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About the cover

 

D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e    May 2008


Your Turn

Do you have the write stuff? Here's your chance.



This is the time of year, as the weather warms and Desert Exposure readers begin to come out of hibernation, when we move into our season of reader involvement. Last month, of course, featured our annual reader survey. If you haven't already told us your likes and dislikes and rated our regular features, you've still got until May 7 to make your opinion heard. You can use the form on page A7 of the April issue or — even easier, for you and for us — go to www.desertexposure.com/survey and tell us what you think with a few quick clicks.

But that's just round one, if you will, of our warm-weather invitation to readers to play a part in "the biggest little paper in the Southwest." This month kicks off our annual writing contest, where we open our pages to all the writers out there — previously published or not — to send us stories, essays, articles and poems that evoke life in Southwest New Mexico. The deadline for entries is July 18, and a grand-prize winner plus four runner-ups will have their writing published in the September issue. The grand prize also comes with a $100 prize, and each runner-up wins $25.

While most of the year we concentrate on relatively standard journalism — reported articles, with the occasional essay plus our regular columns — our annual contest is wide open. We welcome personal essays, fiction, poetry and pretty much any other form of words on paper. Plus of course we're always delighted to receive reader-written articles. The only requirement is that the writing should somehow express some aspect of living here in what we like to think of as "Desert Exposure country" — past, present or future (though we can't recall ever getting any science-fiction entries). Length is equally flexible, though as a practical matter we wouldn't have room for any winning entry longer than, say, 8,000 words.

And, yes, the prolific among you can enter more than one piece of writing.

You don't have to be a professional writer of any sort to enter; if you've always had a secret desire to see your scribblings in print, this could be your chance. Write from the heart, make us laugh or cry or raise an eyebrow, and come September it could be your words that folks are reading in these pages.

To enter, send your submission(s) to Desert Exposure Writing Contest, PO Box 191, Silver City, NM 88062. You can also email your entries — either as an attached Word, RTF or plain text (TXT) file, or simply copied and pasted into the body of an email — to contest@desertexposure.com Make sure to include your name and complete contact information including postal address so we can give you the good news if you win. Keep a copy of your entry, as submissions cannot be returned.

Even if you don't win, we'll consider your entry for possible future publication in Desert Exposure at our usual rates.

So, to review: It's May, time to take your bike out of the garage, hang the windbreaker in the closet, fire up the barbecue grill, tackle all those gardening chores you put off last fall. . . then fill out our reader survey at www.desertexposure.com/survey and turn your thoughts to writing a winning entry for our annual contest. Got all that?

No pressure, but without your help there are going to be some embarrassingly blank pages in our September issue. So start typing!

 



The 90-Minute Tradeoff

When money talks, what's it saying about our priorities?

They say you can judge a society, not by the lofty ideals it proclaims, but by where it spends its money. Talk is cheap, in other words. If you want to know what a civilization truly deems important, to quote Jerry Maguire, "Show me the money!"

By that standard, you'd have to shake your head and wonder what some impartial outside observer — a visiting space alien, say — would make of the values of the United States of America, circa 2008.

Here's a headline in the Albuquerque Journal last month: "Medicaid Budget Short — State Aims to Slow Enrollment of Kids." Despite an additional $14.5 million appropriated by the state legislature, the Human Services Department (HSD) expects a $10 million shortfall in Medicaid funds in the fiscal year ending June 30. This is not a short-term problem: The 2008-09 budget for Medicaid is nearly $26 million shy of the department's request.

To stretch those limited dollars, HSD will "slow Medicaid enrollment" to reduce the number of children on its rolls by 5,000 this fiscal year. "In 2009, we have a much bigger problem," adds state Medicaid director Carolyn Ingram. "What we're looking at is trying to flatten out enrollment growth of kids so it's not so steep."

Ingram would probably be the first to concede that's a penny-wise, pound-foolish solution, since until this budget crunch HSD had been working to enroll more New Mexico children in hopes that getting kids health care now would reduce costs later. Those outreach efforts will now be shelved.

Also taking a hit will be in-home care for the elderly and disabled.

Although the immediate impetus for these cuts comes from a state funding shortfall, Medicaid is a state-federal partnership. Unlike Medicare, each state runs its own Medicaid system, which receives federal matching funds and grants as long as it conforms to certain guidelines. As health-care costs have soared and federal dollars have been cut, states have been squeezed; nationally, Medicaid costs now average more than 20 percent of state budgets.

But the squeeze is only beginning, if President Bush's budget proposals become a reality. The president proposes slashing Medicaid funding by $17.4 billion over the next five years — largely by shifting more costs to the states. Besides these legislative reductions, the Bush administration has already cut $12 billion over the next five years by administrative actions and plans another $800 million in "savings."

And it's not just Medicaid that's hurting. Other federal grants are being slashed, contributing to budget shortfalls in more than half of all states, totaling more than $34 billion, according to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. Under the president's proposed 2008-09 budget, grants to state and local governments for all programs other than Medicaid would decline by $18.9 billion — 7.4 percent — from the previous year, after adjusting for inflation. At just 1.6 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the proposed FY2009 grants would be significantly lower as a percent of the economy than at any time since at least 2001.

For New Mexico, this means a cut in non-Medicaid grants of $106.2 million; adjusted for inflation, that's $153 million or nearly $78 for every New Mexican.

According to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, these federal funding cuts "include a constellation of reductions that will harm the most vulnerable children in the country." Programs that would suffer — even as a weakening economy adds to the ranks of the needy — include services that protect children from neglect and abuse, foster care and adoption services, the Safe and Stable Families program, vocational and adult education, training and employment services, energy assistance to help low-income households pay heating bills, and supplemental food for low-income elderly.



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