I love when public officials challenge themselves to experience life circumstances close to those of their neediest constituents. I think that government officials can sometimes lose sight of the very basic issues that some people face, particularly high-level decision makers, who don't do service delivery and have to think about complex problems most of the time. As such, I worry that the true challenges of those on the ground fail to factor into problem analysis. It was a favorite expression of mine in college to say something along the lines of "all these learning interventions are great, but we'd get a lot more out of feeding people and improving family stability." Which probably means I should have studied social policy.
Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and his wife will eat just $21 worth of food apiece this week to draw attention to the challenges families participating in the food stamp program face. This is particularly meaningful in light of proposed cuts to the food stamp program budget for FY 2008. Lots of programs are facing cuts in this budget, including the always-embattled community development block grant, funding for smart growth programs-- essentially everything but Medicaid. This government is not in the business of social programs.
In fact, this graph should really piss you off:
If you believe in social programs, that is. It represents how much funding the federal government is giving to the states to implement federal programs (like Medicaid, food stamps, public education programs and other social services). That downward creep may seem innocuous, but when you consider the demographic change in terms of aging and the growth among populations with lower educational attainment, it seems like shooting oneself in the foot to cut the sort of family security programs that can help the growing numbers of proles ascend into the middle class. Which is where we need them to be if we as a society want to maintain a decent standard of living.
I wish I had time to go on about this, but I have to get back to my reading.