Tag Archives: New York

Peter the Citizen and “Less Appealing” Indiana

On Wednesday, I shared portions of an analysis of TANF–welfare after “reform”–from Peter the Citizen, a conservative policy analyst who has deep experience with social welfare policies.

Among the many papers he has written on the subject is one I found particularly interesting, because it references poverty and welfare policy in my home state of Indiana–and because Peter’s analysis is consistent with my own understanding of conditions in the Hoosier state.

In this particular paper, Peter was responding to an article attributing the “success” of welfare reform to the fact that such reforms have made welfare “less appealing.” (I suspect that many recipients would be shocked to discover they were accepting help because they found it “appealing.”) His rejoinder is worth reproducing at some length.

TANF is best viewed on a state-by- state basis and digging deeper suggests that there are limits to Winship’s argument about making welfare “less appealing.” Some states have tried to focus on real “welfare reform” (to the extent they can given the limitations of TANF’s block grant structure and dysfunctional federal requirements), while others use it primarily as a slush fund and have adopted very harsh policies to push families off the welfare rolls. Using a simplistic pre-post approach, one can easily compare states over time based on the harshness of their policies. (Note: This is not the evaluation approach I prefer, but it seems to resonate with conservatives.)

Robert Doar, now at the American Enterprise Institute, says he ran a “model” TANF program in New York – both at the state level and in New York City. (Doar’s bio states: “Before joining the Bloomberg administration, he was commissioner of social services for the state of New York, where he helped to make the state a model for the implementation of welfare reform.”) Doar is proud of New York City’s track record in reducing poverty:

In America’s biggest cities, more and more Americans are now living in poverty. From 2000 to 2013, the poverty rate in America’s 20 largest cities grew by 36 percent, to an average of 22.7 percent. Nationally, the poverty rate has risen too, from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 14.8 percent in 2014.

But there’s one stand-out exception to this phenomenon: New York City.

Over the last decade, New York City’s poverty rate has defied national trends by declining. While New York once suffered one of the highest poverty rates among the country’s large cities, today it boasts one of the lowest…

Indeed, Doar presents data to show that between 2000 and 2013, the percent change in poverty in New York City was minus 0.9 percent – the lowest in the nation among major cities, followed by Los Angeles and San Diego (plus 3.6 and plus 7.5 percent, respectively). At the opposite end of the spectrum, with the largest increases, were Indianapolis (81.5 percent), Charlotte (67 percent), and Detroit (57.9 percent).

Notably, both New York and California (the states with the top three cities) have much more appealing TANF programs than Indiana, North Carolina, and Michigan (the states with the bottom three cities) and they have become relatively more appealing over time. New York and California didn’t eliminate the entitlement (an important component of “welfare reform” for conservatives), they don’t impose full family sanctions or enforce the federal 5-year time limit (California removes the adult’s needs after 48 months but children continue to receive benefits; New York simply continues assistance with state funds.) Both states have among the most generous benefits, paying over $700 a month for a family of three. In contrast, the states with the cities in the bottom three have lower benefits ($272 to $492 a month for a family of three), do impose full-family sanctions and do enforce the federal 5-year limit and two have shorter time limits (24 months in Indiana – for adults – and 48 months in Michigan – for the entire family).

While Indiana, North Carolina and Michigan were “less appealing” in 1996 (and 2000) than both California and New York, they have become much, much less appealing over time. For example, between 1996 and 2014, the TANF-to-poverty ratio (the ratio of families receiving cash assistance per 100 poor families with children) fell from 101 to 65 in California and from 79 to 40 in New York. The declines were much larger in Indiana (61 to 8), North Carolina (74 to 8), and Michigan (88 to 18).15 The maximum benefit for a family of three fell 23 percent in real terms in California and 10 percent in New York; compare that to Indiana (-34 percent), North Carolina (-34 percent), and Michigan (-30 percent). TANF is failing as a safety net everywhere, but much more so in some states than others.

I’ve written before about the United Way of Indiana’s description of ALICE families (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and the huge gap between what those families need simply in order to survive and the public and private resources available to them.

There’s a lot of faux concern about “welfare dependency” expressed by people who are quite comfortable themselves. What those people worry about is “takers” getting too comfortable with those appealing “handouts”.

Peter the Citizen uses the term properly, to describe people who depend upon social welfare programs in order to survive.

There are many things policymakers could do to decrease that real-world dependency: raise the minimum wage, reinstitute Reagan-era tax brackets, eliminate the ACA in favor of “Medicare for All”…and jettison a self-satisfied ideology that equates poverty with a lack of moral fiber and “middle-class values.”

 

 

Good Cop/Bad Cop

The long-simmering tensions between police and the communities they serve have erupted in a series of protests and confrontations, triggered by events in Ferguson and New York. I’ve posted about this before, and I don’t intend to belabor the very different points of view expressed by the protestors and those sympathetic to them, on the one hand, and (some) citizens and police, on the other.

I will say that the officers who turned their backs on Mayor DeBlasio during the funeral of the two policemen shot by a mentally-deranged man in New York dishonored themselves and their colleagues, and disrespected the officers whose memorials should have been the focus of the day.

Fortunately, those childish displays are not typical of the men in blue, nor are the disheartening reports of police officers who belong to the KKK, who use disproportionate force, and who otherwise display “conduct unbecoming.” Many more officers are like Steve Anderson, Chief of Police in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Chief recently responded–point by point– to an email from a citizen critical of official restraint during peaceful demonstrations in Nashville. His response went viral. You really need to click the link and read the entire exchange, but here is a representative sample:

• “I just want myself and my family to feel that our city is safe, and right now we don’t feel that way.”

I have to admit, I am somewhat puzzled by this announcement. None of the demonstrators in this city have in any way exhibited any propensity for violence or indicated, even verbally, that they would harm anyone. I can understand how you may feel that your ideologies have been questioned but I am not aware of any occurrence that would give reason for someone to feel physically threatened.

• “I have a son who I have raised to respect police officers and other authority figures, but if he comes to me today and asks “Why are the police allowing this?” I wouldn’t have a good answer.”

It is somewhat perplexing when children are injected into the conversation as an attempt to bolster a position or as an attempt to thwart the position of another. While this is not the type of conversation I ordinarily engage in, here are some thoughts you may find useful as you talk with your son.

First, it is laudable that you are teaching your son respect for the police and other authority figures. However, a better lesson might be that it is the government the police serve that should be respected. The police are merely a representative of a government formed by the people for the people—for all people. Being respectful of the government would mean being respectful of all persons, no matter what their views.

Police officers like Chief Anderson–and there are many like him, fortunately– understand their constitutional and public safety duties, even if some of the citizens they serve do not.

More Horrors of Obamacare

Well, I see that the Star has a story quoting one of Governor Pence’s political appointees; said employee is predicting a huge increase in health insurance premiums, caused, of course, by the hated “Obamacare.”

The prediction is interesting in light of recent news from elsewhere. On July 17, Reuters reported  “Many New York state residents who buy health insurance next year will most likely see their premiums cut by half as President Barack Obama’s healthcare law creates subsidies that may increase the number of people in this market by the hundreds of thousands.”

News reports suggest that other states anticipate similar decreases. Evidently, officials in other states know something ours don’t.

Even if you are stuck in backward Indiana–even if you don’t live in New York, or one of the other states anticipating reduced premiums, you still may be one of the 8.5 million people who will get a check from their health insurance companies this summer. The checks are rebates required by the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) from companies that failed to spend at least 80% of premiums received on actual medical care.  Insurance companies that fail to pay out 80% on claims are obliged to send the difference between what they did spend and 80% back to the policyholders.

Has there ever been such an outrageous assault on the American Way of Life?

But never fear, policyholders–the House GOP just took its 39th vote to repeal this affront to liberty, and to protect you from its horrors. In fact, protecting you from Obamacare is so important, they haven’t done anything else.

Two Governors and an Election

Okay–no big post today. Today is fingernail-biting/pundit-watching/whatever-happens-it’s- finally-over day. There will be time to chew over the results later.

A friend sent me an email with a small medallion attached; it said “Stay calm and trust Nate Silver.” Good advice–if not for the nagging concerns raised by the widespread efforts at voter suppression and intimidation. I can’t help contrasting two governors: Andrew Cuomo in New York, and Rick Scott in Florida. In the wake of storm Sandy, Cuomo has issued an executive order allowing New Yorkers to vote at any polling place. They just need to submit an affidavit that they are registered, and that the storm damaged their usual voting site. In contrast, Florida Governor Rick Scott has “purged” voter rolls of thousands of properly registered citizens, mostly minorities, and closed down early voting sites.

I hope the response to Scott and the others, like Ohio Secretary of State Husted, is a greater determination to exercise the franchise they are trying so hard to deny to the “wrong kind” of voters.

We’ll know later tonight.

New York, New York

My husband and I are city people, so when one of our sons moved to Manhattan, we increased the frequency of our trips to the Big Apple.

We just got home from one such trip, a long weekend in New York, and I continue to marvel at what that city has done and is doing. My son’s very spiffy apartment building is located in a neighborhood adjacent to the Hudson Yards redevelopment project–a rapidly developing part of town that prudent people avoided 15 years ago. The High Line park–a favorite walking route these days–used to be an abandoned elevated rail line. The city took an eyesore and made it into an amenity so desirable it has reportedly spurred two billion dollars of adjacent redevelopment. Despite the city’s lack of alleys, city streets and sidewalks were clean and free of garbage. Bikes were everywhere, and more are coming: the city plans to roll out the first ten thousand bicycles of a planned bike-sharing program in a couple of months. Small pocket parks are everywhere, and the ones we saw were meticulously maintained.

When I was in city hall in Indianapolis, back in the late 1970s, then-Mayor Hudnut used to say we wanted to be “a city that works.” Clearly–with all its challenges–New York is a city that works. If we are honest, it works a lot better than Indianapolis does these days.

New York’s crime rate is lower than ours. Its ability to maintain public spaces should shame us–a few years ago, the Mayor wanted to get rid of small parks that were “too hard” or “too costly” to care for, and a walk on the downtown canal is a depressing reminder that this administration doesn’t understand the importance of maintenance. The canal is one of Indianapolis’ most important amenities, and it’s being allowed to fall apart.

Public transportation? New York has buses and taxis and subways, and isn’t resting on its laurels: a new subway station is going in a couple of blocks from our son’s apartment. In Indianapolis, we can’t even manage decent bus service.

When a city is safe and well-managed and convenient, people want to visit. When it isn’t–when it is a hassle to get from one place to another, when crime rates are worrisome, when public amenities are neglected–all the SuperBowls we can host won’t make us a favorite destination.