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  • Compassionate Conservatism

       April 11, 2005

    "I call my philosophy and approach compassionate conservatism. It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and results. And with this hopeful approach, we will make a real difference in people's lives."

    -President George W. Bush

    Compassionate conservatism has become a joke to some and an almost lost ideal for others. I was a liberal Democrat until I was 20 and had to apply for welfare. Living in poverty had a huge impact on my political thinking. The Census Bureau has classified 35 million people in America as “poor,” but some interesting government statistics have been noted in Understanding Poverty in America by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative organization.

    • 46% of poor households own their own homes.
    • 76% of poor households have air conditioning. Thirty years ago, only 36% of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
    • Nearly 75% of poor households own a car; 30% own two or more cars.
    • 97% of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
    • 78% have a VCR or DVD player; 62% have cable or satellite TV.
    • 73% percent own microwaves, more than half have a stereo, and a third have a dishwasher.

    The report concluded:

    The living conditions of persons defined as poor by the government bear little resemblance to notions of "poverty" held by the general public. Real material hardship does occur, but it is limited in scope and severity.

    But the living conditions of the average poor person should not be taken to mean that all poor Americans live without hardship. Roughly a third of poor households do face material hardships such as overcrowding, intermittent food shortages, or difficulty obtaining medical care.

    People living in chronic poverty generally have stable living conditions but typically live in a bad neighborhoods and have low paying, part time jobs. Acute poverty is typically of shorter duration and much more severe. Acute poverty is often caused by an underlying condition like drug addition, mental illness, or abuse. We need fast, effective and flexible short term solutions for those problems, with the goal of moving people into the system that deals with chronic poverty.

    I was 20 when my husband died, and I went from the chronic poverty that pretty much defined everyone my age who didn’t live with their parents, to acute poverty. I was pregnant and jobless. I applied for welfare and found the system corrupt, wasteful, and self-perpetuating. During hours in line and waiting rooms, I got to know other women who were on or applying for welfare. Most, like me at the time, had few job skills. Many were raised on welfare. The majority could not speak well enough to get an entry-level job in an office – the kind of job likely to pay enough to live on, with benefits. Like me, most of them applied for welfare because they were pregnant or had children but no husband or boyfriend to support them or their babies. In general, these women had no expectations of a better future. They relied on their children for income.

    The problem is complex. A typical poor family with children is supported by approximately 16 hours of work per week. Increasing work to full time (difficult to do in the case of many minimum wage jobs that are geared towards middle class teenagers) would lift about 75% of children out of poverty. The other main reason for poverty is no father in the home. If families had two incomes, almost 75% of them would not be living in poverty.

    As in the public school system, it’s clear that providing more money does not necessarily affect the outcome. Giving fish to the poor in the form of a monthly AFDC check keeps people in bondage to the system. Teaching people to fish – educational programs like the one I attended – is better but still not enough. I could attend a vocational program because my baby had not been born yet. If I had needed daycare services, it would have been impossible. In addition to that, vocational training alone is insufficient. We need to equip people with all the skills, knowledge and habits they need to succeed. Teaching a woman clerical skills will not help her if she shows up at an interview wearing flip-flops. Life skills like how to dress for interviews and keep a job once you have it need to be taught. And assistance needs to include things like access to work-appropriate clothing.

    I was on welfare about 6 months. I went from being a barely employable high school graduate to a clerical worker because of the free training I received. From there, I moved on to call center, help desk, and computer training jobs. I now own a small web development company with 3 employees, but the welfare and training I received in 1989-90 got me started. The system has undergone some reforms since I was on it, but we need more. Family-friendly welfare policies that include benefits to married couples, subsidized job and life skills training for both parents, and access to daycare for preschoolers would solve a lot of the chronic poverty problem in America. The best thing about all those measures is that they are temporary. Compassionate conservatism means reforming and investing in the system so that more people can help themselves. Isn’t that something Democrats and Republicans should agree on?


    Posted by Laura Curtis at April 11, 2005 09:09 AM

        The trackback entry for this page is : http://www.inthehat.com/mt/mt-tb.cgi/821

     

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    Comments

    #  April 11th, 2005 9:47 AM      kayswan
    Right on. Like the way you think! And write.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 10:00 AM      BrianH
    Laura,

    That is a great story. You are an example of how the system SHOULD work.

    We SHOULD provide temporary aid to people who need help getting on their own feet. Unfortunately, the current system is set up to encourage people to remain on welfare instead of helping them to move off of welfare.

    "The majority could not speak well enough to get an entry-level job in an office..." This is obviously a problem with the education system. Unfortunately, by the time these people are old enough to collect welfare, they've already been passed through as many as 12 years of school. An end to social promotion may help this a little. A primary goal of the "no child left behind" was to prevent adults with high school diplomas that can't read. The implementation of the programs may not be able to acheive those goals (it's still too soon to tell).

    Personally, I'd like to move to some sort of "workfare" program in order to get people into the "work for a living" mindset. Especially if part of the "job" is to attend classes that teach exactly the skills you mentioned (say 50% work and 50% classes). Daycare would have to be part of the program as well and could be provided by some of the people in the program.
     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 1:40 PM      Henk
    Good for you. I have a similar story.I never went on welfare, but I did use government assistance in the form of student loans, Pell Grants and Medical Assistance. ( All things Republicans are cutting, by the way.) In my first year out of College I paid more in Federal income taxes than all the Federal assistance I recieved in five years of school. Was that a good investment or what?
    Studies have been done on welfare recipients and the majority mirror your experience. Not that you aren't special, its just that the majority of people only use welfare as you have and then grab opportunities when they can. Those opportunities have dwindled under Bush unfortunately, but some are still there.
    Again, good for you. I am sure that being a widow at 20 was tough and being pregnant on top of that, wow. You beat the odds.
    I know Democrats agree with you and work hard to create opportunities for unfortunates like yourself. As a Democrat I work to make sure that others have the opportunities I have had. I am not so sure about Republicans. I hope you are giving back to the society that helped you, by ensuring that your Republican friends support porgrams that lift folks out of poverty.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 1:52 PM      kris
    Henk,

    You say:

    I hope you are giving back to the society that helped you, by ensuring that your Republican friends support porgrams that lift folks out of poverty.


    which is telling. Yes, good programs exist that can help people better their lives. But don't you think someone like Laura can give back to society in ways other than voting for Democrats? I'd say that Laura gives back plenty by the mere fact that she's a successful business woman with 3 employees. Those 3 jobs are a much bigger contribution to society than whining about how opportunities have allegedly dwindled under Bush.

    Frankly, I kind of took your comments as a bit insulting to Laura. It's like you're implying that because she used government programs she's a hypocrite if she's not a Democrat now.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 1:55 PM      Henk
    Define Whinning.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 2:01 PM      kris
    whining:

    among the definitions:

    To complain or protest in a childish fashion.

    A complaint uttered in a plaintive tone.

    I think they fit.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 2:02 PM      Henk
    I've just re-read my comment and can't see where I suggested some vote for Democrats. What I did suggest is that Laura, God Bless her, work within her chosen party to ensure that they support programs that she used to better herself. Anything less is rather Hippocritical, don't you think?
    As for providing jobs: That's great. Business people, and Republicans alway bring that up, "Oh, we, Me, they are providing jobs." Again thats great, but I have yet to find a business that didn't gain revenue from the jobs that they create. When that job stops providing revenue for the organization, bam, its gone. So is lining your pocket by the labor of another some altruistic societal good? I don't think so. It just capitalism.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 2:05 PM      Henk
    I was stating a fact, but if you choose to call that whinning that is your choice. It says something about you. Maybe your a bit to sensitive, ehh?  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 2:25 PM      james
    Henk, why don't you back up your wild allegations with some data? Show me what programs the Republicans are allegedly cutting.

    You talk as if all Dems do is work hard to create "opportunities" to people and that Republicans do it work hard to take opportunites away from people. If you want people to take you seriously, that's a foolish way to communicate your opinion.

    Exactly what "medical assistance" program did you get from the government? I know I didn't get "free" medical care in school. Nor did I get any handouts in the form of a grant - I took out loans, Stafford included, like most people do. I'll be paying those off for probably the next 30 years. Is it really your contention that the government should just hand out $150,000 to anyone who asks for it, on the theory that it will help them pay more tax in the future?

     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 2:30 PM      BVBigBro
    C'mon guys, lighten up. It's just a little condescension. What's a democrat without condescension?  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 2:41 PM      BrianH
    Henk,

    I think you'll find that Laura is an exception rather than the rule when it comes to welfare recipients. Many (most?) get on welfare and don't get off unless they're forced out. Very few are able to eventually start their own business and employ others. You mentioned studies that show the majority of welfare people are like Laura. I haven't seen such studies, but if you have a link, I'd LOVE to see it. It's possible my annecdotal exposure to welfare recipients is leaving an incorrect picture.

    You're refering to student grants and loans as if they're in the same class as welfare. They're not. Student programs by definition SHOULD produce the results that you experienced. They are used by people attempting to better their lives by getting training. It's no surprise that many (most?) people who use these programs end up with a middle class or better income.

    You seem to have a mixed picture of oportunities. On one hand you complain that oportunities have dwindled. On the other hand, you seem to deride Laura for providing jobs (AKA: oportunities) for herself and 3 other people. Which is it? Is providing employment for others a good thing or just "lining your pocket by the labor of another"?
     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 2:47 PM      Henk
    Wow, I guess I touched a never. Without going into the gory details, I was at the extreme end of the poverty level when I started school. That qualified me for assistance in the form of Pell Grants, work study and in this state some medical assistance. I got stafford loans as well. Sorry you didn't qaulify. Life isn't always fair. I worked three jobs getting through school and worked hard to avoid over borrowing. For example I only borrowed money to pay tution, never for living expenses. I'm not sure where your getting that $150,000 figure, talk about wild accusations, but I borrowed less that a tenth of that to get through two years at a Community College and three at a nice Lutheran College in Minneapolis. When I got out I got a great job with a large multi-national. Not having many deductions I paid a lot of taxes.

    Bush is reducing Pell Grants. http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/view/654/1/75/ What other research would you like me to do for you?  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 2:56 PM      kris
    Are you kidding me? From the site referenced above (the tagline is, by the way "Marxist Thought Online"):

    Pell Grant award eligibility for students is calculated by using the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Students with low EFC’s receive a higher Pell Grant award than those with higher EFC’s. The EFC is determined by the family’s or student’s income tax returns and possess a tax allowance. This allowance enables families and students to protect a fraction of their income from being considered eligible for higher educational expenses. This tax allowance includes income deducted for state and other taxes. There are several tables that list this tax allowance based on income. In June 2003, the Department of Education modified information used to determine the tax allowance for state and other taxes. These changes decrease the estimated tax allowance for families, and thus increase the amount of income earned that may be considered eligible for higher educational expenses. Though the tax allowance tables are supposed to be updated yearly, the tables currently being used to determine Pell Grant eligibility are being modified based on IRS data from 2000.

    A DOLLAR AND A DREAM

    Unfortunately, the difference between the economic situations of students in 2000 versus 2004 is phenomenal. While the pressures of capitalism have rapidly increased the cost of living in the U.S., increases in wages, especially for the working class and people of color, have lagged behind. And with tuition and fees on the rise nationwide, the ability to attend college will continue to be a struggle. If more accurate data were used to modify the tax allowance tables, the outlook for current recipients of the Pell Grant would be more positive.


    Yes, clearly this is a case of the evil Herr Bush slashing benefits for the poor, and not, you know, the government making adjustments so that people don't game the system.

    I especially like the start of the second paragraph "While the pressures of capitalism have rapidly increased the cost of living in the U.S.". Oh, yes, that evil capitalism. I might need some state sponsored therapy to deal with the pressures of it!  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:06 PM      BrianH
    I suspected Henk was a marxist from the way he phrased the comments about Laura employing people. His chosen link pretty much confirms it.

    "So is lining your pocket by the labor of another some altruistic societal good? I don't think so."

    Sounds like something right out of the communist party manifesto.

     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:08 PM      Henk
    Are you disputing the fact that Bush is cutting Pell Grants?  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:13 PM      Henk
    Sorry folks, I am not a Marxist. Just like you are not Facists.

    It is getting a little tiresome having to assist you all in your reading comprehension. Mis-stating what I wrote the way you do, but thanks for the conversation. It seems to be decending into name call,as so many right wing discussion do.

    Good luck Laura, and God Bless.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:18 PM      BrianH
    Henk,

    Of course we aren't Facists. The Facist movement grew out of the same Socialist movements that Communism grew out of. The Facists are more akin to Marxists than to Capitalists.

    Since Conservatives are mostly Capitalists, we Conservatives CAN'T be Facists.

     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:23 PM      james
    ah, comrade henk,

    sorry i wasn't clear. i got the $150,000 figure from my actual debt level - that's roughly what i personally owe in student loans. my question to you is, "do you think that the government should pay it off for me?"

    i've never understood the logic behind student grants: if you paid so much in income taxes your first year of working, why shouldn't you be expected to pay your grant money back? grants aren't free - they cost taxpayers money. so while i'm working hard to pay off my personal student loans, i'll also be paying yours off through increased tax premiums. what a country.


    you said:

    ... form of student loans, Pell Grants and Medical Assistance. ( All things Republicans are cutting, by the way.)


    I asked you to back up your accusation that the Republicans are cutting 1) student loans 2) pell grants and 3) medical assistance, and you come back with some commie rag that speaks to none of those. "republicans are cutting student loans." that's rich.
     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:27 PM      Henk
    Brain H.
    You seem like a reasonable person honestly I came to this page, because I agree with a lot of what Laura says, but like most of these blogs readers want confrontation not dialog.

    Take a little time and read these 14 defining characteristics of Facism.

    1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
    2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
    3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

    4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
    5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
    6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to (sic) media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
    7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
    8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed
    to the government's policies or actions.
    9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
    10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
    11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
    12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
    13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
    14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:30 PM      BVBigBro
    I believe the Pell Grant change is actually mandated by the Higher Education Act of 1965. The act stipulates annual adjustments for the state and local tax allowance. The people affected by this are the people who are close to the cutoff for eligibility and thus receive the lowest grants. The neediest are not affected by the change. You can blame this one on LBJ.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:31 PM      JohnTant
    Henk, spare everyone the wounded tone routine. It's been played out here.

    What do I mean? Well, you write this:
    Brain H.
    You seem like a reasonable person honestly I came to this page, because I agree with a lot of what Laura says, but like most of these blogs readers want confrontation not dialog.


    Yeah, all those awful blog readers who just want to stir up confrontation instead of having an honest dialogue...by posting, for example, something like this right out of the box:

    ...but I did use government assistance in the form of student loans, Pell Grants and Medical Assistance. ( All things Republicans are cutting, by the way.)
     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:33 PM      kris
    Nice BV,

    Way to ruin the fun with your 'facts' and 'explanations'!  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:35 PM      Laura
    Whew... I never expected to see this many comments! I appreciate the kind remarks and other feedback. This article was 1500 words and I cut it back to about 900, so there were some things that were not as clear as I would like. Here are some clarifications in no particular order:
    1. I can't emphasize enough that the current system is corrupt and quite possibly unfixable. The beaurocracy is ridiculous and overwhelming; basically a jobs program in and of itself. Also, this should be a state issue, not federal.
    2. The system as it stands now encourages single motherhood. That's just dumb. That's how people end up staying in the system for years, having more children in order to "get a raise."
    3. In my experience, what Democrats tend to term "cuts" are actually increases that are less than the increases Democrats asked for.
    4. I am the exception rather than the rule for a couple of reasons. First, I was *far* more employable even going in, than a lot of the women I met in line, just by virtue of the fact that I can speak standard English, free of slang, and write reasonably well. If you want an example of the literacy levels of a lot of those poor women, go read some 50 Cent lyrics. Would you hire someone at that literacy level? I wouldn't. But that is a whole unemployable subculture that is being left behind. Second, I was determined from the outset not to stay on welfare a minute longer than I had to. A lot of those women felt no shame at being on welfare, and were not motivated to get off it.
    5. As to giving back, I give almost half my income, time and services to charities and ministries that provide services more efficiently than government ever thought of doing, because they are not jobs programs for beaurocrats. My opinion is that government should have a minimal safety net in place, that is family-friendly, instead of what we have now, a system that encourages men to live outside the home where their children are and let the government take responsibility for them. It is also my opinion that churches who accept government money are foolish in the extreme, because there will always be some kind of regulation or strings attached.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:40 PM      BVBigBro
    Amen, Laura.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:41 PM      Henk
    James, If you borrowed 150,000 grand to go to school, and it didn't provide you with a job that paid enough to pay it back, your an idiot. What more can I say.
    I googled "Bush cut pell grants" and just grabbed one of the Many urls that popped up. I sent it without reading it. You of course don't make mistakes I do. I can send more urls, but I suspect that won't make you happy.

    As far as my paying back my grants, the point of my tax example is that it is good idea for the goverment to invest in education. Of course there are and should be limits. Not everyone makes good choices when they attend college as you've shown us.

    Personally in the 10 years since I graduated I have paid well over your 150000 in taxes, bought several properties on which I contribute quite a bit in property taxes and once and a while capital gains when I sell. All in all its been a good deal for me and the feds.

    Good luck with those loans. Invest in real estate, it might help you pay them off quicker.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:50 PM      BVBigBro
    Only 14 characteristics of fascism? what about funky mustaches? Hitler and Stalin both had them. So did Saddam.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:50 PM      Henk
    Kris and Johntant, its been fun and enlightening. Adios  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:58 PM      james
    for someone who has at least one misspelling in each of his posts you probably shouldnt be calling others "idiots." not that i normally point things like that out, but your attitude irks me.

    and the point of my question, my little know-it-all, was to point out that when government picks up the tab, people aren't smart consumers. grants = bad, loans = good. but i'm sure you already knew that - you're clearly much smarter than me.

    sorry i won't be able to respond to you anymore - i have to go beg for money on the street so i can make my (and your) loan payment.

    oh, woe is me! if only a socialist such as yourself could rescue me from my minimum wage existence!  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 3:59 PM      BrianH
    Henk,

    You still haven't answered the question, do you think providing jobs for others is a good thing or not?

    Your derisive comment about providing jobs, "rings" of marxism. If the link you picked was a random choice it is a strong coincidence.

    Read a biography of Mousolini or Hitler. You may be surprised to find out that both were Socialists.

     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 4:08 PM      james
    heh, i think it's cute that Henk's 14 points of fascism (which he notably didn't cite) comes from Laurence W. Britt at the Council for Secular Humanism.

    this article pops up at scholarly places like "Project for the Old American Century" where it's cited to in articles such as "George W. Bush and and the 14 points of Fascism."  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 4:13 PM      BVBigBro
    I dunno James. You sound more and more like you have a mustache.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 4:14 PM      BrianH
    For a great essay on the history of Fascism:



     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 4:24 PM      kris
    Yeah, you should see it. It puts Rollie Fingers' 'stache to shame!  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 6:53 PM      Henk
    James, great come back. Run this through your spell checker when you get a minute.

    My my my, you all see conspiracy in everything. I guess I do need to be more careful with my googling,but nice work in catching me and exposing my true self. All us liberals are closet Marksists that are constantly conspiring and planting hidden meanings is everything we write or do.

    I see that since I left none of you have had anything to say. Taking shots from the side lines is easy but having orignal thoughts, no so much. Laura posted all that extra information and no one has a word to say.

    BrainH,
    Did I say creating jobs was bad? Quote: "As for providing jobs: That's great. Business people, and Republicans always bring that up, "Oh, we, Me, they are providing jobs." Again thats great, but I have yet to find a business that didn't gain revenue from the jobs that they create. When that job stops providing revenue for the organization, bam, its gone.""
    Thats what I said. Twice I said it was great. What more do you want.
    Just don't give me this crap about I create jobs so I am the almighty. People create jobs because they make money. That is capitolism. I'm all for it. I like it, I live it. This is a great country. I don't understand what you all hate about it. What really gets me is that you all live in the upper levels, except James, of the richest country in the history of the planet and you can't be happy about it. Think about that. You have more than anyone who has ever lived on the face of this earth and what are you doing? Bitching about a few measely dollars some poor woman living is some crappy appartment in the ghetto is getting. Give me a break. You need to think about what you have, how far you've come and how far you can go and stop looking over the fence thinking someone is getting something you're not.
    This kind of attitude makes me sick.

    Of course Laura puts us all to shame. I don't always believe everything I read on the internet, unless its written on a Marksist site, but I am giving Laura the benifit of the doubt. There are a few "Christians" that I respect in my life. One of them pulled me off the street got me into school and set me on a prosperous path. Another gave up a comfortable life and runs a homeless shelter in Philly. They like Laura live thier religion and I respect that. What I don't respect is people that have it all and still want more, and God forbid anyone asks them to share.

    Kris, James (How many mis-spelling?)and the rest of you, locked and loaded? Fire away.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 7:13 PM      Laura
    Henk, I'm not sure how to respond to your comment that I put anyone to shame... while I do give away a lot, I'm lucky enough to be married to a man who likes to pay the bills himself, so it's not any huge sacrifice on my part. I didn't mean to sound obnoxious about it.

    As for bitching about a few measley dollars that is given to some poor woman - I guess what most of have a problem with is that there is a whole section of society that is growing further and further away from us. It glamorizes rape and murder, promotes a lack of education, and is consigning a whole generation of kids to a lifetime of poverty and incarceration. The current system perpetuates all this. That few measley dollars is probably billions in actual cost, figuring a lower-skilled workforce, cost of incarceration, higher social service needs and a dozen things I haven't thought of yet. We do a serious disservice by just giving money away.

    We need a new system, or to seriously overhaul the one we have, that makes reasonable demands of people on welfare, helps them meet those demands, and relies on non-governmental organizations as much as possible to do these things.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 7:30 PM      Henk
    You seem to be talking about a particular group of people. I live in Minnesoata. The vast majority of our welfare recipients live the rural outstate areas. The one thing that they all have in common, inner city and rural, is that they lack hope. THere are no job and no future. School budjets have been slashed, companies moved overseas. Mines closed small businesses being over taken by Wal-Mart.

    Does recieving welfare make one more likely to end up in prison? If is welfare the cause, or just a simptom of some other issue?  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 8:16 PM      Laura
    I've never been to Minnesota, so I can't comment on your welfare recipients. But around here, and in other large cities I've lived in, there is a strong association between being supported by welfare and crime. Now whether that is attributable to the fact that almost by definition, welfare homes are single-parent (typically fatherless) households, the public schools lack the resources of higher-taxed areas, or those areas tend to glorify hip-hop or gang culture, I couldn't say. Maybe none of those things, but I suspect some combination.

    And for what it's worth, larger school budgets do not guarantee a better education. I don't like Wal-Mart but I do like the capitalistic system that allowed Sam Walton to build an empire. I read his bio, he grew up poor too. Anyone with the Next Big Idea who is ready to work hard enough to implement it can do the same thing he did.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 8:21 PM      james
    henk:

    I live in Minnesoata. The vast majority of our welfare recipients live the rural outstate areas.


    if by "vast majority" you mean "small percentage," then i guess you're right. ooh, or i suppose you could mean that you consider hennepin county to be rural.

    see the charts and maps here. but im sure you have a proletariot power site with more accurate facts than the US census bureau and the minnesota state government has, right?  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 8:23 PM      BVBigBro
    Sorry, but the people on this site don't live in the upper levels of this country. I don't complain about my lifestyle.

    What I don't understand is why people like you would begrudge me the money I do earn. The only solution democrats ever offer to a problem is another large government program, and another new tax.

    Wal-Mart does not prevent me from living a better life. On the other hand, the feds, state and local govts. see fit to take an ever increasing share of my money for their "services". That does affect me directly, and does negatively impact my life.

    As for schools, I have never lived in a school district that has ever had its' budget cut. The "cuts" everyone whines about are just decreases in the rate of increase of the budget. And even these are rare. Schools today are far better equipped and manned than they ever were when I attended school. In addition, they all manage to afford new gyms, new football fields, new performing arts centers, etc. Schools are not hurting for money.

    Sorry, but I've worked from within and without the government and the amount of money it is capable of wasting is truly limitless.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 8:46 PM      BrianH
    Henk,

    I'm glad to hear that you support the creation of jobs. When you use phrases like "lining your pocket by the labor of another" is give the impression that you are less than thrilled with those who create jobs. Yes, people create jobs for others in order to receive something in return. But that does not make it any less of a good thing. I'm sure that you also took your job for the money rather than for any altruistic cause.

    As for the people here being wealthy. I can't speak for the others, but if you're claimed amount of tax paid is accurate, you make a bit more than I do.

    Your claim that we were bitching about spending a few dollars is also a bit innacurate. If you look at my first post, I was advocating spending money with the goal of getting people OFF welfare. Including a "workfare" program, continuing education, and daycare. I expect that type of program would actually have a higher per recipient cost than the current program, but would provide for a longer term good and an eventual lower overall cost.

    I also grew up in a rural area (and attended my first 2 years school in a 1 room school house). I find it hard to believe that a high percentage of welfare recipients are in rural areas. It just doesn't fit the profile of the people I know. Again I'd like to see some proof of that claim.
     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 8:51 PM      kris
    Brian,

    I did a little research on Minnesota unemployment statistics, and, in this instance, I think Henk is correct. While the state's overall unemployment rate is 4.2% (well below the national rate and really, pretty much full employment) there are northern counties where the rate is around 8 or 9 percent and even as high as 15%.

    But I'd be curious as to what the solution is. Henk says that mining jobs are gone and Wal Mart came in, etc. But what's the solution? Is it a bunch of government programs to prop up an outdated economy?  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 9:02 PM      Henk
    Laura, I think you're confusing cause and effect. Your attack dog friends won't want to hear this but, during the Clinton years poverty rates, abortion rates and any number of indicators improved. The economy was good, people had some hope that thier lives could improve.
    I suspect there is truth to what your saying as well. I live in the city, went to an inner city college and I do see the things you see. I just differ on the cause and what needs to be done.

    James, its raining here, how about there? Did the writing on you work for food sign run. Look at a map of Minnesota. Large parts of our population live here (Hennepin) and in Ramsey county true, but the other larger counties are still partially rural. I stand by my statement, But I would have been clearer if I had come right out and said what I meant. The vast majority of our welfare recipients are white! Your expensive education did teach you how to research though. Keep it up. There has to be a place for you in larger society. You'll have to give up some of your preconcieved notions though. This communism thing is getting old you all have to find a new angle.

    BVD's did I say I wanted to take your hard earned cash. All I am saying is that you need to pay your share. You don't seem to understand that your continued prosperity is dependant upon a healthy societal environment. That costs money. You and yours are always saying that not giving districts the increased money that they need is not a cut, but you forget that things cost more all the time. Fuel costs increase. We heat schools in Minnesota. Gas prices are nuts. WE have a lot of rural country and the need to transport those kids. It costs more today. Medical costs increase, maybe you think that we shouldn't provide health insurance to Teachers and such. Fine, talk to your representative, but when increases are coming in at double digits every year don't tell me that the same amount will run a school this year as last. How are your finances. How much driving would you be doing on the same amount of cash as last year. Got health insurance. How much did that increase. Got insurance on your house. How much did that go up?
    Lastly, did you actually say that, Democrats increase the size of government? You need to tune out of Fox and get some real news.GW is increasing the size of Goverment at a blinding rate. Don't tell me about big government. Don't believe me. Ask your boy James, he's the master researcher.
     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 9:02 PM      BVBigBro
    Actually, they are reopening and renovating some of the mines in northern MN. I occasionally work with a guy from Hibbing and he has been in the mines quite a bit lately. The price of steel has gone through the roof in the last year, and that is probably the impetus behind the reopenings.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 9:08 PM      james
    keep up the personal attacks, henk, you might become the first person we've ever banned.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 9:12 PM      Laura
    I'll post more on the cause-and-effect comment tomorrow; it's kind of a what came first, the chicken or the egg. And as for the Clinton stats, well, more on that later, because there is a LOT to say. But I would like to say a word about this:
    All I am saying is that you need to pay your share.


    Our share of someone else's budget... interesting concept. Nothing wrong with generosity and charity, but comments like that really do illustrate the difference between liberals and conservatives.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 9:14 PM      Henk
    Kris, I am surprise. Maybe I shouldn't be so nasty. There are mines opening up in the north country. China's buying steel and that's good for us. I really don't know what needs to be done, beyond that. Northern Minnesota is beautiful, but people can't afford to live there. Meth is raging through the young folks. Large companies have moved off-shore. Maybe stopping that type of thing is a good start. Wal-Mart is a success story but at what cost. One very nice little town I know of there got a Wal-Mart on the edge of town. Afer about five years the downtown area is dead. No one need to hardware store, the record store the drug store all that's left is the bars and liquor stores. Its sad to see.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 9:19 PM      Henk
    Laura who's budget did I say. You have a business, yes? Where would you be without the streets? Courts to insure fair dealings with others? Police protections. Securities and Exchange laws? Sewer water? Garbage pickup? It isn't free. And yes sometimes you need to pay for things you don't use. I pay for schools but I don't have kids, but where would we be with uneducated society? Yeah I guess we are different.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 9:22 PM      BVBigBro
    Sorry Henk, I don't watch Fox news. If you had been here more than once you'd know I am attack dog number one against GWB's spending habits, and that
    I don't like him. As for government spending, I've seen it from the inside. The government is capable of wasting any amount of money it is given.

    The government does not create, and is incapable of, creating a healthy societal environment. We do that ourselves.

    As for schools, perhaps you should ask why your schools continue to claim costs are rising at a double digit rate. Inflation has been single digit for quite some time now, Henk. As for insurance, there have been some interesting links here to school teacher's health insurance in your neighboring state of Wisconsin if you care to look. My health insurance went down this year, but then again I shop for the best deal rather than cater to the teacher's union. Prior to the last year, gas prices have not been particularly high. That didn't stop school budget's from rising then, it's not the reason they are rising now.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 9:26 PM      kris
    Who in the world can't afford to live in Northern Minnesota? Any increases in the cost of gas and your heating bills will be more than offset by lower housing costs.

    Believe me, Henk, BV and I grew up in a town that is experiencing some hard times now. But that's the nature of change. Change is really hard. But wishing to go back in time isn't going to make it any easier.

    So what's the answer? What's the solution? Some jobs moved overseas. Well, that means that some people overseas just had their standard of living raised and maybe they can be a bigger export market now (for example, Wausau, WI has a big gingseng market-anyone try to grow that up MN?).

    If Northern Minnesota is losing their traditional jobs, then folks in Northern Minnesota need to figure out what they have to do to compete in the new economy. What's their advantage? Well, if property costs are low, they might be a great location for something like a call center, midwesterns, with their soft accents and polite manners, are highly desirable in that industry, OR, what about warehouses and distribution centers? 90/94 runs right by and through to both coasts. If it's beautiful, then what about tourism? Lots of people go up to the Boundary Waters, if you're a down on your luck 'Sotan, how about starting a Bed & Breakfast catering to the canoeing crowd who want one night of comfort before they rough it.

    I don't know. These are just the ideas off the top of my head. My point is just that I'm not going to accept that it's "hopeless" for any region or city. It's hopeless to think things are going to be exactly like they were before, yes, but it's not hopeless that they might be better.

     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 9:34 PM      Henk
    Kris I agree with all you say. I worked at a farmers market and saw farmers being creative to get by. Not everyone can start a B&B though.
    Housing costs in Northern Minnesota are very high. People from the city are retiring and buy vactions homes there. That's driving costs. Good for some, bad for others. The only places that are cheap are way way out there. I've been looking at properties for several years and nothings cheap.


     
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 10:02 PM      Laura
    Clinton stats - I thought I would have to spend a lot of time assembling info, but here's this one re: his first term all done for me.  
     
    #  April 11th, 2005 10:56 PM      Walleye
    I've read the entire thread and am jumping in to offer a quick, simple, and very unpopular solution:

    Government Service.

    I'm not talking about a military draft. That is a bad idea for many many reasons. I'm thinking more of offering folks who have been on (insert your favorite "welfare program" here) for "n" number of months the opportunity to earn a living (plus health care) and get some useful job skills in return for actual work. I have firsthand accounts of kids (and kids with kids) finding a way to provide for themselves and their families via VOLUNTEER service in the military. All four services are currently very much in need of new recruits and contrary to popular belief, it does not mean a fast track to the Sand Box. In fact, there was a study (someone with more time than me will have to goole it) done post 9/11 and pre OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) that found over 75% of combat troops come from midde income families who joined the military to earn some extra money for college and were drawn by the adventure (a paraphrase) of serving in the military. The vast majority of member who came from backgrounds considered imporverished work in non-combat career fields that offered skills readily usable on the outside. Not a bad deal...

    I should point out though that an E-1 through E-3 with a spouse and one child on just the single income will be qualified for food stamps. Still not a perfect solution...  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 12:17 AM      james
    i think that you have a workable solution, walleye. it's a good idea in that it gives people the opportunity to get job training, and it gives them benefits, etc. in that regard, it's certainly better than the current system where people are given nery little in the way of new job training.

    but i'm reminded of an old radio broadcast by ronald reagan, where he told a tale about a school that implemented a program for "troubled" kids in which they could get special consideration for certain after school jobs if they were "troubled" enough. an idea with noble intentions, i'm sure, but in practice, it didn't work at all. as reagan explained, (paraphrased) "it's hard for high school kids to get jobs, and it didn't take long for the 'non-troubled' kids to figure out that the only way to get hired was to get in trouble - to start a fight, or to punch a teacher."

    there are many people in this country that want jobs but can't get them, no matter how hard they try. when i was a child, my father was out of work for almost 2 years. he applied for every job available, and took every odd job that came along. for instance, he worked as a janitor for 10 hours a week at minimum wage to bring in money, any money. while my family did qualify for welfare, they never took it b/c they were "too proud." i think a lot of pollocks think that way. to this day, my mother still "brags" about how she was able to feed the entire family on $20 a week.

    i'm concerned that the program that you propose would set up a system in which people that really need and want the jobs wouldn't be eligible unless they took steps to worsen their condition
     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 12:33 AM      ttpclient
    Laura, I hate to be rude, but how did your husband die? You were only 20?  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 7:23 AM      BrianH
    Henk,

    "The vast majority of our welfare recipients are white!"

    Finally you posted a welfare statistic that I won't even try to dispute.

    So can you explain why you lefties always start crying "RACISM!!!" when conservatives talk about welfare reform?

    **********************

    james has invoked the law of unintended consequenses. It should remind us all that any major changes should be well thought out. A "workfare" program shouldn't become more attractive than the real workforce. It should also not have a large impact on the existing labor force. A "workfare" program that performed civic tasks that otherwise would not get done would be a societal good since it would provide return for the money spent. A "workfare" program that was used to complete an existing project that normally would have used skilled labor would cause societal harm by displacing other existing workers.
     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 7:27 AM      Laura
    ttpclient - It's not rude to ask. I figured it was fair game when I wrote it and put it out there. And my daughter knows the truth. He was a drug user; crystal meth, speedballs, etc. We separated seven months after I found this out, when I found out I was pregnant, and he later committed suicide. As to why I didn't know this before we married - we had only known each other for 3 weeks. I wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer back then (well, not now either, but there has at least been a lot of improvement) but I can't exactly regret it, because my daughter is wonderful. To me, the whole experience was an example of
    And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
    (Rom 8:28 MKJV)
     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 8:23 AM      BrianH
    I think Henk is also right that the economy seemed stronger in the Clinton years. Unfortunately, while the economy seemed hot, it was mostly an illusion.

    We had the internet bubble in which many companies that really produced NOTHING or very little were bid up to absurd prices. Money was thrown at these "companies" to allow them to purchase equipment to implement their "inovaive" ideas. This allowed them to hire people at VERY good salaries and purchase equipment from real companies. Many of these companies were able to trade their stock for stocks of "real" companies. AOL's takeover of Time/Warner for example. This generated HUGE wealth for many people and gave the appearance of a good economy. Though when the emperor's new clothes were finally exposed, the whole stock market suffered a severe blow.

    Corporate corruption ran unchecked allowing several corporations to appear to be worth much more than they were worth. Enron, Worldcom, and Global Crossing were among the most respected companies in the Clinton years. These company's practices were exposed shortly after Bush took office and colapsed as the result of the investigations giving the false impression that Bush's administration allowed the corruption. In truth the illegal and unethical practices that brought down these giants was occurring for MANY years prior to their collapse. Most of that time was durring the Clinton presidency.

    In short, FALSE growth from these sources was very bad and lead to bad things occuring in the economy starting about November of 2000 (about the time of the election).

    Just as the economy started to recover from the internet bubble and the collapse of Enron, et al, we had 9/11. While the terrorists did not deal the death blow to our economy that they had hoped, it did hurt. We lost over a million jobs shortly after the attacks. We really only recovered from that loss last year.

    While our current economy appears slower on the surface, I think the underlying structure is stronger. The only "bubble" I'm concerned about is the current high price of real estate which I believe is mostly based on low interest rates.

     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 8:38 AM      BVBigBro
    Well c'mon now BrianH. The Clinton years weren't all an illusion, and Clinton should hardly be blamed for the misdeads of corporations he had no control or oversight of. I wonder about today's real estate, though. People are spending a lot of money on homes way beyond their reach.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 8:54 AM      BrianH
    BVBigBro,

    I wasn't blaming Clinton for the problems with the economy. I was only pointing out that the economy DID appear to be stronger under Clinton's term. Unfortunately, this was an illusion. I suspect these same problems would have occurred had Bush 41 or Dole beaten Clinton in either election.

    My reference to the corruption occuring in Clinton's term was a to refute the allegations that Bush caused the scandles. I'm also not giving Bush the credit for exposing the fraud. These same problems would probably have come to light if Gore had won since the people who oversee corporations are not political appointees.

    Most of the BOOM of the 90's was an illusion, though even illusions can have good side effects. For example, tax revenues were higher than expected due to high capital gains from trading the internet stocks. Of course people will be writing off the losses from the bubble burst for YEARS ($3000/year above gains max) so these revenue gains eventually will be returned.
     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 9:21 AM      Laura
    Walleye, interesting solution... my main problem with it is that the majority of people on welfare are single mothers. Something would have to be done with the kids while mom gets basic and advanced MOS training. They could join right now without benefit of any additional program, but don't for various reasons, I'm sure childcare is one of them. And the fact that E1-3 troops qualify for food stamps is a disgrace that ought to be taken care of immediately.

    And I agree James has a valid concern; I can't think of a way to avoid abuse of any system, unless there is something negative to balance the handouts. Maybe some system that works like Habitat for Humanity's "sweat equity" - in order to qualify for training benefits you have to spend x number of hours working in community service? That would quickly identify who's malingering and who's really willing to take responsibilty for themselves.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 1:24 PM      bob_roberts
    Okay kids, let's all play nice and inhabit the same reality. Despite whatever conclusions you've come to based on your own personal experience, for making real-live public policy decisions the grown-ups use things like empirical evidence. The reality of the situation is that the majority of people on welfare are there for very short periods of time. See here: Indicators of Welfare Dependence.

    You are each entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts, as the late Senator Moynihan was fond of saying.

    Don't even get me started on this nonsense about student loans versus grants...  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 1:57 PM      JohnTant
    Bob, it would be interesting to know how many of that 50.9% who leave the program after 1-2 years have done so because they didn't need it anymore versus those who lost eligibility.

    To illustrate, here are the requirements to be on AFDC before it was replaced by PRWORA in 1996:

    In order to be eligible for AFDC, a family must have a
    dependent child who is:

    • Under age 18 (A state may elect to extend the age limit to include 18-year-olds who are expected to complete secondary school or the equivalent level of vocational or technical training before turning 19.);

    • Deprived of parental support or care because of a parent's death, continued absence, incapacity, or the unemployment of the principal family earner in a two-parent family under the AFDC-Unemployed Parent (UP) program;

    • Living in the home of a parent or other specified, close relative;

    • A resident of the state; and

    • A U.S. citizen or an alien permanently and lawfully residing in the U.S.


    For that matter, how many left the program because AFDC and TANF eligibility requirements changed? The chart doesn't address that, and that 1996-2000 makes up 50% of the data. In fact, under TANF there are several requirements that skew the 10-year period in the cited graph. For instance, familes with an adult who has received 5 years of federally funded benefits are ineligible to receive benefits under TANF. Also, a person must be working before 2 years has passed from first entering TANF, or he is no longer eligible to receive benefits. Meaning at least a portion of that 50.9% were kicked out of TANF because they didn't get a job 2 years after entering the program.

    Another thing...the graph is only showing persons who received aid "at some point" in that ten year period ending 2000. That means a person could have been receiving continuous benefits from 1999-2005 and yet show up in the 1-2 year bucket in PE 2000. I don't see any adjustment for that in the cite.

     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 2:18 PM      bob_roberts
    Two things:

    (1)While it would be interesting to know whether people are leaving welfare because they don't need it anymore or because lost eligibility, it is irrelevant to the issue of whether people tend to stay on welfare for very long periods of time. They do not.

    (2)The change in the distribution of spell durations has not been as dramatic as many people would guess. See this old report using pre-TANF data. And again, while the issue of whether any changes are because more people are getting kicked off is interesting it is irrelevant to my point that most welfare recipients are not on welfare for long stretches of time.

    Bottom line: many people (including the person who authored this blog post and many of the commenters) believe that some large fraction of the people on welfare are on welfare for long periods of time. Those people don't know what they are talking about.
     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 2:31 PM      bob_roberts
    As for the issue of what they do with people on welfare in the last year, I don't know - there will necessarily be some truncation. But I would be willing to bet that even if you assumed that everyone on welfare in 2001 remained on welfare for, say, five years, it wouldn't make that much of a difference because they would be a relatively small fraction of all the people who have been on welfare in this 10 year period.

    If that graph didn't do it for you, you can try this one. The author of this post holds herself out as exceptional for only being on welfare for 6 months. In fact, she is probably rather typical. Nearly half of welfare spells have a duration of 4 months or less.

    Let's sing it again: most people who use welfare use it for only short periods of time.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 2:37 PM      BVBigBro
    By your own source, 49% of recipients, and 62% of recipients with children, received benefits for three or more years during the nineties. That is a lot of people for a long time.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 2:37 PM      JohnTant
    1)While it would be interesting to know whether people are leaving welfare because they don't need it anymore or because lost eligibility, it is irrelevant to the issue of whether people tend to stay on welfare for very long periods of time. They do not.


    In and of itself you may think so, but it's actually very relevant as to the conclusions one can draw from that fact. And again, the 1991-2000 time period has a material change in the base data. Time periods are also skewed, in that it appears it only includes recipients who received benefits "at some point" in that time period. Meaning a person could have received benefits from 1981-1992 and still show up in the 1-2 year bucket for 1991-2000.

    2)The change in the distribution of spell durations has not been as dramatic as many people would guess. See this old report using pre-TANF data. And again, while the issue of whether any changes are because more people are getting kicked off is interesting it is irrelevant to my point that most welfare recipients are not on welfare for long stretches of time.


    Again, unadjusted for changes in eligibility. For instance, someone who has a 17 year old kid upon entering the program lost eligibility after one year, and would show up in the 1-2 year bucket. And also again, it's relevant if you're going to put the data in any kind of context...aka "grown-ups [using] things like empirical evidence..." Otherwise your point that 50.9% of people received less than 2 year's worth of benefits in an arbitrary 10 year time period doesn't mean all that much.

    Bottom line: many people (including the person who authored this blog post and many of the commenters) believe that some large fraction of the people on welfare are on welfare for long periods of time. Those people don't know what they are talking about.


    I think something else about your cites needs pointing out. It isn't talking about contiguous time periods, but rather cumulative. So a person could have two six-month spells 3 years apart and he'd show up in the 1-2 year bucket.

    Incidentally, per the graph you cite 49.1% of recipients received over two year's worth of benefits between 1991-2000. To me that's fairly significant.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 2:51 PM      JohnTant
    As for the issue of what they do with people on welfare in the last year, I don't know - there will necessarily be some truncation. But I would be willing to bet that even if you assumed that everyone on welfare in 2001 remained on welfare for, say, five years, it wouldn't make that much of a difference because they would be a relatively small fraction of all the people who have been on welfare in this 10 year period.


    The only way you could make that assertion is to present yearly rollforwards, something your source does not do.

    If that graph didn't do it for you, you can try this one. The author of this post holds herself out as exceptional for only being on welfare for 6 months. In fact, she is probably rather typical. Nearly half of welfare spells have a duration of 4 months or less.


    Well, I can't help but notice this note in the graph: "Short spells are less common among recipients in families without labor force participants, as shown previously in Figure and Table IND 7."

    Let's sing it again: most people who use welfare use it for only short periods of time.

    Again, a point that has no context. What's missing is the "why" from the data you're using to support that point.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:03 PM      bob_roberts
    The way I see it, the question at issue is the following: Do most people tend to stay on welfare for long periods of time?

    The reason why people leave is irrelevant to answering this question, plain and simple. I agree that it is interesting for other purposes.

    Some other points:

    (1) I'm not sure what your problem is with the time period. This is the most recent report available.
    (2) Your point about the endpoints of the time period is well taken, and I've addressed it in my previous post. Bottom line: while it may bias the results in favor of finding shorter durations, there is no way the effect you are talking about would change the results substantially.
    (3) I understand the cumulative nature of indicator 9, but I'm not sure what your point is. Again, this is interesting for other purposes, but all but irrelevant here.

    All but a very few of the comments to this post give the impression of having learned everything they know about welfare from their own collection of personal anecdotes and biases. I am only trying to inject some actual statistics into this debate. Maybe it doesn't surprise you to learn that half of all welfare recipients in the 1990s drew benefits for less than 2 years, but it would surprise most people. Can you honestly say that you would have believed that statistic if I hadn't linked to a source? I would bet dollars to donuts that most of the people on this comment thread would have responded along the lines of: "Nuh-unh, Ronald Reagan told me that everyone on welfare has been drawing checks for life and driving Cadillacs."

    As for whether 2 or 3 or 5 years is a 'long time', or 'too long', is a call that I am not prepared to make. In some instances it probably isn't, in others it probably is. But if you feel like you are in the position to pass that kind of judgement, feel free.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:20 PM      BrianH
    OK Bob,

    I'll pass judgement.

    I think that having 49.1% of recipients receiving welfare for more than 2 years out of a 10 year period is too long.

    We shouldn't leave these people in poverty conditions for that long. Instead we need to find ways that they can achieve gainful employment, support themselves and hopefully work their way out of those conditions.



     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:21 PM      BVBigBro
    In making a connection between "long time" and "too long", you are just offering bait. I invite you to read all the above posts. No one has made judgments to the merits of welfare or who should be on it. The author of the original post, having been on welfare, offered suggestions for improvement. I have yet to read a refutation of any of her arguments or suggestions.

    The author of the original post wrote from the perspective of a single mother on welfare. The source you quote statistically agrees with her observations. I fail to see any point you are making. I don't think anyone here is surprised at the statistics, and in fact, the only surprise I have is that 62% of recipients with children received benefits for three or more years. That is more than I would have expected.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:23 PM      JohnTant
    Bob:

    The way I see it, the question at issue is the following: Do most people tend to stay on welfare for long periods of time?

    Actually, the way you said you see it is in using empirical data the way the grown-ups do. So let's.

    Your point is loaded with qualifiers, some of which I've pointed out, some of which will be pointed out later by people smarter than me. Do "most people" stay on welfare for long periods of time? In 1991-2000, 50.9% of those receiving benefits during that time period received 1-2 year's worth of AFDC and/or TANF benefits IN that time period. That's the most you can say about it. Drawing a broad conclusion as you do is unsupported by that data.

    The reason why people leave is irrelevant to answering this question, plain and simple. I agree that it is interesting for other purposes.

    It's actually more than interesting...it's highly relevant. It speaks directly to the question of whether these programs are doing any good or not. If we're kicking a bunch of deadbeats out of the system after two years because they refuse to work, that's a much different context than saying they're leaving because the program did them some good. Simply saying "people leave after two years" doesn't say much of anything, and in fact is not a conclusion specifically supported by your source.

    Now, to answer your points:

    (1) I'm not sure what your problem is with the time period. This is the most recent report available

    I don't know that I'd call it a "problem." Merely an observation...although I do have to note that AFDC was discontinued in 1996 in favor of a much different program, and a 5 year period isn't that broad of a base to draw statistical conclusions from.

    (2) Your point about the endpoints of the time period is well taken, and I've addressed it in my previous post. Bottom line: while it may bias the results in favor of finding shorter durations, there is no way the effect you are talking about would change the results substantially.

    And again, unless you're privy to the source data or an annual rollforward, adjusted for the things we've already discussed, that remains your opinion only. Remember, we're trying to be grown up here and use actual data, not unsupported opinion.

    (3) I understand the cumulative nature of indicator 9, but I'm not sure what your point is. Again, this is interesting for other purposes, but all but irrelevant here.

    It's a qualifier on the data. For example, someone could be on and off welfare for three months at a time over a prolonged period, and depending on timing would only show up in the 1-2 year bucket. This directly impacts the very data you're using to support a conclusion, and it's something that needs to be pointed out. Also, it's only AFDC. Food stamp recipients don't seem to be factored in there, do they? So our hypothetical someone could be receiving food stamps for a fair period of time too, supplemented by various bouts of AFDC/TANF and that can't help but skew the data. What I'm trying to point out is it's unwise to rest a broad conclusion on a narrow source.

    All but a very few of the comments to this post give the impression of having learned everything they know about welfare from their own collection of personal anecdotes and biases. I am only trying to inject some actual statistics into this debate.

    Sure, bring in data. Just be sure you're using that data properly and representing what it's actually saying. Frankly, your cite suffers from a great deal of statistical obfuscation. It's not a slam against you, but it's something that does need to be pointed out as a qualifier for any points drawn from that cite.

    Maybe it doesn't surprise you to learn that half of all welfare recipients in the 1990s drew benefits for less than 2 years, but it would surprise most people. Can you honestly say that you would have believed that statistic if I hadn't linked to a source?

    A not-trivial correction...50.9% of all welfare recipients WHO RECEIVED AFDC/TANF BENEFITS AT SOME POINT in that 10 year period drew 1-2 year's worth of AFDC/TANF benefits IN THAT SAME TIME PERIOD.

    I would bet dollars to donuts that most of the people on this comment thread would have responded along the lines of: "Nuh-unh, Ronald Reagan told me that everyone on welfare has been drawing checks for life and driving Cadillacs."

    Strawman.

    As for whether 2 or 3 or 5 years is a 'long time', or 'too long', is a call that I am not prepared to make. In some instances it probably isn't, in others it probably is. But if you feel like you are in the position to pass that kind of judgement, feel free.

    But I think you've already said it isn't a long time, from the conclusions you've previously posted. For example:
    Bottom line: many people (including the person who authored this blog post and many of the commenters) believe that some large fraction of the people on welfare are on welfare for long periods of time. Those people don't know what they are talking about.

     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:28 PM      bob_roberts
    Finally, we agree on something:

    "We shouldn't leave these people in poverty conditions for that long. Instead we need to find ways that they can achieve gainful employment, support themselves and hopefully work their way out of those conditions."

    I could not agree more. This is exactly what we should be doing.

    But if you think that the modern Republican party is interested in pursuing that agenda, you are a moron.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:31 PM      BrianH
    If you think the modern day Democratic party is interested in anything but buying votes from the poor by offering a slightly larger welfare dependency, then you are a moron.
     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:33 PM      BVBigBro
    Name calling, now we rocking.

    Bob, as a typical democrat you have offered their standard suggestion: nothing. I am waitng for standard suggestion number 2: more money.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:36 PM      BrianH
    I appologize, I actually let one of these guys piss me off and resorted to his level.

     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:43 PM      BVBigBro
    Geez Laura, one post and you've opened Pandora's box. But seriously, how about another post on practical implementation of your suggestions.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 3:50 PM      bob_roberts
    Sorry, I figured name calling would be ok on a site called 'dummocrats.' (You probably saw that coming, no?)

    Look, no one is a bigger critic of the modern Democratic party than I am. And the reality of modern American politics is that both parties largely ignore the poor.

    But anyone who believes that the modern Republican party is interested in any domestic policy that doesn't start with 'cut' and end with 'taxes' is deluding themselves.

    The fact is that even though the Democrats don't do enough, they are better than the alternative. And the notion that Democrats have no ideas to offer is a tired trope. Democrats do things like expand the EITC (rewards working - you should love it!) and create programs like S-CHIP (removes incentives for single moms to be on welfare - you should love it!). How about all that job-training you are talking about? Guess who wants to do that? (Hint: Democrats).

    Finally, if the biggest mistake that Democrats tend to make is believing that money is sufficient to solve social problems, the biggest mistake that Republicans tend to make is to believe that it isn't necessary. The modern Republican party line is very clear: tax cuts are more important than solving social problems.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 4:12 PM      BVBigBro
    Once again I offer the statistics you cited as defense of Laura's suggestions. As for money, I am more than willing to spend more, but only when I am convinced the money I currently fork over is being spent correctly. It isn't. Therefore, I have no problem with tax cuts. You have a long way to go there.

    As for the democrats suggestions for welfare, I don't find them particularly relevant. I have no problem with people going on welfare. I just want it to work when they do.

    As for the democratic party, it has, and continues to offer nothing to me, and would even go so far as to take more of what I already have. I don't like the current republican party, I want to see it return to the days of the Gipper. There is a chance that can happen. In the mean time, however, I am forced to vote republican in an effort to keep out the truly dangerous democratic party. I hope that GWB's biggest contribution will be to bring the democratic party back from their alternate universe.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 4:37 PM      Laura
    Bob, you are right; all the commentary about welfare in the original article was anecdotal, and other than what I hear from my non-profit and ministry clients, 15 years old, to boot. My goal was to discuss two issues - first, that poverty is considerably less of a problem than many people think, because of the way poverty is defined. Second, that the welfare system as I knew it and as it exists today, is a bad bargain unless is focuses on education, and that compassionate conservatives should consider spending more on welfare for the purpose of education and things that facilitate education, like childcare.

    That stats you give are enlightening; I didn't realize that Clinton's welfare reforms were so successful at shortening the length of time people received assistance. However, I don't think your question
    Do most people tend to stay on welfare for long periods of time?
    has any bearing on whether it is advisable to extend post high-school and/or remedial education to people on welfare, unless the reason they stop receiving welfare is that they got a good job and don't need it.

    Clearly my writing is lacking. You did not address what I had fondly hoped was my central point - how compassionate people can best help people in chronic poverty while still maintaining conservative ideals. Should we just give them enough cash to bail them out of the immediate crisis? If help is provided should it include comprehensive training or just vocational skills or no education at all?

    Aside from my personal experience, here's a report on CalWorks, the California welfare education program. Here are the major findings:
    • CalWORKs students were twice as likely to work year-round after attending community college than before.
    • Among students not transferring to a four-year college, the more education a CalWORKs student obtained in community college, the greater her increase in earnings.
    • Earnings increased substantially for CalWORKs students after college, even for those who entered community college without a high school diploma.
    • CalWORKs students who completed a vocational certificate or Associate degree program (particularlyin the nursing, dental, and business fields) tended to have higher earnings and higher employment rates than those who completed non-vocational programs.
     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 4:44 PM      bob_roberts
    Dude. Weak. First you accuse me of having nothing to offer (see the 'typical democrat' remark above), then when I mention some of the things Dems do for the poor (EITC, S-CHIP, etc.) you just dismiss them as irrelevant?

    You'll pardon me if the tone of your comments leads me to question how seriously you take this problem (as well as whether you know what the word relevant means).

    This whole 'the government doesn't work, so give me my money back' nonsense is so transparent I'm not sure why you even persist with the charade.

    Serious people would try to fix whatever problems they perceived with our poverty policy. Your party has been in complete control of the federal government for quite a while now, and this issue has never been part of your agenda. No, you use the fact that the government doesn't work to your satisfaction as an excuse to cut taxes. The tax cuts, in turn, lead to deficits, and they lead to calls to cut spending. And guess where the spending cuts will come from? That's right, policies that mainly benefit the poor.

    Call me a cynic, but this all seems a bit too convenient to be an accident.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 4:54 PM      BVBigBro
    Its not an accident. I hope very much that deficits lead to calls for spending cuts. The government needs to be cut. That includes all government, including the military. Its not working so give me money back is perfectly legitimate. What other recourse do people have? It isn't working so take more of my money?

    The federal government collects enough money to all the things it can and should do. I want to see it spend that money wisely before it asks for more.

    As for poverty, I take the issue seriously. Tell me, why does the democratic party abhor any attempts to allow funding of religious organizations that help the poor? It must be their compassion.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 5:02 PM      bob_roberts
    Laura,

    Your points are all well taken. I thought that your post was interesting and enlightening (I don't know that many people with direct experience with welfare, so I haven't heard many stories like yours).

    What is more, I think that you are essentially correct, that the long term solutions are better education and job-training opportunities.

    A couple of things prompted me to post here:

    First, it is easy to get the impression that many people stay on welfare for extended periods of time. At any given moment, many of the people drawing welfare are hardship cases that stay on it for extended periods. And while we can argue as to exactly what 'many' and 'long' mean in this context, I just wanted to make the point that many people do use our welfare system just like you do - as a way to make it through an immediate tragedy before moving on to better days.

    Second, I find it unfathomable that someone with your experience and your views would support Republicans. I don't mean to insult you, I hope you won't take it that way - it is simply hard for me to understand. The type of policy prescriptions that you suggest - education, training, job search assistance - are all policies that are typically associated with Democrats. I don't get the impression that the modern Republican party cares about this at all.

    You ask whether we should just be giving people enough cash to bail them out of their immediate crisis without supporting a concomitant investment in human capital, and clearly the answer is no. But I fear that there is a danger in setting up the question that way in that it leads people to construct a false dichotomy - to believe we have to chose between both immediate assistance and education and training when what we should be doing, of course, is both.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 5:15 PM      bob_roberts
    I wanted to leave it at that, but BVBigBro's response is just too perfect.

    This is what I am talking about. People like this are not interested in fixing the government, they are interested in bankrupting it.

    We all know that if the spending cuts ever materialize, the cuts will not be to military spending. They will be to programs like CalWORKs (which works through community colleges, which get lots of Federal dough that will go bye-bye).

    'Its not working so give me money back' is only perfectly legitimate if it can't be fixed. You ask: "What other recourse do people have?" The other recourse, and I can't believe I have to spell this out, is to make it work. The modern Republican party is not interested in making it work, because the fact that it doesn't work is the perfect rationale for doing what they really want to do anyway, namely, giving tax cuts to rich people.

    I'm outtie. Thanks, everybody, for a fun debate.

    -bob  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 5:21 PM      james
    bob roberts:
    The type of policy prescriptions that you suggest - education, training, job search assistance - are all policies that are typically associated with Democrats.


    if you do a little more digging, i think you'll find that the exact opposite is true. example: republican governor tommy thompson created a state "workfare" program in wisconsin that put welfare recipients into jobs in the private sector where they could learn real-world skills. democrats were very against the program for who knows what reason, other than they just like to be contrary and to maintain the status quo.

    your impression of which party supports which issues are the result of partisan politics. when a republican sees that the welfare system isnt working, and tries to do something about it, a dem responds with "they want to cut welfare! they're against welfare!"

    it's a shame that so many people are swayed so easily. well, actually the real shame is that they are allowed to vote in the first place. but that's another issue.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 5:34 PM      Laura
    I don't think we have to choose between immediate and long term assistance, I agree with need both, but we need some serious strings attached. The more I think about the Habitat for Humanity "sweat equity" program, the better I like the idea of applying that to welfare education.

    As to how I can bring myself to vote Republican - believe it or not, I'm not a big fan of President Bush. He's WAY too liberal for me. No, I'm not kidding. And if he doesn't match *our* southern border security level to *Mexico's* southern border security level... but that's a post for another day.

    Just because I'm conservative doesn't mean I'm heartless or lack common sense. I'm in favor of helping people to the extent that they will join me in that help process. I'm in favor of solutions that permanently solve problems, not stopgap measures. John Tant made a lot of good points here and said
    I think it bears pointing out that the first welfare programs were started up with ideals that were just as noble, but they began to take a life of their own and ended up causing more problems than they solved. In the end, the trade-off just wasn't worth it. Preventing a repeat performance is something else I would hope everyone would agree on, and ought not be considered the antithesis of "compassion" in any event.
    Now THAT is definitely something we should all agree on.
     
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 5:40 PM      BVBigBro
    Amen again, Laura. 86 comments, a record?  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 6:34 PM      BVBigBro
    I am curious though, Bob. You say to make it work, but oppose spending cuts precisely because you say the system will never work.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 7:05 PM      Laura
    BV - I don't know if it's a record, I've only been lurking around here a few months. But it's been a good discussion, I've really enjoyed all the different viewpoints. Applying the HH "sweat equity" concept to welfare ed is an idea that is really growing on me. My (current and final :-) husband went to night school for years to get his electrical/electronic engineering degree while he had a full time job. And we'll be paying off student loans forever and a day. While it's important to me to make education more accessible, I'm thinking it doesn't need to be a free ride... something to write my state reps about I guess.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 7:08 PM      Walleye
    Hate to jump back in late but have a quick response to Laura's and Jame's questions RE: Volunteer service.

    Laura- There is in fact child care available at most US installations. It is often not enough to meet the full demand but is normally supplemented by off-base affiliated care givers (and I beleive financially supplemented as well but I would have to look into the regs...). The real challenge becomes what to do with kids when a single parent is deployed. I wish I had an answer for that problem, but off the top of my head I do not. An easy answer is to get the extended family involved but we all know someone whose family would be unable/unwilling to help.

    Secondly, there has been a strong effort over the last five years and continuing for the next five (I think five, maybe ten) to adjust the base pay of the lower enlisted ranks to a level where they can indeed get by without further assistance. I know things are getting better, but the problem is not solved in all geographic locations (expensive to live in CA, not too bad in Northern FL).

    James - I agree there is a concern with folks needing to make their conditions worse in order to qualify. For military volunteers, that isn't a problem since anyone who meets the basic rquirements for enlistment can enlist. For other programs, I think Laura's sweat equity idea is fantastic. Hypothetically, if "citizen A" wants to go to school B he/she does X volunteer hours of maintenance/custodial work for a given period of time based on working around that person's current schedule (don't need to quit a paying job to do the extra work).

    Sorry for dropping this in the middle of the thread... I just got home from work.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 7:29 PM      BVBigBro
    Good luck with paying off the student loans Laura. I remember the exact day I paid mine off, Sept 10, 2001. I also remember the balance in my checkbook when I graduated - $2.98. I had to keep a very exact count. Several people here went back to school.

    Here's an idea for a post: what's the worst, oddest or most desperate meal you ate when you were in school and had no money?  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 7:39 PM      JohnTant
    As to how I can bring myself to vote Republican - believe it or not, I'm not a big fan of President Bush. He's WAY too liberal for me. No, I'm not kidding. And if he doesn't match *our* southern border security level to *Mexico's* southern border security level... but that's a post for another day.

    A post I'm working on for tomorrow, I might add. Stay tuned.  
     
    #  April 12th, 2005 7:55 PM      Laura
    John, I'm really looking forward to it!  
     

     

     


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