Archive for July, 2019

In Case You Misunderstood: The Trump Cuts to Welfare are Cruel to the Poor, Helpful to the Rich

July 27, 2019 Comments off

NYTimes guest op ed columnist and Georgetown Law Professor David Super wrote an essay published earlier this week offering a blunt and accurate assessment of President Trump’s “Poverty Policy”. Here’s the opening paragraph that summarizes Mr. Super’s opinion:

On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced proposed rules that would cut more than three million people off food assistance. This latest plan confirms what many have long suspected: The only thing unifying its policies on poverty is cruelty. Prior right-ring assaults on the poor at least claimed some semblance of a coherent theme. In contrast, this proposal, and earlier ones, are a grab-bag of mutually inconsistent ideas seemingly selected only to maximize harm.

Mr. Super’s article offers a “history” of cuts to the safety net that began with Ronald Reagan’s administration and continued during the Clinton administration when Newt Gingrich controlled the House. Both the Reagan and Gingrich “reforms” reduced funding for the safety net but offered block grants to the states so that they could administer the programs and, presumably, come up with better ways to solve the problem of intractable poverty. Mr. Super contrasts those “philosophies” to that of the Trump administration’s:

The Trump administration’s initiatives, by contrast, are federal power grabs. Current rules allow childless workers to receive more than three months of food assistance while they seek jobs only when their state certifies that they live in areas with insufficient jobs. The administration would strip states of that power. The Gingrich Congress gave states the flexibility to confer “categorical eligibility” for food assistance on those people the states deemed needy by giving them benefits with block grant funds; the Trump administration would largely eliminate that authority.

The earlier shredding of the safety net was done based on the conservative philosophy that STATES were better able to offer help to the needy and determine the job markets in their jurisdiction. The Trump administration just wants to cut benefits… period. But, as Mr. Super notes, there IS one constant:

The one constant is helping to pay for huge, unaffordable upper-income tax cuts. Mr. Trump pushed through a $2 trillion tax cut in December 2017. This reversed years of declining federal deficits. Most of the benefits went to extremely affluent individuals and corporate shareholders, many of them foreign.

Those in the heartland need to understand that Mr. Trump’s xenophobic message notwithstanding, his policies are hurting their neighbors who are suffering because of unemployment and underemployment and the beneficiaries of these new cruel polices “…are extremely affluent individuals and corporate shareholders, many of them foreign.”

The one constant is treating those who are suffering badly— be they foreigners or Americans— while helping those who are affluent— be they foreigners or Americans.


Here’s a Workaround to “In God We Trust” Mandate

July 26, 2019 Comments off

North Dakota is now implementing a new law that requires schools to prominently display the national motto “in God we trust. Not everyone is happy with this because not everyone believes in God. My thought: schools should also display “e pluribus unum”

Categories: Uncategorized

Tom Friedman Overlooks a Fundamental Question: Do We Have Enough?

July 25, 2019 Comments off

Earlier this week Tom Friedman wrote a column on the 2020 campaign that suggested we should no longer think inside the box or outside the box: we should think without a box at all. Here’s the way he frames this issue:

For decades our politics — and that of many industrial democracies — were defined by the same basic grid of left-right binary choices: You were either with capital or labor; for big-government solutions or small-government solutions; open to trade and immigration or more closed to them; prioritizing “green” over growth and embracing new social norms, like gay marriage, or opposing them.

If you were in one party or the other, you did — or were expected to — check all of its boxes.

The accelerations we’re now going through in climate change, technology and globalization have made that checklist approach to governing obsolete. This era calls for a different approach — one best articulated by Linton Wells, the defense analyst and expert on resilience. Wells argues that to find the solutions to today’s wicked problems you should “never think in the box and never think out of the box. You have to think without a box.”

Later in the column he ties education into this “without a box” paradigm:

If we just let raw capitalism reign — when machines and those who own them can replace so many more humans and globalization can enable companies to be winners-take-all across the globe — “we’ll continue getting extreme income inequalities, rapid environmental degradation and giant global monopolies,” notes Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future.

But the answer, Gorbis says, is not socialism and abandoning markets, but a vibrant state that can use taxes and regulations to reshape markets in ways that redivide the pie, grow the pie and create more “public wealth” — mass transit, schools, parks, scholarships, libraries and basic scientific research — so that more individuals, start-ups and communities have more tools to adapt and thrive.

The right question on education is not whether college should be “free.” It’s what should be taught there and who should teach it. Some Democratic candidates seem to care only about the word “free.” But maybe we should be radically incentivizing companies to go back into the education business, since no one knows better the skills their workers need than they do.That’s thinking completely without a box.

When I read that, I wanted to scream at Thomas Friedman! Businesses might be the ones who knows what skills their workers need, but businesses abandoned in-house training because their incentives are to increase the bottom line and having employees who offer training is far more expensive than outsourcing the training to a private firm or— better yet— expecting taxpayers to fund it through schools.

But after reading the column, I felt that Mr. Friedman overlooked the reality we face as a culture and a country: the Biggest Box we find ourselves in is the one that assumes that economic growth is a given, that we all need more and more stuff, and that we all need to work endless hours in order to get that stuff. My sense is that if you asked voters if they would be willing to have more free time in exchange for less stuff we might be surprised. But we aren’t asking that question… and we should.

Categories: Uncategorized