Big, gaping hole in the safety net

I appreciate it when people have the courage to say what needs to be said, even if it’s not at all cheery or ‘new economy’ or feel good or anything like that.

I’m tired of hearing people talk about how the nonprofit sector is going to take up the slack created by declining government support for social services, how private is better because it’s more nimble, how nonprofits are learning to do more with less. I’m tired of it because it’s not only not true; it’s really dangerous, because it paints over the true hardship that many nonprofit organizations are experiencing and the devastation that the resulting gaps create in the lives of those that these organizations seek to serve.

The fact that, in the last year, more than ONE THIRD of organizations surveyed in various studies discussed in this report have had to cut operations due to declining revenues and/or escalating operating costs, in the face of increased demand for services, is bad, bad news. And it suggests what we should never forget about bad economic times: the demand for social services, like unemployment insurance or Medicaid, is counter-cyclical–it rises at precisely the time at which we are least able to afford it.

This report confirms: individual, corporate, and foundation giving to charitable causes is down (giving lie to the idea that ‘the generosity of the American people’ will somehow make up for slashed public investments). That’s why we need high levels of investment from the only entity with the collective fiscal might to meet the need: the federal government. I don’t like the way that they qualify the report with the phrase ‘not asking for a handout’ from the public sector, in light of budget difficulties at all levels of government; to me, this weakening of the position is unnecessary. What we’re asking for/demanding is an investment in people in need and in our communities, to, together, build a stronger society. And no amount of ‘collaboration’ or ‘new thinking’ is going to get that done alone: we need money.

Special Report on the Safety Net

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