Showing posts with label public welfare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label public welfare. Show all posts

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Women And Work

"They blame the low income women for ruining the country because they are staying home with their children and not going out to work. They blame the middle income women for ruining the country because they go out to work and do not stay home to take care of their children."

-Ann Richards

 When we were pushing "welfare reform," meaning putting single mothers out to work, I always wondered, "who is going to raise the children?" There are possible answers, but I don't recall that we ever had that conversation.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

All Hat And No Horse

(And not much under the hat, either).

Where is Molly Ivins when we really need her?

In 1776, my ancestor Roderick Rawlins was born in Guilford County, NC.

He didn't stay there. He migrated to Tennessee, Kentucky, across the Ohio to Indiana and Illinois. In 1845 he and his extended family moved by wagon train to the Republic of Texas. Many of his descendants are still there.

If I had been born in Texas instead of Oklahoma, I would count as a seventh generation Texan. Come to think of it, I once lived in Texas, so I can still claim that.

I know about the posturing that goes on in Texas and the foolish policies that result.

Here's one: Texas has cut funding to Planned Parenthood by two-thirds, leaving poor women without affordable health care clinics for themselves and their children.

Texas could, of course, pick up that function itself.

Fat chance!

This is the Texas corollary to the doctrine of less government. Target: women.

But you can buy a firearm with no waiting period, no registration and can carry a rifle or shotgun into any establishment without hindrance. Need a machine gun? No problem.

Religion is really big in Texas.

Friday, January 6, 2012


Much of today's vicious political discourse reflects a conflict between those who believe in YOYO (you're on your own) against those who favor concerted action for the common good (WITT - we're in this together). This is an ancient struggle, but the twentieth century saw great strides in the ability of American society to work together for the "general welfare," as our constitution puts it. We came out of the great depression and defeated the Axis powers by following the policies of WITT. We created general prosperity for two and a half decades after WWII by extending the policies and attitudes of WITT.

The efforts of government at both the federal and the state level to act in the public good has been under constant attack for about four decades now. Last night's attack by North Carolina Republican legislators on public school teachers is a recent example of the YOYO philosophy.

This Wednesday, Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, posted a very thought-provoking article entitled "The Decline of the Public Good." I recommend it.

Reich makes it clear that the decline in spending on public assets that everyone uses is a consequence of relentless attacks. Not only public schools, but parks, roads, playgrounds and transit systems have been victims. His most striking statistic: "Outside of defense, domestic discretionary spending is down sharply as a percent of the economy. Add in declines in state and local spending, and total public spending on education, infrastructure, and basic research has dropped from 12 percent of GDP in the 1970s to less than 3 percent by 2011."

Anyone who uses those public assets knows about the decline.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cracks In Flood Aid

Last Sunday's Sun Journal had an article examining cases of victims of hurricane Irene who "fell through the cracks" in FEMA's flood relief efforts. The stories concerned those whose houses had been flooded during hurricane Isabel and had received flood relief assistance to repair their houses. FEMA had informed them they must get flood insurance or they would not be eligible for repair assistance in the future.

Some blame FEMA for not providing repair assistance to these victims. But the decision doesn't lie with the Federal Emergency Management agency. The policy was set by the US Congress.

Last Friday's New York Times had a very interesting debate by five experts entitled Who Benefits From Federal Flood Aid? The debate examines a number of problems with federal flood aid, including the federal flood insurance program itself.

An underlying assumption of much of the discussion is that people who live in areas prone to flooding are sufficiently wealthy to be able to afford insurance that covers flood damage. Or they shouldn't build there.

But what of the 90 year old widow living on social security in the house she grew up in? Or the minimum wage worker living in manufactured housing in a low cost area? What of a person whose choice is between buying food or paying for flood insurance? A person who lacks the resources to move?

None of the solutions presented in the New York Times debate addresses these questions.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Municipal Elections

I still hear grumbling about Oriental town government.

Just a reminder: candidate filing for municipal office opens at the Pamlico County Board of Elections office in Bayboro at noon, Friday, July 1, 2011. Candidate filing ends at noon, July 15, 2011.

Now is the time to start organizing for your campaign.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Debt Problem?

Suppose you could borrow money for ten years at a real interest rate of less than one percent? Even better, suppose you could borrow money for five years at an interest rate of less than zero? In other words, someone will pay you for you to borrow their money?

You'd probably think about borrowing that money and investing it in measures to improve your future wealth.

Strange as it seems, the US Treasury's real interest rate paid on inflation-protected securities is less than one percent for ten years and less than zero percent for five years. So why not borrow more at those rates and use the funds to stimulate jobs and reinvigorate the economy?

Ask the Republicans.

Is this what they mean by running the government like a business?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Today's employment news isn't good.

Unemployment is up to 9.1%.

I hate to be a pessimist, but I'm not surprised. The stimulus plan (ARRA) wasn't big enough, and included too many tax reductions in lieu of direct government expenditures.

To understand why, you need to be familiar with three concepts:
A. Liquidity trap. That is when our national monetary authority reduced short term interest to zero, but banks aren't lending and companies aren't borrowing. We are in a liquidity trap. There are many reasons for this - companies, for example, aren't investing because they have no expectation that new customers will suddenly appear. Another reason is:
B. Liquidity preference. In uncertain economic times, companies prefer to hold liquid assets (that can be readily converted to money, like bonds) rather than illiquid assets, like real estate and other commodities;
C. Aggregate Demand. Classical economists have believed for nearly two centuries that there will never be an overall shortage of aggregate demand. Time and again they are proven wrong, but the belief persists. Our aggregate demand is way down because we have the lowest percentage of the population employed since the great depression.

The reason our recovery is stalled is that, in a liquidity trap only government expenditures have a realistic chance of overcoming liquidity preference, improving aggregate demand for goods and services, and therefore stimulating businesses to hire workers and invest in increasing productive capacity.

Businesses aren't refusing to invest because Democrats have hurt their feelings, as some seem to suggest.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Modern Anarchism

Government isn't the solution - government is the problem!

Did you ever hear that? If you really believe it, you are an anarchist.

Tea Party adherents say they believe it.

Until the pot holes on the way to work don't get fixed. Or they lose their job. Or their house catches fire.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Freedom Riders

Fifty years ago, May 4, 1961, seven blacks and six whites left Washington, DC in two commercial buses enroute to the deep south. Their aim: to challenge segregation of facilities used in interstate transportation.

Monday night, May 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm, Public Television will broadcast a documentary about the event.

These young people showed remarkable courage and their peaceful, non-violent challenge transformed America.

We should all be grateful.

I strongly recommend everyone view the film.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Town Budget

I've been thinking about the budget and some of the priorities reflected therein. But let's get to first principles.

What is a town for?

To provide services to the citizens. If there were no services, there would be no need for the town.

How are the services provided? The town's employees deliver the services. The water plant doesn't operate itself. Neither does it repair itself. The water meters don't read themselves and the bills don't get in the mail by themselves. The streets and sidewalks aren't self repairing.

No employees - no services. It's as simple as that.

Last year the town board decided to balance the budget on the backs of our employees by establishing and gradually increasing a monetary contribution by each employee to purchase his or her health insurance. The scheme was to reduce the town's contribution to health insurance, but to compensate somewhat by increasing wages and salaries. Even if this modification to the pay structure resulted in a dollar for dollar compensation (one dollar increase in pay for each dollar of decrease in the town's contribution to health insurance), the burden on the employee would be greater. We would replace an untaxed benefit (health) with a taxed benefit (wages).

We're talking about employees making as little as $11.00 an hour, who are having difficulty buying enough gas to get to work and we want to place another burden on them? These are people for the most part who can't afford to live in Oriental and walk or bicycle to work. And they don't buy Priuses.

So where might the town get the money to continue paying employee health insurance as before and still balance the budget? A good place to start would have been to not spend the $22,000 the board spent to hire a lawyer to investigate the previous town manager in hopes of finding a cause to fire him that would save spending the $25,000 termination pay in the contract the town negotiated and signed.

A second place to look for how to balance the budget without passing the hat to the employees is to tap into the money the water system should have been paying to the general fund (recently recalculated) but hasn't. That's on the order of another $25,000 for the coming fiscal year.

I think there are better options than taking up a collection from the workers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Protect Polluters

Monday night's County Commissioners meeting addressed, among other things, a request by Commissioner Mele for the board to pass resolutions of support for three bills now before the legislature concerning environmental regulations. The bills, attributed to drafting efforts of local real estate mogul Missy Baskerville and introduced by Senator Preston, were as follows:

Senate Bill 323, An act to create an exemption to the riparian buffer requirements for certain private properties in the Neuse River and Tar-Pamlico River Basins.

In brief, the proposed act "grandfathers" any parcel platted and recorded prior to August 1, 2000 from current riparian buffer requirements;

Senate Bill 324, An act to require greater notification of and ability to attend hearings for rule making.

In brief, the act amends present law to require the rule-making agency to notify the governing unit in each county and publish notice in a newspaper in each county that will be impacted by the proposed rule and to schedule public hearings within 60 miles of each county affected by a proposed rule;

Senate Bill 325, An act to provide additional requirements to apply to the adoption and implementation of any proposed administrative rule that is an environmental rule.

The most significant requirement is that at least 80% of any "stakeholder" committee created to consider a proposed rule be made up of persons employed in the private sector, residing in the city or county affected and essentially be in the industry regulated by the rule.

In a nutshell, these three bills are intended to obstruct agencies responsible for developing regulations to implement public law and delay or outright prevent them from doing their job.

Who in all this is going to represent the interest of the public?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NC Unemployment Benefits reported on a confrontation today in Raleigh between Republican legislators and workers losing their unemployment benefits.

"The jobless workers." reported, "are caught in a partisan rift over the seemingly straightforward move to change a formula for calculating unemployment benefits, allowing the federally funded program to continue for people out of work for up to 99 weeks."

Some may call it a "partisan rift," but real people are at risk. The dispute, at bottom, is over whose vision for the future of America will prevail. The issues are certainly not trivial.

Americans are increasingly reliant on government programs to meet their most basic requirements. Last year, more than 18 percent of the nation's total personal income came from entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits and other programs, according to an analysis by USA Today. Wages were only about fifty percent of total personal income, the lowest share since government tracking began in 1929.

National Public Radio asked members of the public receiving government benefits to call in with their stories. The transcript of their calls is heart wrenching.Link