity. This kind of systemic failure calls for reform at the highest levels.

As Capitol Annex notes:
The bottom line here is this:
•This is yet another failure of the Perry administration and his appointees—whom he consistently refuses to hold accountable.

•This is an indirect result of the 2003 and 2005 budget cuts and reorganizations forced upon the people of Texas by the Craddick-Dewhurst-Perry dominated and controlled legislature. And, there are individual legislators (mostly Republicans) who bear personal responsibility for this (because they wanted it, they voted for it, and by God, they damned well got it—and, look what good it did!)

•Rick Perry has once again been asleep at the wheel. We’ve seen and heard how much his office really knew about the Texas Youth Commission scandal he claimed he was only aware of because he read it in the paper. Thus, it’s unrealistic to think Perry (or at least his staff) wasn’t aware of what was going on in the State Schools. If someone’s child/sister/brother is beaten near to death on a bathroom floor, you can bet the Governor’s office probably heard about it.
And Charles Kuffner offers a similar opinion.
When we talk about "shrinking government", or "cutting government", or whatever the catchphrase that gets tossed around in times of budget crunches or election campaigns is, this is what it really means. We're not talking about the mythical elimination of "waste", or of throwing bureaucrats onto the street. We're talking about employees of places like the Lubbock State School, or the TYC facility in Pyote. We pay them stingy wages for their demanding jobs, we don't spend money to train them, we don't retain them long enough for them to earn raises and promotions, and every few years, we get to be shocked at the terrible conditions at those places. The only mystery is why this is ever a surprise.
And selling the public on the need to adequately fund social services would be easier if working-class citizens weren't bearing the brunt of the tax burden while corporations raked in record profits and our richest citizens basked in the new gilded age.

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