Monthly Archives: August 2012

President Guts Welfare Reform

On July 12, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a memorandum indicating that they would consider requests to  waive the requirements under section 402 – but not 401, 407 or 408 – of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  According to section 1115, HHS has discretion only in section 402.

Secretary Sebelius says the Department will grant waivers only for legitimate projects which support the objective of the program, which is to reduce dependence on public assistance.  The memorandum mentions testing the waiver projects for compliance with the objective.

So, does this “gut welfare reform,” as alleged by Governor Romney?  It really depends on what kinds of waivers have been requested, which ones HHS grants, and – crucially – whether you trust HHS to uphold the spirit of the legislation.   Republicans simply do not trust the Department.  They see this as a legal loophole that will allow states to skirt the work requirements.

Instead of a federal entitlement, the money is distributed by states, whose feet are held to the fire by Washington in order to receive the financing.

The real problem is that this is a federal program, wherein the states spend “federal money” under federal direction.  Remember that all government funding originates with tax-paying citizens of the fifty states.  So, if you live in Minnesota, your federal income tax goes to pay for this program – and then HHS tells Governor Dayton how to spend the money, and how much of it Minnesota will receive.  The other states requesting waivers are California, Connecticut, Utah and Nevada.

There is no reason for the federal government to be involved in welfare, workfare, or waivers.  The states are perfectly capable of administering their own welfare programs according to their specific needs.  As John Madden would say, BAM!  No more controversy.  Reduce the federal tax burden, and keep that money in the states.

So, Texas would be mean and force the welfare people to dig ditches.  California would be generous and then go broke.  Eventually, they would settle into norms as variable among the states as, say, sales tax or liquor laws.  Keeping the money away from Washington would save 20-50% of it, depending on which economist you  believe.   That buys a lot of new Cadillacs, right there.

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Woman is the Nigger of the World

This lyric from John Lennon is not exactly polite, but it tells an important truth about human society.  Racial oppression varies from place to place, but women have been oppressed everywhere and for all time.

A short film by Sofie Peeters about street harassment in Europe has galvanized the continent.  The film documents the daily humiliation faced by European women, merely walking down the street, and the measures they must take to protect themselves.  In many European cities, this type of harassment can lead to sexual assault.  The Guardian has a good article, including this bit:

Peeters talks to local young men of north African origin about how to stop the insults.  I was told, “Come out with a man, your boyfriend, and we’ll leave you alone.”

In this, one can hear the echo of Muslim commandments for women always to be escorted by men.  Guardian blogger Emer O’Toole picks up on this when she writes that the interest of feminism is not served by having a boyfriend to protect you.

The young Arabs are enforcing a code of sexist oppression.  The only way to avoid harassment from men in general  is to enlist the full-time protection of some man in particular.  Thus, the dominance of all men – including the boyfriend –  is enforced.

Jeremiah recommends tactical pepper spray.

Logically, it is obvious that women are not free as long as this asymmetry exists.  Call it the “balance of fear.”  When somebody grabs Sofie Peeters by the ass, the odds of her being raped must be equal to the odds that he will suffer a lasting injury.

Jeremiah does not recommend roving bands of feminists to go forth and assault men, but the principle is clear.  Women must stand up for themselves, as Ms. O’Toole says, and they must do so with “escalation matching” force.

See also: Muslim cleric wants to protect women from sexual assault by forcing them to cover up

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Message from Keynes

Jeremiah complains that there is little difference between the red and blue parties, but this year we have a real choice.  President Obama has spent the last few years setting up a social welfare state on the European model.  He has nationalized health care, mortgage lending, and General Motors.  He has increased social assistance of all kinds, from unemployment to food stamps.

When the facts change, I change my mind.

It is hard to write about this objectively, given what has happened in Europe.  When the President took office, in February 2009, he could look across the ocean to a place where the rich took care of the poor, the government provided everything, and people didn’t worry too much about money.

Employment was propped up by short hours and long vacations, and people retired early.   In those days, Obama often spoke of emulating the European model – France, in particular.  His policies and his public remarks bear this out.

Now, unfortunately, that model is gone.  It was crushed by the weight of promises it couldn’t keep – as, too, were many American cities.  We invite the President to consider the words of his favorite economist, John Maynard Keynes – when the facts change, I change my mind.  Maybe capitalism wasn’t so bad after all.

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Above the Law

Here is the latest from Thomas Sowell.  This is a right-wing paper, but Sowell makes a point that should resonate with both sides.  Regardless of how you feel about the Dream Act, NCLB, or workfare, you should be uncomfortable with the President – any President – overruling Congress.

Jeremiah has written about this before.  Our Constitution divides power between Congress and the President for good reason.  It ensures “a government of laws, and not of men.”  Sowell goes on to apply the term “banana republic.”

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No Secrets

Here is a photo of Julian Assange, holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy.  He is wanted in Sweden on four counts of sexual assault.  Mr. Assange is also wanted by America, in connection with his work at WikiLeaks, and Ecuador has granted him asylum.  Assange and the Ecuadorian government say the rape charges are a pretext to try him in America, where he is considered a spy.

Maybe he is a rapist and maybe he isn’t.  Law enforcement in Sweden is pretty serious, and not exactly a pawn of American policy.  As for the espionage, Mr. Assange’s web site has published American state secrets in clear violation of our laws – secrets which have put American lives in danger.  He claims, on principle, that America should have no state secrets.  All information should be public at all times.

There was no consideration about civilian lives … a rise in assassinations of Afghan civilians seen as government collaborators.

This principle, a “world with no secrets,” is pretty silly.  It is the premise of more than one comedy, and we would simply laugh it off – except for those American operatives captured, tortured and killed in Afghanistan.  Everyone has a right to their secrets, including the American government.

It’s funny that a crusader for truth and free speech would start by attacking Western democracies, which generally have the best laws on free speech, whistle blowers, the FOIA, and so forth.  If Mr. Assange were really a man of principle, he would be in jail in Russia like that all-girl punk band.

It is unlikely that Mr. Assange really believes in his Pollyanna principle.  It is much more likely that he is simply an egomaniac – and a coward, and a pervert.

See also: Is Assange defender of the truth or attention-seeking mammy’s boy?

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Freedom, Illustrated

Jeremiah likes to think of public policy in terms of what’s best for America’s armed forces.  This is a handy way to show that our economy is more important than, say, cultural conformity.  If armed might is all, though, then we have a police state – not stable, or even desirable.

In truth, the goals of public policy form an interdependent network.  A rough sketch of this network is given below.  Goals and subgoals are rounded rectangles.  Cause and effect lines are in blue.

Freedom is paramount.  All other benefits flow from freedom.  Where does freedom come from, in the first place?  Adams and Jefferson believed that freedom was won, initially, through armed struggle – and steadily eroded thereafter.  There is no mechanism to restore freedom incrementally once it has been lost.

This is why it is so important to resist the many subtle encroachments against America’s freedom.  Depriving accused criminals of due process, for instance, might seem like a good idea – especially if they have beards.

Depriving someone else of their civil rights always seems like a good idea.  How about locking up the bankers who “stole” from America during the recent financial crisis, or making it illegal to “ship jobs” overseas?  Populism amounts to mob rule, and it is always the enemy of freedom.

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Long-Term Unemployment

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly report on our unemployment situation.  The stock market rallied in celebration of 163,000 new jobs.  President Obama took a bow.  On the other hand, our unemployment rate is still 8.3%.  Governor Romney stood on that number.  Whom to believe?

Employment statistics are ridiculously spin-prone, especially “rate of change” statistics like this howler (the author was quickly caught out by his readers with math skills).  The fundamental question is, how many people are working?

These jobs are going, boys, and they ain’t coming back.

To form your own opinion, start by reviewing the BLS report.  Below is their chart of the employment to population ratio.  You can see that the old level was around 63% and the new level is around 58 or 59%.  Many economists think this is the new normal.

The report goes on to enumerate those who are underemployed, discouraged, or marginally attached.  Brutal stuff.  The BLS counts 5.2 million Americans as “long-term unemployed” because they have been out of work for six months or more.  The danger for these workers is that the longer you’re out of work, the harder it becomes to find work.

America, as a whole, faces the same danger.  Look at the 5% drop on that chart again.  We have been at this level for more than three years.  It will take roughly 15 million private sector jobs – government jobs don’t count – to plug the gap.

We don’t need another jobs bill called “jobs bill.”  We need actual jobs.  We need to know what is keeping companies from hiring, and fix it.  Whichever candidate has the best answer, gets Jeremiah’s vote.

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