Finishing the Line
In his commentary in the Providence Journal, which Don mentions in the previous post, Rhode Island College student Bill Felkner does the single most important thing for government reform:
Let’s draw a straight line: The school teaches the “perspective”; graduates get jobs at the state Department of Human Services and the Poverty Institute; the DHS testifies (using Poverty Institute “research”) to the State House on how well programs are doing. How can we blame politicians for developing ineffective programs when they are guided by biased testimony?
He doesn’t draw the line far enough, though, to illustrate that it is actually a loop. Note Felkner’s explanation of the approach to welfare that his school advocates and that the Rhode Island government follows:
Welfare programs are employment- or education-focused, further defined by “strict” or “lenient” requirements. Rhode Island has a “lenient, education-focused” model, and the proposed legislation advocates greater leniency.
In summary, not only are educators populating the state bureaucracy with ideologues, not only are educators helping to develop policies and put the shine on those already instituted, but the policies that these educators advocate are focused on increasing the customer base for — yup — educators. Consider the emblematic story of Providence’s April Brophy, told in the Providence Journal last June. Ms. Brophy and her husband divorced, then he became disabled, so her child support payments were miniscule. State assistance helped, but it wasn’t enough, until:
BROPHY’S BOSS wanted her to start working Saturdays. But Brophy had no one to care for her youngest child, Bobby, then in kindergarten. When the situation could not be resolved, Brophy quit, and entered an eight-month case-management program at Rhode Island College.
“It ignited my passion for social justice,” Brophy said.
There Brophy learned that as kind as her social worker had been, she had neglected to tell Brophy that there were dozens of training and education programs open to her, part of her welfare benefits. The social worker had mentioned only two: RIC’s case-management program and a certified nursing-assistant program. … Brophy received her certificate in case management in May 2003 and tried to get a job in the field. …
A few months later, she landed her current job: organizing for Rhode Island Parents for Progress, an advocacy group for low-income working families. …
She says she has regained her sense of self-confidence. She hopes to go back to school to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in social work. She now earns $11 an hour — the highest salary she has ever received.
Described from a business point of view, Ms. Brophy is an ideal customer of the education industry. Not only did she complete the circuit between educators and government funds in her own case, but she is now employed to find other such human conductors. Seen in this light, the “perspective school” that Felkner now attends has a clear conflict of interest in its dealings with state policy, and the corruption is manifest along the entire loop, including the corruption of the ideals of higher education.
As I highlighted in response to the Projo’s piece on Brophy, one can in good faith and with charitable intentions put forward solutions that align with one of two worldviews. Corruption aside, Rhode Island’s more common worldview believes that people’s particular difficulties must be addressed in the most expedient way possible: giving to them what the government has collected from others. The worldview that I favor puts the responsibility for people’s lives in their own hands, believing that human nature creates a marketplace that incorporates every aspect of society, from economics to familial culture to religion, and that people ought to be allowed — empowered, in modern Marxist jargon — to seek their own balance.
As a nuclear family, the Brophys were doing just fine on $35,000 per year. According to Rhode Island College’s Poverty Institute, a family of four needs $48,000 in combined income and handouts to get by. Unless we break this cycle whereby interest groups set policies that siphon tax dollars in their own direction while creating incentives for people to make unhealthy decisions, our state will eventually find itself attempting to subsidize everybody with revenue from nobody, and our culture will only generate more messes to mop up with public green.