But, how could you let this happen?

“But, how could you let this happen?” is a phrase often uttered after an event has made the headlines. People are incredulous and leaders, in response, will look at others to blame for the recent turn of events. Yet, oftentimes, the leaders omit their role in the event which occurred by their failure to act. Or, the event was going to happen, and no proactive action was taken to lessen the impact.

I have written before about how social workers are sometimes thrown under the bus for a family treating a child poorly or rampant substance abuse exposing children to things they should not see at their ages. Invariably, the social worker is handling far too many clients due to budget cuts over the years, so that families do not get the attention needed. Depending on travel, capabilities, types of family challenges, and numbers of family members, a social worker should ideally have less than twenty clients. The ratio of 16 to 1 is often mentioned as ideal. Yet, when something goes wrong, we often see social workers with 150 or 200 clients, which means no family gets the attention they need. I have the greatest admiration for social workers, but even Mother Teresa would have a problem with the caseload.

However, this line of questioning is much broader than making sure we staff sufficient numbers of social workers to meet a community’s needs. It gets into most areas of politics and governance. Last week, I was watching a leader of the US border guards on the news describing the problems with the influx of child refugees. He defined and demonstrated how difficult the job is and noted we are already understaffed due to the sequestration budget from last fall. So, to state the obvious, we have people in Congress who, in addition to not passing an Immigration Bill, have not funded the open positions in the border patrol making it harder for them to secure the border. Please reread that last statement, as we have some Congressmen and women who are insisting we secure the border, yet they won’t fund staff to secure the border, in general. This is before the latest request for funds to handle the refugees.

Yesterday, I was encouraged that a bi-partisan bill was agreed upon between the House and Senate committees on handling veterans’ affairs. Senator Bernie Sanders (I) and Representative Jeff Miller (R) are the key proponents (kudos to both). Yet, when the VA Hospital problems hit the fan earlier this year on wait times and veterans not getting served, the echo from Congress was loud, “how could you let this happen?” A veteran leader noted this is the same Congress who would not sign off on Senator Sanders bill earlier this year to address known concerns saying it was too much money, but offered no compromise solution. Yet, they did not do a mea culpa and say we screwed up earlier. Our leaders talk a big game about taking care of veterans,  but we are much more prone to fund tanks and planes we don’t need, than take care of wounded soldiers. Soldiers who have fought much longer and, since fighting among civilians, have been exposed to more PTSD need our help and not just our “atta-boys and girls.” Words are cheap, very cheap. Thank you Senator Sanders and Representative Miller for your actions to support our troops.

Finally, I will drift back to another favorite topic of some and that is Benghazi. “How could you let Americans get killed?” is asked. This issue has been put to bed for eighteen months in a non-partisan review led by Admiral Mullens and Ambassador Pickering, neither of whom were asked before Congressional Committees to speak on their report from December, 2012 until the committees were apprised of this oversight. The report went through all of the areas where we could have done better, but one area was interesting. Security of all embassies had been shortchanged by budget cuts in funding from Congress. So, we cared less about securing our embassies and then cried foul when something happened. And,this is not the first time our embassies and foreign service personnel have been attacked. “How could you let this happen?” the same folks asked.

The two common themes from the above are budget cuts impact service and it is hypocritical to totally blame someone else for something you, as a group, had a hand in causing. As a business person and volunteer board member of non-profit groups, I recognize fully that budgets are not infinite and require trade-offs. I do think we need serious discussions about where we spend our money. Yet, I am also mindful there are some that want to axe everything without noting what services are being performed. And, I also am aware there are those who say cut this or cut that, but when reminded that people back home or funders’ businesses are impacted, change their mind. There are so many military weapons that are not needed and are stockpiling, yet because of funders and lobbyist efforts, we cannot stop making them, e.g.

We have a deficit and debt problem in this country. The answer that the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission came to in December, 2010 is both spending cuts and revenue increases are needed. Before we have other “what-ifs” happen, we need to take a look at that report as a plan to start from.




5 thoughts on “But, how could you let this happen?

  1. Note to Readers: I purposefully decided not to reference one of the greater sins of budget cut backs and deregulation as they relate to environmental groups. Industries that expose people and environment to chemicals and fossil fuels development or retrieval would prefer to self govern with no one looking over their shoulder. I have written several posts related to this topic, but limiting governance in these groups through cuts leaves us in a very precarious position. The BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was last checked by an inexperienced and overworked reviewer. The site of the coal related chemical spill in West Virginia last year had not been checked for over twenty years. The cause for coal ash spill in North Carolina may have been known about, but no one at Duke Energy did anything. Either way, with the TVA coal ash spill over two years ago in Tennessee, some one should have been more proactive, especially the regulators. And, frackers are fracking away with little governance and guilt. The data is mounting on the bad news with fracking and yet, the industry continues its modus operandi and doing every thing in their power to deny, discredit, disinform, diffuse and defray exposure as cheaply as possible and with confidential settlements.

  2. Well said. I have had many personal conversations with individuals who favour budget cuts in general. When I explain the impacts on services and on people “like them,” they often change their minds. The voices of budget-cutters make good sound bites. Explaining service cut impacts takes patience, and most people don’t take the time to become informed. It’s easier just to hear the budget cut rallying cry and run with it.

    • Thanks. There is an old line that goes like any idiot can get elected talking about tax cuts. You are right it sounds good, but we need better financial stewardship in our elected officials. This is lacking in our federal and state legislatures. Yes, we need to be efficient, but…

  3. The phrase “how could you let this happen” assigns all ownership and responsibility on the other party. When the phrase “how could we let this happen” puts ownership and responsibility on both parties. They are good at deflecting while running to their voters and begging for money. The VA has been a mess under Republican and Democratic leadership.

    • Excellent point. I think when begin using “we” words it will be huge strides. The VA has been an evolving mess, with more clients, more PTSD and more people who have survived loss of limbs and head injuries. We are much better at prosecuting wars than dealing with the aftermath and it is a collective failure. Thanks for your judicious comments.

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