Archive for the ‘spending’ Category


Stuck

Nov20

By John Feehery

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We are stuck in 2009 and we can’t get out. (more…)

Making Ron Burgundy Proud

Nov15

By John Feehery

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The commercials are frickin’ hilarious.

Ron Burgundy, Anchorman, selling the Dodge Durango. (more…)

G-Care

Oct10

By John Feehery

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I know I am asking a lot here.

But the new health care needs a new name.

Let’s stop calling it Obamacare.

Here is my reasoning.

If you want to repeal a law, you need Democratic help.   They will never vote to repeal a law named after a President that they nominated twice and got elected twice.

The term Obamacare came initially from a health care lobbyist named Jeanne Schulte Scott, according to Wikipedia.   She was describing a series of health care proposals put forward by  various politicians and Obamacare turned out to candidate Obama’s take on it.

It was Mitt Romney who first used Obamacare as part of a political attack.  In 2007, before Mr. Obama had won his first primary, Romney accused candidate Obama of pushing for socialized, government-run health care, which of course, is distinct from whatever Romney did in Massachusetts (or at least, that’s what Romney tried to convince people).

After the President successfully enacted his proposal, a competition developed between proponents and opponents of the law.  The President memorably said that he supported the term “Obamacare”.  “I have no problem saying Obama cares.  I do care.”

The Department of Health and Human Services, in fact, bought Google Ads tied to the keyword “Obamacare”, to steer people back to the official HHS site.  The Obama campaign also embraced Obamacare as if it were a positive accomplishment.

But the Tea Party was born thanks to Obamacare.

Tea Party patriots (as they like to call themselves) were mobilized chiefly by opposing the President’s new law.  Sarah Palin talked about death panels,  Rush Limbaugh warned about the dire impact of Obamacare, and lately, Ted Cruz did a fake filibuster promising to stop the President’s law by defunding it.

Obamacare didn’t dominate the Presidential debate, as much as some folks would have liked.  But now that we are getting closer to implementation, we should think clearly about whether the energy that is expended in complaining about it actually helps or hurts the cause in changing it.

There is a bit of a Obama derangement syndrome.

Anything associated with this President drives conservatives absolutely batty.  They go nuts and they can’t think rationally.

That derangement syndrome actually helped to drive the right wing on this silly effort to shut down the government to force the President to defund his own law.

That was never going to happen, and it has proved to be a serious distraction from the very real troubles that have dogged the new law.

We might be better off taking the President’s name of the law, and trying to approach this debate more rationally.

There is another reason why it might behoove us to change the terms of the debate.

What if the law turns out to be amazingly popular?

That probably won’t happen, but then again, people said the same thing about Social Security.

We don’t call the Social Security program, Roosevelt-care, do we?

So, let’s stop calling the Affordable Care Act Obamacare?

Let’s call it G-Care, short for government health care.

That’s what it is and it might be easier to get Democrats to repeal parts of the G-Care than it will be to get them to repeal Obamacare.

America Needs A Bench Coach

Oct7

By John Feehery

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My 7 year-old son plays for a Little League team, the Angels, which is a pretty funny name for a bunch of rambunctious little boys.

Baseball isn’t the fastest game in the world, especially for 7 year-olds, and the kids can get kind of kooky on the bench when we are up to bat.

One of the coaches for the Angels is a mother to one of the boys.  She is the bench coach, and her job is to keep the kids from pouring water on one another, stop them from hitting their teammates (unintentionally, of course) with a baseball, and otherwise keep the kids in line.

In other words, she is the adult who keeps an eye on the kids.

You ever think that the Federal government needs some adult supervision, especially now that government has shut down?

The President is supposed to be the adult and Congress is supposed to act like Little Leaguers.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama is like the kid who won’t let another kid use the baseball helmet he got from his parents.  And he won’t negotiate over it.

In fact, he won’t negotiate at all, over anything.

That’s unsustainable and he should know it.

Conservatives who threaten to shut the government down unless they get their way on Obamacare are no better.    They are like the kids who won’t give the baseball back to the coach unless they get to play in the infield.

The lack of maturity coming from the Congress does remind me of the lack of maturity that sometimes comes from the 7 year-olds on the Angels.  The big difference?  The kids on the Angels are 7.

The other big difference, of course, is that the various tempter tantrums that infect the battle between the legislative and executive branches is the real world implications of the Congressional fight.

When kids act like kids, there is an expectation that the kids will eventually grow up.

When Congress acts like children, jobs are lost, the economy stalls, and people lose faith in their government.

All of this dysfunction could help a female candidate like Hillary Clinton.  I say that with no relish, because I am not a big fan of the former Secretary of State.

But if the men in our government continue to act like the boys on my son’s baseball team, voters might decide they need a bench coach like the Angel’s bench, a woman who can keep the boys in line.

 

40 Billion

Sep20

By John Feehery

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Teach a man to fish.

That’s the biblical admonition.

The food stamp program doesn’t do much of that, and that’s probably why we need to rethink our whole social safety net.

House Republicans voted to pass legislation that would save taxpayers about 40 billion dollars of spending on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

That’s a big number, and I’m pretty certain that it won’t become law.

The Senate has passed legislation to pare back the program by 4 billion dollars.   There is a big difference between 40 and 4 billion dollars, and splitting the difference doesn’t seem possible to me.

The Food Stamp program has increased from about 33 billion dollars five years ago to about 87 billion dollars today.

Most of that can be attributed to the Great Recession, but some of it can also be attributed to the Obama Administration’s efforts to increase participation in the program.

Critics of Obama would say that he is doing this outreach program to get more people hooked on the government spending trough, but the Obama Administration would counter that there are plenty of hungry people who need help, but don’t know how to get it.

Over the last five years, dependency on government handouts has increased dramatically just as labor force participation rates have fallen almost as dramatically.

This is not just an economic issue.  It’s also a cultural issue.

And it’s not an Obama issue.  It’s an American issue.

And it is not a white, black or Hispanic issue.   People of all ethnicities are dropping out of the work force, going on disability, collecting the current version of food stamps and largely hanging out at home.

People claiming disability status for the purposes of collecting Social Security payments have skyrocketed over the last 5 years, especially for people who live between the ages of 18 and 64.

There’s a culture out there that seems to promote the idea that government offers not only temporary assistance, but a permanent way of living that might not be all that comfortable, but one that certainly beats working.

Liberals would say that the reason so many people need assistance is because they can’t find work.   That may be true, but it is also true that for those who don’t care what kind of work they do, work can be found.   That’s why so many people flood into this country without documentation, because they can find work in America.

Polls show that middle class Americans are fed up with paying for able-bodied people who should find a job but don’t or won’t.   The YG Network published a study of swing voters and self-identified Tea Partiers from McGlaughlin and Associates that found widespread concern that people were gaming the system:  Participants across both groups also recognized — and deeply resented — that some Americans are “working the system” in order to receive benefits they don’t truly need nor deserve. Speaking to the potential for waste, fraud, and abuse, one swing participant in our Manassas, Virginia session expressed her concern that “people are taking advantage of the welfare system and it needs to be reformed.” A Tea Party participant in Manassas put it this way: “Working the system hurts all the groups. It costs us more money. It hurts us giving it and the really needy.”

Is there fraud in the system?

Of course there is.

And it happens at all levels.

Thom Edsall wrote a fascinating story about how the poor exploit the really poor in a competition for survival:

“There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that at times the poor exploit one  another.

For his doctoral research in 2008 and 2009, Jacob Avery, now a professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine, spent 17 months with homeless men in Atlantic City. What he found was a hierarchy of exploitation.

Avery describes the way that cabdrivers would purchase SNAP food stamp cards — at half their face value — from homeless men desperate for cash to buy liquor or drugs. Other homeless men, who qualify for a meager supplemental-security stipend, took advantage of people with even less money, using their S.S.I. income to buy cartons of cigarettes that they then sold to their fellow homeless men for 50 cents a cigarette.

As Avery dove deeper into his research, he came to see the organization of society as a whole “like layers on a cake, with those at the highest level of each layer exploiting those below.”

 The exploitation of those on the bottom is also revealed in the work of Gretchen Purser, an assistant professor of sociology at Syracuse University. For her dissertation, Purser spent time with a group of largely “homeless, formerly incarcerated, African-American men” who were paid $6.15 an hour by a major Baltimore property management company to evict tenants behind in their rent.

Purser writes that while poor, homeless African-Americans evicting poor, soon-to-be homeless African-Americans would seem to present “an opportunity for solidaristic identification amongst the poor,” it didn’t work out that way.

Laborers on eviction crews tend to espouse the same disparaging characterizations of tenants as do the property managers who hire them, thus reinforcing the belief that eviction is rooted in the individual moral deficiencies of the tenant. In this social drama of eviction, the vertical conflict between landlord and tenant is subtly transmuted into a lateral conflict amongst the propertyless.”

That’s not to say that there aren’t people who are hungry out there, there aren’t people who need a lot of help, there aren’t disabled Americans who will never find work.

Those folks need help and they probably need more than just an EBT card, a disability payment and a pat on the back.

I think the biggest problem I have with the current welfare system is that it looks at everybody like they are a number, a statistic, just another mouth to feed.

We need a more holistic approach to how we dole out welfare benefits.

We might need to spend more in the short term so we can spent a lot less in the future.

We need to consolidate programs so people with children have one-stop shopping.

We need to do more than just ban those who have a drug problem from getting assistance.   We need to find ways to get those people off of drugs.  That last thing we should do is make their lives even more desperate, because it leads to more societal problems.

Our first priority should be to take care of our kids.  Kids shouldn’t go hungry and if we need programs to provide them both breakfast and lunch at school, we should do that.

Second, we should make certain that all able-bodied people have a job, any job.   People shouldn’t be able to collect welfare benefits for watching the latest cable shows on their couch.

Third, those who apply for welfare benefits, but fail their drug tests should be forced to get mandatory treatment to get off drugs.

Four, disability requirements should be tightened up.  You shouldn’t be able to get an SSI check because you are too fat to work.

Finally, our social safety net should work harder to keep people from falling through the cracks.

I doubt that the 40 billion dollars that House Republicans cut from the food stamp program is going to become law, but hopefully it will spur a bigger discussion about how we can reimagine the safety net so that it serves people, not numbers.

 

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