29 Republican Governors, including Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin, have asked Minority US Senate and House leaders to block-grant Medicaid funds for the states. These governors decry the need for flexibility in managing state budgets and meeting the health care needs of their citizens. Indeed, states headed by both Democrat and Republican governors are struggling and all governors support the concepts of flexibility, transparency, accountability, and partnership as concerns federal-state appropriations and obligations.

I have great concerns, however, about block-granting Medicaid, especially as it might impact children.

Child advocates understand and agree with the need to rein in the budget and to control Medicaid costs. At same time, we are very concerned that only 22% of Medicaid spending is used by children who comprise 58% of the Medicaid population. Block-granting of Medicaid pits that non-voting, under-represented group (i.e. children) against voting and vocal constituencies.

Likewise, experience suggests that future appropriations from the federal government under a block-grant will not keep up with skyrocketing health care costs or the cost of inflation. Thus the pain of program cuts (and more political haggling) is simply thrust onto the states.

Child advocates, community and business leaders, and parents need to communicate with federally elected officials and governors now: protect our children. Do not block-grant Medicaid! However, if you do, do not jeopardize the next generation of leaders, families and advocates by compromising their health, safety, and education today….and as you address state budgets in the future!

As The World Turns…..

Indeed, the budget conversations in DC do seem like a soap opera. AND the world is watching.

If we do not finalize a new debt ceiling by Aug. 2nd, the faith and credit of the US government will be in default for the first time ever. As it is, several major international financial standards have reduced or threatened to reduce the US credit standing now due to our lack of resolution and clear commitment to our budget and debt situation.

These are indeed very tough decisions. Surely there are many details and considerations that must be understood both in the immediate future and in the long-term.

I do not profess to have the answers. However, I do know that if the budget that has passed the House, which would force WIC- the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – to turn away 200,000 to 350,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year (-2,300 to -4,000 women and children impacted in Oklahoma alone), is allowed to become law, then the values of the Congress are not the values of most Americans.

Similarly, the House budget plan converts SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps) into a “block grant” program and cuts SNAP funding by $127 billion in the 2012‐2021 period. This would eliminate millions of Americans from the program at a time when they have been forced to seek help – many for the first time – due to the problems in our economy. Again, if this is allowed to happen, the values of this Congress are not the values of most Americans.

A blatant omission of Congress’s duties has been to omit consideration of revenue enhancements (i.e. raising revenue, restricting tax breaks, etc.). These discussions must be, but have not been, a part of any balanced discussion about the US budget and economy.

One does not need to know all the answers to understand that hungry Americans cannot be the productive workforce we need. Desperate people often behave badly and dangerously in their homes and communities when driven to despair. Babies cannot grow their brains and bodies for future health and productivity if adequate nutrition is withheld. Children cannot become the leaders we need for the future when hunger prevents them from learning, imagining, and creating the skills our country will need.

The US budget IS a moral document as much as a fiscal plan and guide. Cutting WIC and SNAP are immoral when no alternative is offered to feed America.