August 30, 2011

Missing Something with the Guilt Pieces

Justin Katz

News organizations love to "put a human face" on policy changes that restrain public spending, rather than raise taxes, and I frequently feel as if something must be missing from the stories. Based on the specifics, budget cuts just don't appear as evil as the tone of the reportage seems to imply. The profile of the Goes family, of Warwick, a few weeks ago, is an excellent example.

The family has two developmentally disabled adult children, and their mother, Pam is worried that the General Assembly's budget is going to affect their quality of life:

She says the cuts, effective with the start of the new budget year on July 1, may mean less state aid for her 23-year old son, Paul, who lives in her Warwick home and needs hired help to complete the most basic tasks, such as bathing, dressing and eating.

It also may mean less state aid to help her younger son, Joshua, 21, who lives on his own but still needs someone to manage his doctors visits, his prescription-drug regimen, his bills, and more, according to Goes.

"We're holding our breath," she says. "I don't know if I will have to maybe not work as many hours so that I can be home with [Paul]. I don’t know if it means I will have to cut his staff hours or cut their pay."

With her husband unemployed and her working part-time, the cuts could put a greater financial strain on the family. It is a "very real impact" that Goes believes lawmakers failed to take into account.

None of the tasks described is such that specialists are necessary. While unemployed, the father could surely perform them. The mother, employed part time, could surely help with the time management tasks. And apart from the parents, I have to believe that — if we didn't expect government to have the hold world in its hands — other family members, neighbors, community groups, or other charitable organizations could easily fill this void.

It's natural to react to others' unfortunate life circumstances with a just-fix-it prescription of government money, but the inefficiency and far reach of government is the central reason that Rhode Island's (and the U.S.'s) economy is in such bad shape. Let's not forget that, from an expenditure standpoint, these "cuts" are usually reductions of the amount of increase Unless we rein the beast in, people like Mr. Goes will remain unemployed, even as less money is available to fund human services expenditures.

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If your children require you to stay home with them, then you find a way to stay home with them. I know several families who have dealt with this situation by doing exactly that. Mom finds a home job or Dad gets two. Maybe Grandma or Grandpa lives back home. Nobody says it will be easy, but obligations seldom are.

The costs of those staffers and assistance could employ multiple individuals in the private workforce who are now likely unemployed as a result. That effect is masked through layers of government and remains "unseen" by progressives who turn to the magic money train to solve all of life's curveballs. Then they propose another government "solution" to solve the unemployment problem. Then people can't afford their food and bills anymore because of high taxes, so those get subsidized. etc., ad infinitum, as productive work is sacrificed. All in the name of achieving their mad dystopia of a world with no risk.

Rhode Island is the result of this type of compassion, i.e. dependence. The kindest thing you'll ever do for a homeless person is not giving him that dollar.

Posted by: Dan at August 30, 2011 8:09 AM

This reminds me of the ProJo article of a year or two ago where they profiled a young teenager living at home where his mother was struggling to provide food for the family. Cuts to some state program were going to make it even tougher for the family to eat. This was included with a photo of the boy, smiling, playing his PlayStation on a flat screen tv.

My heart bled.

Posted by: Patrick at August 30, 2011 8:37 AM

Yes. Amazing how priorities can change out of actual necessity.

When I was younger, I asked my parents why we didn't have a pool. They told me that it was dangerous, a big time expense, and we couldn't afford it. I can't help but notice from the picture that the Goes family has a quite large family pool and surrounding deck area in their backyard. I wonder what the upkeep bills look like from that expenditure, not to mention the time investment.

I really don't like to micromanage other people's finances, but call me old-fashioned for feeling that those receiving aid, particularly the government variety, should live somewhat humbly until they no longer require it.

Posted by: Dan at August 30, 2011 9:37 AM

Well, maybe the pool was there when they bought the house. Maybe it's used for their son's therapy. Maybe they installed the pool during better times.

So the option then could be to close up the pool, I guess that's valid, but you have to keep water in a pool, so why not keep it open. Granted it does cost money to keep it clean with the chemicals and all.

Another option would be to sell the house and downgrade, but as I recently learned, houses are worth even less than we think. It is still possible to be "under water" on a house, even while having positive equity.

Posted by: Patrick at August 30, 2011 12:49 PM

Freshman U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, a tax-bashing Tea Party champion, and dead-beat dad, who sharply lectures President Barack Obama and other Democrats on fiscal responsibility, owes more than $100,000 in child support to his ex-wife and three children,
(dead-beat dad, Newt Gingrich also reneged on his divorce settlement)

Posted by: Sammy at August 30, 2011 1:34 PM

"In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion"

Sammy, are we simply listing out names of bad people now? Is that the point? If so, you omitted John Edwards.

Posted by: Patrick at August 30, 2011 1:46 PM

Sammy is apparently not capable of rational thought, since the private child-support arrangements of two random Federal public officials have nothing to do with Rhode Island public assistance and tax policies.

Posted by: Dan at August 30, 2011 2:00 PM

And a difference between the pool and playstation stories is if you're struggling to even put food on the table, then you put the playstation up for sale on craigslist and get some money for it and then you have food for a few more weeks. Put a pool up on CL? Maybe. I guess you can do that, but it might come with more problems than that is worth.

But I'm also still a little baffled by the woman in Justin's article. The father is unemployed, yet she might need to take fewer hours from her part-time job to take care of her son? What's the father doing all day? That just seems like bad journalism. Either don't included the "unemployed" fact or go deeper and explain why the mother would need to cut her hours back while the father isn't at work all day.

Posted by: Patrick at August 30, 2011 3:11 PM

You think this is bad? You wait until HusseinCare hits. There are lots of people out there waiting for the govt. to bail them out. Bad decisions,unfortunate circumstances,etc....Mama govt. to the rescue......NOT! Services cost money and are paid for by Joe & Josephine taxpayer. Entitlements run amok bankrupting the country and the states. Brought to you by self serving politicians leading the lemmings into the sea.

Posted by: ANTHONY at August 30, 2011 3:43 PM

"I really don't like to micromanage other people's finances, but call me old-fashioned for feeling that those receiving aid, particularly the government variety, should live somewhat humbly until they no longer require it."

I share this sentiment, and the first thing I noticed when I read the article was how silly it seemed for the state to be paying for at-home assistance when there are already parents at home. That and the pool. I certainly can't afford a pool OR a family, and I'm not expecting the state to come fix either situation for me.

And here's where it gets really wild. I have a friend who runs a center for children with disabilities like the ones in this article. While these folks are fighting to keep their at-home care, the funding for transporting disabled youth to places where they can get better care at lower costs has been cut. Rhode Island is terminally penny-wise, pound-foolish.

Posted by: mangeek at August 30, 2011 4:01 PM

I did a genealogy run down once, and noted several references to "weak sisters" (some might think that explains a number of my posts). So this is not a new problem.

I am divided in my opinion. I think something more than a "dependency deduction" might be in order, but the "free rides" described do seem excessive.

There have been suggestions of two jobs, the wife staying home, etc. Face it, we are in a "two income" society. I really don't wish to see families impoverished by a misfortune of birth. Face it, the practical alternative is abortion.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at August 30, 2011 9:04 PM

An anecdote. This morning while at Dunkin Donuts, I encountered a youngish woman from South Carolina. I hadn't heard the accent in a bit and regionalism took over, engendering further conversation.

In the conversation, it developed that she was here to try to recover custody of her oldest child. She and her two younger children were staying in a "shelter". It seems, but I could not quite follow, that her oldest has mental difficulties. If I understood correctly, he is living with his grandfather and receiving some sort of therapy. Chief among her complaints was that she had not been provided accommodations when she broke her bus trip in New York, that it had taken two days to find her,and her children,accommodations here, she was being provided a very small amount to live on. The conversation broke off because she had to call her boyfriend. Of course, she had never married the father of her three children.

I would prefer to see the children re-united, but I couldn't help but wonder what this was costing us. No information was offered as to whether the father provided any support.

She seemed somewhat educated, with a good vocabulary. I wondered how she got herself into this situation. One child could be an accident, three is a pattern of behavior. I would add that she was clean, well groomed and well spoken.

During the conversation she was approached by another woman with 2 children, and visibly pregnant with a 3rd. That one seemed more in keeping with my pre-conception of the women one expects to find in shelters.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at August 31, 2011 1:40 PM
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