December 22, 2008

CA and National Press Ignore State’s 12-Year Failure to Get with the National Welfare Reform Program

arnoldCalifornia Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s three-year lurch to the left, with the enthusiastic assistance of Democratic majorities in the state’s legislature, has sent the state’s fiscal situation once again into Gray Davisland — and this time, unlike in November 2003 when he took office, the Governator doesn’t have a growing economy to make getting out of the mess easier.

The state’s controller said earlier today that the state “the state will run out of cash in about two months” if the state doesn’t close its current budget gap of $18 billion.

Finally, the state is attempting to do something about its disproportionately costly welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program.

The howls are predictable, if somewhat understandable (which I’ll get to). Excerpts from a Sacramento Bee story by Cynthia Hubert lay out the situation:

Welfare benefits in California could be cut to levels of seven or eight years ago, under at least one state budget proposal.

Agencies that serve some of society’s most vulnerable people are slashing staff and canceling services in anticipation of state budget cuts to welfare programs.

“It’s like we’re turning back the clock on 10 years of effective social policy,” said Cathy Senderling, senior legislative advocate for the California Welfare Directors Association.

In the face of a woeful economy, soaring caseloads and state budget cuts that could total billions of dollars, administrators of programs that include CalWORKs, Medi-Cal and food stamps are on the verge of panic.

….. If the proposed cuts pass, welfare recipients could see their benefits drop by 10 percent. A family of three would see their monthly check reduced to about $620 – as much as they would have received in 2000 or 2001 – plus about $250 in food stamps. Social Security benefits for needy elderly and disabled people would be cut. Benefits would be cut to virtually all other welfare programs, as well.

Concentrating on the “monthly check” (Food Stamps is a separate story, but in a nutshell, what is provided is adequate), Ms. Senderling’s contention about “10 years of effective social policy” has a ring of truth to it. Unfortunately, the ringing has taken place in almost every state except California, which has consistently, stubbornly, and ineffectively failed to reduce its welfare rolls in response to the landmark national reform law passed in 1996.

The cuts taking place now should never have been necessary. If it is indeed the case that “some of society’s most vulnerable people” are going to suffer, it will be because of that 12-year failure, and not the currently arriving budget ax. California’s press, as I observed when I posted on this a year ago (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), never-never-never touches this issue, treating it as a third rail every bit as dangerous as the national press’s fear- and entitlement-driven handling of Social Security.

Consider these facts:

  • In 1996, the Golden State’s share of the national caseload was just under 20%, and just over 21% of total recipients.
  • As of June 2008, those percentages were 29.3% and 30.7%, respectively.
  • Since December 2003, shortly after Schwarzenegger took office, California’s caseload and recipients have increased by roughly 42,000 and 118,000, respectively. The rest of the country’s caseload and recipients have decreased by 368,000 and 1.024 million, even continuing to fall through the difficult economy of the first half of this year (2003 data is summary form is here).
  • If California’s proportion of the population on welfare mirrored the rest of the country (and there’s no good reason it shouldn’t), an astonishing 837,000 fewer people would be receiving it. Using $700 as rough measure, based on the excerpted information, of current monthly benefits for every three recipients, the state would be spending over $2.3 billion less — each and every year ($700 x 12 x 837,000 divided by 3). This figure is probably higher, because the average family size is closer to 2.5 instead of 3, and benefits are probably not reduced in direct proportion to the number of family members.

The fact that the state with the most singularly visible record of failing to implement welfare reform is now finally having to cut costs is very unfortunate, especially because the meat-ax approach to cuts will hurt deserving recipients while doing little to get to the heart of the problem, which is that, based on the stark contrast with the rest of the nation, too many undeserving people are collecting benefits.

The fact that Scharzenegger, as far as I can tell, still plans to run to Washington for a financial bailout is an insult to our intelligence. California’s poor handling of welfare means, at least as far as that one program is concerned, that the Golden State should really owe money to the rest of us, some of it over a decade in arrears. Someone in the media should ask when that check will arrive.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

AP’s ‘Novel’ Name That Party Wrinkle: Purging Dem Party IDs from Original Local Reports

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 5:24 pm

DemOrGOPgraphic0708.jpgTwo situations over the weekend illustrate that the Associated Press’s habitual failure to identify the political party of Democrats in trouble is more than likely a conscious decision. This is despite the AP Stylebook’s guidance (as of 2000, the latest free edition I can find; a PDF is here) that a reporter should “include party affiliation if readers need it for understanding or are likely to be curious about what it is.”

In both of the instances I will cite, local papers decided that party affiliation was important enough to include. But AP reporters decided that they weren’t, even though out-of-state readers are less likely to know the party affiliation of the politician(s) involved.

The situations involve ousted and disgraced former Attorney General Marc Dann in Ohio, and Chaka Fattah, a Philadelphia congressman. Both men are Democrats.

Dann resigned in May after reports of several on the job improprieties by Dann and officials close to him and the revelation of an extramarital affair. He is back in the news over his alleged misuse of campaign funds.

Compare and contrast how the Columbus Dispatch, which did the original reporting, and the AP, which referenced the Dispatch’s work, covered the latest on the guy I called “Gunga Dann” earlier this year (HTs to Instapundit and Hot Air):

Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 18 — “Dann faked financial reports, complaint says; Thousands diverted to family and aides, inspector general finds”

Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann falsified his campaign finance records to disguise tens of thousands of dollars spent to benefit himself, his wife, children and top campaign staffers, a complaint filed today says.

Statements of receipts and expenditures that Dann’s campaign filed with the secretary of state “contain incomplete, inaccurate and false information concerning expenditures from the fund for travel, food, beverages, cell phones and other expenditures,” Inspector General Thomas P. Charles said in a sworn statement filed with the complaint before the Ohio Elections Commission.

….. (11th paragraph) Dann took office in January 2007 after campaigning against the “culture of corruption” in Columbus. He was forced to resign May 14 of this year after his fellow Democrats mounted an impeachment effort and investigators led by Charles conducted an extraordinary raid on the attorney general’s office.

+++++++++++++++

Columbus Dispatch, Dec. 19 — “Dann accused of misusing money; Ex-attorney general may have falsified reports to hide expenses”

Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann was hit with two elections complaints yesterday, alleging that he broke state law by converting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use, then disguising it in falsified reports submitted to the state.

The complaints filed with the Ohio Elections Commission by Inspector General Thomas P. Charles and Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner accuse Dann, his wife and top campaign staff members of violating Ohio law no less than eight times.

Receipts and expenditures that Dann’s campaign filed with the secretary of state “contain incomplete, inaccurate and false information concerning expenditures from the fund for travel, food, beverages, cell phones and other expenditures,” Charles said in a sworn statement filed late yesterday.

The complaint included 1,000 pages of supporting records.

….. (20th paragraph) Dann, a Democrat, was elected in 2006 and took office Jan. 7, 2007.

+++++++++++++++

Associated Press, Dec. 20, carried in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (“Report: Former Ohio attorney general raised campaign cash for vacations, Christmas presents”; this is the original story Hot Air referred to, though the link it used was dynamic, and is no longer available)

Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann used his campaign account to bankroll home repairs and family vacations, according to a newspaper review of state investigative reports.

The reports are part of a complaint filed last week with the Ohio Elections Commission by state Inspector General Tom Charles. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner also filed an elections commission complaint against Dann last week alleging misuse of campaign funds.

The AP report contains no reference to Dann’s Democratic Party affiliation in its 15 paragraphs. At least the Dispatch eventually got around to it, though later than it should have, in its reports.

In the second example of a disappearing Democratic Party ID, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Marcia Gelbart and Emilie Lounsberry reported yesterday on Congressman Chaka Fattah’s recent troubles involving taxpayer dollars:

Inquiry looks at Fattah program
Investigators are asking about the use of federal grant money in a scholarship project he founded and now is shutting down.

Federal investigators are examining a multimillion-dollar scholarship program that U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah founded four years ago and abruptly announced last month that he was shutting down.

The inquiry appears to be in its early stages, with investigators asking about the use of federal grant money that has flowed into the program, named CORE Philly.

Two people familiar with CORE Philly said last week that the FBI had contacted them. One, a public-relations consultant, said she had been served a grand-jury subpoena requesting copies of videos she made for the program.

Fattah (D., Pa.), elected last month to an eighth term, said Friday that he had learned of the inquiry in July from the program’s former executive director.

The related AP report (link is dynamic) that referenced the Inquirer reporters’ work at philly.com, is party affiliation-free, and begins as follows:

Pa. congressman’s scholarship program questioned

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Federal investigators are questioning a discontinued scholarship program founded by a Pennsylvania congressman.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that investigators are asking about the use of federal grants given to College Opportunity Resources for Education, or CORE Philly.

The program was set up by Rep. Chaka Fattah four years ago but is ending after next spring. He says the investigation was about a $700,000 grant from the Justice Department to cover staffing, computers and more.

As noted earlier, if the local reporters felt that (eventually) mentioning party affiliation was important, then it’s clearly more incumbent on AP to do the same for the benefit of readers outside of the local area. But the wire service didn’t do that in its reports. Gee — I wonder why?

UPDATE: Maybe this is hoping for too much, but perhaps the wire service was appropriately chastened by Ed Morrissey’s call-out at Hot Air yesterday on its Marc Dann coverage. The second paragraph of a story update this afternoon (link is dynamic, and may change shortly) by Stephen Majors says that “Dann, a Democrat elected in 2006 on an anti-corruption platform, resigned in May amid a sexual harassment scandal in his office that included his admission that he had an affair with an employee.” Imagine that.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Comment ….. (122208, Morning)

The parade of attempts at blaming the Bush Administration for decades-in-the-making housing-price declines and the mortgage-industry mess is beyond tiresome.

IBDeditorials.com rebuts the Washington Post, (“In effect, the media are blaming Bush for Clinton policies”), while the White House does the same to the New York Times. This Fox News report from a while ago rebuts the claim that Republicans didn’t try to do something. They didn’t try hard enough, but blaming them is like blaming the teller in a bank robbery because he or she pushed the panic button at the right time, but the police didn’t show arrive quickly enough. Update, Dec. 23: IBDeditorials.com correctly calls BS on the Times.

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I’ve put up a few item in the past few days at NewsBusters that I didn’t cross-post here, but that merit attention:

  • Chavez Plans Expropriation of Nearly Complete Megamall” — The money quote from Hugo Chavez: “We’re going to expropriate that and turn it into a hospital – I don’t know – a school, a university.” He has no idea what he’ll do with the property; he just wants it. Tyrants do that.
  • “AP Parrots Henry Waxman’s Lie About the Still-True ‘Sixteen Words‘” — These people are pushing the same tired BS that was disproven years ago. The “sixteen words” (“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”) were true, have been true, and always will be true.
  • Name That Party: MA Speaker’s ‘Pal’ Indicted” — Six politicians named, no Democratic party affiliation identified. All in a day’s work at the Associated Press.

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Late addition to theCould it Be ….. Recovery?list — A small reason for more optimism, or at least less pessimism — Leading indicators last week were expected to be down 0.5%, but were down 0.4%.

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At Reason Online (“More laws and further regulation wouldn’t have prevented the Bernard Madoff scam”):

(The) scandal highlights the ineffectiveness of regulatory agencies such as the SEC. This should temper the faith we put in them, not cause us to increase their power.

Certainly not until they can demonstrate that they can exercise consistent and proper oversight relating to the regulations that already exist. Instead, we’ll likely get more regulations they will poorly oversee. That’s not an improvement.

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A, uh, well, “broad” definition of “stimulus” — The Obama stimulus plan wish list apparently includes this item from the US Conference of Mayors: “a $1.5-million push to curb prostitution in Dayton, Ohio.”

Positivity: Remembering Irena Sendler

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:56 am

Millions know of Schindler’s List. During World War II, there was also Irena Sendler’s list of children saved from the Holocaust.

What follows is from the Associated Press’s obituary published in the International Herald Tribune after Sendler’s death in May (HT Gregg Jackson via e-mail):

Irena Sendler, social worker who saved 2,500 Jewish children from Holocaust, dies at age 98

Irena Sendler — credited with saving some 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazi Holocaust by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto, some of them in baskets — died Monday, her family said. She was 98.

Sendler, among the first to be honored by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial as a Righteous Among Nations for her wartime heroism, died at a Warsaw hospital, daughter Janina Zgrzembska told The Associated Press.

President Lech Kaczynski expressed “great regret” over Sendler’s death, calling her “extremely brave” and “an exceptional person.” In recent years, Kaczynski had spearheaded a campaign to put Sendler’s name forward as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Sendler was a 29-year-old social worker with the city’s welfare department when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, launching World War II. Warsaw’s Jews were forced into a walled-off ghetto.

Seeking to save the ghetto’s children, Sendler masterminded risky rescue operations. Under the pretext of inspecting sanitary conditions during a typhoid outbreak, she and her assistants ventured inside the ghetto — and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and in trams, sometimes wrapped up as packages.

Teenagers escaped by joining teams of workers forced to labor outside the ghetto. They were placed in families, orphanages, hospitals or convents.

“Irena was truly a noble lady and a great humanitarian who helped save thousands of children and was saved herself from death at the last minute for her activities,” said Stanlee Stahl, executive vice president of the New York-based Jewish Foundation for the Righteous.

Records show that Sendler’s team of about 20 people saved nearly 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto between October 1940 and its final liquidation in April 1943, when the Nazis burned the ghetto, shooting the residents or sending them to death camps.

“Every child saved with my help and the help of all the wonderful secret messengers, who today are no longer living, is the justification of my existence on this earth, and not a title to glory,” Sendler said in 2007 in a letter to the Polish Senate after lawmakers honored her efforts in 2007.

In hopes of one day uniting the children with their families — most of whom perished in the Nazis’ death camps — Sendler wrote the children’s real names on slips of paper that she kept at home.

When German police came to arrest her in 1943, an assistant managed to hide the slips, which Sendler later buried in a jar under an apple tree in an associate’s yard. Some 2,500 names were recorded.

“It took a true miracle to save a Jewish child,” Elzbieta Ficowska, who was saved by Sendler’s team as a baby in 1942, recalled in an AP interview in 2007. “Mrs. Sendler saved not only us, but also our children and grandchildren and the generations to come.”

Anyone caught helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland risked being summarily shot, along with family members — a fate Sendler only barely escaped herself after the 1943 raid by the Gestapo.

The Nazis took her to the notorious Pawiak prison, which few people left alive. Gestapo agents tortured her repeatedly, leaving Sendler with scars on her body — but she refused to betray her team.

“I kept silent. I preferred to die than to reveal our activity,” she was quoted as saying in Anna Mieszkowska’s biography, “Mother of the Children of the Holocaust: The Story of Irena Sendler.”

Zegota, an underground organization helping Jews, paid a bribe to German guards to free her from the prison. Under a different name, she continued her work. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.