Jan 12 2012
“What you’re being told is ‘there’s not enough money for you’”
Posted by: Kevin B. Gilnack, Campaign Manager
Red herring: "a figurative expression in which a clue or piece of information is or is intended to be misleading, or distracting from the actual question." (Wikipedia)
False dichotomy: "a type of logical fallacy that involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are additional options (sometimes shades of grey between the extremes)" (Wikipedia)
Enid Borden, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels Association of America, wrote an excellent post in AgingToday titled "Hunger is not a choice." in it, he highlights a potential false dichotomy our sector can face when it comes to advocating for government funding or pursuing private dollars:
It seems like life is made up of an ongoing series of choices... At times, it feels as if we're forced to make difficult decisions at great cost. Yet life is also about taking a stand and refusing to make choices we don't necessarily have to make -- especially what I consider to be a "false" choice, like choosing between feeding elders and feeding children. ... Conditions of need that exist in American society pit our cause against a myriad of equally worthy causes, sometimes forcing the public to choose which cause to support
As elected officials debate the FY '13 budget, you will likely hear them discuss structural deficits, fewer one-time revenues, new expenses, and plenty of other red herrings aimed to distract from the real issue: where we choose to prioritize our tax dollars.
As advocates for a strong human services sector, we must speak in a united voice for all of our programs and reject the false question that Borden poses in his post: "Do we care more for our children or our elders?"
Our Commonwealth has a responsibility to deliver strong services to all those who may seek them -- from transitional assistance to vocational services, developmental disabilities to substance use recovery, homelessness to public health services, and all of the important services funded and contracted through the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS).
At a time when the Commonwealth is giving away $115 million in the form of a 75-cent/week tax cut and we're giving away millions in film tax credits to big banks and Wal-Mart, we know that there could be money for our programs.
So, as state lawmakers being crafting the FY '13 budget and federal legislators prepare for sequestration, which "could mean draconian cuts to the programs that keep America's promise to the poor and elderly," it is incumbent on all of us to look past the distractions and false choices and stand up for the values and priorities we want our government to reflect.
I hope that The Caring Force will be your opportunity to speak out for all of our diverse and important programs. As we move forward, we will seek avenues that empower us to "lift all boats" rather than pitting one cause against the other. Look both for budget and legislative initiatives that can have an impact across EOHHS and for opportunities to speak out for the programs that you are connected to and care about most.
And remember, as Green-Rainbow Gubernatorial Candidate Jill Stein said at a 2010 human services candidate forum, "That money is there right now... I think this is a question of priorities... when you're being told there's not enough money, what you're being told is 'there's no money for you.'"
As you gear up to advocate for the services you receive or deliver and the funding needed to properly pay direct care professionals, don't let your elected officials make you choose between children or elders, or any one program against the other. Push back and them to show that they care about protecting all of Massachusetts' most vulnerable by finding the revenue to adequately fund all of our programs.
I look forward to working with you in the months (and years) ahead as we get this message out and fight for a stronger human services system.
Please take a moment to shareany red herrings or false dichotomies you've heard elected officials frame when it comes to funding our programs. Or share what your greatest concerns are for the budget ahead.