June 22, 2009

WSJ Blows Report on Expanding Welfare Rolls by Ignoring State Disparities

ClintonSignsWelfareReform1996.jpgIf the recession was the only reason why the welfare rolls are what they are in the various states, you would expect the percentage of the population utilizing the entitlement program, now known as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Need Families), in the various states to have some sort of relationship to their respective unemployment rates.

That is self-evidently not the case. The failure by Sara Murray of the Wall Street Journal to note that sad fact in her Monday article about the program makes her attempt to communicate what has happened with it during the twelve months that ended in May a major disappointment. As you’ll see, she got right to the edge, but didn’t look into it. In the process, Ms. Murray also gave all of the credit for welfare reform to then-President Bill Clinton — a laughably incorrect rendition of what really happened.

Here are Murray’s opening four paragraphs (bolds are mine):

Welfare rolls, which were slow to rise and actually fell in many states early in the recession, now are climbing across the country for the first time since President Bill Clinton signed legislation pledging “to end welfare as we know it” more than a decade ago.

Twenty-three of the 30 largest states, which account for more than 88% of the nation’s total population, see welfare caseloads above year-ago levels, according to a survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal and the National Conference of State Legislatures. As more people run out of unemployment compensation, many are turning to welfare as a stopgap.

The biggest increases are in states with some of the worst jobless rates. Oregon’s count was up 27% in May from a year earlier; South Carolina’s climbed 23% and California’s 10% between March 2009 and March 2008. A few big states that had seen declining welfare caseloads just a few months ago now are seeing increases: New York is up 1.2%, Illinois 3% and Wisconsin 3.9%. Welfare rolls in a few big states, Michigan and New Jersey among them, still are declining.

The recent rise in welfare families across the country is a sign that the welfare system is expanding at a time of added need, assuaging fears of some critics of Mr. Clinton’s welfare overhaul who said the truly needy would be turned away.

The historical fact (and frankly, Sara Murray should know this) is that welfare reform was a GOP-driven and fiercely Democrat-resisted initiative from its very inception under Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin years prior to the passage of national reform. Bill Clinton had to be dragged kicking and screaming into signing a GOP-driven bill he had vetoed twice. He signed the law only because then-adviser Dick Morris told him that “a third veto could (have) cost him the 1996 election.” Also, as I recall it, Clinton’s pledge to “end welfare as we know it” was a 1992 presidential campaign pledge, not an utterance heard from him at or around the time of the bill’s 1996 signing.

That’s bad enough, but Murray’s failure to note huge state-to-state differences in their percentages of population on welfare leaves readers with the implied impression that welfare reform has been uniformly or nearly uniformly implemented in the various states. An even cursory look at the numbers tells us that this is not the case.

Take California (please). The charts below show that the Golden State has chronically failed to do anything meaningful about its welfare population since 2002. As a result, as of September 30 of last year, it was to the point where a state with 12% of the country’s population had 32% of its welfare recipients (up from 22% less than six years earlier), and where the incidence of residents on welfare was almost 3-1/2 times that of the rest of the country (Sept. 2008 data is here; an index to prior years is here):


In September 2008, as I noted last week, if California had mirrored the rest of the country, an astonishing 869,000 fewer of its residents would have been receiving welfare; the entire nation’s welfare caseload would be almost 23% lower.

It has probably gotten even worse. Even though TANF rolls nationwide have increased, a graph at the Journal indicates that the number of families on welfare was in California was 520,000 in May. Compared to May 2008′s 490,604 and mid-2007′s 460,000 (per the graph) that’s a one-year, 6% increase and a two-year, 13% increase in an already ridiculously bloated number. And they want the rest of the country to bail them out? Zheesh.

Looking at other states using May 2008 numbers from the government along with the estimated May 2009 changes contained in Murray’s report (plus a couple of other states selected by me for which May 2009 data was not noted), you’ll see that any attempt to tie the size of welfare rolls to statewide population or to changes in unemployment is an exercise in futility (MI comparison is April 2009 to April 2008):


The chart gives rise to all kinds of questions as to why some states are outperforming others that Murray never really explored.

As noted, Murray did get to the edge of the problem when she noted downward welfare recipient moves in states where one might have expected them to go up. But, in the case of Michigan’s downward move, she only weakly cited “Some advocacy groups …. (who) complain that strict front-end requirements” are forcing people to try to find work where there supposedly is none before applying for benefits.

The much better question is how much relative effort states have been putting into welfare reform’s real goal of reducing dependency during all these years. The obvious answer is that these efforts have varied widely — and that difference in effort, much more than the current condition of the economy, is a bigger factor in explaining why each individual state is where it is.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


BizzyBlog Update, June 23: Lack of time prevented me from elaborating on this yesterday, so I’ll make these points now –

  • Even the admittedly incomplete data on the chart, WSJ’s headline (“Numbers On Welfare See Sharp Increase”) is questionable at best. Ignore basket case California’s increase, and the changes in the rest of the states listed where comparison is possible net out to a grand total of less than +17,000, or roughly +2%. That’s a “sharp” increase? The figure quoted doesn’t include New Jersey; Murray reported a decline in recipients in the Garden State but didn’t give us a percentage to work with.
  • Florida’ increase of 14.1%, prominently placed in the WSJ’s graph, is off of a very low base of less than 78,000 recipients. Touting that change as some kind of major barometer is the equivalent of headlining a 14% increase in sales of Mitsubishi’s cars when the rest of the industry is in the tank.
  • Since so many are so willing to make excuses for California, let me remind you, as shown in my related June 14 post, that California’s disgraceful welfare dependency rate has nothing to do with illegal or other immigration (look at FL above), the economy in general (look at MI’s decline), or the high cost of living in some areas of the state (look at NY).
  • Closer to home, somebody ought to ask Governor Ted Strickland and his Ohio Department of Job and Family Services why Ohio’s welfare recipient rate is about 50% higher than the national average and heading upward, while much worse off Michigan’s is coming down.

Lucid Links (062209, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:43 am

Noteworthy Net-Worthies:

What motivated Barack Obama’s teleprompter to get off the dime and tell the boss to say something beyond the pap level about Iran may have been the scolding (HT Hot Air) administered by John Nichols Friday at the far-far-left Nation Magazine — “President Obama’s tepid response to the evidence the Iranian election was stolen from the people of that country by current president President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his thuggish allies is disappointing.”

Of course, as explained here last night, as with almost everything else, the election-stealing was orchestrated by the guy with “virtually limitless authority,” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.


What a pathetic Associated Press headline in the circumstances — “Documentary draws ire of Dole after plot thickens.” Readers who don’t get past the headline will think that another eeeeeevil corporation is objecting to a courageous filmmaker’s work.

Hardly, as the second paragraph notes: “…. Fredrik Gertten’s film “Bananas!” might now be more appropriately punctuated with a question mark after a judge declared its star, a Los Angeles lawyer, a fraud for recruiting plaintiffs to lie.” The verdict was noted here back in mid-May.

Then there’s this incredible sentence: “The fraud was not uncovered until the film was finished, and questions are swirling about whether the filmmaker has an ethical obligation to change the documentary.”

There is no “controversy” here; the only question is whether Gertten will do the right thing. If it means throwing “Bananas!” away because its claims are irretrievably rotten, so be it. Then he should ask himself why he was so gullible.


Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown will blast Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods for their alleged lack of social activism in an interview that is to appear on HBO’s “Real Sports” Tuesday night.

Four things, Jimbo.

First, self-described Cablanasian Woods is a once-in-a-century talent in a line of work demanding steely concentration who could put up a Grand Slam victory number that no one will ever touch by the time he’s done. Only Tiger knows how much distraction he can afford without diluting that effort (not to mention family obligations, which to his credit he appears to take pretty seriously). How dare you pretend to be better able to make that judgment?

Second, how do you know what Woods and Jordan are or aren’t doing already?

Third, maybe they’re not as convinced as you are that there is pervasive social injustice that demands “activism” as you define it.

Fourth, what would you do if Woods’s and Jordan’s definitions of “social activism” don’t jibe with yours? Maybe theirs would involve marching in Tea Parties, because they realize that if it weren’t for their fabulous wealth, their kids and grandkids would be crushed like almost everyone else’s kids and grandkids will be with the national debt and unfunded liability burden that mismanaged “social activism” has primarily caused?


Taegan Goddard at CQ Politics (HT California Conservative) says that Ted Strickland is “in trouble” in the 2010 Governor’s race. Only three weeks after John Kasich formally announced his candidacy, the incumbent Democrat has a 44%-42% lead, compared to 50%-32% not that long ago. And it’s likely that half the state doesn’t yet know who Kasich is.

Given that low name recognition, Turnaround Ted’s poor economic stewardship, and Kasich’s compelling deficit-cutting story as illustrated below and discussed here last week, Kasich’s numbers would seem to have a lot of upside potential:


Maybe there really is a T-Shirt shop in Ted’s near future.

Update: As expected, Matt at Weapons of Mass Discussion, Third Base Politics, and Invincible Armor have more.

Positivity: New Providence Resident Tees Off with Physicians who Saved His Life at 19th Annual Overlook Golf Tournament

Filed under: Health Care,Positivity — Tom @ 7:21 am

From New Providence, New Jersey:


Less than six months after Tom Vitale went into cardiac arrest on the front lawn of his New Providence home, the 44-year-old father of two played an impressive round of golf with the physicians who saved his life at Overlook Hospital.

On Monday, June 15, Mr. Vitale joined 154 golfers participating in the 19th Annual Overlook Foundation Golf Tournament at Canoe Brook Country Club. Wearing an internal cardiac defibrillator, Mr. Vitale not only proved he was back in the game, but that his game was better than average. He scored “closest to the pin” among the 19 foursomes playing Canoe Brook’s South Course and won a new pair of golf shoes.

“I had a great time,” said Mr. Vitale, “and feel very fortunate to be here today. I’m living proof of the excellent care that is available at Overlook.”

On December 20, Mr. Vitale went into cardiac arrest on his front lawn, following a morning of sleigh riding with his children, then ages 3 and 6, and his next-door neighbors. His neighbor performed CPR on Tom’s lifeless body until New Providence police arrived on the scene with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). They administered a shock to his heart and managed to restore a faint pulse. When paramedics transported Mr. Vitale to Overlook’s Emergency Department, he was alive, but in a comatose state.

According to the American Heart Association, 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before they reach a hospital. It was then that Dr. Daniel Schwartz, the attending cardiologist, ordered a relatively new procedure – a hypothermia induced coma – to prevent damage to Mr. Vitale’s brain.

During the procedure, patients are wrapped with an external cooling device, which lowers their body temperature to approximately 92 degrees. Cooling down the body and the brain reduces the brain’s demand for oxygen and facilitates the healing process following cardiac arrest. The heart can survive a loss of oxygen for 20 minutes; the brain only four minutes.

Only 15 percent of hospitals nationwide offer therapeutic hypothermia for cardiac arrest patients. Eight patients have been treated with this procedure at Overlook since September 2008, five of whom were discharged fully functional but would have died without the therapy, according to Steven Sheris, M.D., Chief of Cardiology at Overlook Hospital.

Tom Vitale woke up from his hypothermic coma in Overlook’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit on Christmas Day, surrounded by his family, friends and college fraternity brothers from Lehigh University. “I remember waking up, and hearing people on the Today Show shouting Merry Christmas,” recalled Vitale. “I thought Christmas was still a week away.”

Although Mr. Vitale had no symptoms of cardiac disease and tests revealed no blocked arteries, Dr. Schwartz suggested that he have an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) implanted in his chest. The device, which he will wear the rest of his life, is about the size of a small pager with two leads connected to his heart. If it detects a rapid or irregular heartbeat, it sends a low-energy shock to restore Vitale’s heart to a normal rhythm. Mr. Vitale has been back to work as a management consultant since March and has resumed his full schedule of activities without complications.

Teeing off at the Overlook Foundation Golf Tournament on June 15 with the physicians who saved his life not only brought Vitale’s whole experience full circle, but also underscored the advancements that have been achieved in cardiac care over the past four decades. ….

Go here for the rest of the story.