Sunday, July 26, 2009

What's wrong with this?

Today's paper has an article about the Lucas County Job and Family Services outreach to minority populations.

It's really just a profile piece, but there are certain points screaming for attention that get none.

Let's start with the very first paragraphs:

Despite multimillion-dollar budget cuts and skyrocketing demand for services, one government agency is hungry for more clients.

Lucas County Job and Family Services is sending its outreach coordinator, Betty Rios, into the community to promote the agency - and its programs - to minority populations that might otherwise be left behind.

The reaction of most people to this would be to ask: Why, if you've got less money and more demand, are you trying to increase the number of people you serve? The article explains how the agency has cut back on staff and how the offices are much more crowded than in the past. A prior article in the paper mentioned how the number of clients each case worker serves has also increased.

So why try to increase the work load, especially when you have less money with which to 'service' said clients?

Sadly, the article doesn't address this question.

Then there is this sentence:

Last year, 71,000 people were receiving food stamps, while this year, the number is 81,000.

Yesterday, I did a post about a new feature on the Ohio Secretary of State web page that lists various statistical data, including the number of food assistance recipients by county. That data did not include 2008 or 2009 information, but this article does. Based upon the recent yearly figures, does anyone care why the number of people getting food stamps has increased 111% since 2001 - increased even when the economy was good????

The article doesn't address this question, either.

And then, tugging on the heartstrings so we get distracted from the logical and reasonable analysis of the information and don't ask such questions, there are stories of two families who are now getting help.

Here's the point in those two examples you may miss: the amount of food stamps each family will get.

An hour later, he left with the assurance that his parents would receive $322 a month in food stamps.

...Ms. Rios was able to tell the waiting couple that their baby was eligible for $200 a month in food stamps and Medicaid.

Remember the bogus food stamp challenges our elected officials and newspaper writers took? You know, the one where they willingly partake in a publicity stunt to raise the amount of the give-away by trying to live on $23 a week, which is what the lobbyists say is the average amount of food stamps recipients get? None of them could live on that meager amount - and the few that could bemoaned the fact that they couldn't get a healthy diet on that amount. All this to 'prove' that individuals need more than the average and government (meaning tax payers) have to cough up more money for the program.

Funny, but in this story, the amounts received are much greater than $23 a person. The parents are each getting $37.44 per week and the baby is getting $46.51 per week (based upon 4.3 weeks in a month). Where is the follow-up or notation explaining how it can possibly be that these recipients are getting more than what our politicians tried to live on?

Could it be that, despite the spin, the food stamp program actually meets the needs at the current give-away amounts and that the weekly allotment does NOT need to be increased?

Again, a reasonable question that arises within the story but remains unanswered.

But there is another message subtly woven in amongst the words: that there is no shame in being on the government dole. The entire purpose of the outreach coordinator is to make it 'okay' for people to sign up for government handouts.

People weren't comfortable applying for benefits because of a cultural stigma or fear of immigration services. And in most cases they were from countries that had no system of public benefits.

What's wrong with a cultural stigma that imparts the message of independence and self-reliance? Why is it such a bad thing for people to not want to be dependent upon government? Why are we trying to overcome the reluctance of dependency? Why are we 'struggling' to encourage people to give up their 'shame' of participation?

In the instance of the Kim family - the parents mentioned above - the son was looking for medical assistance for his father. He came away with both parents enrolled in two programs. Why - when the original need was for one?

Some will say that your own tax dollars have funded these programs for years so you might as well enroll when eligible and get your money's worth. And that's a valid point, made more insidious because you have no choice about 'contributing' even if you swear on a stack of Bibles never to receive in exchange for an exemption to give.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that half of Hispanics who are eligible for food stamps don't apply.

Overall, that means 4 million aren't getting benefits that may be crucial to their survival.

Just look at that wording - if you're Hispanic, you're not getting what you're 'entitled' to. And if you don't let the government take care of you based upon its determination of your abilities, then you might not survive.

However, this contradicts the fact that these families are, indeed, surviving. Maybe not to government bureaucratic standards, but by their own. But if government comes along and says, 'look - we can give you more than what you have, and it's free,' why would anyone say no?

Insidious ... creating a dependency and then expecting, as a return, the continuing support of those who promise ever more and more dependence.

What would our founding fathers say? And why is a 'free press' perpetuating it?


Kadim said...

Good thoughts. My first reaction is that this is a problem of institutional incentives. (The economist in me says incentives are always the problem, lol.)

I don't know how job and family services is incentivized. I suspect it's not incentivized one way or another, but it's mission and job responsibilities probably are built around "serving as many people in need as possible." If that's the case, then it would make sense they would try outreach. I wouldn't be surprised if an individual employee is rated in some way on the quantity of people they help. It's an easy metric to quantify and use for employee evaluation.

But that doesn't mean it's a great incentive, as you point out. A potentially better one would be to incentivize based on how many people LCJFS help get good paying jobs (for instance.)

I don't necessarily mind them doing outreach, because there might be a good return on investment, even if it's very long term. Hungry kids do poorly in school, and that's a cost that will have to be dealt with ten years from now. If outreach helps mitigate that, then it might not be a bad investment all on its own.

But I don't know (and would be surprised) if Job and Family services were sophisticated enough to know ROI that well.

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Creating dependency makes for reliable voters (read as democrat voters).

Corrupt them and make them dependent on you and you'll always get reelected.

A perfectly woven spider's web of politics...

Google Analytics Alternative