Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Punishing the Poor into Prosperity (Tuesday LINKS)

Check out the "Videos" section of the Mitt Romney website.  Without putting you through the mood-altering depression of watching dozens of attack ads, hold you cursor over the image captures for summaries.  Notice a theme?  Welfare.

Since when is this election about Welfare?  Other commentators have provided explanations that range from the specious to the inflammatory, but I'm more interested in how we frame the debate.

First, the correct name is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which makes up approximately 0.7% of the Federal Budget.  For those on TANF, there is a federal lifetime of 60 months, which may be extended or decreased by the states.  Most importantly, the use of TANF has drastically decreased over the last 20 years, including during the Recession:

That includes a decrease in the number of families that would otherwise be eligible for the program, but choose not to participate (or do not know how to enroll) in the program:

But yet, this is an issue in the 2012 election?

If you want to cut funding for poor families, this must be premised on one of two philosophies:

1) We're all in this for ourselves and I should not be paying for your (insert noun).

2) We hurt the poor by creating reliance on public programs and they would be better served if we cut the cord.

The former is the most intellectually solid and consistent reasoning, while bankrupt of empathy.  The latter is intellectually bankrupt, but makes the budget slasher in all of us feel like a paternalistic Mother Theresa.

First, the basic facts don't hold up.  As Ezra Klein has noted, TANF has been cut, yet the number of families in need of assistance went up.  Presumptively, if welfare made people poor, being freed from the shackles of government aid would have "motivated them" to get out of poverty.  It is amazing that this simple theory does not work.

Second, this philosophy shows a clear distance from even the most basic understanding of the American poor.  It even shows some measure of resentment.  I fully acknowledge that there are people in this Country that are working part-time instead of full-time because the difference in pay would disqualify them from assistance.  That is a defect of the system.  However, full-time is often the difference of hundreds of dollars a month, which would leave the individual in poverty, except now with less money to live off of.  I suppose that under the philosophy noted above, that would teach them not to be poor.  It would remove whatever "comfort" they receive paired with the shame of being on government assistance. 

The "backstop" argument for all proponents of government cuts is "well we can't afford to continue on this path, so we might as well start cutting somewhere."  Talk to me after we've looked at the 20% of the US Federal Budget spent on National Defense.  Talk to me after we've adjusted Social Security for wealth and age.  These are the things we need to talk about when looking to cut. 


I feel compelled to link to and address WB's post from last night, particularly since he noted that Brian Meshkin has called out "bloggers" as "adult bullies" with a potential target on yours truly.  I have a lot to say, but I'll keep this short.  If this is going to be about politics, and whether the background of a politician can be discussed in the course of an election, I find it truly unfortunate that an anti-bullying effort started after the death of Grace McComas has been exploited and manipulated in this way.  I wish Brian the best of luck in addressing bullying in our schools, but "bloggers" have no place on that list.

With a win off the bats of two unlikely Orioles, Lew Ford and Nate McLouth, the Orioles jump ahead of the Rays in the Wild Card Standings and pull to within 3.5 games of the division leading Yankees (who just lost Mark Teixera for the foreseeable future).  Is this real life?  A friend has recommended that we start a blog push to get people out to the games.  There were little over 10,000 people at last night's game.  Anyone feel like a Blogger Party at Camden Yards?

Obviously the biggest story yesterday was the shooting at Perry Hall High School.  I think most of us have reached a point of emotional exhausted when it comes to shootings in public places.  While I'm not interested in spreading rumors, go to Twitter and follow hashtag #PrayforDaniel  There are photos of the victim, who it appears is recovery.  Shame on us for putting "gun control" in the category of things that are politically incorrect to talk about.

I've read this article about the tax credits proposed by Council-person Jen Terrasa for homeowners "using universal design" three times.  I have no idea what it means.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: The Well & Wise Blog has some suggested healthy cookbooks from their Farmers Market Chef.  If you're part of a CSA like we are, you know how important veggie focused recipes are to address the Lucy-esque conveyor belt of green food. 

That's all for today.  Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!