November 19, 2007

Time for a Social Welfare Paradigm Shift

Marc Comtois

Last week, in light of our half-a-billion dollar budget deficit, I linked to a piece by William Voegeli in which he explained that conservatives, while they can accept the necessity of a welfare state, must continue to try to apply the throttle to the always-growing amount of money we spend on government social welfare programs.

Right now, the state's taxpayers are paying some of the highest levels in the country and are faced with a half-billion dollar deficit. Cutting state jobs is only part of the solution. Our relatively generous social welfare programs have to be cut. The Governor is going to try to shorten the length of payment by cutting the time people can spend on welfare from 60 to 30 months as well as changing the level of income (% of the poverty level) at which various subsidies (health care, day care) kick in. He also may try to institute a family cap for welfare recipients. None of this will be popular, but it is necessary.

A lot of money is going to pay for the mistakes being made by other people. There is little left to give. Dan Yorke has been calling for the state to stop subsidizing the lifestyles of those who continue to make bad choices while continuing to take care of those in need due to circumstances beyond their control (his "baby mama" plan). Over the weekend, it became apparent that Governor Carcieri (link is to video) is thinking along these lines. Basically, he's going to try to change state's social welfare operating philosophy.

Part of this is reflected in his request of churches and charities--and communities as a whole--to do more to reach out to those in need. As the Governor explains, the solutions lay beyond simply giving more money: he's not asking others to take up the financial slack in the face of state government cuts. Instead, he recognizes that the state government has given plenty of money in the past and the effect has been, in many cases, to do nothing more than enable the same bad behavior over and over. Communities--and the organizations and churches within those communities--can better and more effectively serve as moral touchstones than can government bureaucracies. Individuals are held more accountable by the other members of their "little platoon" than by a faceless, nameless bureaucrat, after all.

We've tried it the big government, high-tax way for at least 30 years now. It's time to change the way we unfurl our state's safety net. That means setting stricter time limits on how long the helping hand will be extended as well as raising our--the Rhode Island community's--expectations of all of its citizens. It's time to ennoble the independent spirit within people rather than to continue to enable a helpless dependence. Yes, instead of giving them the fish, let's teach them how to fish for themselves, and more quickly. Isn't that truly the more moral path?

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Sadly, a lot of people on government assistance are expert fishermen. They see the State of Rhode Island as fertile fishing waters, know exactly which bait to use to catch the big fish, feasting on our generosity until we are "all fished out." When they have taken all we have to give, they will move on to more fertile grounds, leaving our waters barren.

Posted by: michael at November 19, 2007 3:56 PM

Ah, the benefit abstinence-based education can do - oops! Abortion rates in Bible belt Texas have gone up since its former governor moved into the White House.
All the moralizing and denial of condoms have done is increase the illegitimate birth rate. If we're going to attack welfare, we've got to cut illegitimate birth, and we'll have to get a little more creative about it than, say, the Catholic Church and other socially conservative interests may like.
I wonder how many of the people you speak of come to Rhode Island from states where abortions are virtually impossible to get. Just a thought, not an endorsement.

Posted by: rhody at November 19, 2007 5:15 PM

Ah, the benefit of mind-reading and assumption making, eh Rhody?

I didn't even bring up abstinence only ed. (I'm not an abstinence only guy, first of all.) But it should be part of the "program" and the success rate can't be argued against! Anyway, I'm talking old-fashioned common sense, here. I realize it doesn't but me on the same page as the Catholic Church, but that doesn't mean their idealism is "wrong." Just difficult to attain.

Given that, I realize that the second-best option is also the most likely to work. Teach them to wrap their rascals or, most importantly for the gals, to be smart and take responsibility for their lifestyle choices, most preferably pre-emptive in the case of birth control. Hardly idealistic.

We also need to let them know that if they have a kid out of wedlock and before they graduate from high school, their chances of success are pretty low. Moralizing? Hell yes. Throw in a little stigma and ol' fashion shame, too. It's a good negative reinforcement. (Sorry, no shiny happy people here right now--we need to pass judgment).

Now, all of this doesn't mean we abandon them. Give them a chance to get their act together...but let them know that having another kid while the taxpayers are footing the bill for the first one (or two or three) isn't an option. That's how the "safety net" should work. We'll help you, but don't take advantage of our charity.

Posted by: Marc Comtois at November 19, 2007 6:45 PM

The only part of your post which is dead wrong Marc is where you say "None of this will be popular".
Make no mistake, outside of the Baby Mama's, illegals, government workers and the wacko Left coffeshop crowd (Jerzyk, Donnis, Brewster, etc.)everything the governor is proposing is WILDLY popular.

Posted by: Mike at November 19, 2007 7:57 PM

Curiously, Rhody pulls from thin air an argument that is entirely inapplicable to Rhode Island's current condition. If part of our state's problem is that Rhode Island is attracting abortion-seekers, it would seem to me wise to restrict it some more. That's putting aside the cosmic evil of the act, of course. (If we're putting that aside, though, I wonder whether we ought to entertain euthanizing the poor.)

It's surpassingly interesting how the full range of issues all tie together. Abortion. Contraception. Sex. Welfare. Immigration. Can't trust the po' not to hump like animals, so we have to make sure they do so "safely." And if they continue to conceive (which they have), then we have to kill the unwanted unborn before they get old enough for those with dead imaginations to cease to be able to ignore their humanity. And if they pass that milestone, we have to force taxpayers to support them with a minimum of restrictions on behavior and activities. It would be immoral, after all, to entrust self-responsibility to dogs.

Anybody see that article in the Projo about worsening circumstances for American blacks over the past several decades of race huckstering? The truly despair-worthy thing is that people tend to believe about themselves the horrid caricatures that public policies make of them.

Liberals; racists and elitists, the lot'a'ya.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 19, 2007 9:02 PM


Why is it you Democrats always run out of state when subjects that make you nervous are brought up? lol Though perhaps I should give you credit for at least staying in the country. When Ian and I were debating the corporate/poverty pimp tax issues here in Rhode Island Ian ran off to Iraq in the middle of that discussion. At least you stayed in the lower 48.
rhody you and your ilk have set social policy in this state for the past 50 years and those social policies have created generational poverty and dependence on government services. But that wasn't enough so now we've become a magnet for the generationally poor and dependent from other states and other countries. Why is this? Because of our weather? Because of our low cost of living? Our low housing costs? Our wonderful job market? Awesome schools? Why rhody? Explain a state that has a 211 emergency number set up for moochers and looters. Explain away that 20 year old with 2 babies under the age of 2 and having nowhere to live featured in the Projo. What do you think produces that condition? Exposure to moral teachings/religion? You think that has anything to do with abstinence based sex education? Fool! Your excuse making for the horrendous failures of liberal social/education policy and the real live human toll (that baby mama and her two babies) from those policies is sickening. People like you rhody are the problem in this state. People like you produce the environment that brings about 20 years old having babies when they can't take care of themselves nevermind the little innocents they bring into this world. The greatest of ironies is how and why 20 year olds are having babies they can't care for in a state where noted baby killer Dr. Pablo Rodriques is held in such high esteem by so many in the minority and liberal community here in Rhode Island. Sick place this is! It is true what they say. Liberalism is a mental disorder.


You are so right! This governor needs to understand that what he says is wildly popular among regular folks including many rank and file working class D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T-S! Sadly this governor does not have the testicular fortitude to fight this or any other fight. If he won't stand up like a man to an obnoxious Bill Rappleye in an interview what are the chances he'll stand up and fight like a man against the powerful moocher/looter beauracracy? A shame really because he's on the right side of so many of these 'hot button' issues (baby Mamas, illegals etc) yet is simply incapable of engaging in conflict even if for the greater good.
We're screwed!

Posted by: Tim at November 19, 2007 9:37 PM

When Grandpa Don suggested that faith based organizations do more to take care of baby mama's babies he didn't really count on Bishop Tobin telling him to go piss up a rope. And that's effectively what he did in an open letter. Check the RI Catholic.

Posted by: sean at November 20, 2007 9:11 AM

Funny that you'd interpret it that way since Bishop Tobin has been on the media clearly stating that his letter was simply an offer to start the dialog as to what faith-based organizations can be doing in this state to help.

Posted by: Greg at November 20, 2007 9:49 AM

First, Tim: I'm not a Democrat. I'm an independent who's just as tired of the good 'ol boys like Murphy (lawyer for the Diocese, BTW) and Montalbano as you are. After you obtain treatment for the pathology which leads you to refer to liberalism as a mental disorder, we'll talk.
If Carcieri thinks he can legislate morality, he's welcome to try. Based on his rhetoric in today's ProJo, it sounds like he's a tad cheesed over there being too many babies (which I'd love to see he and sue try to reconcile with their fierce opposition to abortion).
Folks, if you want a fight over abortion in the General Assembly, bring it on. As if it will help us balance the budget.
Finally, I offer a challenge to everyone on both sides of the political spectrum (and this goes for unions and corporations, too): suspend your political contributions to all R.I. candidates and use that money to fund the necessary social services that the state will inevitably be cutting in this budget crisis. Unions who blindly feed the greed of the M&M boys, step up. Conservatives who think this stuff should be taken care of by the private sector, put your money where your mouths are.

Posted by: rhody at November 20, 2007 11:16 AM

"Conservatives who think this stuff should be taken care of by the private sector, put your money where your mouths are."

I CAN'T! The state keeps taking it all! I can barely pay my bills as it is and I'm sure Mayor McCheese here in Cranston will up property taxes AGAIN next year.

Posted by: Greg at November 20, 2007 11:41 AM

Many blogs link to or sponsor drives for donations to worthy causes. While it would be a PITA for AnchorRising to implement, we could see whether the folks here will put their money where their mouths are.

The semi-anonymity here keeps it from being too Phariseeical (is that a word?) to mention that I have donated through a number of these drives.

Posted by: chuckR at November 20, 2007 3:56 PM


You're Independent of what? lol
You've made it very clear you don't like Murphy and Montalbano because they're far too conservative for your liking. Neither is pro-abortion and that's the issue that rankles you the most.
No doubt it's very difficult for the governor to even speak on moral issues here in Rhode Island nevermind trying to legislate morality. That's one huge mountain for him to climb given how you liberals have been advocating for/legislating immoral behavior for decades. The baby mama syndrome we see today is very much the handywork of the left as is the disaster known as the public education system particularly in the urban core. Why don't you leftists stop putting our money where your mouths are. We know concern for the poor is only 'lip service' with you libs. Same liberal 'lip service' we see paid to people of color. Disgusting!

Posted by: Tim at November 21, 2007 7:11 AM

Tim. you way overestimate how much power liberals have. There is a Republican governor, and the Democratic Party leadership is controlled by conservatives, yet you still blame liberals for all our problems.
If you want to be free of liberals, go to one of those large cities in China full of affluent, beautiful young people who are too busy enjoying their wealth to raise a finger against their government's human rights abuses. They shoot poverty pimps there - sounds like your kind of place.

(Shaking head in disbelief and wonderment)

Posted by: rhody at November 21, 2007 11:33 AM

Five years worth of welfare benefits.
No citizenship verification.
Lifetime heathcare coverage for 2 hour/day crossing guards.
Pensions pensions pensions.
Bloated government at every turn.
Do-nothing, no show gigs for cronies.
Unions run everything.

What part of that is 'conservative' again?

Posted by: Greg at November 21, 2007 11:40 AM

>>Tim. you way overestimate how much power liberals have. There is a Republican governor, and the Democratic Party leadership is controlled by conservatives, yet you still blame liberals for all our problems.

If the Democrat Party leadership was controlled by conservatives Rhode Island wouldn't be a welfare magnet / employer repellent state.

The Democrat Party - leadership and rank and file - is controlled by public sector unions in for their collective aggrandizement, and "independent contractors" in it for their own aggrandizement (e.g., Martineau, Harwood).

The liberal wing of the party is along for the ride, but isn't allowed to get to uppity. Just ask Secretary of State de Ramel.

If you are dismayed at the leadership of the Democrat Party, don't blame "conservatism" - heck its your own folks who select your leadership. If you want "progressives" to control then you need to purge YOUR party of the union - corruption hegemony.

Posted by: Tom W at November 21, 2007 1:32 PM

Dems aren't my party, Tom. The only way we'll get this state fixed is to think out of the box - neither party leadership has what it takes.

Posted by: rhody at November 21, 2007 2:17 PM


You have an astounding lack of clarity on this issue.

Posted by: Greg at November 21, 2007 5:29 PM

Greg, I didn't realize thinking outside the box demonstrated a lack of clarity. Maybe it's just a liberal thing. Silly me!

Posted by: rhody at November 22, 2007 6:25 PM
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