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Dr. Michael Forster

Mississippi social workers need to watch, think, act

If you think this is bad, wait, it’s going to get worse.  The poorest state in the USA is likely to spiral down further under the impact of continuous budget slashing at the state level (Gov. Bryant just ordered the 3rd cut to the current year’s budget, the 5th in the last two years, and is calling for even more cuts next year), and eventual cuts to federal human services funding by the Trump administration.  As per usual, the most vulnerable will endure the most suffering.

The governor likes to say (I heard him on the radio this morning, and he said it again) that (1) he must balance the budget, and when revenues are down, as they are, that means cuts, and (2) Mississippi is not alone, with 30 or more other states enduring the same economic woes as we are.

True as far as it goes, but this line doesn’t go nearly far enough.  What the governor doesn’t like to remind us is that Mississippi, along with most of the others states in fiscal trouble, has seriously hurt its revenue by slashing taxes and refusing to enact new taxes of any kind, based on the false belief (a virtual article of faith on the political right wing) that tax reductions painlessly engender booming economies and robust new revenue streams.  When the boom doesn’t arrive, budget cuts to education, health care, mental health, public safety, public infrastructure, and just about everything else “public,” necessarily ensue.

Unless this rapid race to the bottom is checked, things can only get worse.  Last year (2016) Gov. Bryant signed into law the biggest package of tax cuts in Mississippi history, scheduled to start kicking in in 2018.  And we haven’t even started to factor in the financial impact on poor ole Mississippi of an expected repeal of the Affordable Care Act and federal Medicaid cuts.

Pay attention social workers.  We can’t assume that “tomorrow will be more or less like today.”  It decidedly will not be.  Watch. Think.  Act.

Dr. Michael Forster

Standing up for science over “alternative facts”

Boston’s Copley Square yesterday afternoon saw a rally of science supporters appalled by the Trump administration’s anti-science embrace of “alternative facts,” declaring their commitment to fight policies that diminish the role of science in American society, deny the findings of scientific inquiry, or otherwise abuse scientific truth.
MIT postdoctoral fellow Geoffrey Supran summed up why he attended the rally – “We scientists want to send a message to Mr. Trump… Neither scientists nor citizens are going to stand idly by while the administration peddles anti-science rhetoric….”  More demonstrations are planned; science supporters in the hundreds of thousands have pledged to march in cities around the world on Earth Day (April 22).
“Science” is not just what happens in a lab, or through means of specialized equipment.  Social work rests on a foundation of social and behavioral science that runs deep and wide, and understands the denial of reality – including the mendacious marketing of “alternative facts” – as a form of pathology calling for corrective intervention.
Dr. Michael Forster

USA, Mississippi sorely in need of competent leadership

Still harboring doubts that our nation and our state desperately need leadership capable of grappling effectively with reality?  Then take a look at highlights of President Trump’s first solo press conference – (the frequent flashes of paranoia are disturbing indeed), and the latest economic news out of Jackson – (page 1 of the Clarion-Ledger): Continued out-migration from the state, continued high unemployment, continued first place in poverty, disability, and negative health outcomes, and near last place in educational attainment.  So what is the plan of Gov. Bryant and the Republican leadership?  More budget cuts for state services this fiscal year, and even bigger cuts for mental health, health, and higher education (and who knows what else?) next year.

Yeah, disinvestment in the very services to citizens that might spell some progress against the worst social ills plaguing us – that’s real leadership for you.


Dr. Michael Forster

HB 1425 threatens professional board autonomy; urge a “NO” vote in the Mississippi Senate

HB 1425 has passed the Mississippi House of Representatives and moved last week to the Senate for action.  The bill grants the governor power to conduct an independent review of rules, regulations, enforcement provisions, and all the rest of each occupational board, with an aim to get to the “least restrictive regulation necessary to protect the public and promote competition, innovation and job growth.”

Reducing regulation is a Republican touchstone principle, and it looks like the new super-majority in the legislature means to take aim at the alleged over-regulation of occupations, including the social work profession.  Sure, there’s a promise to “protect the public,” but don’t buy that line; in Republican world, “competition and job growth” (read “race to the bottom” on both worker wages and quality) will trump public protection every time.

This one is a no-brainer for social workers.  Contact your Senator today and tell him or her to vote “NO” on HB 1425 in no uncertain terms.

To review the bill, click on the following link:

House Bill 1425 actions and bill text (choose the pdf version)


Dr. Michael Forster

Mississippi out of sync with most states in higher ed funding

“Inside Higher Ed” reports the good news that most states are raising allocations for state universities –…/states-report-34-percent-i…

Not so in Mississippi, of course, where mid-year cuts continue and will become permanent (quite likely along with still more new cuts) in next year’s budget. Make no mistake – this is a grave threat to USM, one far more imminent than any possibly posed by a reorganization. No one is sitting on fat reserves, least of all the School of Social Work and the College of Health, so how might new reductions be made? We’re already dealing with travel spending restrictions and hiring freezes. If history is a guide, expect a bevy of ideas – many if not most of them bad – to begin circulating soon.