July 15, 2010

Overt Newspaper Advocacy for Taxpayer Spending

Justin Katz

Nobody wants to argue against assisting people who are striving to improve their lives during hard times, but when journalists leverage the public trust for naked advocacy, they do readers a grave disservice. Providence Journal reporter Steve Peoples did just that in a front page story on expiring social services programs, last Saturday, and the angles that he left entirely unexplored illustrate the bias. For example:

The 22-year-old Pawtucket native studies bookkeeping at Rhode Island College for six hours every Monday, Tuesday and Friday. She spends Wednesdays and Thursdays at an internship in the business office of Monster Mini Golf.

As Peoples notes, we're in the midst of "Rhode Island's worst economic downturn in decades." Doesn't it stand out, then, that a solvent company like Monster Mini Golf is filling a two-day-a-week job with an intern? The program arguably offers businesses valuable assistance, in that way, but one wonders why the reporter didn't ask the company what it would do were it not able to fill a slot with a free employee. And, for that matter, why does it take a government program to join companies looking for unpaid work and people willing to work without pay?

Then there's Peoples's choice of a very sympathetic protagonist. She's a 22-year-old single mother with a high school diploma. All we learn about the father of her child is that "it became clear that [he] could not contribute financially." Why not? What's he up to while taxpayers fill in the gaps that his actions have helped create? And didn't the young adults receive "comprehensive sex education," with lessons on (and probably access to) birth control? It goes a bit afield of Peoples's article, but it's also worthwhile to wonder whether, during an era in which how long and how extensively the government can and should prop up struggling citizens, we should also be devoting some attention to the deterioration of institutions — specifically, marriage — that shift some of the work over to the culture.

But the most egregious indication of the article's advocacy is the fact that it was published at all. Note the information that Peoples saves to the end, having only mentioned the possibility of a three-month extension in passing previously:

[The woman's] bookkeeping course ends in less than a month. There are no more training programs in sight. And her temporary welfare extension expires at the end of September.

State officials encourage her and anyone else hitting the new time limit to apply for another three-month hardship extension if necessary.

"Those 850 clients of ours that are closing are clearly entitled to a hardship. And the lack of finding work is something that fits our criteria," says Buffi, of the Department of Human Services.

In other words, after two years of giving them welfare payments, the state doesn't automatically cut people off. It just requires that the case be reviewed in quarterly increments. Whether there's a limit to those, Peoples doesn't say, but it seems to me that his article would have been more appropriate had he profiled somebody who isn't getting an extension. Of course, such a character wouldn't have made as effective a protagonist for the message that readers are meant to receive.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Notice the "hardship waivers"?
The 2 year limit is a joke.
The 5 year limit is a joke.
ALL the welfare limits are a (expletive deleted) joke.
The bottom line is if you get to RI from anywhere on the planet (and don't forget that NO human is illegal), pop out a baby, you get not only a check but free housing, food, education, health care, baby sitting, etc. forEVER. Plus a cadre of useful idiots-the advocates.
Wonderfully sustainable system, huh?

How fitting that today's projo page 1 has a huge ocean liner that sunk off the RI coast?

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at July 15, 2010 6:55 PM

Interesting juxtaposition to THE JULY APPEAL.

Posted by: David S at July 15, 2010 7:01 PM

Yes, isn't it? I work more than 40 hours per week and then spend another 30 or more on this site. Add in other contributors' efforts.

Now and then, we ask folks to voluntarily show their interest and appreciation through a minimal donation — more like a retroactive purchase.

And, David, you draw what conclusions from that?

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 15, 2010 7:08 PM

Well. I commend you for your excellent blog effort. I was only pointing out just how many people from all walks of life have their hands out- so to speak- as in asking for other people's money. Some people will be swayed to contribute here or maybe elsewhere. I know. I know . Big bad government. Some is voluntary and you claim some isn't. It is no more than a mere technicality, really. If you cannot figure that out than you really are not a Rhode Islander. This- “I work 90 hours a week “ bulls***. Who cares? Don’t most of us work long hours? Cueing the chorus—WELFARE! WELFARE! ANCHOR BABIES ! ANCHOR BABIES!!! BOOHOO BOOHOO. POOR US! POOR US! Some of us try to do positive actions and do not blame others.

Posted by: David S at July 15, 2010 8:01 PM

David, do you really need to have the difference between charity and welfare explained to you?

Posted by: Dan at July 15, 2010 8:17 PM

If the difference between government aid and private aid is a mere "technicality," then surely you will have no problem with switching over to a privatized voluntary system. Who could possibly object over a mere technicality?

Posted by: Dan at July 15, 2010 8:24 PM


I'm not complaining. Most of my requests are intended to point out that more money from activity X will allow me to spend less time on activity Y. If I could make a living at researching and writing, I'd be doing it 90 hours per week. It doesn't feel like work. (Carpentry often doesn't, either, but the pace and market structure of writing is different.) If I could make a little more than a living, maybe I'd go back to doing some of the more leisurely activities that I used to enjoy.

As a point of fact, though, I don't think "most of us work long hours" comparable to what I'm describing (if we count the writing as work), certainly not most people I know. The BS, in other words, is coming from you.

And I trust that you'll forgive me if I find it difficult to make your claims of "positive actions" jibe with your attitude toward others as displayed on this site.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 15, 2010 9:07 PM

"with lessons on (and probably access to) birth control"

She could be a Catholic ?

Posted by: Sammy at July 15, 2010 11:39 PM

[And Phil may no longer comment on Anchor Rising. Why can't you people control yourselves? --- JK]

Posted by: Phil at July 16, 2010 4:16 AM

Posted by Dan at July 15, 2010 8:17 PM

"David, do you really need to have the difference between charity and welfare explained to you?"

I think a lot of readers would respond differently if this woman had married, started out on a life, had a kid and then lost her husband through an unfortunate accident.

Perhaps I have spent more time listening to the nitty gritty of life. I know that many of these "training programs" are undertaken solely to claim extended benefits. That may not be the case here, but I have become cynical.

It is often pointed out that life on welfare is more remunerative than a not so low paying job. The recipients can count, they know this.

i have some property in Attleboro. I once made the mistake of renting to a woman on disability. I was spending a lot of time around the building supervising exterior renovations. Through conversations and observation, it became obvious that no one she was involved with, her boyfriend, or her two sons in their mid twenites, even thought of working. They joked about going to Wal Mart for a "slip and fall" when they needed money. The woman was constantly following the the workman, picking up nails, etc. I told her that would be taken care of. She was concerned that "history would repeat itself". Meaning her boyfriend's tendancy to seek out situations where he might injure himself. Although she received her "check" on the 3rd of the month, rent was rarely paid until the last week of the month. When I spoke to her about it, it always seemed that she had undergone physical injury. A fractured ankle, a broken tooth. Another time she had been prevented from obtaining part time employment by a "mix up' which confused here with another woman with an extensive criminal record. She was always reporting that one government agency, or another, would be supplying her rent for that month because of "hardship". I was expected to understand that the "system" was failing her.

She simply could not understand the offense to "middle class values" involved in using the decks for drying laundry, filling the parking lot with temporarily unregistered dented up old Cadillacs, using the hallways for storage in anticipation of a yard sale her sister was going to have, installing a large tv dish antenna on the front of the building without permission.

Since the rent was always, eventually, paid; it took forever to get rid of her. The "morale" of the other tenants required it.

I have owned these buildings since I was 22, or so. They are long paid for and I keep them wll maintained and the rents below market. It is amazing how one vocal tenant like this can effect the morale of the other tenants who are busy at their jobs and maintaining themselves.

I have always wondered how she managed to make such a good initial impression on me. It was probably practiced, which means she knows right from wrong. It is experiences like this that jaundice my viewpoint. I have had other tenants on disability without any of these problems, so "one bad apple".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 16, 2010 10:48 AM

Too bad you had to dump Phil-he wasn't half bad a guy.Wrong on most issues,but thaat's not a crime.
Apparently Stuart has found a home on RIF-he's now "Sailor Man".He'll be in the mainstream there.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 16, 2010 8:53 PM

Posted by joe bernstein at July 16, 2010 8:53 PM
Apparently Stuart has found a home on RIF-he's now "Sailor Man".He'll be in the mainstream there.

I went over to RIF, for a laugh, and signed on. I couldn't resist a few comments. I am "Tisiphone" (the "Avenger of blood") over there.

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