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Meet Daniela

By German Lopez · July 10th, 2013 · Commentary
commentary 2013-07-10

If Republicans got their way, women like Daniela would be stuck in a perpetual cycle of near-poverty, with limited options to get a better education and climb out of the economic rut that bad chance — or perhaps parents going through the same cycle — has put them in.

Daniela is not a real person, but the hypothetical low-income Cincinnati woman of the future exemplifies where Republican policies are taking Ohio and the rest of the nation.

Daniela is born today to a low-income family in Cincinnati. With her birth, her family can expect some welfare and health care benefits, including Medicaid, because of previously established state eligibility rules.

But the chances of publicly funded preschool are pretty grim. Because of across-the-board spending cuts at the federal level that Republicans kept in place despite calls for repeal from Democrats, the Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency plans to carry out $1 million in cuts by dropping hundreds of kids from the Head Start program. For families like Daniela’s, that makes preschool and other early education programs even less affordable and more inaccessible.

Once Daniela is old enough for kindergarten, she can expect a lower quality education across the board as Cincinnati Public Schools deals with $15 million less state funding than it received in 2009. That’s because the funding increases in the current 2014-2015 budget aren’t enough to make up for cuts in the 2012-2013 state budget.

When she comes of age, Daniela is going to have an even more difficult time if she becomes sexually active. Not only did Republicans deprioritize funding for abortion clinics in the latest state budget, the budget’s changes are also defunding clinics that only provide access to contraceptive care — birth control pills, condoms and pregnancy screenings — but no abortion services.

So if Daniela becomes sexually active, she’ll likely have to pay for her own birth control and screenings if her parents are still among the 1.6 million Ohioans who were reportedly uninsured in 2010.

If she gets pregnant, it’s going to be a lot more difficult for her to choose to terminate the pregnancy before she places another child in her own dire economic situation.

Despite the circumstances, Daniela graduates high school and grows up. She works, but her annual pay isn’t low enough to qualify for Medicaid — if only Ohio Republicans had expanded Medicaid to cover single earners making $15,856 or less — or high enough to buy a health plan through the insurance exchanges set up by the federal Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

Still, Daniela wouldn’t be able to expect much in the way of tax relief from the current state budget plan. An analysis from left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio shows her taxes going up by $12 once a higher sales tax outweighs her slightly lower income taxes. Instead, the tax cuts are going mostly to Ohio’s wealthiest — a disproportional benefit Gov. John Kasich defended by using the classic “job creators” line.

Daniela probably appreciates that her boss is making more money, but she likely also realizes that the couple hundred bucks from the budget’s small business tax cut aren’t enough for her boss to hire a full-time or even part-time employee. 

Given all of the problems, Daniela might feel compelled to vote against the politicians who helped bring her to this point, but even that would be more difficult in the Republicans’ ideal world. Since Daniela works hard and lives paycheck to paycheck, she doesn’t have much in the way of free time during the weekdays. When election time comes around, it’s very difficult or even impossible for her to make the trip to a polling booth. 

It would be much easier for Daniela to vote during the weekend — something many Ohio counties plentifully allowed in the past — but Republicans in the state legislature and Jon Husted, Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, have tried their best to do away with that.

But if Daniela does make it to the voting booth, she might not be in the clear. State Republicans still want to enforce strict voter ID standards — a measure that would hurt young minorities like Daniela the most, according to a study from professors at the University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis.

In effect, Republican policies will make it more difficult for Daniela to climb out of her dire economic situation. If she gets pregnant, chances are her baby will be stuck in the same economic malaise. And if she wants to vote for policy changes to improve her situation, Republicans are aiming to make even her most basic right more difficult to execute.

Again, Daniela is not a real person. But do Ohioans want to live in a state where she’s such a real possibility?

CONTACT GERMAN LOPEZ: glopez@citybeat.com or @germanrlopez



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