July 27, 2006

Still Waiting for “You Were Right; We Were Wrong” on Welfare Reform

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:10 pm

That wait will never end. But it doesn’t matter, because the results 10 years after the welfare reform law that was supposed to be Armageddon for the those in poverty has turned out to be anything but that.

Ron Haskins, in a subscription-only op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, supplies the details, and reviews the outrageous rhetoric that preceded enactment (bolds are mine):

The left, led by senior Democrats in Congress, the editorial pages of many of the nation’s leading newspapers, the Catholic bishops, child advocates in Washington and the professoriate, had assaulted the bill in terms that are rare, even by today’s coarse standards. Democrats speaking on the floor of the House labeled the bill “harsh,” “cruel” and “mean-spirited.” They claimed that it “attacked,” “punished” and “lashed out at” children. Columnist Bob Herbert said the bill conducted a “jihad” against the poor, made “war on kids” and “deliberately inflict[ed] harm” on children and the poor. Sen. Frank Lautenberg said poor children would be reduced to “begging for money, begging for food, and . . . engaging in prostitution.”

Many Democrats and pundits shouted that the bill would throw a million children into poverty. Marion Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund said that no one who believed in the Judeo-Christian tradition could support the bill. Even God, it seemed, opposed the evil Republican bill.

….. In the decade that has passed since the 1996 reforms, the welfare rolls have plummeted by nearly 60%, the first sustained decline since the program was enacted in 1935. Equally important, the employment of single mothers heading families reached the highest level ever. As a group, mothers heading families with incomes of less than about $21,000 per year increased their earnings every year between 1994 and 2000 while simultaneously receiving less money from welfare payments. In inflation-adjusted dollars, they were about 25% better off in 2000 than in 1994, despite the fall in their welfare income.

Over the same period, the child-poverty level enjoyed its most sustained decline since the early 1970s; and both black-child poverty and poverty among female-headed families reached their lowest level ever. Even after four years of increases following the recession of 2001, the child poverty level is still 20% lower than it was before the decline began. Similarly, measures of consumption and hunger show that the material conditions of low-income, female-headed families have improved. Although welfare reform was not without problems, none of the disasters predicted by the left materialized. Indeed, national surveys show that almost every measure of child well-being — except obesity — has improved since the mid-1990s.

The 1996 law, in perhaps the most direct legislative clash of liberal and conservative welfare principles since the New Deal, was a victory for conservative principles. Poor mothers scored a victory for themselves and their children, showing that given adequate motivation and support from work-based government programs, they can join the American mainstream, set an example for their children and communities, and pull themselves and their children out of poverty.

….. Above all, welfare reform showed that work — even low-wage work — provides a more durable foundation for social policy than handouts.

The rhetoric vs. results gap demonstrated by 10 years of success in welfare reform should be remembered every time we hear religious leaders, who would be well advised to tend to their flocks’ souls more and their material “needs” less, spout off about what is “morally” right and wrong in social policy.

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July 30: Suddenly Sunday trackback participant.

Ford May Be the Weaker of the Big Two Auto Companies

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy — Tom @ 2:30 pm

Yesterday’s good news at General Motors (the company actually showed an operating profit from its core auto operations) brought into sharp relief just how bad things are at Ford, and how badly Ford has slipped in comparison to its larger rival in a fairly short time.

In April of last year, when the serious problems at GM became obvious, the consensus was (yes, including me) that while GM was in dire straits, Ford’s situation was less serious, and that the company had more room to maneuver to successfully engineer a turnaround.

That no longer appears to be the case, because Ford’s external distractions may negate its clear labor-relations advantage over GM.

Earlier this week, I noted Ford’s problem with the American Family Association (AFA) over advertising in gay-friendly publications. A subscriber-only Wall Street Journal article yesterday by Alan Murray shows that the AFA situation is just the beginning:

On Ford Motor Co. CEO Bill Ford’s long list of problems these days, Michael Brune may not rank very high. But he ranks.

Mr. Brune is executive director of the Rainforest Action Network, a scrappy group of liberal activists who combine anticorporate guerrilla tactics with high-level corporate engagement to achieve some surprising results.

This is the group whose members chained themselves to wood piles in Home Depot stores before getting the company to stop selling old-growth lumber.

….. Mr. Brune has put Ford — and its CEO of the same name — at the top of his target list. Mr. Brune argues that global warming is the greatest threat to the rainforests, that gasoline is the greatest cause of global warming and that Ford Motor — with its heavy reliance on trucks and sport-utility vehicles — is the auto maker with the worst, or near worst, fuel-efficiency record. Ford also makes an inviting target because it is, in his words, “the most recognized brand in America.”

….. Mr. Brune isn’t the only one who finds Ford an inviting target these days. The American Family Association has reignited its boycott of Ford cars because the company continues to advertise in gay and lesbian publications. The group has targeted Ford dealers in the South and Southwest, and some of those dealers are worried they are losing sales as a result. Meanwhile, gay and lesbian groups are keeping the pressure on to make sure Ford doesn’t cave in to the AFA.

Then there is the ever-growing gaggle of more mainstream activists, like Patricia Wolf — known to her co-workers as “Sister Pat” — who runs the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. Sister Pat says her group is “engaging” with Ford on human rights, global labor standards and HIV-AIDS, as well as global warming.

Mr. Brune, the American Family Association and Sister Pat are all bit players in the diverse stew that makes trying to engineer a turnaround at a big public company like Ford in today’s corporate environment such a severe challenge. It’s not enough to stanch the flow of red ink — Ford has lost $1.3 billion on its North American operations in the first half of this year alone — or just negotiate with the United Auto Workers union. It has to be done while fending off a kaleidoscope of groups who believe they deserve a say.

That’s why it might be tempting for Mr. Ford to think about taking his company private …..

Mr. Murray goes on to state his belief that going private isn’t viable, but I’m left to wonder why GM and other car companies have managed to avoid the ire of these organizations while essentially committing the same offenses Ford has.

I believe the answer is this: In the mid- and late-1990s, Ford “engaged” many of these groups, particularly the enviros, and labored mightily to “do the right thing” by THEIR definition.

This was all well and good while the profits were flowing, but when the company’s business fell off (with a lot of help from former CEO Jack Nasser), Ford of necessity had to try to make business decisions to improve the bottom line (the fact that they haven’t yet worked well is beside the point), and in the process shortchanged enviro initiatives.

The activist response has essentially been that of a lover scorned (this may be also true with AFA, which claims that Ford has broken promises it made to them). It would be better if William Clay Ford hadn’t had his late 1990s enviro and PC fling in the first place. Thanks to that dalliance, the company is carrying a lot of baggage that its competitors have avoided.

Fox Continues to Dominate; Critics Can’t Handle It

Item: Fox News’s Ailes says he’s just getting started (HT Rich Noyes at NewsBusters) –

Firing poison darts at his cable-news competitors and taunting his critics in the media, Fox News Channel boss Roger Ailes celebrated the 10th birthday of his network but instead of cake, served notice that his conquest of other television empires already is under way…… Ailes made his comments during an appearance Monday evening before North American television critics, a hostile audience that generally makes no secret of its contempt for his network. Fox News panels here have often been something closer to hand-to-hand combat than to news conferences, and this one was no exception.

About two-thirds of the 150 critics left the room before Ailes took the stage, several of them openly voicing their scorn for what they say is Fox News’ conservative spin.

Instead, as Ailes gleefully reminded the critics, his network has led the cable news pack in the Nielsen ratings for the past 55 months and has more viewers than its competitors, CNN and MSNBC, combined.

”Fox News is doing pretty well,” Ailes said with a sly smile, noting that many of the critics who forecast the channel’s doom were ”sitting in their hotel rooms right now” instead of attending his news conference.

Item: Though rival CNN still gets an audience pickup in times of major international stories, Fox holds its own better than it ever has –

Middle East Crisis: Week of July 17 Ratings

“The 20 most-watched cable news programs last week, when the escalating hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah produced the biggest headlines, were on the Fox News Channel,” TV Week reports.

FNC’s primetime viewership last week, 1.9 million, was down “3 percent from the comparable week in 2005. But in the 25-54 demo, Fox was up 13 percent year to year with 586,000 viewers in prime time.”

CNN had big gains, but they came from a much smaller base.

Why is this happening? Here’s what Ailes said, noted at the first link above:

“Other cable news networks seem less interested in reporting the complicated politics of the crisis in Lebanon than in trying to embarrass the U.S. government, Ailes said. “One of my competitors spent three days on Cyprus trying to find somebody who didn’t like the government because the plane was four hours late and they didn’t get a candy bar in line,” he said, jabbing at a lengthy report by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien on the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Beirut. “I thought that was not where the story was.”

Fair, balanced, and now even nuanced. No wonder WORM (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as The Mainstream Media) critics can’t handle it.

Blogpost of the Day: Jay Tea at Wizbang on the Big Dig, and Why We Should Care

Filed under: Economy,Quotes, Etc. of the Day,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:43 am

Jay Tea is staying on this story, which considering its scope, has not gotten a lot of attention outside of New England since the tunnel death:

Every day, as it becomes more and more obvious that Boston’s Big Dig project is not as bad as its critics had been claiming since it started.

It’s far, far, far worse.

….. If you’re wondering why I’m wasting your time on this local story, it’s because that this $14.6-BILLION-dollar project was mostly funded with federal dollars — until Congress finally turned off the spigot about a year ago. I don’t have precise figures, but the corrupt swine of Massachusetts flushed about $11 billion of OUR money (Correct figure appears to be $7 billion; see UPDATE below — Ed.) down their killer hole in the ground — largely thanks to officials with names like “Kennedy” and “Kerry.”

Go there for more ugly details.

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UPDATE: Kevin in the first comment below points to source material (LARGE PDF) indicating that the US Government has spent $7 billion so far. Despite an apparent federal commitment ceiling of $8.5 billion, it looks like $7 billion is what the feds will spend on the Dig. I appreciate getting the info.

UPDATE 2: Jay Tea comments on Mass Pike Chairman Matt Amarello’s resignation.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (072706)

Free Links:

  • Porkopolis has a very important post on local law enforcement’s little-known and relatively easy ability to enforce immigration law on a perfectly legal basis, as was discussed on Lou Dobbs’ program on Monday. Go there.
  • Another day, another half-million record data breach.
  • As I pointed out yesterday, reporters at The New York Times all too often fail to find (or possibly ignore) basic facts that refute claims made in their stories. This makes it very odd that Times reporter Heather Timmons was able to locate her calculator so she could include the following silly Big Oil-bashing factoid in an article on the eventual retirement of Lord Browne, chief executive of BP (British Petroleum):

    Lord Browne announced the news as BP reported a record profit of $7.27 billion in the second quarter, up 30 percent from the period a year earlier.

    ….. Lord Browne’s impending departure comes as BP’s financial performance has never been better, thanks to sky-high oil prices. The company earned a net profit of $12.9 billion in the first half of 2006. Its quarterly results translate into a profit of more than $900 a second.

    While we’re doing the suddenly important money-per-second calculations, let look at the British government’s budget for 2006, straight from HM Treasury:

    Total public spending is expected to be around £552 billion for the coming year, around £9,200 for every man, woman and child in the UK.

    The budget of 552 billion British pounds is the equivalent of $1.016 trillion US dollars, based on Tuesday evening’s exchange rates at MSN. This translates to over $32,000 per second. When was the last time you saw a WORM (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, known to most as The Mainstream Media) publication express government spending in dollars per second?

  • Why people continue to vote with their feet and leave Cincinnati (previous post on the topic):

    A Tri-state teen is dead after being shot multiple times Tuesday night.

    Cincinnati police say it happened around 8 p.m. when two carloads of black males pulled into the Shell gas station at 10 West Mitchell Avenue and Vine Street and began firing at each other.

    Police say the teen was taken to University Hospital but did not survive.

    ….. One witness to the shootout included a woman who was forced to dodge the bullets as she was pumping gas when the gunfire erupted.

    Police say at least 20 shots were fired during the shootout.

    Folks, 8 PM at this time of year around here is pretty close to daylight. The site of the shootout can’t by any reasonable stretch be considered a depressed or poverty-stricken area. I’ve probably gassed up at that station a dozen times over 30 years, none in the past five. But never again.

    The fact is that there are very few places in the city that can be considered safe any more, and if nothing is done to turn that around, the flight will accelerate.

  • Here’s another city apparently determined to have its citizens leave, providing yet another reason besides crime, lousy schools, and taxes, namely terminal nanniness

    If you’re a cell phone-using, goose liver-eating, cigarette-smoking, fast food-loving person, Chicago might not be your kind of town.

    In this city that once winked at Prohibition, members of the City Council are trying to crack down on things they deem unhealthy, immoral or just plain annoying.

    ….. Critics, including the mayor, wonder if the City Council has suddenly deemed itself the behavior police.

    “We have children getting killed by gang leaders and dope dealers,” an angry Mayor Richard M. Daley said earlier this year. “We have real issues here in this city. And we’re dealing with foie gras? Let’s get some priorities.”

    Mayor Dictator for Life Daley is right on this one.

Positivity: 17 Year-Old in Amazing Recovery from Car Accident

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:01 am

No it’s not a complete recovery, but a remarkable one that has gone from a 1% chance to live, and could yet become complete (e-mail me if you know the URL of Rita Ronchi’s web site):

Monday, July 24, 2006

Student athlete amazes family, friends in recovery from car accident

When Myrna Ronchi saw her daughter, Rita, smile for the first time since her near-fatal June 4 car accident, it was a moment of great hope.

Telling the story caused tears to well up in her eyes, as she tried to explain seeing Rita do things for the first time, again.

“To see your 17-year-old daughter that you appreciate and love so much and are so proud of . . . do something that she first did when she was a baby all over again — it’s the most unexplainable experience that you would never understand when they did it the first time,” she said. “It is incredible to have the second chance to see your child do these things.”

The Maple teen was severely injured in a head-on collision on U.S. Highway 2 in Wentworth, Wis. Rita’s right leg had to be amputated above the knee, she suffered brain damage and collapsed lungs and sustained several other injuries to extremities. The night of the accident, her family was told she had a 1 percent chance of survival.

Rita spent a month in the intensive care unit at St. Luke’s hospital and is going through rehabilitation at Miller Dwan Medical Center. The multisport athlete has made progress that’s impressive even to her therapists and doctors, Myrna said.

“When she first came in, she was not expected to live,” she said. “We were told she had no attainable blood pressure and no attainable pulse in the helicopter “go up,” said Dinah Johnson, Rita’s aunt.

Brain damage was caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain, but the extent is not yet known.

“But it’s two weeks postrehab and she’s speaking softly and playing solitaire,” Johnson said.

Rita’s left side is weaker than her right, but she is able to use a remote control with her right hand, clutch cups and feed herself ice chips. She has performed simple math problems and said all of the names of her friends. Her tracheotomy tube has been removed, and she’s beginning to whisper and mouth words, saying things like “Hi, Mom” and “Thank You.”

“She’s incredibly gracious with everyone for a person with a head injury,”Myrna said. A person that didn’t have emotions going on wouldn’t know to say thank you.”

Rita appears to have longterm memory, but because of her coma, her short-term memory seems to have lapsed.

She’s learning to swallow again, and Myrna is amazed at the process for such a simple task.

“We don’t think about learning to swallow, smile or laugh,” she said. “We try to say we’re thankful (for what we have) but nobody knows until they’ve lived it.”

Rita’s family and friends credit her physical and emotional strength for her impressive progress.

“She was – at the time of her accident – in the most incredible physical shape she’s ever been in,” her mom said.

Rita, a junior at Northwestern High School last year, played volleyball, basketball and softball, and trained with weights.

This month, she was to participate in a prestigious volleyball tournament in Hawaii. Her volleyball coach, Charlie Hessel, nominated Rita for the honor.

“She’s so tough,” Hessel said. “She’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had the chance to coach. She’s a competitive person . . . and that drive will help her recover as best she can.”

An accomplished pianist with a passion for singing, she was in the process of making a CD for her father, Bill Ronchi, for Father’s Day. She planned to major in education in college and become a teacher.

Her family isn’t ruling that out, and believes Rita is still alive for a reason. Myrna described hearing stories of disabled people who accomplish the extraordinary.

….. Rita has a fan club dedicated to her Web site that charts her progress. It has received more than 86,000 views since June 5 from as far off as Norway.

And because her family has spent so much time at the hospital, community members have pitched in to mow Myrna’s lawn, retrieve mail, cook meals and water plants.

“You know you have friends . . . but you don’t realize the true outpouring,” she said. “I’m so grateful.”

Family members acknowledge that life for Rita and those around her will be different, but they remain positive.

“I wake up with new hope every day,” her mother said.

Rita’s friends wear homemade bracelets that display her name with the phrases “hope” and “believe” attached.

….. Erin Malinoski, a friend to Rita since preschool, is upbeat about her future, and plans to help her through every step of recovery.

“It was hard at first, but I knew she was going to make it,” she said. “I had a gut feeling she was going to live.”

While she is recovering at a quicker pace than anticipated, it’s still too early to tell when she will leave the hospital, what kind of assistance she will need and when she will get a prosthetic leg. A psychologist recently told Myrna that her daughter’s prognosis looks very good.

Myrna said the year will be a difficult one for Rita, but it’s exciting to think of the possibilities, she said. “What she has survived is beyond a miracle.”

This week, Myrna was sitting with Rita on her bed when she began mouthing something to her. Myrna couldn’t understand what her daughter was saying after several attempts, so she brought out paper and a pen. Rita wrote “nothing,” out of what appeared to be exasperation, Myrna said.

“I started laughing, and then Rita started laughing! It was just incredible,” she said. “She does something new every day.”