While national politicians argue about cuts to Social Security and Medicare down the road, cash-strapped state governments are cutting vital services for elderly Americans today. Those suffering most are often those with the least.

In California, budget cuts approved earlier this year mean the closure of some 300 adult day health centers. These centers serve 37,000 medically fragile elderly and disabled people — folks suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or other complications that make it impossible for them to function without assistance. The centers allow them to live a bearable life outside of a 24-hour institution. And they give the family members who care for them at home a desperately needed daytime respite.

While California’s situation may be the worst, it’s not unique. Washington state’s COPES (Community Options Program Entry System), which helps the frail elderly live at home, has also faced severe cuts, and there’s good reason to fear for similar efforts in other states.

The human misery that these cuts inflict doesn’t fall equally. One of the dirty little secrets of our supposedly “post-racial” society is that elderly African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos are far less likely than whites to have the resources needed for a reasonably secure retirement.

The Greenlining Institute’s recent report, “The Economic Crisis Facing Seniors of Color,” uncovered some shocking statistics. An astonishing 91 percent of Latino and African-American seniors are financially vulnerable, and while data on Asian-Americans is less complete, seniors in some Asian ethnic groups have poverty rates three to four times that of whites. People of color have had a higher proportion of their wealth tied up in their homes, taking a disproportionate hit during the foreclosure crisis, and are also less likely to work for an employer who offers a retirement plan.

So the communities that have the least and have suffered the most during the economic downturn are being hit again by cuts to vital programs for their elderly and frail.

The final irony is that these cuts aren’t even cost-effective. Adult day health centers and similar services save money in the long run. They keep people out of nursing homes, which cost about two and a half times as much.

And by providing care during the day, they allow the adult children of elderly parents to keep working and paying taxes. Without these services, many caregivers will have no choice but to give up their jobs and go on welfare.

It’s a truism that the test of a society is how it cares for its most vulnerable. America is failing that test.

Orson Aguilar is executive director and Carla Saporta is health program director of The Greenlining Institute, www.greenlining.org. They can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project