Opinion: Budget cutting to prosperity?

This past week I read an article about the state of the Idaho foster care system. Those who know me understand that this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I was a foster parent. My two amazing children are adopted from the foster care system.

Most of us will never directly experience the foster care system. And, unfortunately, it is much more convenient to focus on demonstrating how much we “care” about children rather than actually showing care for them. Families are failing at an alarming rate, and Idaho is not immune.

Our legislators in their efforts to cut to prosperity have left gaping holes in our community that will plague our children for generations. Our family social workers, those tasked with helping struggling families, are often saddled with more than twice the recommended number of cases and families to work with. One of the primary reasons? Our state pays some of the lowest wages for these positions. These critical jobs require skills and training which are, quite honestly, not worth getting at the wages that they can expect to receive. Our representatives fight to keep these wages low to preserve an artificial surplus — while at the same time crowing about tax cuts that aren’t even a priority for most Idahoans.

It doesn’t stop there. Many of Idaho’s children need access to mental health services. Children who have experienced the trauma of being removed from their families often have an even greater need, yet our entire state is designated a mental health shortage area. This lack of access leads to long waits for services — further compounding issues. Not to mention the additional toll it places on both social workers and Idahoans trying to hold families together as they wait for resources and services that may not arrive in time. Could our legislators do something about this? They could if they were not prioritizing budget cuts above investments in our people and communities.

I don’t even need to waste words on the state of our public education system. We all know there’s a core of legislators actively working at the behest of extremist special interests to dismantle public education in Idaho. The Legislature would rather keep corporate tax rates low and force local school districts to beg local homeowners to fund our education system through increased property taxes. The state Legislature refuses to meet its constitutional obligations to provide uniform public education.

You’d think all this was enough to turn any parent’s stomach. However, after a quick glance at the comments on a local media site, I was shocked to see how many people were quick to point a finger at the children. As if children can control their circumstances.

Make no mistake. When a politician complains about future generations carrying the burden of our debt, what they are really doing is standing on the backs of our children, trading our children’s future to score short-term political points. They should be ashamed of themselves.

David Roth is the chair of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.