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Friday, 12 June 2015 05:39

Illinois Austerity Governor Proposes Plan to Condemn Poor to Extreme Cold and Heat

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aaaausterity(Photo: 401(K) 2012

Here is a lamentable historical fact to consider when reflecting upon a recent cruel proposal of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to deny heat and air conditioning assistance to the poor: In 1995, a severe heat wave in Chicago caused approximately 750 deaths among residents who could not afford air conditioning. 

Illinois has one of the largest debts among US states, with billions of dollars in additional unfunded liability. The state legislature - which is currently controlled by Democrats - is wrangling over a budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. Rauner is threatening to veto the proposed Democratic state financial plan because it includes a projected deficit, which the Democrats want to resolve at a later date.

Rauner, who champions austerity for the poor and working class while promoting economic incentives for corporations, appears largely indifferent to the lesson of 1995 in Chicago. Indeed, according to The Chicago Tribune, the governor is proposing saving a paltry "$90 to $95 million a year" by denying energy subsidies to the poor and elderly to pay for air conditioning and heat:

The governor's plan to withhold state money that helps poor residents pay their electric and gas bills was met with concern and resistance Thursday [June 11] at a hearing in Chicago.

Seniors, people with disabilities and parents of young children shared stories of hardship at the Loop hearing, saying in written or oral testimony that they rely on the money to heat and cool their homes during frigid Illinois winters and sweltering summers. The program, they said, also helps preserve basic decencies such as the ability to cook, refrigerate food, wash clothes and take a hot shower.

This cruel and life-threatening plan is part of the governor's larger war on the poor:

Gov. Bruce Rauner announced plans earlier this month to suspend the state-funded portion of the program July 1 as part of a sweeping proposal of spending cuts that included [reducing or eliminating] programs that help the poor with child care costs and help the elderly stay out of nursing homes....

They...represent an attempt to pressure some Democratic lawmakers to agree to the pro-business, anti-union agenda he has made a condition of getting a budget agreement.

Ah, there's the rub. Rauner is taking a page out of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's playbook. Break unions, enrich corporations and the wealthy, and rein in the budget on the backs of the poor. That's the basic condensed austerity formula.

The "financial plan" Rauner is proposing is to let those in economic need suffer - and even die - by a thousand (budget) cuts. It's just another example of what happens when people are deemed disposable.

Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout.