I was on Tara Granahan’s 630 AM/99.7 FM radio show on Thursday to discuss my dip into new hires by Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo.
The American Interest attempts to split the political difference in addressing why bureaucratic bloat and costs in higher education constitute a very difficult problem to address:
One reason this problem is hard to tackle is that the Left and Right disagree on the ultimate cause of the bloat. Many progressives see it as a product of the free market: If students and parents select colleges based on the quality of student spas and diversity centers and other amenities, then of course colleges will tailor their offerings to meet that demand. The real question is how to make access to college even more universal. Conservatives, meanwhile, are more likely to point to overweening government, including unnecessary regulations, which require more staff to implement, and to federal student loan programs, which pay the salaries of well-organized bureaucrats and end up funding superfluous services that colleges might otherwise forego.
To the extent that the post accurately characterizes two perspectives on the problem, both of them and the writer’s additional proposal (to expand the variety of institutions) miss the fundamental economic point. If we let the actual price of college be correctly valued with respect to its benefits, then nobody would be willing to pay for a four-year spa or, for that matter, tolerate a budget-busting regulatory regime.
Allowing accurate pricing means reducing the broad-based subsidies (both direct and indirect, through subsidized loans) and thereby forcing colleges and universities to sell to people who can afford what’s on offer. That certainly doesn’t preclude scholarships or even some sort of government assistance for specific people for specific reasons, but it does mean an end to this feel-good campaign slogan that nobody should miss out on college for financial reasons.
Financial reasons are for families to decide. When families are deciding based on an artificially low price, of course they’ll opt for amenities and accept a lot of bureaucratic foolishness.
Can we please stop trying to use the law to ensure that every situation has the outcome that we want on the time frame that we’d prefer? Some processes are best left out of the direct, immediate dictation of legislators trying to correct something that happened in the past.
This problem is all over the place, all the time, but it comes to mind today with this news out of Providence, reported by WPRI’s Dan McGowan:
If this policy were already in place, former Providence City Council President Luis Aponte would have been forced to resign his leadership position immediately following his May 10 indictment.
That’s the pitch from Councilman Sam Zurier, who’s put forward a proposal to amend the city’s code of ethics to require any councilor indicated on a felony “directly related to his or her employment’ to step down from leadership positions and subcommittees. It will get a public hearing Tuesday evening at 5:30 in City Hall.
Zurier’s motivation is that it took political pressure for Aponte to resign his presidency, and it wasn’t a sure thing that he would do so. That should be how we want such issues to be resolved.
If the removal from leadership becomes an instant consequence of indictment, prosecutors would have huge power to bring about political outcomes. Perhaps we trust the people who have such power right now, but the same could be said of city council leaders as a general proposition.
The system worked in this case. People made a case (and a scene) for Aponte’s resignation, and he wasn’t able to mount an adequate defense of himself. If the indictment were corrupt or superfluous, he would have been able to push back against it and hold on to his role.
There are reasons we consider folks innocent until proven guilty, and one of them is that we don’t want to empower those who can bring charges to produce binding consequences without due process of the law. We forget that at our own peril.
Recent reports that the Obama administration used data-collection to spy on political opposition seems like it ought to be treated as a much bigger deal than it’s been:
According to top-secret documents made public by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – often referred to as the FISA court – the government admitted that, just days before the 2016 election, NSA analysts were violating surveillance rules on a regular basis. This pattern of overreach, coupled with the timing of the government’s disclosure, resulted in an unusually harsh rebuke of the administration’s practices and principles. …
“Sources of mine have indicated that political players have increasingly devised premises to gather intel on political targets by wrapping them up in ‘incidental’ collection of foreigners, as if by accident,” Sharyl Attkisson, who is pursuing a federal lawsuit the Department of Justice has tried to dismiss, told the Fox News Investigative Unit.
The numbers are staggering:
More than 5 percent, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal report reviewed by Circa.
The NSA has said it has stopped the program, which is as it should be, but isn’t it convenient that it has done so only now that the Deep State’s preferred political party is out of the White House?
Yet, the mainstream media has refused to cover the story. That seems kind of convenient, too.
From the Family Prosperity Initiative forum on January 17, 2017, hosted by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity and the Hassenfeld Institute at Bryant University.
This isn’t just an anti-Trump thing, but a chronic pro-big-government tic of most mainstream journalism. To be sure, this isn’t the flashiest, most-eyeball-catching-est detail, but Dan Mitchell highlights the bottom line of President Trump’s proposed budget:
First, the budget isn’t being cut. Indeed, Trump is proposing that federal spending increase from $4.06 trillion this year to $5.71 trillion in 2027.
That’s a 3.5% increase every year, when inflation is projected to be about two-thirds of that (a little over 2%). What would it take for the news media to begin reacting skeptically to those proclaiming the end of the world because federal spending is only growing consistently at 75% of inflation?
Much of the response to the budget proposal seems to me to have been defining a growth-and-employment approach to helping the poor as “cruelty.” Non-cruelty, apparently, is giving more of some people’s money to other people, as opposed to creating the conditions in which they can earn their own money. Compassion, in short, is measured by the amount that government gives things away.
That’s not a healthy view.
A couple of days ago, Rhode Island House Minority Leader Patricia Morgan (R, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) was complaining to Tara Granahan on 630AM/99.7FM that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s administration was dragging its heels on providing Morgan with information about new hires since the start of her administration.
As Tara and Patricia were saying on air, that should be an easy request for the administration to fulfill. Filter all employees to the appropriate hire dates, and there you go.
Unfortunately, I don’t have access to that tool, but for some overall sense of what the response will look like when it comes, I visited the state’s transparency site and downloaded the payroll for the relevant years. Note that this data is by fiscal year, and the fiscal year 2017 dollar totals are projected “annual” pay and may vary in actuality, what with overtime and that sort of thing. Also note that this is the entire state government, so it captures everything from courts to colleges.
My method was to search for full names (including middle initial) that did or didn’t appear in each subsequent year of payroll, which isn’t perfect. If the state for some reason had a typo on a name (skipping a middle initial) or if somebody got married, or something, these numbers will be a little off, but it does give a rough picture.
Treating fiscal year 2016 as Raimondo’s first (that’d be July 2015 through June 2016), the state government has added 458 more employees than it lost during the two years of budgets that were implemented under this governor. Those new employees account for an additional $30,639,475 in annual pay.
Ethan Shorey presents, in a Valley Breeze article, another wrinkle in the PawSox stadium issue that gives the whole thing a “not at this point, thanks” kind of feel:
There is now increasing likelihood that the city would need to pursue buying the property through the eminent domain process, where officials would have to make a convincing argument that the property is needed for the public’s good. …
Officials are seeking to “reach a fair, negotiated purchase with the owner of the Apex property without the necessity of a taking through eminent domain, but all options will remain on the table in order to ensure that the people of Rhode Island are not denied this important public venue,” said Grebien.
So, the property owner has offered a price that represents the value of the sale to him, and the city government is using its power to simply seize property as a negotiating tactic. The mayor’s amplifying the idea that placing a stadium on this specific property is an “important public” good should make warning flags go up.
People who own any property that might conceivably be attractive to politicians for their investment ventures are on notice that the government ultimately believes the property to be its own. Recall that the RhodeMap RI plan included maps that made no distinction between public and private property — simply putting down the planners’ vision with the assumption that the government would end up owning anything they chose.
One misconception that the government is conveniently promoting is that the value of the property is its assessment… by the government. The value of a property is the point at which the seller’s desire to give up the property meets the buyer’s desire to own it. If a particular piece of land is critical to a government project, the fact that the owner is negotiating with “the people” does not change this dynamic.
To the extent that eminent domain is sparingly reasonable, it’s to prevent abuse around real necessities. A person who owns the last acre of land to complete an important roadway, for example, would have unreasonable leverage. A baseball stadium simply doesn’t reach that level.
Wickford Junction still has few riders, so RIDOT wants to give tickets away for free, costing taxpayers thousands and undercutting private businesses that benefit from commuters.
Even the best argument for government involvement in a new PawSox stadium reasons backwards; why is it government’s role at all to ensure that we have entertainment and will absorb the risk for private investments?
Perhaps history’s anti-capitalists offered an important corrective, but that doesn’t mean falling into the arms of government was the only (or best) solution.
On Channel 10, we learn of the dozens of state employees, some with six-figure salaries, put on paid administrative leave for months on end, even more than a year. Perhaps among thousands of employees, an organization will sometimes find it to be the most efficient thing to do to pay employees not to work while some issue is resolved, and in the case of government, the glacial pace of action is its own, distinct story. Even so, when the number of such employees gets to be over fifty at a given time, doesn’t it begin to reveal an employment attitude in government that money is never really an issue and that the system is set up mainly for the benefit of employees?
Channel 12 has another example. This time, in the evergreen field of government employees’ doing things that shock, it’s a Department of Transportation employee who (allegedly) regularly sleeps in his vehicle during working hours. Department Director Peter Alviti (formerly a director for the Laborers’ union) displays that attitude again:
Alviti told us the engineering technician’s job was to inspect concrete at a Rhode Island plant, to make sure the mix had the required ratio of water and dry material. Alviti also said this case prompted him to personally address about 90 RIDOT employees who have similar access to state vehicles.
“The public sector is not an easy place to be, I reminded them,” said Alviti. “But it’s the place we chose to be employed. All of us. And with that comes some additional responsibilities, particularly when it comes to public perception.”
Yes, you read that right: An employee is (allegedly) caught sleeping on the job, and the director’s response is that public sector employees are like martyrs of accountability. A job that allows for regular midday naps is “not an easy place to be”?
Never mind “public perception.” I think we ought to be more interested to learn about and understand the perception of those who work in government.
One would think that central planners would figure out that they’re really just building a system to protect their own social group’s interests, but the rest of us should figure it out even if they won’t
Rhode Islanders, especially, should heed the admonition of The American Interest that Puerto Rico may be a final warning lesson to states within the United States:
This [bankruptcy] could have been avoided by sensible and timely cuts, by turning a deaf ear to public sector union demands for wages and salaries, by a series of small but definite steps away from the blue model, welfare state governance. But the press, certainly including the NYT which is now reporting the disaster, would have attacked any politicians taking these steps as “harsh”, or “cruel to the poor”.
Now Puerto Rico is in a deeper hole, with much more suffering than any of the moderate cuts would have imposed.
Just look at the false rhetoric permeating the debate over some overly mild reforms to the disastrous ObamaCare entitlement system for a timely illustration. Any restraint on government programs is declared to be a “draconian cut” that will hurt or kill people, marking politicians who support reforms as evil. This will not end well, but just like junkies, supporters of big government just want that one more fix, and let tomorrow take care of itself, somehow.
Susan L.M. Goldberg writes on PJMedia:
A scathing report, highlighted in the UK Daily Mail, details the findings of the Institute of Economic Affairs regarding Britain’s universal free childcare program. The bottom line: researchers have concluded that a government-funded, government-mandated universal daycare and pre-K program has done nothing more than bankrupt the middle class while failing to serve the country’s poor. What’s worse, government involvement has led to excessive regulation that not only drives up programming costs, but limits parental choice when it comes to how they would like to care for and educate their own children.
Goldberg suggests that universal pre-K plans have “everything to do with providing glorified daycare services so that parents can go to work.” That’s only partly true. Such programs also have to do with creating more unionized jobs that rely on government mandates and subsidies.
We’ve reached the point that government is acting entirely as a self-interested business, using its metastasizing ability to tell people what to do and how to live (backed by its authority to tax, jail, and kill) to generate business for itself, in a cycle of kickbacks and political quid pro quo. In the name of doing good, by providing services that it insists people need, too-big government is undermining the very things that define good in life, from freedom to family.
Rather than continue to attempt to mitigate the consequences for some people’s bad decisions, we should look to back government off so we can help each other with less interference, not more.
The human inclination to dictate and control comes back around in the United States
Look, I get it. It doesn’t do anybody any good (except maybe politicians) to caricature the opposition, and I understand that Big Government types believe, at some level, in the mission of government, and on that level, an equivalence between funding and policy goals is justified. But reading news from up north, I can’t help but think a critical line of perspective has been crossed:
The health care bill that Congressional Republicans plan to bring to the House floor for a vote Thursday afternoon would result in “a massive loss of critical funds” for Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker said. …
The potential loss of federal revenues, a major source of funds for the state budget, could compound budget problems associated with tax collections that for many months now have come in well short of the projections that Baker and legislative leaders have used to plan state spending.
Somewhere in this process of elected officials’ making statements and journalists’ reporting them, shouldn’t somebody have the role of putting front and center the key question, here, which is whether a particular policy is better for the people of the United States of America? If ObamaCare crashes of its own weight, wouldn’t that be bad, too? If so, wouldn’t that be worse than a state-level budget crunch?
(Yes, look, I get it… a health-industry collapse would just mean more money and power for the federal and state governments. I’m being rhetorical, here.)
Here’s a peculiar tidbit from the Newport Daily News (not online). Tiverton is hiring a new town administrator, and one of the applicants has a name that might be familiar to others across the state:
[Democrat State Representative from Lincoln and Pawtucket Jeremiah] O’Grady, a former Town Council president in Lincoln, is the director of operations for asset management for ONE Neighborhood of Providence, managing a 330-unit residential portfolio, he said.
He does not have any experience as a town administrator and does not have any experience negotiating union contracts.
OK, then. On the other hand, O’Grady has “studied” some “town documents, such as budgets and audit reports” and therefore feels “comfortable in the position,” according to reporter Marcia Pobzeznik.
As a general proposition, I’d never discourage people from putting themselves out there for jobs for which they might not be credentialed, but I have to scratch my head on this one, not only the application, but also the fact that the Personnel Board would forward it on to the Town Council as one of three finalists.
Incidentally, ONE Neighborhood Builders appears to be a successor or parent organization to the Olneyville Housing Corporation, which has received nearly $400,000 per year from the state government in the past two (and more than $100,000 in prior years) from multiple agencies.
Virgil Dickson, of Modern Healthcare, reminds us that government is allowed to rethink bad decisions, even when they relate to welfare entitlements:
Democratic lawmakers in Oregon are considering ending the state’s Medicaid expansion in an effort to address a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.
The state’s Ways and Means committee, which includes both senators and representatives, suggested cutting Medicaid expansion in an effort to curb Oregon’s $1.6 billion budget deficit.
As Kevin Mooney pointed out in this space in 2012, the Medicaid expansion was implemented in Rhode Island through administrative action and with little debate. It was just assumed that we would and should do it.
It’s been a disaster. In a policy brief from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, we expected one in four Rhode Islanders to be on Medicaid by 2020. Instead, we’re already nearing one in three and increasing every month. Medicaid enrollment exploded as soon as the expansion and the health benefits exchange (HealthSource RI) came online, and it’s reaching the point that the exchange is shuffling its own paying customers onto Medicaid, undermining its own business model.
Legislators should admit that the expansion was a mistake and repeal it.
Shortly after adding the certification of school bus drivers to my running list of tasks at which Rhode Island government is failing, my morning reading brought to my attention multiple articles about Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s big fundraising take in the first quarter of this calendar year. Here’s WPRI’s Ted Nesi:
Raimondo continues to demonstrate a fundraising prowess rarely seen in Rhode Island politics, having raised nearly $3 million since becoming governor and millions more before that when she was general treasurer. The state’s last two-term governor, Republican Don Carcieri, had about $275,000 on hand at the same point during his third year in office.
Want a fun fact? According to the helpful spreadsheets that one can download from the state’s campaign finance search tool, so far in 2017, only 31% of the $570,110 the governor has raised came from people with addresses within Rhode Island. That does represent a little bit of a change. Going back to 2009 (the earliest available for her) brings Raimondo’s in-state percentage up to 51%. Over those seven-plus years, by the way, the governor of Rhode Island has averaged a $541 donation from people out of state, but only $406 from donors in the state.
For comparison’s sake, Cranston’s Republican Mayor Allan Fung, presumed to be Raimondo’s most likely GOP challenger in 2018, has collected 99% of his $30,109 campaign donations so far in 2017 from people with in-state addresses. If it seems unfair to compare a governor with a mayor, turn to the fundraising record of former Republican Governor Donald Carcieri. He raised 89% of all of his campaign money from people in Rhode Island, and Rhode Island donors gave him an average $427 donation, versus $397 from each out-of-state-donor.
So what are Raimondo’s out-of-state donors buying with their money? I’m sure their motivations are manifold, but I can’t help but notice that Wexford Science & Technology is back in the news, having received approval for $13.5 million in taxpayer incentives to do business in RI. As I highlighted back in December, the interactions of Wexford, the Brookings Institution, and other private organizations are certainly, let’s say, interesting, as is the overlap with Raimondo’s donor base.
Students in Tiverton and elsewhere are having difficulty getting to school on time and parents are being made late for work because of a bus driver shortage, as Marcia Pobzeznik reports in the Newport Daily News. Here’s the bus company’s explanation:
The company has tried every way possible to attract potential drivers, [First Student Transportation General Manager Bill Roach] said. It has put up billboards at bus stops and advertised at movie theaters.
“We’ve gone to football games, local markets,” Roach said.
The efforts have succeeded in getting 56 candidates into the state’s 50-hour training program, he said. But it takes 20-30 days to get an appointment for a road test.
“It’s very discouraging. The road testing is the choke point,” Roach said.
There are just one full-time and two part-time road test agents for the entire state. They not only have to certify new drivers, but re-certify existing drivers, he said.
So, the state has set up an arduous regulatory regime for bus drivers. That is, the state has artificially restricted the number of bus drivers by requiring candidates to be approved (and reapproved and reapproved) by the state. And then the state doesn’t supply the road test agents (or some other system) to handle the demand for this mandatory service.
The state has to begin choosing its priorities, because from UHIP to the DMV to bus driver certification to infrastructure to everything, it isn’t accomplishing the basic tasks that it has set for itself. Of course, there’s money for crony capitalist tax breaks, flashy videos promoting the governor, vote-buying schemes by legislators, and disproportionate pay and benefits for union employees.
Given the tax burden throughout the state, money cannot be the issue. The issue is a government that claims for itself too much power and won’t use the bountiful resources it has to accomplish the tasks that it therefore must undertake.
Here’s an interesting finding to ponder as we wrap up the work week, from Brian Frankie in The Federalist:
We know that the same year Obamacare’s insurance expansion provisions took effect, there was a pronounced, and statistically significant, surge in U.S. adult mortality. We know the surge in mortality remains after removing drug-related deaths, and other external morbidity causes, from the statistics. That is all we know. The rest is speculation. But it is fascinating speculation.
Has Obamacare, or some of the secondary effects of Obamacare, actually caused the negative impact in U.S. adult mortality so evident in the statistics? Is the improvement in public health that was assured turned out simply to be another false Obamacare promise, like being able to keep our doctors and health plans, or reducing our health costs?
As with the infamous ObamaStimulus metric of jobs “saved or created,” supporters of the O will insist that we cannot possibly know what mortality rates would have been like had ObamaCare never passed. That’s a nifty trick to never have to truly subject one’s policies to real-world assessment, but serious discussion would require finding some evidence that an even bigger surge came in low.
I’m not saying I’ve got any answers on a Friday afternoon, but I certainly find it plausible that ObamaCare actually killed thousands of people (to put it in not-at-all-inflammatory terms). Medicaid has worse health outcomes than private health insurance, even than no coverage at all, so people ushered onto Medicaid would be expected to increase mortality rates, especially if they’d planned to buy private health insurance through an exchange and discovered their eligibility for the free version.
Whatever the cause, we should certainly get past the simplistic public debate that saving ObamaCare saves lives and trying to eliminate (or even substantially reform) it is an inhumane goal.
Trust in Trump (versus the elite), trust in intelligence gathering, trust in pensions and economic development, and trust in the police
Tax cuts, budget deficits, and labor unions are topics that all come back to priorities, and the greater incentive of insiders to make sure that theirs dominate.
Although fully aware that I’m (let’s say) unique, I still think bottle deposit charges ought to outrage people. The idea of the charges was to give consumers some incentive to recycle bottles and cans, but Susan Haigh reports for the Associated Press on how that rationale continues to transform into something else:
In Connecticut, distributors were allowed to keep the unclaimed bottle deposits to help offset the costs of running the program, but state officials decided in 2009 to use that money — about $34 million each year — to help balance the government’s budget.
Step 1: Use some public purpose as justification for the creation of a new funding stream, claiming (don’t worry) the government’s intentions are wholly dispassionate. Step 2: Spot a big pot of money that government can contrive a justification for taking, and take it.
Connecticut, Massachusetts and Iowa are among the states where bills have been proposed to replace the bottle deposits with a tax. Supporters say the tax revenue could support recycling efforts that did not exist when the bottle redemption systems were introduced.
Thus does the government essentially open up a line of business in recycling. What started as an incentive charge that government imposed, but from which government did not profit, is becoming an excuse for government to process money for a particular activity.
Liliana Rutler and Rosie Woods report on another line of work the government of Massachusetts is edging toward entering:
Sheriffs urged lawmakers Monday to use the legalization of marijuana as an opportunity to invest in substance abuse treatment. They are urging state lawmakers to increase the tax on pot from 10% to 15% to pay for those treatment programs.
Step 1: Legalize an illegal industry. Step 2: Effectively turn it into a government-monopoly. Step 3: Find new sideline businesses such as treatment for those who abuse the government-monopoly substance.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed with the get-right-to-the-point title, “Tuition-Free College Is Nothing More Than a Political Ploy,” Allysia Finley suggests real motivation is Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo’s presidential aspirations. She also suggests another topic that merits some careful research before Rhode Island jumps on the bandwagon:
Promising free tuition could steer more students to public schools from private ones. The Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in New York estimates Gov. Cuomo’s plan would boost enrollment at public colleges by 116,000 while reducing the head count at nonprofit schools by 11%. The declines would be particularly acute at small, less selective colleges. For-profit schools would be pinched, too.
According to the commission’s analysis, the plan would shift $1.4 billion away from nonprofit colleges, resulting in 45,000 job losses. Compensating jobs would be created at public schools, but dislocations would invariably occur. “Once this is out there and implemented, possibly some of the more precarious institutions will go under,” Gary Olson, president of Daemen College, told Inside Higher Ed. “And what that will do is cause millions of dollars of lost economic impact on the local community where the college is located.”
Yes, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities sounds like an interested party, but our society is supposed to work by pitting such interests against each other for the public’s edification. Perhaps one of Rhode Island’s problems is that it isn’t big enough for collective voices to emerge, even as politicians have enough power to make individual institutions wary of crossing them.
In that, Rhode Island an excellent case study in the danger of big government. When your economy depends on the ability to procure special deals from the government, the incentive is to not advocate for your interests publicly, which leaves the public uninformed for votes.
Anyway, if Rhode Island’s non-government institutions of higher learning are too besotted or timid to argue their own interests, mark this down as another reason the General Assembly should pass the “free tuition” idea along for a study commission that might draw some real evidence out of the still waters of public discourse.
Relationship of government to the people, with cheese sandwiches, welfare, probation, and campaign finances.
GoLocal is reporting that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island plans to move a good chunk of its Providence workforce to East Providence:
Despite making promises to the City of Providence in 2007 to centralize its work force in its gleaming $125 million tower, Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI confirmed late Tuesday that it will be moving more than 125 jobs out of Providence to East Providence.
The Blue Cross Tower is assessed at $46 million, but only pays a portion of its tax obligation because of a generous twenty-year tax stabilization.
Average residents tend to get caught up in rhetoric and lose sight of basic realities like incentives. Although individual workers and executives do take morality and personal fulfillment into consideration, private businesses ultimately exist to make money (whether for profit or non-profit). If they don’t do that, they don’t get to do what it is they do. Likewise, politicians’ have to gather votes and political support, otherwise they lose both their livelihoods and ability to accomplish what they want.
So, when a particular arrangement is no longer optimal for a business, given other opportunities, it will walk away from deals. And when a politician comes into office who didn’t make a particular deal and is building a different base of support, the dynamic changes from that direction.
Public policy should therefore build beneficial incentives and then let people work out their deals in a free market. From cutting deals for office buildings to reshaping an entire population for the benefit of a sugar-daddy industries (through, for example, “free tuition”), it is utter folly to accept central planners’ promises that the people can make out in the long run.
The Wall Street Journal’s Jennifer Levitz reports that the GOP-governed state of Maine is looking to add work requirements to the Medicaid program for those enrollees who are able-bodied adults. When the state did the same with the food stamp (SNAP) program, enrollees dropped 90% and analysis suggested that the group of people who had been on food stamps actually saw an increase in wages.
The argument against such reforms shows the completely different starting point of each side:
But Maine’s approach is drawing criticism from advocates for the poor, who say jobs, volunteer positions and transportation to either of them can be hard to come by in rural pocketswith persistent unemployment. They say those losing the assistance turn to charities instead, increasing demand at food banks.
To which I would ask: So? Whether society provides food for the poor through a government program or private charity, we’re still supporting our neighbors.
The implied difference is that private charity has the feel of relying on the goodness of others while government programs have the feel of society’s handing over what it owes — an entitlement, in other words. That difference is critical, and right in line with the work requirement.
What we owe each other is the chance of personal development and fulfillment, which comes from working, including being part of a self-supporting family team, even if not everybody within it works. For those who really can’t work and who aren’t part of family that can address the greater challenges it faces, we should offer help in a way that shows genuine concern and community, not forced entitlement.
The attitudes and mechanics of welfare affect each other. There’s a difference between the obligation to care for other people and a right to be cared for. When a third party — government — asserts the authority to impose the obligation and bestow the right, it harms those who face adversity and deprives those who contribute of the benefits of being charitable.