March 22, 2010

Homeless Official, NYT Obfuscate Significance of 2009 Spike in ‘On the Streets’ Population

NYTlogoWithPaper2009

Sometimes, certain claims made by establishment media reporters or people who are quoted don’t pass the smell test. Then, when you dig in, to borrow a phrase from Michael Savage, the stench makes you clench.

Such is the case with a front-page story (“Number of People Living on New York Streets Soars”) that went up online at the New York Times late Friday, and appeared in its Saturday print edition.

Reporter Julie Bosman opened fairly enough with this paragraph:

The Bloomberg administration said Friday that the number of people living on New York’s streets and subways soared 34 percent in a year, signaling a setback in one of the city’s most intractable problems.

The New York City Department of Homeless Services’ Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOME) is conducted in late January each year. It’s almost as if Bosman and/or her editors thought that this opening statement was too strong and needed some seasoning; after all, you-know-who’s administration in Washington was overseeing the economy during the entire period in question. So take a look at how Bosman, with the help of a “clever” homeless services official, tried to massage the results in the next five paragraphs, and then be amazed at how reality differs:

Appearing both startled and dismayed by the sharp increase, a year after a significant drop, administration officials attributed it to the recession, noting that city shelters for families and single adults had been inundated.

Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of homeless services, said in a subdued news conference that the city began feeling the increase in its vast shelter system more than two years ago. “And now we’re seeing the devastating effect of this unprecedented poor economy on our streets as well,” Mr. Hess said.

The city’s annual tally indicated an additional 783 homeless people on the streets and in the subway system, for a total of 3,111, up from 2,328 last year. That is in addition to almost 38,000 people living in shelters, which is near the city’s high.

The count came from an annual census of homeless people that is typically conducted on a cold January night, when more than 2,500 volunteers walk the streets and subway system between midnight and 4 a.m. to search for and identify the homeless. It took place this year on Jan. 25.

Bosman described this year’s on-the-streets homeless population increase of 783, or 34% as “sharp.” Guess what the decrease from January 2008 to January 2009 described only as “significant” was? Try almost 1,000 (graph is at the fourth slide of the January 2010 HOME report, a PDF accessible at this “Statistics and Reports” page):

NYC5yrHomelessOnStreets2005to2010

What’s more, from January 2005 to January 2009, the final four years of the eeeeevil George Bush, the on-the-streets homeless count dropped by 47%.

Hess’s ignorant (or deliberate?) “pin the blame on the recession; I can just feel it” argument is beyond pathetic, and Bosman did readers a disservice by including it. While she did get around to noting 2008′s 30% drop in her second-last paragraph, she never told us how many people (978) that represented, or that it was a bigger drop than 2009′s gain.

Not that it constitutes any kind of proof, but it’s more than a little interesting that the “on the streets” homeless population in Gotham plunged so steeply in 2008, when we were supposedly in a recession during the entire year (the recession as normal people define it didn’t start until the third quarter of 2008).

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Insufferable

Filed under: Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:02 pm

At the Corner, from Objectively Unfit and hopefully soon to be marginalized Mitt Romney (HT Alo at Brain Shavings):

RomneyOnObamaCare032110

I see there will be “no apology” from the godfather of RomneyCare for creating the prototype for ObamaCare.

Romney should know about “usurpation of the legislative process”; he’s the expert on subverting constitutions and violating his oath of office.

A Romney ascendancy to the presidency guarantees that the country will make peace with statism and fail to stop it.

Deb Schlussel, Sean Hannity, and the Freedom Alliance: More Info, Please

That this blog has not been particularly Sean Hannity-friendly is not exactly a secret (also see the last item at this link).

That said, I’m not about to jump on board with Debbie Schlussel’s explosive charges (follow-up post here) about the Freedom Alliance and Hannity’s association with it — yet.

My quiet reaxes to that relationship and the growth of the Freedom Concerts over the past several years have been:

  1. Hannity and/or his peeps had better be checking up on these guys.
  2. They’re going through a lot of money; I hope they’re also netting a lot in the process.
  3. I hope they’re accurately communicating what they’re doing.
  4. I hope Sean isn’t personally benefitting from this (other than positive feedback by association, to which he’s entitled), and avoiding any hints that he might be.
  5. I hope the entertainers are deeply discounting their normal appearance fees (not directly addressed in this post).

Based on Schlussel’s work, the answers to my long-held concerns so far appear to be:

  1. It seems doubtful.
  2. They’re not netting as much as they want you to think they are, and they may be clearing less than such an operation should be.
  3. Not really, and not well.
  4. Hard to tell, based on evidence presented.
  5. Needs to be investigated.

Debbie is way off on a couple of points.

First, her claim that “a charity is considered reputable if no more than 25% of its revenue goes to expenses and no less than 75% of it goes to the intended charity recipients” doesn’t fly for an operation like this one. Just doing the math on one concert will demonstrate this.

The Cincinnati venue has a capacity of about 9,000. If 8,800 people (after considering comps) pay an average price of about $85 per ticket (estimated based on this price structure and this seating layout), that’s a rounded gross of $750,000.

You’re not going to get the costs of pulling off a massive project like this for less than $190,000 (25% of $750,000, rounded). You’ll be lucky if you can get it done for double that, and a 50% or even 70% result would by no means be “disreputable” — and that’s before paying the day-to-day costs of running the charity. Doing concerts IS a high-cost method for raising money, and we could have a separate debate for days about whether this is how to go about accomplishing a given charitable objective. But it’s a method that’s used all the time, and FA should not be presumptively faulted for employing it.

The 2006 tax return to which Debbie refers shows that FA’s expense ratio for that year was 65.3% ($7.065 million divided by $10.823 million). Of the $3.758 million left over, the vast majority of it (over $3.5 mil) went into investments set aside and intended to grow for when intended beneficiaries go to college. Additionally, the return shows just under $400,000 disbursed to beneficiaries that year, reducing the true operating expense ratio to 61.6%.

Those are NOT presumptively awful results, but they don’t absolve FA from being frivolous with its funds (there are indeed major amounts going to “consultants,” which may or may not be appropriate in the circumstances) or being parsimonious in its benefit-granting decisions. I consider both items at this point to be serious charges backed by incomplete evidence.

Second, Debbie hurts herself with her ad hominems against some of Sean’s defenders. You don’t need to do that to make your point, Deb, and it turns off people who might otherwise be receptive to your arguments (potentially including me).

But the Alliance’s response has been far from satisfactory. In fact, given the opportunity, FA seems to have deliberately avoided telling people about their 60%-plus expense ratio. Hannity’s defenders are mostly using the “Sean’s a good guy, this can’t be true” line, which is understandable, since they aren’t involved in FA’s operations, and I don’t necessarily fault them for that — yet. *

Schlussel has promised more. She needs to deliver, because what she has given us so far, while compelling, is not a comprehensively convincing indictment.

But Hannity and FA bear a heavier burden, regardless of whether Schlussel firms up her case. I will be firmly in the FA doubters’ camp if they can’t or won’t produce more than a “we’re really good guys, just ask us and our buds” defense. And I wonder how many Freedom Concert attendees would be impressed by a statement accompanying their tickets that “less than 40% of the cost of this ticket will go to program beneficiaries and investments made on their behalf.”

* – To be clear, I DO fault some of Deb’s attackers for going over the top themselves in their criticisms of Schlussel.

Lightning Links (032210, Morning)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 8:21 am

Lightly-commented Lightning:

  • Rick Moran at PJM, on Sunday’s statist health care tragedy — “This was rammed down the throats of the American people with as much cynicism, trickery, deliberate obfuscation, and budgetary tomfoolery as has ever been seen for a major piece of legislation in the history of the republic.” I can’t think of one that was worse.
  • Following up on this item from March 15 (“U.S., U.K. Move Closer to Losing Rating, Moody’s Says”; HT BigJournalism), there’s this (“Obama Pays More Than Buffett as U.S. Risks AAA Rating”). This is best seen as bond investors giving an initial “F” grade to the idea that statist health care will reduce deficits without negatively impacting economic growth. Also note how Bloomberg resisted putting “AAA” in its week-ago headline.
  • From a month ago, in case you missed it, via Mark Steyn — “The Biggest Abdication By The West Since The 1930s.” Money quote for the “I blame Bush” crowd: “In Iran, the self-declared nuclear regime announced that it was now enriching uranium to 20%. When President Obama took office, the Islamic Republic had 400 centrifuges enriching up to 3.5%. A year later, it has 8,000 centrifuges enriching to 20%.” The mullahs know they have nothing to fear from this guy. The administration’s initial pathetic response (see Update 5 at link), days-later disgraceful reaction (first item at link) and ongoing non-support of those attempting to overthrow the mullahs has proven it.
  • From last Wednesday, via Jacob Sullum at Reason (“Government-Subsidized Job Creation Preservation Elimination in Massachusetts”) — “A Boston Globe investigation finds that Massachusetts’ Economic Development Incentive Program, which during the last 16 years (13 of them under RINO governors — Ed.) has dispensed hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local tax breaks to businesses that promised to create jobs, often has little or nothing to show for its efforts.” This is why states should be making their business and tax climates hospitable to every business, not handing out money and tax breaks. Also, it should be noted that in general the kind of businesses willing to expend precious management time playing the bureaucratic grant-break game aren’t the ones likely to generate explosive job growth.
  • A likely example of the previous point, from last Thursday’s Dayton Daily News – “Arcade owner wants $5 million commitment from Dayton.” Translation: “This project isn’t financially justified unless it’s heavily subsidized.”
  • In the WashTimes“U.S. Post exec taps former associate for no-bid pact.” Despite appearances, I would suggest that this is probably an above-board deal. A similar arrangement during the Bush administration would have brought forth howls of faux outrage over “corruption.” The statist health care plan’s various bribes and other forms of corruption built into the bill probably amount to as much in a day — heck, maybe in an hour — as this situation involves in total ($4 million).
  • Hope and Change Update, at the New York Times: “Number of People Living on New York Streets Soars.” The “Blame Bush” subtext of the story, which sadly includes a homeless agency official who must know better, is disgraceful. The facts are, according to the NYC Department of Homeless Services January 2009 report, that the “living on the streets” population dropped 30% in 2008. In 2009, it soared by 34% (links to the relevant PDFs are at this page). Yet “Robert V. Hess, the commissioner of homeless services, said in a subdued news conference that the city began feeling the increase in its vast shelter system more than two years ago.” Horse manure.
  • From Ambrose Evans Prichard at the UK Telegraph eight days ago — “Is China’s Politburo spoiling for a showdown with America?” If so, we have never been in a weaker position for one.

Comment-free Lightning:

  • From six weeks ago, coming from theYour Tax Dollars Down the Drain” Dept.: “US Taxpayers Give GMAC a $17.3BB Neg-Am Loan.”
  • From the “Betcha Didn’t Hear About It; I Wonder Why” file, in Philadelphia — “(More Than Two Dozen) Frozen Fetuses Found During Doctor’s Office Raid.”
  • From the “Gee, Some of Us Saw This Coming in Campaign 2008″ Dept.– “Was Obama’s confrontation with Israel premeditated?”
  • WSJ Quote of the Day — “So this hour of liberal political victory is a good time to adapt the ‘Pottery Barn’ rule that Colin Powell once invoked on Iraq: You break it, you own it.”
  • New word of the day: Misprision, relevant to this American Spectator piece — “Specter Opens Door on White House Felonies.”