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January 19, 2011

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The Animal Rescue site is an invaluable resource for resucers and people interested in rescue. Some specific rescues that might interest people are Stray Rescue of St. Louis, Bad Rap Dogs, and Old Dog Haven of Washington State.

Stray Rescue of St Louis is the creation of one remarkable man who just could not drive by stray dogs without feeding them. The rescue is now a full service adoption center that has its own vet clinic. They have a network of foster homes, kennel space for over one hundred dogs and maintain feeding and shelter stations for homeless dogs all over St. Louis. Their website is inspiring. I strongly suggest checking it out! I just purchased a momorial stone for Lassie as a contribution to their new facility.

Bad Rap Dogs specializes in pitbulls. They are really in Oakland, not SF. They are a trememdously effective organization and share in the responsiblity for the fact that the city shelter is no longer over run by unadoptable pits. They also helped rehome some of Micheal Vick's dogs. They are at the forefront of the fight against the myth of the evil pitbull.

Old Dog Haven is what it says: a network of foster homes and hospice homes for elderly dogs that have been abandoned, dumped or have recently lost their person. They have over two hundred dogs in their care. They took in a dog from my island about a month ago: Mercy, who had been abandoned two years ago and survived on her own in the wooods even though she was partially blind. I will be for ever grateful to them for taking Mercy in.

All of thses organizations could use donation if you are so inclined. All have wonderful informative inspiring websites.

The linked article on dogs refers to Alexandra Horowitz' book, Inside a Dog

I'm reading it now. In addition to the excellence of the title, taken from the Book of Groucho*, it's really very interesting. I recommend it to anyone with a dog, or any interest in dogs.

*"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read."

I read that, too. I recommend it as well. Also, if you want a charming, highly readable, funny tale of meth labs, rescue chihuahuas, Trickster Coyote and love, read A Small Furry Prayer.

Grrr, Sniff, Arf, aka review of:

INSIDE OF A DOG

What Dogs See, Smell, and Know

By Alexandra Horowitz

353 pp. Scribner. $27

First chapter.

Inside of a Dog, site by Scribner.

What I tell you three times is true.

And now I'm watching you, again, silly Typepad. Call me a spammer, will you? Ha!

Apologies if anyone has linked this band before. I was passing through Silver Platters today and found myself completely sucked in by the song that was playing on the overhead. I ended up listening to clips from every track on the album and could not leave without it.

The Dead Weather: Sea of Cowards

Blue Blood Blues

Hustle and Cuss

Anyone have anything to say about "To Beat Back Poverty, Pay the Poor"?

If I didn't think this was a terribly important article to read, I wouldn't have posted it, and the quotes.

Dogs are lovely, and we love them.

Loving the poor humans, and helping hundreds of millions in a way we know works strikes me as faintly more important, but that's a subjective value judgment.

Meanwhile, what do you guys think of:

The program fights poverty in two ways. One is straightforward: it gives money to the poor. This works. And no, the money tends not to be stolen or diverted to the better-off.
Discuss?

Or we could have endless discussions of whether or not people should have guns. How about we talk about non-violent ways of helping hundreds of millions of people?

Just a frustrated thought.

Anyone have anything to say about "To Beat Back Poverty, Pay the Poor"?

First, we do have some elements of this here in the US. But nothing like the kind of straight-up, guaranteed base level of income transfer payment, in cash, that the program discussed here implements.

In a nutshell, if you don't have a lot of money, these programs will give you some.

Programs like this appear, empirically, to be very helpful. But they are highly unlikely to ever exist here, because we have a profoundly deep ideological aversion to welfare-like transfer payments.

The specific objections will be that (a) there is no authority at the federal level to do this, (b) it discourages people from working, (c) it is an undesirable burden on productive people, (d) it's an unwanted intrusion of government into private life (note the "conditional" part of "conditional transfer payments").

Etc.

But at bottom, IMO, Americans don't like to give people money for doing nothing. It rubs us the wrong way. Even if it makes sense, from a public policy point of view, to do so.

How about we talk about non-violent ways of helping hundreds of millions of people?

Fine, as long as we don't raise my taxes. That makes me get shooty.

Seriously, it's a fine idea, both humane and apparently well designed, and we're probably at least two generations away from doing anything like that in the US. One side effect of having a large (even today) middle class is that it's easy to segregate the rich from the problems of the poor, making those problems seem less like social issues and more like moral failings (of the poor, obviously), so there's less felt pressure among the rich to do something. That plus the fact that our poor are not as desperately poor as the poor in Brazil and Mexico.

Catsy: I was listening to Blue Blood Blues and thinking, "If that isn't Jack White, somebody ought to sue somebody."

But at bottom, IMO, Americans don't like to give people money for doing nothing. It rubs us the wrong way. Even if it makes sense, from a public policy point of view, to do so.

Unless those people are Goldman Sachs. Or Archer Daniels Midland. Or a farmer. Then it rubs us the right way...so right than I'm about to start moaning.

The truth is that Americans LOVE to give people money for doing nothing...for some values of "people". Let's be honest: the political problems with getting these programs off the ground is that conservatives can demagogue them come next election by saying, explicitly or implicitly, they're taking your money and giving it to THOSE people. You know, them. I sometimes wonder if it would be easier to establish such programs if America was more racially homogenous.

"But at bottom, IMO, Americans don't like to give people money for doing nothing. It rubs us the wrong way. Even if it makes sense, from a public policy point of view, to do so."

Not to mention that the percentage of extreme poor is much lower here, the mechanism for tracking if they are compliant would be necessarily local and well, we have programs from pre-k on up that do essentially the same thing. Free lunch programs at every level, before and after school care for needy, government subsidized housing, indigent programs....

Are we really discussing the concept that we don't fund or support any of these things already?

Free lunch programs at every level, before and after school care for needy, government subsidized housing, indigent programs....

I'd question the extent to which we actually "have" these programs. We do have lots of programs but many of them are sufficiently onerous or complex that they don't serve as many people as need help.

My brother is disabled. My parents apply to all sorts of programs to benefit him. And for many of them, the application process is really painful. As in, they have to really struggle to figure out how to get these things done. I'm talking about people who are licensed professional engineers, people who have literally cut business deals measured in the billions of dollars. If they struggle, I shudder to think what its like for someone who doesn't have a master's degree, someone who isn't very fluent in english, someone whose literacy skills are not top-notch.

God help you if you have a mental illness that make persistence or interacting with people difficult. I mean, literally, God help you because I can't imagine how you'll survive.

As a country, we are terrified that someone, somewhere, will get some free money or government services that they're not entitled to. So we make sure that getting those services is as painful as possible.

Beyond that, a lot of benefit programs have strings attached. Maybe you can get subsidized childcare, but only on the other side of town, so its useless to you unless you have a reliable car in good working order. Or maybe there's a great program to help you, but in order to apply, you'll have to make 4 separate trips to various local government agencies, carefully keeping track of lots of pieces of paper. That might be easy if you have no job and have a reliable car and are a detail oriented person. Even things as simple as free school lunches have issues: what do you do in the summer? I mean, children still need to eat even when school is not in session.

But Turb, the challenges you point out are not much more onerous than the criteria for the programs being discussed. I just object to the concept that we don't want to help people.

You are correct that we don't want to give money to people who don't qualify.

My experience is different. I have a daughter who found herself with twin baby sons and no real means of support. The programs in place helped her have a home and food. They didn't leave anything for emergencies of life, etc. but I don't see the amounts in the programs described here being much more than that.

People in this country give millions(my guess is hundreds of millions but at least tens) to charities who struggle to provide this kind of help. The systems aren't perfect but I think it is an unfair generalization to paint Americans, or even Republicans, with the "They don't want to help the poor" brush.

we have programs from pre-k on up that do essentially the same thing.

We have a piecemeal collection of programs targeted at specific issues. School lunch, food stamps, unemployment for a limited time if you were employed and now are not. Medicare and SS if you're old enough, Medicaid if you're poor enough.

What we do not have is a straight up cash payment to families that are simply poor. EITC is the closest thing, but you have to actually be employed to get a tax credit.

I think it is an unfair generalization to paint Americans, or even Republicans, with the "They don't want to help the poor" brush.

Americans are very generous. They are happy to give to charities to help out poor people.

What they do not like is for the government to be responsible for guaranteeing a baseline level of income. It seems too socialistic to us.

My observation - Americans do not like the idea that government can make or enforce any claim on us to be responsible for other folks. If it's voluntary, fine. If it's through the state, not fine.

I'm not even getting into whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. It's just plainly so. IMVHO.

Without the basic assumption that (a) people who participate in a common political community are obliged to make sure nobody falls through the cracks, and (b) it's legitimate for those obligations to be met through the government, programs like the ones described in Gary's cite are not bloody likely to be implemented here.

Friedman, of all people, argued for a negative income tax. If you're poor, the government would simply give you enough money - a direct cash entitlement - to bring your household income up to a basic minimum.

Not food stamps, not health insurance, not free lunch. Cash money. Enough money to buy a baseline level of the necessities of life.

That won't happen here.

Catsy: I was listening to Blue Blood Blues and thinking, "If that isn't Jack White, somebody ought to sue somebody."

Hah! The funny thing is that White's vocal role is purely secondary to Alison Mossheart's. He's playing drums in The Dead Weather. I really like the interplay of their voices, and the whole call-response vibe so many of the songs have going on works really well. If I have any complaint at all it's that Sea of Cowards is awfully short for a full-price CD: around 35 minutes total and most of the songs are 3-4 minutes. Now that I've had a day to listen through it relentlessly, I think The Difference Between Us is my favorite track.

Others have said anything I might've had to say about welfare in the US, and better. Short answer: we really ought to have some minimum standard of life below which we do not allow anyone to fall unless they refuse the help. But because social policy in this country is largely dominated by the callous sociopathy of conservative dogma, it's not likely to happen except around the margins.

" But because social policy in this country is largely dominated by the callous sociopathy of conservative dogma,"

or, Those guys don't see the same solution for the problem as I do, so they are sociopaths. Remind me of this the next time we talk about raising the level of discourse.

or, Those guys don't see the same solution for the problem as I do, so they are sociopaths. Remind me of this the next time we talk about raising the level of discourse.

I don't know what I'd do around here without you to helpfully explain for me what I was really trying to say.

I meant exactly what I said. A huge chunk of conservative dogma is outright sociopathic in the way it prioritizes the arbitrary and unquantifiable "smallness" of government over the entirely predictable consequences of policies aimed at reducing government, and places the principle of self-reliance over the actual suffering of the poor. Conservative social policy is suffused with example after example of dogmatic adherence to abstract principles like the "free market" and indifference to the documented real-world consequences of those principles.

If the shoe doesn't fit you, you're under no obligation to wear it.

If it does, you might want to spend some time asking yourself why that is.

"Conservative social policy is suffused with example after example of dogmatic adherence to abstract principles like the "free market" and indifference to the documented real-world consequences of those principles."

Or we observed an actual program we called welfare that, upon reaching the third or fourth generation, proved to not be moving much of anyone out of poverty. It worked very much like the programs described here.

Or we observed an actual program we called welfare that, upon reaching the third or fourth generation, proved to not be moving much of anyone out of poverty.

No, but it quite clearly moved them from "starving or freezing to death" to "propagating and surviving for multiple generations."

But Catsy is right, and DougJ at Balloon Juice provides another stellar example. As he puts it

. . . a lot of the conservative project is to convince people that this kind of reasoning is valid. It starts with Bell Curve-style IQ determines wealth and is genetic, so you if you’re poor, you’re dumb, then moves into high eggheads don’t create jobs and deserve contempt, and reaches its apotheosis in Bobo’s theory that the greatness of the composure class transcends intellect and only manifests itself as a sweet, sweet primal scent.

It all points in one direction: we owe our Galtian overlords everything, even if all those overlords do is run a crappy news channel or field calls from sports fans.

Phil,

Just curious, what specifically is that a "stellar example" of?

The "Language" link in my post is broken.

And to show how flawed I am, I've forgotten what it was I meant to link to. And my current software toolkit couldn't find it in under two minutes, it wasn't important, so here's another Emergence and Defeat of Nixon's Family Assistance Plan (FAP), which is a Word document most won't want to read, so a couple of short links, again:

The Negative Income Tax.

One model was proposed by Milton Friedman, as part of his flat tax proposals. In this version, a specified proportion of unused deductions or allowances would be refunded to the taxpayer. If, for a family of four the amount of allowances came out to $10,000, and the subsidy rate was 50% (the rate recommended by Friedman), and the family earned $6,000, the family would receive $2,000, because it left $4,000 of allowances unused, and therefore qualifies for $2,000, half that amount. Friedman feared that subsidy rates as high as those would lessen the incentive to obtain employment. He also warned that the negative income tax, as an addition to the "ragbag" of welfare and assistance programs, would only worsen the problem of bureaucracy and waste. Instead, he argued, the negative income tax should immediately replace all other welfare and assistance programs on the way to a completely laissez-faire society where all welfare is privately administered. The negative income tax has come up in one form or another in Congress, but Friedman opposed it because it came packaged with other undesirable elements antithetical to the efficacy of the negative income tax. Friedman preferred to have no income tax at all, but said he did not think it was politically feasible at that time to eliminate it, so he suggested this as a less harmful income tax scheme.
Friedman:
Milton Friedman, who died last week at 94, was the patron saint of small-government conservatism. Conservatives who invoke his name in defense of Social Security privatization and other cutbacks in the social safety net might thus be surprised to learn that he was also the architect of the most successful social welfare program of all time.

Market forces can accomplish wonderful things, he realized, but they cannot ensure a distribution of income that enables all citizens to meet basic economic needs. His proposal, which he called the negative income tax, was to replace the multiplicity of existing welfare programs with a single cash transfer — say, $6,000 — to every citizen. A family of four with no market income would thus receive an annual payment from the I.R.S. of $24,000. For each dollar the family then earned, this payment would be reduced by some fraction — perhaps 50 percent. A family of four earning $12,000 a year, for example, would receive a net supplement of $18,000 (the initial $24,000 less the $6,000 tax on its earnings).

Mr. Friedman’s proposal was undoubtedly motivated in part by his concern for the welfare of the least fortunate. But he was above all a pragmatist, and he emphasized the superiority of the negative income tax over conventional welfare programs on purely practical grounds. If the main problem of the poor is that they have too little money, he reasoned, the simplest and cheapest solution is to give them some more. He saw no advantage in hiring armies of bureaucrats to dispense food stamps, energy stamps, day care stamps and rent subsidies.

As always, Mr. Friedman’s policy prescriptions were shaped by his desire to minimize adverse economic incentives, a feature that architects of earlier welfare programs had largely ignored. Those programs, each administered by a separate bureaucracy, typically reduced a family’s benefits by some fraction of each increment in earned income. Rates of 50 percent were common, so a family participating in four separate programs might see its total benefits fall by $2 for each extra dollar it earned. Under the circumstances, no formal training in economics was necessary to see that working didn’t pay. In contrast, someone who worked additional hours under Mr. Friedman’s plan would always take home additional after-tax income.

The negative income tax was never adopted in the end, because of concern that a payment large enough to support an urban family of four might induce many to go on the dole. With a payment of $6,000 per person, for example, rural communes of 30 would have a pooled annual payment of $180,000, which they could supplement by growing vegetables and raising animals. Because these groups could live quite comfortably at taxpayer expense, there would be an eager audience for accounts of their doings on the nightly news. Political support for such a program would be difficult to sustain.

Instead, Congress adopted the earned-income tax credit, essentially the same program except that only people who were employed received benefits. One of the few American welfare programs widely adopted in other countries, the earned-income tax credit has proved far more efficient than conventional programs, just as Mr. Friedman predicted. Yet because it covers only those who work, it cannot be the sole weapon in society’s antipoverty arsenal.

This month, economic populists like Jim Webb, Jon Tester and others were elected to Congress on pledges to strengthen the social safety net. In pursuing this task, they should take seriously Milton Friedman’s concern about incentives. How might they expand support for the unemployed without undermining work incentives?

One possibility is government-sponsored employment coupled with negative income tax payments that are too small to live on, even in large groups. Most low-income people would continue working for private employers, as they now do under the earned-income tax credit. For others, government would stand as an employer of last resort. With adequate supervision and training, even the unskilled can perform many useful tasks. They can plant seedlings on eroding hillsides, for example, or remove graffiti from public spaces. They can transport the elderly and handicapped. Coupled with low negative income tax payments, wages from public service or private employment could lift everyone from poverty. This combination would provide no incentive to go on the dole. [....]

Lastly, Richard Milhous Nixon:
Statement About Approval of the Family Assistance Act of 1970 by the House Ways and Means Committee
March 5, 1970
[...]

THE prompt and favorable action of the House Ways and Means Committee on the administration's proposals for reforming our failing welfare system is most gratifying and encouraging.

I have great confidence in this legislation; I believe it provides the best method for reversing the trend toward greater welfare dependency. I am most happy that the Ways and Means Committee-after conducting its own searching investigation--has reached a similar conclusion.

Very few questions will come before this Congress that are more important than welfare reform. Without a basic, conceptual change in our welfare system, we can expect only that welfare rolls will continue to grow and that costs will inevitably skyrocket. I hope that the members of both parties in both Houses of the Congress will follow the lead of the Ways and Means Committee so that our Nation can avoid that misfortune.

While the initial "start-up" costs of this program are higher than our present welfare costs, I am confident that we can afford this program and that it is consistent with a responsible fiscal policy. I would not support the program unless that were the case. It is my view, in fact, that responsible fiscal policy demands rapid welfare reform, for such reform will enable us to make significant long-run savings. The question is not whether we can afford this legislation, but whether we can afford to go on without it.

A central point of the new program is that only those who are willing to take a job or to enter training are eligible for benefits. In addition, the new payment schedule would be structured to reward those people who take jobs, rather than penalizing them as does the present system. In short, the family assistance program--for the first time--would make welfare a method for putting people back to work, reducing the welfare rolls, and expanding the payrolls of the Nation.

This new program would also remove that element in the present system which encourages fathers to desert their families. In addition, it would give significant assistance to the aged, the blind, and the disabled by establishing for them a national minimum benefit level.

It is often said that nothing in this world is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. In my view, the family assistance program is an idea whose time has come--and the welcome action of the Ways and Means Committee confirms that judgment. Not every Congress has the opportunity to enact a fundamental reform of our basic institutions. The 91st Congress now has that historic opportunity.

So do all future Congresses.

Are these wacky liberal leftist proposals? Milton Friedman? Richard Nixon?

All it takes is education, agitation, organization, lobbying, and politics.

Everyone start now! :-)

Hogan:

One side effect of having a large (even today) middle class is that it's easy to segregate the rich from the problems of the poor,
And worse, the middle class from the problems of the poor.

The poor are either invisble, or denied existence, or recognized only as The Other -- it couldn't happen to me or mine in the eyes of many, and there's a psychological reason that people see it that way: viewing it otherwise causes fear. If you recognize that it could happen to you, that's scary. Thus: denial.

Which is the largest river in the world.

Averting one's eyes from The Other comes naturally to all of us. It takes a daily battle to understand The Other, be it gender, ethnicity, economics, age, social circumstances, physical handicap, mental illness, lifestyle, politics, and all the other ways people categorically differ.

[...] making those problems seem less like social issues and more like moral failings (of the poor, obviously), so there's less felt pressure among the rich to do something. That plus the fact that our poor are not as desperately poor as the poor in Brazil and Mexico.
Would you like some statistics on that? We could discuss. It's an arguable point, but I suggest that cites are useful, and since this point is controversial, crucial, and the basis in many ways for the situation we're in -- this idea that American poor aren't really poor, I will, if time allows.

And I really hate citing myself as an anecdote, truly I do. But I could. But stats are better. Or cites to anecdotes about the innumerable number of people in America far worse off than I am. Or some folks reading this thread. Mostly we're not read by a lot of rich people, and those who are mostly aren't liberals, but you never know.

For one thing, Google will keep working until something better comes along. Etc.

Turbulence at 4:39 PM: yes, and yes, and yes, and yes.

Marty:

Not to mention that the percentage of extreme poor is much lower here
Nice assertion. Cite? How do you "know" this? You've looked up the stats, and done the research?


Or what are you basing your claim on, exactly? Cite, please? Thanks!

Free lunch programs at every level, before and after school care for needy, government subsidized housing, indigent programs....

Are we really discussing the concept that we don't fund or support any of these things already?

Ah, so the problem is cured then? What are you saying?

Turb, 5:04 p.m.: Yes and yes and yes and yes.

And I'll say:

[...] God help you if you have a mental illness that make persistence or interacting with people difficult. I mean, literally, God help you because I can't imagine how you'll survive.
Indeed, it's clearly beyond most people's imaginations.

This I know for a fact.

Cheers, everyone!

Gary,

I have long been a fan of Friedman (and quietly thought Nixon was a really good President right up until he wasn't). I am just old enough to remeber these proposals and surely old enough to have lived through years of flat tax proposals. I agree with the core pricinples of this idea.

Marty, speaking only for myself, I don't believe you are a sociopath.

In America, we elect sociopaths to office to prevent all new taxes so that policies like this can be implemented:

http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2011/01/15/20110115arizona-budget-mentally-ill-health-benefits.html#ixzz1Bcgfu4ky

Add this to the sociopathic policy in the same state of implementing death panels for organ transplant candidates.

But!

If they struggle, I shudder to think what its like for someone who doesn't have a master's degree, someone who isn't very fluent in english, someone whose literacy skills are not top-notch.
The those last two I know for a fact aren't sufficient.

I really really really really really know.

Marty:

[...] You are correct that we don't want to give money to people who don't qualify.
Who "doesn't qualify" to be allowed to have shelter, food, and medical care, exactly?

How do you know?

Have you ever lived on the street, Marty? Have you ever been homeless for over a decade? Have you ever suffered severe and crippling mental illness, had no family to help you, been hated by people because you have no one to help you deal with the government hoops that you can't deal with because of your illness, been unable to find help because your illness prevents you, when all you need is, say, a personal social worker, someone who loves you, and one or two people who could help you through it, but it takes years, and you have no such person, so all you can do is beg strangers and friends for help, and drive away your friends?

Have you ever had that life, Marty?

Because a number of people have. A lot.

Some of them are even literate and know how to write well. And have held jobs, and done all sorts of things.

People can be great at lots of things, and crippled in invisible ways. Especially with mental illness, but all sorts of other disabilities are invisible, too. I can't tell who has stomach cancer by looking at them, or a brain tumor, or any of thousands of diseases, affecting both mind or body or brain (wanna separate those, anyone? Another discussion).

I can't tell anything by looking at them except what I see. How well dressed they are doesn't matter. How well groomed: doesn't matter. How articulate: doesn't matter. Behavior doesn't matter. People judge by surface appearance, and assumptions.

And then they "know" who is and isn't deserving.

Gosh, that's impressive. I wish I had those awesome skills to determine who is and isn't deserving, and who does and doesn't need help, just by... what's your method, exactly? Do, by all means, expand on that, please.

[...] Or we observed an actual program we called welfare that, upon reaching the third or fourth generation, proved to not be moving much of anyone out of poverty. It worked very much like the programs described here.
Wrong. I'll give you stats. You're absolutely, flat, provably, completely wrong.

But you go first with your stats.

Then I'll come back with mine.

But I'd like to spend some time trying to get my medical problems taken care of, and also maybe I'll finally get food stamps for the first time in umpty years, having had them for all of a cumulative total of about 18 months out of my decade after decade of being qualified. Maybe I'll finally be able to get approved for disability someday, after being qualified for decades. Maybe... many things are possible.

So, do please give us some stats on how the War On Poverty failed, while I take care of matters of triva, which means coping with what I can cope with.

Or argue by assertion. It's all up to you.

But, no, this takes just a few seconds to bother to look for:

In the decade following the 1964 introduction of the war on poverty, poverty rates in the U.S. dropped to their lowest level since comprehensive records began in 1958: from 17.3% in the year the Economic Opportunity Act was implemented to 11.1% in 1973. They have remained between 11 and 15.2% ever since.[5] However, prior to the Great Society efforts to combat it, the poverty rate was declining at a very fast rate (see the chart in Criticisms section above).

The ‘absolute poverty line’ is the threshold below which families or individuals are considered to be lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health. Poverty among Americans between ages 18-64 has fallen only marginally since 1966, from 10.5% then to 10.1% today. Poverty has significantly fallen among Americans under 18 years old from 23% in 1964 to 16.3% today. The most dramatic decrease in poverty was among Americans over 65, which fell from 28.5% in 1966 to 10.1% today.

In 2004, more than 35.9 million, or 12% of Americans including 12.1 million children, were considered to be living in poverty with an average growth of almost 1 million per year.

The OEO was dismantled by President Nixon in 1973, though many of the agency's programs were transferred to other government agencies.

Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in
the United States: 2005
.

Remember the War On Poverty? by Saul Friedman:

[...] In 1964, 19 percent of Americans lived below the poverty line; the numbers of poor Americans was estimated at a shameful 50 million. That declined to 12.8 percent in 1968, and 11.1 percent as late as 1973. But after that brief decline in the poverty rates, since Reagan's speech in 1988 and his emphasis on the "truly needy," poverty in the United States has made a slow climb upwards to the 2008 rate of 13.2 percent, nearly one percent higher than in 2007, the most significant increase since 1994. And that doesn't count the near-poor who live desperately just above the poverty line. [...]

John Kennedy had campaigned in the desolate areas of West Virginia. Later, Robert Kennedy made a tour of the most poverty-stricken areas and his report to his brother set in motion what became Johnson's War on Poverty. Part of the groundswell for action came from the moral imperatives of the civil rights movement, which opened many wounds including the plight of the poor-rural whites as well as blacks who lived without basic amenities.

Thus the Johnson administration, in the wake of Kennedy's murder and his 1964 election sweep, pushed through the Congress the elements of his war on poverty, some parts of which still stand: the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), Volunteers In Service to America (VISTA), Upward Bound, Head Start, the Neighborhood Youth Corps, the Community Action Program, programs for rural areas, the urban poor, migrant workers, small businesses and local health care centers.

And because the reasons for poverty had their roots in racism and segregation, the Great Society Programs included an $11 billion tax cut, the Civil Rights acts, the Food Stamp Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (which encouraged school desegregation), the Higher Education Act, the Voting Rights Act, and, of course, the monuments of Medicare and Medicaid.

Those two years, 1964-5, were the greatest periods of the federal government's social activism since the Great Depression's New Deal. But Johnson's agenda and the latter years of his presidency were crippled by the Vietnam War and a Republican come-back in 1966. Since then the turn away from government has been dramatic, epitomized by Democrat Clinton's declaration that the "era of big government is over." But what have we wrought in this time of the near-depression and the need for government? The poor and the newly poor have only a tattered safety net and official indifference.

According to the Census Bureau there were nearly 40 million American men, women and children struggling in poverty in 2008, before the full effects of the downturn were felt. Now the numbers surely reach past 50 million. The Pew Research Center estimates that 55 percent of adults in the workforce have become unemployed, taken a pay cut or had their hours reduced. The official unemployment figure is 9.5 percent, but many estimates say the real unemployment/underemployment rate is closer to 20 percent.

The long-term unemployment rate has not been seen since the Great Depression, with a quarter of the jobless without work for more than a year. Yet Republicans refuse to help with extended unemployment benefits; they cry crocodile tears over the deficit caused by the recession they helped create, but they seem not to care about the human costs. Economist Dean Baker says, with some knowledge, that the Republicans want to keep unemployment high to discredit Barack Obama's economic policies the better to win the off-year elections in November.

High, long term unemployment has put a strain on pantries and other facilities providing food for the poor. And most shameful are the unemployment rates (more than 25 percent) among young workers and their families. And no one is suffering more than children. Before the recession, the official poverty rate among persons under 18 was close to 20 percent. Poverty rates among children over the last 40 years ranged from 15 to 23 percent. So we are at a new high. According to the Urban Institute, before the downturn, 37 percent of children lived in poverty for their first year, and ten percent spent half their childhoods (nine years) in poverty. Kids know what poverty is like. I remember the humiliation when my mother applied for what was called "relief" and inspectors came to the house to determine if we were really poor.

During the depression, writers like James Agee, Sinclair Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and photographers like Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans and Robert Capa, helped Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal stir the American conscience to action as Homer Bigart. Michael Harrington and the Kennedys did a generation later. Where are such voices now?

Where's your voice, Marty?

Maybe everyone who thinks there are no poor should take a week of vacation, go live on the streets, take no money, no cell phone, rule out asking any friends for help, make a rule that you're not allowed to speak English, and, oh, maybe break your legs.

Then try to get help.

Then come back and talk about your actual experience.

Or, instead, show that you've read one book on the issue that didn't tell you what you want to believe, because it's comfy.

Or, instead, spend ten minutes looking into stats.

By the way, thanks very very very very very much for your subscription to my blog. It makes a huge difference to me. I really appreciate it, and I know you're a warm-hearted, good man.

I believe everyone has good intentions. I believe everyone wants to do good in their own way. I believe conservatives believe in things that they think are best for the country and for everyone.

I agree with a number of conservative ideas. I agree with some Tea Party ideas. I agree with some Republican points of view. I agree with many libertarian principles.

I also think a lot of people don't pay much attention to a lot of things that are outside their experience.

We all do. We can't help that.

All we can do is try to look around, and take a bit of time to do so, use our imagination and empathy, and then look a bit more closely.

This I believe.

And now, adieu for the next five seconds until I Rant Again. :-)

But here's entertainment.

This is America.

This is America.

Enjoy, everyone!

The original post has now been revised. Everyone feel free to look up, and see the changes.

We wouldn't want me to do too many posts, so I've revised this one.

Toodles.

Marty, another way I can tell you are not a sociopath is that in addition to electing our sociopaths to high office, in America we give sociopaths their own television shows to threaten to shoot people in the head who might suggest less sociopathic policies:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/1/20/937610/-Youre-going-to-have-to-shoot-them-in-the-head-Mission-accomplished,-Glenn-Beck

You don't have a TV show.

In the "Fantasy of the Gun" thread MackinneyTexas, a gentleman and certainly not a sociopath, wrote that Second Amendment supporters who view owning guns as a defense against tyrannical government are a "fringe babble" of the gun advocate movement.

As with sociopaths, this might have been true some time ago.

But now we elect the fringe babble, like Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia and the big clot of fringe babble babbling in the House of Reprehensibles as we speak to the highest offices in the land to act out their sociopathic tendencies on the rest of us and indeed threaten to use their weapons on real people serving in government.

Or we give them TV and radio talkshows.\

Sociopaths and fringe babble run the show now, somehow, despite the efforts of the few conservative non-sociopaths and non-fringe, non-babble at Obsidian Wings to prevent it, I'm assuming.

Non-sociopathic conservatives, pretty much, comment at Obsidian Wings.

Roughly speaking, there are approximately a dozen of you left in the country.

There are others as well, I suspect, but they don the zombie garb, pallor, and rhetoric of the sociopath and fringe babble, so that their humanity can't be detected during elections or during talk-show auditions, for fear of being eaten by the zombies now infesting the Republican Party.

I believe the Republican Party, as now body-snatched, is a walking, talking sociopath stalking the land and that their policies will murder millions of Americans in the coming years.

The current fad of civility, which will end soon, prevents me from discussing antidotes.

But the republican sociopaths will provide another opening within months for that discussion.

You are correct that we don't want to give money to people who don't qualify.

There are cost and benefits to all systems. We have systems that go to great lengths to minimize fraud and abuse. So we save a bit of money. But as a direct consequence, people who desperately need help can't get it. The point is that some people who do qualify are not able to jump through all the hoops.

I just object to the concept that we don't want to help people.

Well, we don't want to help people who genuinely need help if it means increasing the amount of fraud and abuse by even 1%. We seem to have decided that the anti-fraud knob has to be turned up to 11, no matter how many people can't get help.

The systems aren't perfect but I think it is an unfair generalization to paint Americans, or even Republicans, with the "They don't want to help the poor" brush.

Here's where I'm coming from. Conservatives in this country have a long history of using racially coded language to hammer welfare (and related programs). They've created the belief that government programs to help poor people are mostly about giving money to lazy black folks. For example, you have Reagan's welfare queens with cadillacs or his strapping young bucks buying t-bone steaks on welfare.

As one scholar wrote:

. Surveys show that the Ameri-
can public dramatically exaggerates the proportion of African
Americans among the poor and that such misperceptions are associ-
ated with greater opposition to welfare.

A related problem is that they've convinced Americans that the US government spends vast sums of money on foreign aid (wasting money on lazy brown people in foreign countries). In fact, foreign aid spending is much less than the average person believes, much of the money is actually a backdoor subsidy to American defense contractors and farmers, and the US government spends a smaller fraction of GDP on foreign aid than most wealthy nations. I can supply cites if you like, just let me know what specific claims you want cites for.

You lost my interest when you started with the racially coded stuff. Long history, blah blah.

I lived in government housing and my mother lived on welfare from the time I was ten to 15. I don't have to apply racial labels to understand the problems that need to be solved. I lived many of them.

I have also never complained about foreign aid9 it isn't enough to matter, but probably should be).

If you think the percentages of fraud in welfare was 1%, you are wrong.

Don't flatten taxes. Flatten incomes.

You lost my interest when you started with the racially coded stuff. Long history, blah blah.

I don't understand your objection. To clarify, which of the following statements do you disagree with?

(1) Conservative politicians have used racially coded language to denigrate welfare programs.

(2) Many Americans believe that welfare programs transfer money to lazy undeserving black people.

(3) Item (2) was caused in part by (1).

Marty, just to clarify, when I write about conservative politicians and the beliefs of voters, I'm not talking about you specifically. I'm talking about generalities that show up very clearly in surveys in the published research. No one is accusing you of being a racist.

I have also never complained about foreign aid9 it isn't enough to matter, but probably should be).

OK...I never said you did. Again, I wrote about generalities. The fact that many people, particularly conservative people, believe nutty things about foreign aid does not mean that every single conservative person in the US does the same.

If you think the percentages of fraud in welfare was 1%, you are wrong.

Did you read my comment? Please reread it. Now, please quote where exactly I claimed what the fraud percentage of welfare is.

I'm really curious: what research do you have quantifying welfare fraud?

Many people believe nutty things, liberals believe conservatives use racial coding.

(generalizations)
Conservatives believe that welfare didn't work for poor people, the fact is that a higher percentage of black people are poor, that doesn't translate to (3) or (2) above. It is the language of racial politics of the left that codes it that way.

Having said all that, yes some people believe 1, 2 and 3, "conservatives" don't, racists do.

Non-sociopathic conservatives, pretty much, comment at Obsidian Wings.

Roughly speaking, there are approximately a dozen of you left in the country.

This simply isn't true, and it's a crucial issue.

That crucial issue that we see constantly is that he loudest and looniest of each side are most visible and, um, loud, so The Other Side then becomes convinced that those folks represent the masses of The Other Side.

It simply isn't true. Sure, we can discuss which side is worse, and why, and my views on that shouldn't be hard to suss out (I have been an elected official in the Democraty several times now, in two different states -- there's a clue), but both sides do engage in this bizarre assumption that the craziest people represent the masses, and that's not just ignorant stupid, but downright destrucive.

The entire point is that he more sensible people are quiet.

And, lo and behold, they aren't so visible.

Until you bother to go out and look for them, and talk to them, and then you can find masses. Just don't try doing it an agitprop event, like, say, the Tea Party events.

And now I must attempt sleep, if possible, which I'm not laying great odds on at present.

Marty: "racially coded stuff"

I'm sure you know what this means, but I don't. What are you talking about, please?

Many people believe nutty things, liberals believe conservatives use racial coding.

So this is suddenly a "nutty" idea, is it? When the freshman senator from Kentucky EXPLICITLY thinks the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be repealed, and a North Carolina tea party-dominated school board is EXPLICITLY doing away with school integration, and conservatives screamed for MONTHS prior to the election about the "Ground Zero mosque" and suddenly it's never brought up again, we're just supposed to nod our heads and agree with you here?

Hey, look, it's the Pope of the modern conservative movement not using racially coded stuff!

Homelessness cropped up as a major problem when housing codes took over. The goal was to phase out substandard housing and make buildings in cities safer.

We have housing that is below code and empty. The owners take tax writeoffs for empty buildings, and people freeze to death because they can't get into shelters.

Here's a thought: There really ought to be affordable housing. Can codes be relaxed?

The salaries of CEOs should be pegged to 70 times that of the lowest paid employee in the company. Companies claim they have to put hundreds out of work because they aren't making a profit. The next thing I read is that the bonus for that CEO for that year is millions of dollars, millions that could have been better spent by putting it into the hands of any people.

European companies have more realistic pay scales for CEOs because of public outcry. Hint.

Market forces can accomplish wonderful things, he realized, but they cannot ensure a distribution of income that enables all citizens to meet basic economic needs.

To me, this is the heart of the matter.

This economy of the US operates on a relatively free market basis. Not even close to completely free, but relatively free.

This creates a lot of opportunity for folks, it keeps things lively, and contributes to our relatively high level of productivity.

So, it has an upside.

The downside is that the free market, left to operate on its own, does not distribute its benefits broadly or equally across the population. It doesn't even distribute them in a manner that maps in a consistent or meaningful way with value creation.

The tendency is for a fairly small number of people to end up with a fairly large piece of the pie. Not because those particular folks create a correspondingly large proportion of the pie. Just because. That's just the way it works out.

This isn't good, bad, or indifferent, and it's not worth debating if it's good, bad, or indifferent. It's just the normal outcome of the process, like some mix of sunny days and hurricanes are the normal outcome of the physics that create weather.

We can either recognize that reality, or ignore it.

If we ignore it, we are making a de facto choice to accept that a lot of people are going to live very, very crappy lives, and largely not due to any fault of their own.

If we recognize it, we may still make a explicit choice to accept that a lot of people are going to live very, very crappy lives. We might justify that by pretending that it's really their own fault that their lives are so crappy, and in fact no small number of people do exactly that. Or, we might just say that that is the way the cookie crumbles, some folks make it and some don't, and there is no small number of folks who hold that precise opinion.

Or, we can recognize it and address it by helping out the folks who end up holding the short end of the stick, and just consider it the price we pay for living in a relatively open, relatively free society.

Kindly note the word "relatively".

If we decide to address it, there *is no way* to do so that is not susceptible to fraud, gaming, inefficiency, or abuse. That's because human beings are prone to fraud, gaming, inefficiency, and abuse.

For reference, simply observe the operation of the "free market".

Sometimes you just have to do your best and get on with it, in spite of the imperfection of the result. Actually, in most situations, each and every day you just have to do your best and get on with it, in spite of the imperfection of the result.

But *no matter how we decide to approach it*, there are going to be people who, due either to circumstances completely beyond their control, or to personal flaws or errors that are utterly unremarkable in their commonness, will end up living extremely difficult, cramped, limited, frustrating, painful lives, unless we decide to help them.

We consider it the responsibility of government to maintain the conditions for a robust and relatively free economic market. To me, it makes sense that government should also be responsible for addressing the negative outcomes of that market. In fact, I would say that doing so *is* maintaining one of the conditions of having the market in the first place.

I think that one can argue that the concentration of money in the hands of a few is a bad outcome for everyone except the very rich and I don't see why their experiences should count more than anyone else's.

1. It means fewer people have disposable income to spend on the products produced by the various businesses owned by other people, thus reducing their profits and cuasing layoffs
2. It means chronic high unemplyoment which in trun means more #1
3. But also maens increase in crime, addiction and other kind of social disfuction, particulalry in the generation raised by the formerly employed. If the situation (concentration of money in the hands of a few) continues long enough one of the effects is a more or less permenent underclass

4. Unless the few rich are willing to pay the taxes necessary (and, in the US, they aren';t) to fund the intrastructure and public resources, it means the slow degradation over time of, well, everthing: parks, libraries, roads, bridges,...

5. It means a downward spiral in standards of public decency and by this I don't mean nakedness or obscentity. I mean the stardards of behavior that a community meanstains through its local level of funding for community resources: the number of police officers, the number and quality of teachers, the staffing for local level inspectors to maintaint he quality of all sortos things like water or building code compliance, the funding for the local animal shelter.
6. The most vulneralbe get thrown under the bus first. I suppose this lies in the realm of values and so is debatable. Currrent conersative free market philosphers wouldn't see the throwing of the vulnerable under the bus as a problem. They either pretend it isn't happening or blame the vulnerable or make a little donation to charity and pretend to themselves that that makes up for supporting syystems that cause the problems their charity is supposed to mitigate. How free marketers reconcile their behavior with Christianity is one of those mysteries...doesn't anyone read Dickens anymore?

To sum up: conmcentrate money inthe hands of a few and the rest of society goes to hell. That might not matter to those who have the moeny to insulate themsleves from the result but it matters to everyone else.

'To me, it makes sense that government should also be responsible for addressing the negative outcomes of that market.'

I mirror your concerns, but not the view that government is the solution. Charity was, once upon a time, how many poverty-induced human service needs were met. Modern views of charity, well supported by federal tax policies, have shifted the focus away from human services charity (that which first deals with basic human needs like food, clothing, shelter, and mental and physical health assistance). Now we class contributions to multi-million dollar endowed educational institutions and to inner city boys' or girls' clubs as equally charitable (for purposes of the tax deduction). To me, this is troublesome. Somehow, if we are going to continue to have such tax deductions, we should consider shifting the focus from non-profits, in general, to those that actually deliver needed basic human services that help alleviate hardships for the poor. If people desire to contribute to non-profits that meet other societal needs, not as urgent, but desirable (like the arts, university endowments, historic preservation, etc.), go ahead, but not with a taxpayer subsidy. I also don't think donations to religious organizations should be tax deductible except insofar as the donations are used for human services as described previously.

That plus the fact that our poor are not as desperately poor as the poor in Brazil and Mexico.

Would you like some statistics on that? We could discuss.

Sure. In fact, I'll bring some too--statistical potluck!

UNICEF tracks many country statistics, including percentage of the population below the international poverty line ($1/day in 1985 dollars, roughly $1.25/day now or $456.25/yr, adjusted for local purchasing power). In Brazil, the percentage is 5; in Mexico it's 3; in the US it's as close to zero as makes no difference.

The 2010 Census shows roughly 3% of households with income below $5K/yr; the mean income among those households is $1173. Another 4% of households earn more than $5K and less than $10K/yr; their mean income is $7911. Those are the very poor in the US. They are indeed very poor, poorer than anyone should be allowed to be, especially in the richest country in human history; but they're doing better than 3% of Mexicans and 5% of Brazilians.

Charity was, once upon a time, how many poverty-induced human service needs were met.

There didn't used to be 300 million people living here. We didn't used to have an economy based on complex international supply chains. Etc etc etc.

Once upon a time, it wasn't that hard to live fairly independently of the broader economy.

1.45 million bankruptcies in 2009. 6,000 a day in 2010, which puts us on track for 1.5 million this year.

2.1 million home foreclosures last year, looks like 2.4 million this year.

46 million Americans with no health insurance coverage at all.

The question of whether government was, once upon a time, not involved in addressing poverty-induced human needs is actually not so cut and dried. The government has, for instance, at various times given large parcels of land away, free, to virtually any taker. As one example.

But even leaving that aside, we don't live once upon a time. We live now. We live in a big, complex, interdependent, national-to-international scale economy and society. In this country, we more or less always have - the country was originally settled as an adventure in offshore investment - but nothing like to the degree we do now.

I don't see private charity scaling to stuff like 3 million bankruptcies in two years, or four-plus million home foreclosures, or 46 million people with no health insurance.

If people desire to contribute to non-profits that meet other societal needs, not as urgent, but desirable (like the arts, university endowments, historic preservation, etc.), go ahead, but not with a taxpayer subsidy. I also don't think donations to religious organizations should be tax deductible except insofar as the donations are used for human services as described previously.

I mostly agree with this, but I'd consider a) no deduction at all for donations to religious organizations that are not used for human services needs, and b) a reduced deduction, rather than a flat elimination, for other types of contributions. Allowing a tax deduction for cultural and arts organizations and the other things you mention is how they get funded. If the money's going to get taxed anyway, it disincentivizes giving.

Comparing countries by income can be very misleading. Money that will buy you food security and some more in 3rd world countries would have you starve in Central Europe.

What Russell said at 9:40 AM. What Russell said January 20, 2011 at 03:45 PM. What Russell said at January 20, 2011 at 03:45 PM.
What Russell said at January 20, 2011 at 03:45 PM

Usually what Russel said. :-)

Until I quibble or expand. :-)

Cripes, I'm still not awake:

January 20, 2011 at 05:59 PM
January 21, 2011 at 09:40 AM

'How free marketers reconcile their behavior with Christianity is one of those mysteries...'

Too little information to understand what this means.

Although, as a Christian, I acknowledge and value my, and others', free agency, which certainly influences my free market preferences, one does not need to be a Christian to subscribe to free market principles. OTOH, there seems to be large numbers of Christians who don't favor free market principles, or have lost their enthusiasm as a result of unsatisfying results such as are discussed here.

My view is that religion has little to do with it. I think it is genetic. And that can get one into some interesting discussions regarding the human condition.

GOB:

Charity was, once upon a time, how many poverty-induced human service needs were met.
Yes. And lots of people died and starved. Which years and places are you specifying as "once upon a time"?

Having answered that, cites please, to your statistics? Thanks!

Now we class contributions to multi-million dollar endowed educational institutions and to inner city boys' or girls' clubs as equally charitable (for purposes of the tax deduction). To me, this is troublesome.
Agree. I think there are lots of questionable things classified as "charities," or to be more specific, Section 501(c)(3) Organizations, and some of the other parts of 501.

Then we can discuss the subcategories, and go there. That would be productive, in my view. Also something of a tangent, and good for another post, but an excellent point I agree with.

I also find governmental support for the arts quite debatable, if you're interested in another point where we might have *some* disagreement. My views on that are complex, but summarizable as: I think some support is worthwhile, if kept as insulated from politics as possible, but so long as it's the government, some politics and controversy are inevitable, and in ways that controveries as to how private institutions (we could bring Edward Winkleman in to discuss this in the art world, where he understandably has strong and knowledgeable views), do not.

Somehow, if we are going to continue to have such tax deductions, we should consider shifting the focus from non-profits, in general, to those that actually deliver needed basic human services that help alleviate hardships for the poor.
I agree that that's a useful point and discussion.

I also don't think donations to religious organizations should be tax deductible except insofar as the donations are used for human services as described previously.
Also a fine subject for debate, a good post topic, and I may be inclined to agree with you. Offhand, I more or less do.

But we have First Amendment issues there, and it's problematic.

Hogan at January 21, 2011 at 10:41 AM: thanks. Useful and well done!

Once upon a time, it wasn't that hard to live fairly independently of the broader economy.

'1.45 million bankruptcies in 2009. 6,000 a day in 2010, which puts us on track for 1.5 million this year.

2.1 million home foreclosures last year, looks like 2.4 million this year.

46 million Americans with no health insurance coverage at all.'

Russell:

My 'once upon a time' was more to reflect my personal bias toward less government rather than more government than to suggest that former behaviors were necessarily the solution to today's issues. I did not link to and read your examples, but they all have a certain familiarity. They really don't fit my notion of the hard-core poverty needs I thought were being discussed. Obviously within these examples are numbers of people who, after behaving prudently for years, lost their income, had tragic health events, or other unforeseen circumstances. But we already know the numbers are loaded with people who had no such thing happen to them.

So, some of these people I want to help and others I think need to help themselves (and there's plenty of these in each category you listed).

Bankruptcies don't necessarily mean a person or family needs taxpayer help, it might just mean they must start over.

Foreclosures don't necessarily mean someone lost a house, they might have been pretending to own a house that they never really had a stake in.

Individuals have all kinds of reasons for not having health insurance, some of which are actually not their own fault, but there are some very large numbers that don't fall in this category.

If I were willing to take some responsibility for all the instances that fall in the categories you listed, my own personal guess is that I would be assisting more than twice the number of people who would be deserving of my help. I just don't like caving in to those kinds of numbers.

Oddly enough, my own bias is also toward less government rather than more. I'm not looking for problems for government to solve.

The point of the things I cited was less to demonstrate that all of the people who have either gone bankrupt, lost their homes, or lack health insurance are critically and desperately poor. Quite a lot of them are, or soon will be. But quite a lot of them likely are not.

The point is to demonstrate that the effects of the modern economy are extremely broad in scope. Broader than what can be addressed by private charity.

I actually do appreciate that you don't want your money taken from you, by force of law, and given to people who, in your opinion, don't deserve it. Everyone feels the same way. And everyone who pays a dime of taxes is in the same boat. Everybody has their personal list of ways in which, in their opinion, and according to their personal, deeply held values, their hard-earned money is pissed away in one boondoggle or another.

That is an inescapable reality of living in a large and complex society. Nobody gets their way, completely.

As a personal heuristic, I consider that a public policy is about right if everyone is more or less equally pissed off.

Our adventures in balancing regulation vs free markets recently resulted in trillions of dollars of nominal wealth going poof, overnight. Millions and millions of people are going broke, losing their jobs, homes, health insurance, savings, etc.

In practical terms, that means a dead loss of millions of people's worth of priceless, irreplaceable, non-fungible human capital. It means millions of people sitting on their behinds wishing they had something useful to do, but having no useful context for doing so.

It means towns, counties, and other local governments going broke, with all of the loss of essential, basic services that flow from that. It means the deterioration of billions of dollars in sunk cost worth of infrastructure.

It means families breaking up. It means young people unable to go to college or find their way into the economy. It means people living with unnecessary, preventable illnesses, and possible dying from them. It means people living in their cars.

All of that, measured in a scale of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and millions.

That is what it means.

So my question for you is: how bad does it have to get before it's reasonable for government to act?

If all of the above happened as a result of a flood, or a hurricane, or an earthquake, I imagine you would not object to public intervention.

When it happens as a result of economic events, then public intervention is inappropriate.

I don't get it.

Yeeeeesh. I walk away to cook dinner and decompress after a long day, and a minor sh1tstorm appears to have erupted. Since some of this seems to have arisen from my "callous sociopathy of conservative dogma" phrase, let me chime back in, though Gary and others have once again brought excellent facts and arguments to the table.

First I think it's necessary to define terms. What is "dogma?" First entry from Dictionary.com:

1. a system of principles or tenets, as of a church.
2. a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down, as by a church: the dogma of the Assumption.
3. prescribed doctrine: political dogma.
4. a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle.

It is also an excellent Kevin Smith movie. But since we are discussing politics here, (3) is the relevant definition we need. There are others from other sources, but the common theme in all of these definitions--what distinguishes "dogmata" from "beliefs", "principles" or other words describing the tenets to which we adhere--is its indifference to facts or evidence and its unquestioned appeal to authority. Put simply, dogma is the collection of teachings that we hold to be valid or true as an article of faith because someone said so.

Dogma is not exclusive to conservatives--many liberals have their own flavors of dogmata, and like everyone else the details vary from person to person. What makes conservative dogma particularly destructive and pernicious when it comes to social policy is that it prioritizes punishing the wicked over the rights of the innocent, preventing fraud over uplifting the poor or preserving the right to vote, reducing the size and scope of government at the expense of infrastructure and the general social welfare... the list goes on in this vein at some length.

That's not to say that there aren't specific conservative policies that have merit. Considerable chunks of the Affordable Care Act, for example, began as Republican ideas, before Republicans decided to hate them because a Democratic administration wanted to pass them. They're not perfect, but they're better than what we had before.

I mirror your concerns, but not the view that government is the solution.

And right here we have a perfect example of what I'm talking about. GOB agrees, of course, that the poor need help. It's a perfectly decent starting point and an area of common ground most of us can share. But conservative dogma, as best articulated by Reagan, teaches that government is not the solution. "Big" government is bad, "small" government is good--fill in your own pet definitions of "big" and "small" as the situation demands. Not a word of what follows the above quote identifies any reason why government cannot address this problem--it is taken as an article of faith, utterly divorced from established facts and the public record, that government involvement is the wrong answer. GOP proceeds from this unquestioned, dogmatic belief and suggests instead that the poor rely on charity.

Others have pointed out the fact that charity simply doesn't scale. This, incidentally, is one of the other fatal problems with the "small government" shibboleth of conservatism: it fails to recognize that weak, limited federal government does not scale well to address the needs of a modern society the size of the United States. Demonstrably so.

And much like the fetishization of the free market and its ability to run itself, the appeal to charity raises an inescapable question: if voluntary charitable giving alone is capable of addressing poverty in the US, why hasn't it? It's not as if it's a new idea, or that we erect barriers to doing so--to the contrary, there have long been powerful tax incentives to give to charity, and many rich and middle-class philanthropists take full advantage of them. The Bush Administration further expanded on this idea with its "faith-based initiative" policies; during this time the gap between the very rich and the very poor widened further and an economic recession put a lot more people near or below the poverty line. This is not causation, but it does stand as a powerful rebuttal to the notion that charity rather than government can function as a social safety net. Yet despite overwhelming evidence that charity alone cannot carry the weight of the disadvantaged in this country, the dogmatic conservative answer is: "not the government." They don't ask, "can government do anything to help?" They start from the dogmatic premise that it can't or shouldn't, and move on from there.

And on down the list. Executing murderers carries more weight than avoiding the execution of the innocent. Punishing criminals is more important than the presumption of innocence. It's okay to make it more difficult to vote and bar some innnocents from doing so if it prevents the vanishingly small occurrence of actual voting fraud. We shouldn't provide a welfare subsidy for the poor because some will abuse it, and if we must provide it then it's better to make it stingy and more difficult to obtain rather than raise taxes to improve it or accept that the "undeserving" might abuse it.

It's not that conservatives are sociopaths, or that there aren't good people who identify as conservative. It's that by and large their ideas don't work and cause lasting real-world harm to real people--and they cling to their dogma anyway rather than accept the expansion of government, the raising of taxes, or the possibility that someone might abuse the system or get a break who doesn't deserve it.

Would it be cliche of me to say, "What russell said" again?

Oddly enough, my own bias is also toward less government rather than more.

My bias is toward a government big enough to do what we need it to do, and no bigger. That seems to me where the conversation should start: what do we need government to do? The abstract question of bigger v. smaller never seems to lead to that conversation.

The health insurance industry is part of the problem. Back in the 60s, the minimum wage was $1.40 an hour and a doctor visit was $7, or 5 times the minimum wage. The doctor had a receptionist and a nurse. You were reasonably sure of getting your doctor's undivided attention for 10 minutes, because you were paying him.

Today the minim wage is $7.25 per hour and a doctor visit is $150, more than 20 times the minimum wage. The doctor has a receptionist/bookkeeper and a person who does nothing other than handle insurance forms. Doctors see more patients per hour, and are told by the insurance companies for which they work how long they can spend with each patient. Doctors complain that at current rates, there is no way they can repay their education loans in their lifetimes. Those who got into medicine because they wanted to help people are frustrated because they are compelled to work an assembly line.

Someone is benefitting here, and it is not the patients.

The only people who can afford health care are people who have no money at all and people who have enough money to support third world countries.

Health insurance companies take money and then tell you how it can be spent. Why not eliminate the middle man and by a little preventive maintenance at the New Age flake of your choice? Could we really do any worse?

OK, so "what Catsy said." Or, for a more whimsical analogy,

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

H. L. Mencken

Once you quote Mencken, you never go ... bencken?

"If I were willing to take some responsibility for all the instances that fall in the categories you listed, my own personal guess is that I would be assisting more than twice the number of people who would be deserving of my help. I just don't like caving in to those kinds of numbers."

GOB, if you could choose between the following two scenarios:

1)Helping N worthy people and Y unworthy people

or

2)Helping 2N worthy and 2Y unworthy people

Which would you pick? I know that in the real world, there are many additional variables such as cost, feasibility, unintended consequences, perverse incentives, and so on.

However, I think this goes to the heart of the welfare abuse and other "poor people who don't deserve help" dilemmas. We must accept that our policy initiatives are not 100% accurate in identifying who needs help. There are false positives as well false negatives. This is true in the justice system as well. Blackstone wrote "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer."

We do have to strike a balance, but it is not as simple as eliminating abuse. That may not be achievable, any more than the answer to our energy problems is eliminating friction.

but they're doing better than 3% of Mexicans and 5% of Brazilians.

(in the low, indignant voice of Homer Simpson)

"lucky ducks..."

"It's that by and large their ideas don't work and cause lasting real-world harm to real people--and they cling to their dogma anyway rather than accept the expansion of government, the raising of taxes, or the possibility that someone might abuse the system or get a break who doesn't deserve it."

An eloquent explanation, thanks. You ended with by asserting two things inherent in this statement, conservative policies don't work and they actually cause harm. Despite all commonly accepted wisdom there is no way to demonstrate that the country, poor people, the middle class or any other specific sunset would be better or worse off over the last thirty yeaars with a more progressive set of policies in place.

The challenge here is that real people suffer under all policies. They is no magic bullet that, if we only did this progressive thing, would end all suffering. So it is possible to make the statement that X policies "by and large" don't work about any set of policies that have been in place in my lifetime.

More taxes and more government spending have demonstrably NOT helped the education system. Unless all of the metrics I have seen quoted are incorrect.

One of the first principles I evaluate things by is that you don't solve one problem by creating another.

Much of what is referred to here as sociopathic is the recognition that asking government to solve all problems may create infinitely greater ones. Each of these discussions points to the potential positive impact of a policy with no analysis of the potential downside. Asserting that it will be successful does not demonstrate that it will.

I and, I will stretch with apologies in advance, other conservatives have the same goals of ensuring there is a minimum standard of living and a vibrant social structure that provides for those most in need as any liberal. We simply believe the steps to take us there are less government focused and more raising the overall economy focused. Neither can accomplish the task by itself.

Don't flatten taxes. Flatten incomes.

This is equally useless, advice-wise, as "eat the rich".

Unless you're hungry. In which case, Michael Moore is both wealthy and...well-marbled.

You ended with by asserting two things inherent in this statement, conservative policies don't work and they actually cause harm.

Both of which are assertions amply supported by science, history, and the actual documented results of the kinds of policies I described wherever they have been implemented.

It's not as if we don't have a decades-long track record to demonstrate, for instance, the complete falsehood of the conservative myth that tax cuts increase revenue.

It's not difficult to identify the number of actual recorded cases of electoral fraud, compare this to the documented instances of disenfranchisement, and let the evidence speak for itself when conservatives say that we need to increase the level of scrutiny and red tape necessary to vote in order to combat the almost-nonexistent spectre of voting fraud.

Nor is it difficult to find reams of evidence that treatment--the preferred progressive answer to drug addiction--is more effective than incarceration--the preferred "tough on crime" conservative answer.

Others have supplied data in this thread that backs up some of these assertions. If you want to get dragged down in the weeds of debating individual policies, I can go get more, though they're just as available for you to Google if you think there is evidence to support your side of the argument.

These aren't unquantifiable things that we just can't know. They are policies with measurable--and well-measured--metrics.

But if you really need a visual aid for the consequences of conservative public policy, I suggest spending some time living in Colorado Springs.

Despite all commonly accepted wisdom there is no way to demonstrate that the country, poor people, the middle class or any other specific sunset would be better or worse off over the last thirty yeaars with a more progressive set of policies in place.

Well, of course: it's impossible to prove a hypothetical "what if" of the road not taken.

But that's not what I said. I think it's true nonetheless, but in many cases it's not provable and it's not what I said. See above.

The challenge here is that real people suffer under all policies. They is no magic bullet that, if we only did this progressive thing, would end all suffering. So it is possible to make the statement that X policies "by and large" don't work about any set of policies that have been in place in my lifetime.

This is somewhat true, but entirely misses the point. Nobody here is asserting that the government is a magic bullet that can solve everything and deliver unicorns and rainbows to the downtrodden. Of course there will be adverse side effects and unintended consequences for most social policy, and the challenge in establishing good policy lies in weighing the good accomplished against the unintended harm.

The problem, as I described at length in the previous comment, is that when weighing that balance, conservative dogma holds that preventing or punishing wrongdoing and prohibiting abuse of the system is more important than preserving constitutional rights and helping the disadvantaged, and that reducing the size and scope of government outweighs the good that can be accomplished by considering government programs as one of the solutions available. **

One of the first principles I evaluate things by is that you don't solve one problem by creating another.

This is an extremely dysfunctional first principle, and it seems to apply only in one direction. Every piece of public policy includes implicit tradeoffs, and there are countless examples of accepting a specific kind of harm in exchange for the good accomplished. In the policies I cited above, for instance, you will find that most of them involve weighing two competing sets of pros and cons: raising the burden of proof for being allowed to vote, for example, has the benefit of making fraud more difficult--but it creates problems for the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and a number of other demographics. Relaxing that burden of proof has the benefit of lowering the barrier to entry for voting and increasing civic participation (particularly among the groups previously mentioned)--but makes it easier for unscrupulous individuals to vote fraudulently.

It's not a choice between "X that makes things a little better" and "Y that makes things a lot better and creates problems", it's a choice between two options, each of which have pros and cons.

The conservative policy implicitly deems preventing incidents of fraud, no matter how few, to outweigh the harm caused by disenfranchisement.

The progressive policy implicitly deeps the expansion of franchise and civic participation, even if incrementally, to outweigh the harm caused by any incidents of voting fraud.

These are two competing sets of values. This is what the priorities that lie behind those values ultimately boil down to.

I think the conservative dogma that places prevention of wrongdoing before the rights and franchise of the innocent is abhorrent.

Much of what is referred to here as sociopathic is the recognition that asking government to solve all problems may create infinitely greater ones.

No. That is not in the least bit what I referred to as sociopathic. If that's what you think, I can only suggest that you go back and re-read the last few comments, in which I've reiterated exactly what I meant at least four or five different times from different angles and using different words. I'm rather sick of reiterating them.

I and, I will stretch with apologies in advance, other conservatives have the same goals of ensuring there is a minimum standard of living and a vibrant social structure that provides for those most in need as any liberal. We simply believe the steps to take us there are less government focused and more raising the overall economy focused. Neither can accomplish the task by itself.

I can only wonder at the near-total lack of self-awareness necessary to respond to a lengthy discourse about conservative dogma by reiterating a textbook example of conservative dogma.

We simply believe the steps to take us there are less government focused and more raising the overall economy focused.

"Less government focused".

Why?

This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about: it is an inseparable and unquestioned tenet of conservative dogma that government can not or should not be a solution. It is a belief that is entirely disconnected from the actual practical merits of a given solution, as long as that solution in some way involves the government.

It's also worth unpacking the rest of that sentence: what does it mean for a policy to be "raising the overall economy focused" as opposed to "government focused"? Your sentence was drawing a contrast between the two, a distinction of alternatives.

Any public policy aimed at improving the overall economy, by definition, involves the government. When the Fed adjusts interest rates in any way, this is government involvement. When Congress enacts tax cuts, regardless of at whom they're targeted, this is government involvement. If Congress or the President pass legislation that creates further tax incentives for charitable giving or directs public funds to non-profits that provide services for the poor, then that, too, is a government solution.

Pretty much any imaginable public policy other than doing nothing requires the government to get involved, because it is the government that is in charge of establishing what public policy actually is. And doing nothing is, itself, a policy.

A more reasonable unpacking of that statement might be that you are, presumably, objecting to government solutions that involve expanding the size and scope of public programs that must be staffed by government employees and funded using public revenue. And there's a completely reasonable argument to be made for ensuring that the government is raising and spending money wisely, and not spending more than it needs to in order to meet its obligations.

But there is nothing intrinsically bad about government and public social programs, and the notion that there is and that it's to be avoided wherever possible is one of the more damaging pieces of conservative dogma.

----

** Unless you are a pregnant woman seeking an abortion, a same-sex couple seeking to marry or adopt, a gay man or woman desiring to serve their country in uniform, a citizen attempting to board an airplane, an immigrant seeking to join this country, or a group opposed to the policies of a Republican administration; then there's apparently plenty that the government can step in and do.

Much of what is referred to here as sociopathic is the recognition that asking government to solve all problems may create infinitely greater ones.

Then it's not so much sociopathic as irrelevant, because no one is asking government to solve all problems. I'm pretty sure this has been mentioned to you before.

"The conservative policy implicitly deems preventing incidents of fraud, no matter how few, to outweigh the harm caused by disenfranchisement.

The progressive policy implicitly deeps the expansion of franchise and civic participation, even if incrementally, to outweigh the harm caused by any incidents of voting fraud."

In the heart of this long set of predominantly unfounded assertions and progressive dogma is this. Both assertions that are not true, and the heart of your argument.

I can tell this by the huge generalization preceded by the caveat "implicitly".

while this:

But there is nothing intrinsically bad about government and public social programs, and the notion that there is and that it's to be avoided wherever possible is one of the more damaging pieces of conservative dogma.

is close to correct. The line shouldn't be that there is anything intrinsically bad about government programs, just that they avoided if there is another solution.

The line shouldn't be that there is anything intrinsically bad about government programs, just that they avoided if there is another solution.

I'm not sure why there needs to be a preference for either public or private solutions.

What is the magic about "public" or "private" that makes one better or worse?

If there's a problem and it needs to be addressed, it should be addressed in the most effective way. The measure for "most effective" opens some questions, but it's unclear to me why an a priori preference for private over public (or vice versa) is a good idea.

Government's good at some stuff, the private sector is good at some stuff. Which stuff is which can also vary, the answer is not always the same. It depends.

I don't see a logical rationale for the prejudice against public solutions. You have to address the actual case at hand.

In the heart of this long set of predominantly unfounded assertions and progressive dogma is this. Both assertions that are not true, and the heart of your argument.

I can tell this by the huge generalization preceded by the caveat "implicitly".

I'm not sure you understand the meaning of the word "implicitly". It is not a caveat of any kind. It accurately characterizes what follows as being implied rather that explicitly stated.

But I'm sure you'll dispute that this is an accurate characterization--not because you think it was explicit rather than implicit, but because you disagree that these policies imply these values at all. So let's expand on that.

Let's take a simple choice most of us have faced: whether or not to install a virus scanner on the computer with which we browse the web.

There are pros and cons to doing so. On the plus side, installing a virus scanner significantly increases the degree to which you're protected against the risk of malware on the Internet. The downside of doing so is that the virus scanners most commonly in use cost money and have significant CPU and memory overhead, as well as increasing the time it takes for Windows to get through its startup sequence. They also frequently don't play nice with certain applications.

(I'm aware that there are free alternatives that aren't as bloated as Norton or McAfee, but I'm talking about the average consumer here.)

This presents the consumer with a series of competing values they must weigh. If someone knows all of this and chooses not to install a virus scanner, we can make a few perfectly supportable inferences about how they weigh their priorities. We can, for instance, state with some confidence that their desire to be protected from viruses is outweighed by the money they would have to spend or the overhead it would impose on their computer. This order of priorities is implicit in their informed decision to not install a virus scanner rather than spend the money or deal with the performance hit.

Conversely, if a person dislikes how much McAfee slows down their computer and how it doesn't play nice with their Shpleem Fragger 2000 game, yet installs the virus scanner anyway, it is reasonable to say that their decision implicitly values the integrity of their computer more than its performance or game compatibility issues.

This isn't mindreading, a straw man construction, or an unfounded generalization. It's what logically follows from the outcome of a decision based on competing values that were weighed and prioritized.

With all that said:

The conservative policy implicitly deems preventing incidents of fraud, no matter how few, to outweigh the harm caused by disenfranchisement.

The progressive policy implicitly deeps the expansion of franchise and civic participation, even if incrementally, to outweigh the harm caused by any incidents of voting fraud.

There are a number of issues to be weighed here:
1. Voting fraud. Not voter registration fraud--which has no impact on the outcome of an election--but voting fraud, as in the casting of illegal votes.
2. The right to vote.
3. Disenfranchisement--the denial of the right to vote by any means, whether direct or indirect.

While not zero-sum, there is a direct correlation between the burden of proof and difficulty in establishing one's identity to a degree of certainty sufficient to eliminate fraud, and the degree to which disadvantaged groups are prevented or inhibited from voting--in other words, disenfranchised. The elderly, disabled, students and the poor are all adversely affected by barriers to entry such as the requirement of certain kinds of ID or residency requirements.

Put simply, the harder you make it to commit voting fraud, the harder you make it for many people to vote at all. When you enact measures to prevent fraud, you have to weigh that against the impact it will have on disenfranchisement. And conversely, when you enact measures to lower the burden of proof and make it easier to vote, you have to weigh that against the risk of fraud.

The conservative position on this problem has been that voting fraud is a serious problem, and to fight it by raising the burden of proof. This approach implicitly places a higher value on the prevention of fraud than on the unitended consequence of disenfranchising some citizens.

The progressive position is that too many people are already disenfranchised and the incidence of actual voting fraud is vanishingly small, and to advocoate for making it easier to vote, not harder. This approach implicitly places a higher value on the right to vote than on the possibility of increased voting fraud.

In what way is this inaccurate?

"In what way is this inaccurate?"

That worrying more about fraud implies placing less value on disenfranchising voters. It is a false dichotomy.

'The conservative position on this problem has been that voting fraud is a serious problem, and to fight it by raising the burden of proof. This approach implicitly places a higher value on the prevention of fraud than on the unitended consequence of disenfranchising some citizens.

The progressive position is that too many people are already disenfranchised and the incidence of actual voting fraud is vanishingly small, and to advocoate for making it easier to vote, not harder. This approach implicitly places a higher value on the right to vote than on the possibility of increased voting fraud.

In what way is this inaccurate?'

Let me state my position. I don't think in terms of 'raising the BURDEN of proof'. Just demonstrate that you are alive, who you purport to be, old enough to vote, and meet any residency requirement. If that's too much burden for something many of us consider important, then skip it. That is not disenfranchisement, it's called apathy. You ever think there might actually also be some value in expending some effort to exercise rights? Implicitly, I'm saying that what you call disenfranchisement is most often a lack of interest.


if voluntary charitable giving alone is capable of addressing poverty in the US, why hasn't it?

The fun thing is that digging down into the reasons for it reveals all sorts of additional pathologies, from "That's what I pay taxes for" to "Those people don't deserve my help"* to Social Darwinism and so on and so on.


*In the words of Clint Eastwood, "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it, kid."

GoodOleBoy, what about putting the registration offices in places difficult to reach, with service times that fall completely inside standard working hours etc.?
Not to forget that there are strong incentives for both sides to influence the number of voters. Today it's primarily conservatives that try to keep participation low (some elected officials are totally open about that, some even openly advocating to get rid of the universal franchise) while the Democrats* tend to profit from high voting levels.
In the past it was sometimes the other way around.
I think these days the claim of 'fraud' is more often than not made in bad faith because the incentives discussed above are the primary factor.

*I deliberately did not use 'liberals' here, nor 'GOP' for conservative.

That worrying more about fraud implies placing less value on disenfranchising voters. It is a false dichotomy.

No, it's not--did you skip a chunk of what I wrote?

When you raise the burden of proof--and Marty, the question isn't so much whether or not we ask people to prove those things, as it is what we consider to be adequate proof--when you do that, it has a direct and measurable impact on the ability of certain classes of people to vote. The elderly and disabled, who often have limited mobility with which to travel, limited faculties or senses that make it more difficult to get help and fill out forms, and limited resources. The elderly also frequently have the additional problem of coming from an era and/or place in which things like births were not always documented as scrupulously as they are now. The poor frequently have similar issues, whether it's an inability to afford transportation or filing fees, a lack of education that results in ignorance of their options, lack of a bank account or permanent residence, and so on.

The more things you require someone to prove, and the more documents you require in order to prove it, the more people you are going to disenfranchise. This is a matter of cause and effect, and it results in a conflict of values that any solution in either direction must weigh.

Incidences of actual voting fraud are extremely rare, and are caught and prosecuted already. But millions of Americans don't vote, whether because they don't want to or because they are disenfranchised in some way. We need to be increasing civic participation, not making it more difficult. So yes, I have no problem saying that I consider the problem of disenfranchisement to carry a lot more weight then the near-nonexistent problem of voting fraud (again, voting fraud, not registration fraud).

But the inverse is just as true. If you favor measures to tighten the requirements of proving your eligibility to vote, then you cannot pretend that it is without consequences. If you think the goal of reducing voting fraud outweighs the side effect that some Americans will be unable to exercise their right to vote, that's your prerogative--but be honest enough to admit it.

What is the magic about "public" or "private" that makes one better or worse?

Just thought I'd ask that again.

What makes a public solution a priori less desirable than a private one?

"Just demonstrate that you are alive, who you purport to be, old enough to vote, and meet any residency requirement. If that's too much burden for something many of us consider important, then skip it"

I don't think many Democrats would argu with this set of requirements for voting.

Howefcer, many eleced Republicans would. The state of Wiscxonsin has decxided that those who do not have driver's licenses now have to take time off from work or school to present thier SS card or birth certificate original copy in person to the department of licensing during their very restricted hours f avaiabliuty. This is spite of the facat there that is no indication of voter fraud in Wisconsinn.

It's voter surpression. And Republican intiatives like this are in the works at the state level all over the US. What does it say about the Republican party that they are engaged on a national effort to disenfranch voters based on a lie about imaginary election fraud?

I think the Repubican party needs to be viewed as an anti-demcratic organization.

"What makes a public solution a priori less desirable than a private one?"

In general, please note this, public solutions reduce the amount of individual choice in participation. Both in paying for it and receiving the benefit.

Private solutions are more generally choice or behavior(also a choice) driven in how they are paid for.

So an actual private solution is a priori preferable.

In general, please note this, public solutions reduce the amount of individual choice in participation. Both in paying for it and receiving the benefit.

First, this is not automatically true. Insurance and cable services are a couple of perfect examples: in many parts of the country, the element of consumer choice is nonexistent precisely because of unfettered market forces.

Second, to whatever degree it is true, so what? You were asked what makes a private service a priori preferable to a public service. You responded to that by justifying it with another assumption: that public alternatives reduce consumer choice, which is therein presumed to be bad. This is begging the question.

Frankly, there are plenty of areas where consumer choice shouldn't enter into the picture, or where having a choice of alternatives doesn't improve the service provided. For services like waste pickup, for example, consumers not only don't benefit from an array of competing private companies, the free market competition makes the problem worse. Instead of one entity operating a fleet of trucks that operate on a single coordinated schedule, you have more trucks from different companies tearing up the road with more traffic, posing greater pedestrian risk in residential areas, and operating on conflicting schedules that get in each other's way, among many other problems. That's not speculation, that's what has happened.

Similarly, the health insurance industry stands as a perfect example of why health insurance--if it has to exist at all--should not be operated as a private, for-profit enterprise. The inefficiency, expense, and outright abuse that is built into the perverse profit incentives in the industry are ground zero in what is wrong with health care in this country.

And then there's Social Security. The big conservative idea of the last decade for "improving" SS has been to privatize it--that is, to move savings into private accounts that were to be invested in the market in order to increase the return. If we'd let conservatives get away with doing that, the market crashes and economic downturn would have put a stake through the heart of one of the New Deal's most successful programs--and I'm not convinced that elected Republicans would consider this a bug rather than a feature, despite how many millions of people this would harm.

The fact is that yes: private, market-driven solutions usually result in more choices for the consumer, more alternatives.

But it is absolutely, provably untrue that this is always desirable.

"The fact is that yes: private, market-driven solutions usually result in more choices for the consumer, more alternatives."

Which is exactly what I said.

'First, this is not automatically true. Insurance and cable services are a couple of perfect examples: in many parts of the country, the element of consumer choice is nonexistent precisely because of unfettered market forces.'

This assertion puzzles me. It appears to me that my choice in health insurance, for example, is poor because of state restrictions and mandates rather than unfettered market forces. Insurance companies are not allowed to compete (a market approach) because states set most of the rules. And many of the insurance companies like this since it reduces their required effort to compete. WRT the cable issue, there may still be some areas where choice is less than in other areas, but mostly cable delivery specifically is a regulated franchise, I think. And non-cable alternatives are springing up all the time and will likely continue if the FCC does not get too obstructive.

In general, please note this, public solutions reduce the amount of individual choice in participation. Both in paying for it and receiving the benefit.

First, I'm not sure that public solutions always reduce the amount of individual choice. Sometimes they increase the options from, for example, zero to one.

But with the caveat "in general" I'd say this is correct.

To get from there to a conclusion that, a priori, that makes a private approach better assumes that individual choice is the most important criterion in deciding how to go about doing things.

That's a fairly large assumption. It's not one that everyone will share.

It's also not one that's equally relevant in all situations.

Basically what you're saying here is that, based on what you think is important, your personal preference is for a private approach.

There's nothing wrong with that. But it's a limited criterion for defining "better".

Marty:

Which is exactly what I said.

No, it is not. And the way you cherry picked that sentence out of my much longer comment as if it validated your argument is an extremely tiresome exercise in bad faith.

You said that private solutions are inherently better because they result in more choices or alternatives for the consumer.

I pointed out that not only is the assertion that they provide more choices not automatically true, but that even when it is, this is not necessarily a good thing. Particularly for services that provide for the common good, which is after all the actual context of what we're discussing here.

GOB, I need to run and don't have time to respond properly to your points with data and cites, but I will jump back on later.

It appears to me that my choice in health insurance, for example, is poor because of state restrictions and mandates rather than unfettered market forces. Insurance companies are not allowed to compete (a market approach) because states set most of the rules.

Yes, on the theory that in the health care and health insurance markets the information asymmetries are so unusually severe that an unregulated market wouldn't work the way markets are supposed to and consumers would suffer. Seems like a plausible theory to me.

In any case, Catsy's complaint about private for-profit insurance was not that it restricts choice.

It appears to me that my choice in health insurance, for example, is poor because of state restrictions and mandates rather than unfettered market forces.

It's funny how different people will look at the same situation and see different things.

When I look at the health insurance industry, I see an industry where a lot of the most costly and problematic customers - folks older than 65, the very poor, and folks with certain kinds of catastrophic health issues - are already out of the pool. Those folks are mostly covered on the public dime. Active military, same deal.

I see an industry that basically owns the gateway to health care. Most folks can't afford to go to the doctor for anything more than rudimentary services on their own dime. So, the demand is built-in.

And I see an industry that still claims it can't make enough money unless it can either refuse to cover folks who have ever been seriously or expensively ill, or unless they can aggressively seek to drop coverage for folks who do become ill.

And insurance, per se, is not a product that requires rocket-science intelligence or great creative insight. At essence, it's a straight up numbers thing.

There's other stuff that the "health insurance" industry does that does, in fact, take some thought, and research, and creativity, and which does, in fact, add a lot of value. Stuff like chronic disease management, investigation into best medical practice, etc.

I applaud all of that.

But basically figuring out how likely it is for folks to get sick in particular ways, how much that is likely to cost, and how to spread that across a population - all of that seems fairly straightforward. Mathematically and statistically sophisticated, maybe, but in principle, just not that hard.

I look at health insurance and I see what is, basically, an essential service. And I see one that is not being well addressed by the private sector. 15% of the people in this country have *no insurance coverage at all*, and those folks are not all 25 year olds who'd rather spend the dough on beer. And I see one that is, basically, bean-counting and administration, and if there is one thing government excels at, it is bean-counting and administration.

Their motto should be "Bureaucrats R Us".

So I say, take it out of the private sector, because it's more important that everyone have access than that it remain a private sector initiative.

Make it public. Everybody gets covered for regular direct care, non-elective surgery and pharma, and psych. Everybody's covered, so the risk pool is as large as possible, which if I understand it is basically the optimal case.

If you want cadillac, or coverage for lots of elective stuff, or super-value-added services, you can buy aftermarket boutique insurance. No worries.

Everybody's happy. Next problem, please.

I get that you'd like to pick and choose exactly what you do and don't want, and you'd like to be able to choose those things from a smorgasbord of competing providers.

Understandable.

IMO, that needs to be balanced against the need for everybody else in the country to be able to get health care coverage *at all*.

There is *absolutely no unfettered free market incentive* for anyone to provide insurance coverage to people who are chronically ill, who have family histories of illness physical or mental, who work in very high risk occupations, etc etc etc.

Seriously, why would anyone voluntarily insure someone who's overweight, with a family history of heart disease, or who smokes, or has a history of cancer? They wouldn't. Not for what most folks can afford to pay.

If you think medical malpractice is expensive, imagine what the unfettered market rates for basic health insurance for cops, firemen, high steel workers, miners, and deep sea fishermen would be. Just as a set of examples.

The free market *will not make the necessary thing happen*.

On one hand, individual rights, privileges, preferences. On the other, the broad public good.

Both are important, don't you think?

'Yes, on the theory that in the health care and health insurance markets the information asymmetries are so unusually severe that an unregulated market wouldn't work the way markets are supposed to and consumers would suffer. Seems like a plausible theory to me.'

Are you going to continue and explain why this theory that you find plausible, in fact, fails so miserably? And when was the less regulated market that the theory indicates cannot work tried, or did we just jump to the highly regulated theory-based approach? Did we ever have a relatively free market environment in which an individual could acquire health insurance coverage?

Well, crap. It's a cliche by now, but: "what russell said."

It appears to me that my choice in health insurance, for example, is poor because of state restrictions and mandates rather than unfettered market forces.

Actually, I think state restrictions and mandates are what give you choice. In MA, because of extensive regulation, anyone can go to the exchange site and instantly find out how much insurance will cost them. They can choose from competing companies and they don't have to worry about getting screwed over because the products are graded so they can make an informed choice. If you want insurance, you push a few buttons and you can comparison shop and purchase insurance in a matter of minutes.

I've honestly never had such a painless experience with health insurance. Now, the prices are not dirt cheap because MA is a very expensive place to live and do business. But you don't have to worry about being denied coverage for some random reason. MA regulators have made finding and purchasing health insurance so much easier -- they brought the free market to life.

Insurance companies are not allowed to compete (a market approach) because states set most of the rules.

I don't understand how my local health insurance market could be improved by eliminating state regulation. I mean, I live in a state with millions of people. What benefit could possibly accrue.

And many of the insurance companies like this since it reduces their required effort to compete.

Go visit the exchange site I linked to above. Compare some plans. The competition is brutal. Companies can't lie. They have to offer comparable products. If they don't, they get dropped from the exchange. This is the perfect free market.

WRT the cable issue...

My experience has been that cable service sucks because of a combination of a public private failures. I can't get fiber internet/tv service in my town because the town has basically cut an exclusive deal with Comcast. A far better idea would be to do what's done in some Nordic countries and have the municipality install and own fiber from homes to the central office and then let people contract with companies to get internet/tv service over those lines.

Also, on the subject of disenfranchisement, this BJ post seems timely.

"Go visit the exchange site I linked to above. Compare some plans. The competition is brutal. Companies can't lie. They have to offer comparable products. If they don't, they get dropped from the exchange. This is the perfect free market."

With a few caveats that I will write off to implementation problems i agree that the exchanges work well. However, the cheapest insurance is about the cost of the most expensive employer provided plans. In a free market these plans would be subject to competition from insurers who would be willing to provide them at more competitive rates.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield for a company plan(less than 50 employees) equivalent to the the most expensive plan in the exchange is about 1400 a month rather than 2400.

It is better than anything else I have seen but it is still a captive market. (Florida's plans cover less and cost more, so while advertised as universal coverage it is really universal catastrophic covergae).

Blue Cross/Blue Shield for a company plan(less than 50 employees) equivalent to the the most expensive plan in the exchange is about 1400 a month rather than 2400.

Prove it.

"Prove it."

In this instance I will rely on me being the authority. If you don't accept that then I am ok with that. Best I can do.

'Go visit the exchange site I linked to above. Compare some plans. The competition is brutal. Companies can't lie. They have to offer comparable products. If they don't, they get dropped from the exchange. This is the perfect free market.'

I'd like to know how, under the MA mandated insurance system, those with pre-existing medical conditions are accommodated by the exchange providers. Is there some way that these are distributed across the exchange participating companies so that any given company can avoid being the recipient of the opposite of 'adverse selection'?

I'd like to know how, under the MA mandated insurance system, those with pre-existing medical conditions are accommodated by the exchange providers. Is there some way that these are distributed across the exchange participating companies so that any given company can avoid being the recipient of the opposite of 'adverse selection'?

As far as I know, the rule is that insurers have to accept everyone and that premiums can only vary based on where you live, your age, whether you are a smoker and possibly your gender. I don't believe there is any distribution system that ensures that sick people are allocated to all insurance companies: no company can refuse coverage to anyone, so they're all equally likely to get a sick person.

However, the cheapest insurance is about the cost of the most expensive employer provided plans.

I have two questions about that:

(1) are we talking about an employer plan for a company whose employees demographically match MA? I've worked at software firms that could negotiate great rates because 80% of the staff were men aged 22-32.

(2) are you including the fact that an employee plan is paid for using pre-tax dollars in your analysis?

Turb,

The demographics were actually against the company the last few years (older and these were family rate).

I didn't calculate any difference for pretax, which seens to me to make the difference larger. I was comparing 2010(company) to 2011(Mass) which would narrow the gap some.

I'm afraid I've not had time to comment, but I have to say that I think there's been a lot of thoughtful commentary on this thread, far more than I need to comment on, and so following internet tradition, I'll neglect to mention the vast number of wise statements my many that I agree with -- and frankly, everyone has said some stuff that I agree with, and since I'm about to question you, Marty, let me assure you that you've said many things here I do agree with, but here's this:

"In what way is this inaccurate?"

That worrying more about fraud implies placing less value on disenfranchising voters. It is a false dichotomy.

Really? How?

We can give numbers -- rough, to be sure, but quite large -- on how lots and lots and lots of people have been disenfranchised. We can give slightly rough, but quite clear, numbers on voter fraud. I'll do so, if necessary, and find time, but meanwhile, could you defend this claim, perhaps?

GoodOleBoy:

Just demonstrate that you are alive, who you purport to be, old enough to vote, and meet any residency requirement. If that's too much burden for something many of us consider important, then skip it. That is not disenfranchisement, it's called apathy.
Right. So these people merely don't have residences because they're "apathetic"?

I'm asking, not putting words in your mouth, but I do suggest that "apathy" may not be the best choice of words, or most accurate view to take. Do you believe that people who have no home should have no right to vote? What's your opinion?

People suffer this:

The basic problem of homelessness is the human need for personal shelter, warmth and safety, which can be literally vital. Other basic difficulties include:

* personal security, quiet, and privacy, especially for sleeping
* safekeeping of bedding, clothing and possessions, which may have to be carried at all times
* hygiene and sanitary facilities
* cleaning and drying of clothes
* obtaining, preparing and storing food in quantities
* keeping contacts, without a permanent location or mailing address
* hostility and legal powers against urban vagrancy.

Homeless people face many problems beyond the lack of a safe and suitable home. They are often faced with many social disadvantages also, reduced access to private and public services and reduced access to vital necessities:[67]

* Reduced access to health care and dental services.
* Limited access to education.
* Increased risk of suffering from violence and abuse.
* General rejection or discrimination from other people.
* Loss of usual relationships with the mainstream
* Not being seen as suitable for employment.
* Reduced access to banking services
* Reduced access to communications technology

Is this "apathy"? Is making sure everyone has a right to a vote, one person, one vote, something America shouldn't work towards?

Is this propaganda, in your view, or what? HUD ISSUES 2009 ANNUAL HOMELESS ASSESSMENT REPORT TO CONGRESS
Individual homelessness down; Family homelessness up for second straight year
.

[...] HUDs latest report finds that 643,000 persons were homeless on a given night in 2009 while roughly 1.56 million people, or one in every 200 Americans, spent at least one night in a shelter during 2009. While the total estimated number of persons who experience homelessness as individuals declined by 5 percent, the number of homeless families increased for the second straight year. [...] HUDs annual assessment is based on two measures of homelessness:

* Point-In-Time Snapshot Counts these data account for sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons on a single night, usually at the end of January. On a given night in January 2009, volunteers throughout the nation counted 643,000 homeless people. A majority of these communities reported increases in the number of sheltered persons and decreases in unsheltered or street homeless revealing a greater capacity and success in finding housing solutions for those who are homeless.

Long-term or chronic homelessness has continued a pattern of decline in the U.S. since 2006. HUD currently estimates that nearly 111,000 people were chronically homeless on a single night in January 2009, more than a 10 percent drop from 2008 and nearly 30 percent from levels reported in 2006. All of this years decrease in chronic homelessness occurred among the unsheltered street population. Much of the decline since 2006 may be associated with the dramatic expansion of the permanent supportive housing stock, which increased from 177,000 to 219,000 beds during this time period.
* 12-Month Counts Using Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS), these data provide more detailed information on persons who access a shelter over the course of a full year. In the 2009 AHAR, 2,988 counties and 1,056 cities contributed HMIS data to produce national estimates of sheltered homeless. HUD estimates that 1.56 million persons experienced homelessness and found shelter between October 1, 2008 and September 30, 2009. A typical sheltered homeless person is a single, middle-aged man and a member of a minority group. Of all those who sought emergency shelter or transitional housing during 2009, the following characteristics were observed:

* 78 percent of all sheltered homeless persons are adults.
* 61 percent are male.
* 62 percent are members of a minority group.
* 38 percent are 31-to-50 years old.
* 64 percent are in one-person households.
* 38 percent have a disability.

HUDs report also reveals the following trends:

From 2008-2009:

* Between 2008 and 2009, the number of individuals in emergency shelters and transitional housing programs dropped by nearly 58,000 people or 5 percent. Meanwhile, sheltered homeless persons in families increased by almost 19,000 people or 3.6 percent.
* When families are considered as households rather than as the separate people in the households, the increase was nearly 11,000 families between 2008 and 20098, a seven percent increase over the 159,142 sheltered homeless families in 2008.

From 2007-2009:

* Between 2007 and 2009, the drop in the number of sheltered homeless individuals was 80,000 people or about 7 percent. This decline may be related to the ability of communities to place people into an expanding stock of permanent housing, which increased from about 177,000 to 219,000 beds during this time period.
* In 2009, nearly 62,000 more family members were in emergency shelter or transitional housing at some point during the year than had been in 2007. Considered as households rather than as separate people, the growth in sheltered family homelessness over the three years was almost 40,000 families, representing a 30 percent increase.

Apathy? I'd be interested to know what you think. Do such people have a right to vote, or what?

To make explict Catsy's link above:

The measure would allow far more rigorous demands than the voter ID requirement recently upheld by the Supreme Court, in which voters had to prove their identity with a government-issued card.

Sponsors of the amendment — which requires the approval of voters to go into effect, possibly in an August referendum — say it is part of an effort to prevent illegal immigrants from affecting the political process. Critics say the measure could lead to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of legal residents who would find it difficult to prove their citizenship.

Voting experts say the Missouri amendment represents the next logical step for those who have supported stronger voter ID requirements and the next battleground in how elections are conducted. Similar measures requiring proof of citizenship are being considered in at least 19 state legislatures. Bills in Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma and South Carolina have strong support. But only in Missouri does the requirement have a chance of taking effect before the presidential election.

In Arizona, the only state that requires proof of citizenship to register to vote, more than 38,000 voter registration applications have been thrown out since the state adopted its measure in 2004. That number was included in election data obtained through a lawsuit filed by voting rights advocates and provided to The New York Times. More than 70 percent of those registrations came from people who stated under oath that they were born in the United States, the data showed.

Already, 25 states, including Missouri, require some form of identification at the polls. Seven of those states require or can request photo ID. More states may soon decide to require photo ID now that the Supreme Court has upheld the practice. Democrats have already criticized these requirements as implicitly intended to keep lower-income voters from the polls, and are likely to fight even more fiercely now that the requirements are expanding to include immigration status.

I happen, oddly, to take a personal interest in this. Moreover, I've just spent, well, this will be a post if I can ever get my phone to talk to my computer, and as it happens, a lot of my time is spent trying to deal with government bureaucracies, while dealing with various illnesses, including a frequent lack of ability to walk, and in brief, let me tell you as mere anecdote, that I arrived in California on November 11th. On November 15th I made an online appointment with the nearest DMV office, which is in fact only "several blocks" away.

They gave me the next most available appointment: December 30th.

Then I had to get there, while mostly being UNABLE TO WALK. Because I'm not recognized as disabled, because I DON'T HAVE A GOVERNMENT ID FOR THIS STATE.

I'll leave out how much fun it was to get there, and leave it to your imagination: did money rain from the sky to pay for a cab? Did I have stretcher bearers? Did you volunteer to drive me over? Do you know how near the nearest bus line is, and how long a "walk" it is when you CAN'T WALK, and then how far it is to walk from the other end of the bus line? Did I parachute in? Did I drive my non-existent car with my non-existent driver's licence?

Start guessing. Or offer me some solutions you think I should have used: my non-existent (not entirely: disowned would be a more appropriate word, and then we're too personal, thank you very much) family?

Then, as I said, this should and I hope to make it a post, but actually for different reasons than this issue, but: I can tell you, and will tell you, if I write the post, about the "disabled procedures."

But skipping ahead, I did make it there, for my appointment, didn't have a ball of laughs with it, found that the procedures for "the disabled" involved, among other things, having to "walk" from the furthest end of the building to the other, "stand" at a counter while someone shouted at me because for some reason I had to sit on the floor, a very nice citizen helped me out, and I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor on lines where there were no chairs, no wheel chairs, and god knows how you're supposed to do it with a wheel chair, because there's no space for one on those lines, and maybe you're only allowed to get your ID if you only have a car. Frankly, it beats me, and oddly, I haven't had time to research the answer to these questions.

Then it turned out I DIDN'T HAVE THE RIGHT ID TO GET THE ID, and I had to spend over $50 to get a copy of my birth certificate sent from NY. Do you think every homeless person knows how to work a computer to make the online appointment? Do you think every homeless person knows how to work online to get their birth certificate? Do you think every homeless person can cough up that money to get one, even if they can do all that?

Here's a hint: I've tried this FOR YEARS and wasn't able to get it done, for certain reasons.

So, anyway, I had to go home -- apparently using my personal jetpack; it's still up to you to figure out what I did, remember, and I'll tell you that it didn't involve any friends driving me or helping me, though I'll admit that it MIGHT have happened if I'd perhaps rescheduled my appointment and WAITED ANOTHER TWO MONTHS -- then I waited a week, got the birth certificate in the mail, traveled back by fun teleportation, did the floor sitting/crawling thing again, waved my cane from the ground a lot, had to STAND UP to get my photo taken -- and fingerprinted, because, you know, there's ALL THAT FRAUD, and then I left with... A RECEIPT.

I'm STILL WAITING FOR MY ID.

And as it happens, well, frak, I'm not going to go into why the new cards are delayed for months, but involves A WHOLE NEW CARD BEING DESIGNED TO PREVENT VOTER FRAUD, so the cards cost the state HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS EACH to produce, and the contract went to a company that, because the card was so hard to counterfeit, and private enterprise is so efficient, 90% of the cards were defective, so they had to recontract, and now everyone has to wait god knows how many months for their cards, and NOW THAT THE CARDS WILL BE WORTH SO MUCH, the incentive to mug people for their cards will now rise to the extent that an incentive for a card that costs a few dollars to produce, to ones that cost hundreds of dollars to produce, will rise accordingly.

Now: consider how this will affect ACTUAL STREET PEOPLE: will they hire personal security guards to keep their cards safe? What do YOU think?

And, while we're at it, tell me when I'm going to get my ID.

And while we're at it, explain to me how this is not a problem, and I should not have the right to vote without such a card.

Don't worry, I'll be here all week.

Except when I'm trying to get financial aid, going to the hospital -- by magic to get treatment, so I can get ID, so I can get financial aid, so I can be treated at the hospital, so I can more easily get to the government offices, and, hey, have you considered why I may have spent many years being unsucessful at this?

Is it because I'm stupid?

Or is it because of my APATHY?

You tell me. I'll try to be here, and alive, and not in pain, while I wait for an answer.

I'm kinda curious.

Thanks. My two cents.

Let me say that I currently have a roof over my head, and am eating adequately. There are food banks, free church dinners, I know how to be very frugal, and I have blog donations and subscriptions, and by the way, today someone cancelled a $50/month one, and another person cancelled a $5/month and said they "hoped I was well," and I get those cancellations and sentiments all the time.

That's understandable: people don't have infinite pockets, I send extremely mixed messages -- for reasons that are nobody else's business, though I do hope to explain why in a coherent way at such time as certain ongoing circumstances allow me to -- it's confusing, and by the way, if you think it's fun to live on charity, hoping someone doesn't throw you out on the street -- and I have lived on the street more than once -- it really isn't as much fun as it's cracked up to be.

But here's a clue:

[...] Car Living is becoming increasingly popular out of choice or necessity as the cost of living increases in major urban areas. The above image was taken under a bridge in Seattle, and depicts one of the many semi-permanent dwellings found there. The graffiti on the side shows how the resident has essentially painted a ‘front yard’ on the trailer, a symbol of ‘home.’ Those living in this area appreciate the lack of rent and relative quiet of Seattle’s Industrial District. While the city officially discourages these nomadic dwellers, there are no residential neighbors to complain so they are largely left alone.
Want some personal anecodotes about friends and people I know who have done this? Of course, they HAVE TO HAVE CARS. Want to talk about the friends I've had who instead have lived under underpasses, in tunnels, in doorways and just move about? Are they not real people? Do you know what "mental illness" is? Is it "apathy"? Laziness? Indifference? Lack of intelligence? Their own fault?
[...] Couch Surfing is very different kind of urban nomadism. People from around the world use various related forums and websites as they travel in order to stay free and meet new people. Couch Surfing dot Com has over 250,000 registered users and boasts available couches in virtually every major city in the world. In theory, a person could live from couch to couch indefinitely. Couch Surfers rely on reviews of one another and of places to stay, so maintaining good behavior is rewarded with better future couch surfing opportunities.
I've never been smart neough to try using some sort of service. I won't tell you what I've done, because it's none of your business. I, in fact, paid rent on everywhere I lived from late 2002 through November of 2010. I'm now, hey, couch-surfing thanks to a friend I've not had contact with in thirty years. And he's refusing to take rent from me.

He's a very nice guy and trusts me with his house and cats. But I've lived before with people who have taken me in, and you know what? They've often proven to be crazier than I am. And you're at their mercy. And I've had experiences like paying the rent at a place for a year, and having someone try to have me arrested because I didn't leave three days before our contract said I should leave, said contract having been arbitrarily rewritten half a dozen times by the other party, which is an interesting way to have a "contract." (The police laughed, by the way, when they heard that I'd lived there a year, paying rent, said not their problem, and left.)

A similar experience has happened to me, only that person demanded I sign over my entire pay check, we had a written contract, she rewrote every couple of weeks to be a shorter time span, because she needed to fulfil her psychic needs -- again, an interesting concept of a "contract," but, what, am I going to pay a lawyer to go to court over this? -- and the contract said -- and I have this in her own hand writing and still have it right now, in a filing cabinet a few feet from me, but I don't badmouth other people, so you're not getting any details -- and I was supposed to get all my money back, and let's just note that this did not happen.

Then I lived somewhere where a guy turned out to be pretending to be the owner, so I forked out a month's rent, and we were then all evicted when the real owner showed up. I'll not go into the part about the criminal living there who cut the phone wires, which is why I was offline that month; I refused to press charges, for reasons of my own.

The next year I was back to working, and paying rent, and worked for a couple of years, until my health again prevented me from doing so.

And on and on. I really don't want to get more personal then this, but I can tell you plenty of stories of VERY SMART PEOPLE who wound up spending years on the street, because of horrific childhoods, childhood trauma, adult trauma, PTSD, a long list of mental illneses, and trying to cope with jumping the government hoops JUST ISN'T POSSIBLE unless you have family support, or a fulltime social worker, and round and round the catch-22 goes.

Architects, designers and urbanites are becoming increasingly interested in nomadic building design, from shipping container museums to portable temporary housing. Homelessness, in many ways, is a descriptive term that could be applied to more and more of the world’s population. There are certainly many people who did not choose and do not wish to remain homeless. Still, it is important to remember that the word ‘homeless’ carries many connotations that may or may not apply to everyone without a home, such as car dwellers, couch surfers and other urban nomads.
Ever lived in a shipping container? With disability, and mental illness? Think it makes your illness better? Think it makes you better able to cope? Ever tried it?

But I guess such people are just apathetic.

But, by all means, I'd love to know how private charity is the answer to this.

And how much you'd enjoy it.

And by the way, I've in my whole life, never received "welfare," because as it happens, THERE IS NO SUCH EFFING THING for single males between 18 and 65 without children, unless THEY CAN PROVE THEY'RE DISABLED. Heard of "catch-22"?

And why is there no such thing? Because SUCH MEN AREN'T DESERVING.

I have, over decades of problems, received food stamps for maybe a grand total of 18 months out of 30 years. You know what? Not fond of that either. Don't like taking money from the government. Find it shaming and shameful. Also, it's VERY HARD, because once again, you had to show all sorts of proof, either that you're looking for work , or are disabled.

And, yes, now my legs/feet are intermittently better, intermittently worse, and they've been up and down over the years, and I have a variety of other physical ailments.

But maybe we should go back to stats and numbers.

But, weirdly, I take a great personal interest in this issue.

Funny, isn't it? Ho.

Marty:

So an actual private solution is a priori preferable.

Posted by: Marty | January 22, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Marty, thanks for your subscription to my blog. Many thanks.

Now if you could explain to me better how your theories on private solutions explain the millions of homeless people in America, I'd be quite interested. Why do you think they exist? Because it's an easier way of life? Because they want to be drug addicts or alcoholics? Or... what?

It's grand to have the luxury of having this all be abstract theory.

And if the homeless are invisible to you it is.

Nonetheless: real people. Some very smart, but that's completely irrelevant: we don't think only smart people deserve help, I'm sure we all agree, and I'm just damn lucky enough to be verbal and smart, or I'd be effing dead.

But sure, "That worrying more about fraud implies placing less value on disenfranchising voters. It is a false dichotomy."

Right. Tell me more. From your vast store of either personal experience, or research on the stats.

"Prove it."

In this instance I will rely on me being the authority.

Oh, well, then, I will rely on such logic, too.
If you don't accept that then I am ok with that. Best I can do.
This was on another issue, but on the issue I'm discussing, I can do better. We can go back to stats and cites. I've been known to try that. Take your pick of methodology and we can talk more.

GoodOleBoy:

[...] And when was the less regulated market that the theory indicates cannot work tried, or did we just jump to the highly regulated theory-based approach? Did we ever have a relatively free market environment in which an individual could acquire health insurance coverage?
Ever read Charles Dickens? How about some basic history?

Your turn.

I could comment on and vouch for stuff on this thread, but, heavens, I might not be brief, and we wouldn't want that.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


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