Nanny government applied to public housing residents

by Honolulu Mother

When the Government Tells Poor People How to Live

Totebaggers, what do you think of the scheme outlined in this article? I know some of you strongly dislike paternalistic government programs. Do you find it any more acceptable in this context, where it’s applied as a condition of receiving a government benefit rather than universally?

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120 thoughts on “Nanny government applied to public housing residents

  1. Will the government also be providing reliable and affordable transportation and babysitting?

  2. “Because she didn’t have much experience, she only qualified for an apprenticeship, and had to work for free for a year.”

    Umm, wow. So apparently indentured servitude is now back.

  3. . Similarly, if someone says they want to be a social worker, but tests from Mass EdCO, a state network of career-counseling sites, indicate that they’ll flunk out of school, Mariano said, they’re guided to choose a different path.

    To me, this sounded a little like A Brave New World, the Aldous Huxley novel where people are assigned castes and jobs depending on their breeding.

    Oy! You can’t give advice based on individual aptitude?

  4. Welfare requires the premise that some people are generally not capable of taking care of themselves. So, it’s probably helpful to start by acknowledging that we’re talking about the degree to which govt should be paternalistic. (And of course, the govt is the govt, so they can do as they please within political constraints.)

    The ethical question is the (ethical) extent to which govt should be paternalistic. Good people will disagree quite a bit here. (It’s probably worth noting that nobody wants the govt to paternalistic with them; it’s always for the *other* people.) The first question is the extent to which people make systematic mistakes. (And here, we’re trying to define mistakes “objectively”. If you make a decision that I think is bad– e.g., spending some money on lottery tickets, going to church, letting your kid play football– is that a mistake or your best decision given preferences and constraints?) The next question is the extent to which people should be protected *by govt* from those mistakes.

    The practical question is the extent to which various forms of policy paternalism are effective, short-term and long-term. (For example, to what extent does protecting me from mistakes today lead to more mistakes in my future.) The practice of paternalism certainly requires a higher monetary/regulatory cost. For example, it’s more costly to regulate food stamps a bit than just giving cash without strings attached. But what are the benefits?

  5. As part of A Better Life, though, residents’ rents don’t increase when their incomes go up..

    Ah yes, my technocratic utopia at work. The previous problem had been that the poor often face 100% marginal tax rates as any money they earn results in a $1 for $1 decline in benefits.

  6. This seems to be a federal requirement at least per my city’s website. My city says for public housing – residents (who are not exempt) must participate in 8 hours of community service or 8 hours of self-sufficiency training or a combination that totals 8 hours a month. Exemptions include children, elderly, disabled, those who caregive for individuals who need full time care, and those working 30 hours or more per week.

    In general, receiving government benefits (not SSI, SSDI, Medicare, etc) should be a temporary situation. To make it temporary, people need the job skills/life skills to become self-sufficient. For many, if there is no incentive or requirement they will not participate on their own. In some cases, they don’t understand what is being offered and/or don’t have enough experience outside of their current environment to understand its value.

  7. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/local/article52841755.html

    I read this article yesterday. Here also, it seems that along with housing, the government is expanding its role with support services. The programs seem similar but they are not forced, just more accessible to residents of public housing. Also, lots of revitalization of neighborhoods is going on here. So, there is new housing and better infrastructure like child care/family centers, parks/pools, more encouragement for businesses to open and employ residents, more bus routes and new police stations located within communities. Only time will tell whether all this will work.

  8. This is just another version of someone determining what the characteristics should be for membership in the class of “deserving” poor. Theoretically, any benefit funded by government assistance or private charity can have strings attached, turning it into an “earned” or conditional benefit rather than a handout.

    When I saw the title, I assumed it was going to be about the occupancy requirements in many jurisdictions for public housing – part of the reason for long waiting lists is that no more than two kids can share a bedroom and not of the same sex over a certain age (if more kids are born later, they don’t evict you). So a family with three kids or two different sex middle school and up kids always has to live in a three bedroom apartment, of which there are very few. It may also be that these requirement apply to Section 8 vouchers, I am not up on that.

    Public housing, or subsidized middle income housing such as New York Mitchell Lama (which is what is now called a naturally occurring retirement community), is not the same as welfare or cash benefits, because housing is not inherently temporary. Much of public housing is occupied by women, first with children, often later with grandchildren, who even if they end up without dependents and try to better themselves will never earn enough to be required to leave or to be able to obtain housing on the outside even if they want to leave.

  9. I think that a program like this should be optional – the 100 or so people that signed up are probably the ones that really do want to change their lives anyway.

  10. These requirements seem reasonable, especially if the data suggests that they are effective. People who prefer to make their own decisions can give up their subsidized apartments can move.

    If the programs don’t work that is another story.

  11. “It’s probably worth noting that nobody wants the govt to paternalistic with them; it’s always for the *other* people.”

    I disagree. A lot of people are happy outsourcing things like determining building codes and car safety requirements to the government.

  12. This reminds me of several articles I read on the decline in homelessness in Salt Lake City, for example, this one. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/29/utah-homelessness-decline_n_7164304.html

    The local college town is torn between providing a convenient homeless shelter for the mostly-mentally-ill addicts who live downtown by the university and hoping they’ll go away. Since drunken behavior, by mentally ill people and fraternity houses, is one of the reasons I never considered living right by the university, I find the whole debate kind of interesting. Space right by the university is quite expensive and that’s also where it’s most convenient for everyone (including the homeless people) to live.

    My comment kind of ties in with the article, because the town is just beginning to grapple with the necessity of affordable housing for the long-term. About four elementary schools have closed as the school population has declined, and the town is becoming bifurcated between college students and retirees, many who moved up from California and did not need to fund their housing purchases at local wage rates.

    This is the first place I’ve lived where housing is not affordable compared to wage levels. Why that is true (it’s zoning here, since we have no mountains or waterways that preclude building more houses) is a topic of ongoing debate. I just read an article in the paper where the neighbors want to turn the last large, buildable area into “green space”… and some of these people are the same people who complain about the lack of affordable housing.

  13. Finn makes a good point that leads to a distinction between govt involvement in “personal” decisions vs. low-information contexts that impact everybody.

  14. I think this is fine if the government is guaranteeing a job and providing childcare and if necessary transportation. I suppose also that if a counsellor is telling someone to dump her boyfriend, then I think the government should also provide a replacement boyfriend.

  15. Many people like some paternalism in the form of nudges to exercise (fitbit, various challenges) or save (enrollment in savings program by default, portion of paycheck that automatically goes into savings account). So many people would be happy with a form of government paternalism that aligns with their own goals. The real issue is that there will always be people for whom any form of government paternalism doesn’t match their goals and is thus cause for resentment. Like calorie counts on menus — some people are pleased to have better information, others don’t really want to know and resent the implied message.

  16. Agreed– and there’s probably overlap– but we should distinguish between relatively voluntary forms of paternalism (e.g., agreed-upon nudges within the employer/employee relationship) and govt policy.

  17. Ugh. I expect more from my liberal media overlords at The Atlantic: In addition, there may be other obstacles: They may want to raise their own children, rather than sending them to daycare

    People who send kids to daycare still raise their own children.

    Otherwise, I’m fully on board. People end up in public housing due to bad circumstances and sometimes poor executive function. Expecting them to find their way out doesn’t seem to work well. I don’t know if this is the perfect answer, but planning on public housing as a lifetime benefit certainly doesn’t seem right either.

  18. I agree with Ada and Scarlett.

    How about this wrench to stump any partisans: should residents of public housing face any special restrictions on gun ownership? :)

  19. In theory, government regulation comes about because:
    (1) most consumers do not and could not easily obtain enough information to make an informed choice about the provider. An example is health care providers – the average person would not be able to evaulate a doctor’s competence easily or timely, so government regulates them setting the minimum standards they must meet.
    (2) indiviudals do not have the resources or power to ensure their safety, if they could find out what was going on. For example, work place safety standards, air pollution, food safety.
    (3) the entity is or is very close to being a monopoly of a good or service that is considered to be a basic need, vs. luxury. For example, electricity or phones under the “old” systems.

    That is not so much about paternalism, IMO, as it is about efficient uses of resources and efficient decision making.

  20. Milo – Gun ownership – IMO, if they or anyone in their household has a history of mental incompetence, their should be some restrictions.

  21. Monopoly power is a relatively easy justification for regulation in theory– on both efficiency and equity grounds. (These days, govt is far busier enhancing or establishing monopoly power than reducing it, but that’s another story.)

    Information problems with respect to market provision are also a relatively easy justification on paper. If consumers cannot obtain low-cost information, they are vulnerable to abuse– e.g., with weights and measures (gas stations) or food safety (meat quality). The market can take care of some of this. And if we rely on govt, we’re implicitly putting faith in govt to do that well. (When I cover this topic, I ask students how they *know* they got a gallon of gas. They often point to “the sticker” from the govt’s inspectors!) Notice also that the govt has a choice between providing us with information (e.g., through labeling) vs. making decisions for us (e.g, you can’t do/buy that).

    Pollution comes under a lack of definable/unenforceable property rights– not paternalism, but again, an easy case for regulation, at least on paper.

    The first example (health care) is least compelling. And this takes us to a sobering realization about markets and life: we don’t know jack. (Think cars and computers as prominent examples.) We have very little info about most decisions in life. And so, we rely on what we have, our theories to filter the info, market reputation, etc. If we try to justify regulation because we don’t know much in context X, then we will end up having most everything regulated. And ironically, then we’re depending on the govt’s limited information and mixed bag of incentives to be an improvement on our own. Good luck with that.

  22. Ada, I was annoyed about that too. Though really, that phrasing is more telling than you might think — one of the big ongoing fights we have in our public policy (and sometimes on this blog) is whether we should be designing policy around the assumption that a SAHP is the standard for young families, or two working-for-pay parents.

  23. Eric – Occupations seem to be regulated in two veins – (1) public health/sanitation – do the premises, process, etc. limit the spread of disease between the provider and the recipient as well as between one receipient and the next. (2) minimum acceptable knowledge/skill level within the specified field or scope of practice – this is usually the arguments for doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, etc.

    I agree with more techology, you can get more information, but especially in healthcare due to HIPPA, you cannot get much information on a healthcare provider’s poor practices or incompetence. The only way to know is if someone else’s medical record/information is released.

  24. HH, isn’t the assumption for families who are the beneficiaries of most governmental welfare programs single mothers? I know in some states it is.

  25. “They may want to raise their own children, rather than sending them to daycare”

    this pisses me off, just because I work doesn’t mean I am not involved in raising my child

  26. Rhett – Also, if you are familiar with your car, you have an idea about how many gallons you will need to fill up. If it is off a tiny bit, it both likely passed inspection and you’d not notice. If its off by alot, it wouldn’t pass and you’d notice that your max 20 gallon tank, just took 26 gallons of gas.

    I try to teach my kids to use common sense standards where they can to verify information. A while back some stores were shorting meat by weighing the packaging. They were caught by a consumer who regularly went home, and divided her meat into smaller packages by weight.

  27. I’m on the Deacons committee at church, which is the committee that is tasked with giving money/help to the poor who come asking for it. There’s conflict among the committee members about whether to give to only the deserving poor. We get lots of repeat requests from families that have several grown sons just sitting around failing to get even minimal jobs. So do we keep giving them grocery money? This is a separate problem from the government problem because we’re supposed to be following Christian principles of charity. Unfortunately Jesus did not address in detail whether we should do a background check on recipients or tell the grown sons to get off their asses and go work at Burger King.

  28. Milo,

    I wonder how much, if at all, things would change if potential NFL players knew the actual numbers? With a median career length of 3.2 years and a median salary of 770k, after you pay taxes, your agent, lawyers, etc. and spend nothing you’re at $1.2. That’s a lifetime income of $32k.

  29. @RMS – the food pantry supported by the church says they don’t judge but there is some restriction like they can only help the same families every other week. I suspect if they saw the same people come in, they would nudge them towards the various other long term programs they have going on, similar to what the article describes.

  30. RMS – wasn’t it Jesus who did the whole bit on “give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.”?

    I think if you are able bodied and able minded, you ought to be doing something for the benefits you receive. Whether that is in the form of a job or some form of public service doesn’t matter. I can’t understand why they don’t have more people on public assistance out picking up trash, cleaning buildings, heck some of them might even be able to provide childcare to those who are going to a job.

  31. The woman profiled in the article sounded as if she was mildly depressed, and the program forced her to address the underlying issues and change.

    Although it is certainly not universal, many of the people I know who have been unemployed for many years are depressed to some degree, and a program that required them to take proactive steps and followed up weekly would really help.

    It’s unfortunate that so few people signed up for the program before they added the “big stick” of eviction.

    RMS, what do the families say about why their sons aren’t working? If they are able-bodied, could they do some landscaping work for the church or needy elderly people to pay forward the assistance? Surely someone in Colorado could use snow shoveling this winter.

  32. Rhett, you’re forgetting that ALL OF THESE GUYS BELIEVE THEY ARE INVINCIBLE. And to go along with that, they will, of course last much longer than the median, statistics be damned.

  33. Rhett – IDK. Like you said about people saving for retirement, they’d have to believe the stats, first. If you make it to the NFL draft, you’re already someone who’s spent a lifetime exceptionally outperforming the odds. Of those who are buying Ferraris, what are the chances that you can convince them that at *THIS* point they are finally going to be merely average?

    Even the guy featured in the article…I’d probably tell him that if he wants to get his wife a Denali, find a used one. Those things are expensive!

    I’d be happy to buy his ’07 Tahoe in a few years for towing.

    When I was saying how I think used car prices have come back down to reality, it looks like I have some evidence that would lead to that effect based on record U.S. auto sales for 2015.

  34. Would you entrust your kids to the care of someone who was being forced into it by the government? I wouldn’t. Picking up trash and cleaning buildings takes jobs away from people trying to earn money. Periodically we get approached by people who need to do community service. There’s not much we can offer at the church, and I know the library has got kind of fed up with those requests too, because conscripted volunteers need constant supervision and do a crap job. Community service sounds great but it takes a lot of paid employees to train, supervise, enforce, etc.

  35. wasn’t it Jesus who did the whole bit on “give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.”?

    No. That was Maimonides the 12th century Jewish philosopher.

  36. In I Timothy 5, Paul instructs the believers to take care of *widows* who are “really” in need. That’s the clearest instruction to practice discernment that I can recall.

  37. RMS, it’s too bad you can’t pair up the unemployed grown kids with the needy elderly. Have them chauffeur to the doctor appointments, mow and rake the lawn, shovel the snow….

    It would be a good premise for a Hallmark original movie, too: the heartwarming story of a lost millennial and his crotchety neighbor who teaches him what is important in life and helps him finish college and get a job….

  38. RMS, I think a church is in a much better position to attach strings to what they give to the poor than the government, especially at your level, when you can make decisions on a case by case basis.

    WRT the families that have several grown sons just sitting around failing to get even minimal jobs, my thought would be to ask them why those sons don’t have jobs. Perhaps the best help for them would be help in getting jobs, rather than enabling their continued unemployment. You can tailor your charitability as appropriate.

  39. An excellent book on this is Marvin Olasky’s “The Tragedy of American Compassion”. It chronicles private and public efforts to do charity/welfare over our country’s history– and the ideological influences in the background. (As an aside, the book was also a/the chief catalyst for the welfare reforms in 1996.)

    Along the same lines, the history of “fraternal societies” in this realm is fascinating. There’s not much of a literature on it, but I became acquainted to the concept through David Beito’s book. (My review of the book is here: http://www.acton.org/pub/religion-liberty/volume-11-number-1/fraternal-societies-and-social-concern.)

  40. Sky,

    I’d go with something like the Homer:

    With an entire separate rear compartment for the kids.

  41. Sky – It could certainly be made again. Gran Torino was just the first example that came to mind.

    I’m in awe of the Detroit Lions player Finn linked to.

  42. PTM – I don’t know if you’re around today, but just thought of you. I ran into a mom at work who I knew from back when my son was in montessori. Her older child was diagnosed with learning disabilities, and the completely insensitive counselor at the elementary school told her and her husband that her son probably would never learn to read. She told me today that he is a junior in college. They selected a college with a Partners in Learning program that provides support to students with learning difficulties. He’s majoring in secondary education with a concentration in science, which has always been his favorite subject. His plan is to be a middle school or high school science teacher in a catholic school. She said there have certainly been difficulties over the years, but he learned how to work hard, and he understands where he needs extra help. He actually tutors other students in science while he’s at school. It made me so happy to hear because they are wonderful people, and I wanted to share.

  43. Thanks, MBT. Really.

    It’s funny. I have such confidence in my son and what he will do.

  44. Houston, one more completely off topic comment from the same old friend I ran into. They purchased the Texas Tomorrow Fund for their high school junior when he was 18 months old. They paid $15k in a lump sum, and that will cover 4 years tuition at any state university. At that time we discussed it, but I was certain we would not still be living Texas by the time mine got to be college age. Did you ever consider that?

  45. No. We made the (poor) decision not to invest in the TTF when our children were young. That said, the majority of colleges that are on DS’s list are outside the state.

    Also, I thought it would be a good idea to encourage the kids to go to college out of state to “develop some independence and experience another part of the country.” I did this, and it was just a given back then. Then tuition skyrocketed and in-state tuition started looking really attractive.

  46. “Would you entrust your kids to the care of someone who was being forced into it by the government? ” I’m sure a lot of them are doing it already. Maybe a little training and oversight – could be a win/win.

  47. We did the Texas Tomorrow Fund, we did the lump sum for the 4 year state school plan. Four years at a Tier 1 costs roughly 2.5 times what we paid. It also pays if you go to private or out of state, but pay 100%, but you will get more $$ out than you paid in.

  48. “They may want to raise their own children, rather than sending them to daycare”

    this pisses me off, just because I work doesn’t mean I am not involved in raising my child

    A good friend of mine (really) told me she stopped working after having her first so she could be “the mom”. Funny, I am also “the mom” to my two boys despite my job. I know what she intended to say but it came out really awkwardly. When her husband was laid off, she did not go back to work or look for work because they deal was that working was his contribution to the family. Fortunately he eventually found a good job. It’s a completely foreign mindset to me.

  49. From the book’s description:
    Instead of frustration, depravation, backsliding, guilt, and a lack of results

    But I like being depraved.

  50. “They may want to raise their own children, rather than sending them to daycare”

    @Another Twin and Wine – the converse is the idea that Stay at Home Moms don’t “work”. Two sides of the same coin. Doesn’t bother me but it does bother some.

  51. Wine – if someone on the blog wrote this book, it would be called “The Dessert Tomato”…

    On paper, I like the idea of what Worcester is doing. That’s if the programs actually work. I think the idea of working with people to help them out of ruts is better than saying “get a job, you bum”. I do like Sky’s idea though – and with proper oversight (at least initially), this could be a great thing. Didn’t some group somewhere put a daycare in a nursing home? Same concept, in reverse. I remember it working – and it would because it gives people jobs and direction in life. I’ve always had the notion that if people felt needed, like they had a purpose, they would continue to move forward.

    On the daycare thing – I’ve never felt like a mom because, really, my mom spends more awake time with my kid than I do. I just keep the roof over our heads and DH keeps us in health insurance. I’m sure my thoughts will change when he actually says “ma” and means me, not the dog. I did have a friend who once told me to not have kids because I said “I don’t want to be just a mom. I want to be Rhode too.”… later, she apologized for that statement – she finally got it, after having her daughter. She realized that she was herself, and a new part of herself was “mom”.

  52. I have mixed feelings about this because I think people should try to get back to work, but I know how challenging it can be at a certain age even when you can afford child care, and have a solid education. There was recently an article published by the St Louis Fed office about how difficult it can be for older women to find work.
    https://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/economic-synopses/2015/11/06/age-and-gender-differences-in-long-term-unemployment-before-and-after-the-great-recession/

    Also, there are challenges for people that are caring for young kids or elderly parents if they don’t have the support system to get help while their in training or looking for a job.

    On the other hand, if there are able bodied, younger people without the responsibility of caring for others….then I agree that they should try to get them re trained for some kind of work.

  53. Regarding community service – OK, I get let’s not displace those who are trying to find/keep paid employment. However, some who are receiving benefits have kids and are essentially SAHP. My friend is a teacher in a school with a fairly large percentage of students in pubic housing. She says these parents RARELY volunteer for anything at school. She understands not volunteering to bring food or supplies or fulfill other requests that require the outlay of money as they my not have the it. But, she says they also don’t volunteer to do those things that just take a little time such as making copies or hanging the kids art on the wall or putting worksheets on the kids desks for the next day (basically passing out papers after school). These are things the schools already rely on volunteers for.

  54. “They may want to raise their own children, rather than sending them to daycare”
    I’ve noticed recently, in the articles we’ve discussed that have to do with poverty and single motherhood, this trend of re-branding single mothers on assistance as stay at home parents.

  55. I don’t like the expectation that parents are supposed to volunteer at schools. This puts a lot of pressure on parents in early grades and contributes to needless anxiety among women. I do my job as a parent – make sure that my kids are fed, rested, enforce discipline at home and respect at school. I shouldn’t have to come to school and do what amounts to be another job.

  56. I have no problem with incentivizing people to improve their lives. But at the same time, if you evict a family where a parent can’t or won’t step up, you’re also punishing those children. The idea that because so far they haven’t had to evict anyone, that means every single family will answer to having a counselor to provide state-sanctioned “parenting” later in life just sounds ridiculous. What’s the reasonable plan B for people who find they aren’t able to get hired again? For someone who hits one of those multi-month rough patches (depression, child/parent illness, bad relationship, whatever) right when someone else has decreed that this is your set of months to step up or move out? This has been some of the issues with welfare reform. Even unlicensed childcare in much of CA costs $350-500 a week per kid. If you have more than one child, you can easily owe more in child care costs than you would earn at minimum wage. This also does nothing to address the issues if the jobs you qualify for don’t actually work on a daycare schedule. (Anything swing shift or night shift, etc.) I hope it helps a lot of people, but predominantly it seems driven by the big stick attached.

  57. I will never understand why teachers can’t hang up pictures they select as meritorious, or why the school secretary can’t put copies in proper boxes. In my son’s school, the Mother’s who are the good and right mothers, demand that they be given assignments. In all seriousness, the Director (headmistress?) has her hands full fending them off.

    I have suggested that she have the Mothers paint the flagpole and re-roof the all purpose room.

  58. “I have no problem with incentivizing people to improve their lives. But at the same time, if you evict a family where a parent can’t or won’t step up, you’re also punishing those children.”

    But if you subsidize the families whose parents can’t or won’t step up, what are you teaching those kids?

  59. ITA with Louise on the school volunteer issue. For some parents (moms), it does become an unpaid job. If that works for the parents, the school, and the kids, that’s great. But other parents should not be pressured to provide unpaid labor.
    Teachers really need volunteers to help chaperone some field trips, and for other special events such as field dats for younger kids, but I agree with PTM that having parents come in to make copies (which will require office staff to provide OIT help) is a stretch. There were 4 room moms in the kindergarten because so many totebag moms wanted the job.

  60. “But if you subsidize the families whose parents can’t or won’t step up, what are you teaching those kids?”

    That even if their parents screw up, the rest of society thinks they deserve to have a roof over their heads and some sort of chance in life.

  61. Scarlett, as I have recounted on here before, the school has to really work to not include Mothers on field trips. One time, they hired a van to trail the school bus to Jungle Island. They came with picnic baskets. The teachers were pissed because the event was turned into a photo opp for all the Mothers. (Now, they don’t announce where the field trips are until the afternoon before.)

  62. I volunteered to help out at the kindergarten classroom holiday party. Apparently I “won” the lottery, because they only wanted 2 parent volunteers, and I responded fast enough to be one of them. I think this is hilarious, and I warned my daughter that I probably will not be at other classroom celebrations during the year. (We have all been warned that priority for future chaperoning opportunities would be given to parents who had not yet had the chance!) So yes. Everything said above about volunteering.

  63. Our schools no longer allow parents inside the building unless they are attending a conference, PTA meeting, or class event, and you have to be pre-cleared by the teacher to get in for those.

    As a result, there are a lot of parents who want to volunteer for field trips and class events.

    There is less pressure on the working parents because you can really only get permission to do one or two things each year whether you work or not, but I don’t think it’s good for parent-teacher communication at all.

  64. i have very mixed feelings on the program in the original article. I don’t like that part about people being put out of their homes for noncompliance, but I like the motivation behind the program. For my inlaw branch I frequently mention, the younger generation could certainly use someone to help them figure out what steps to take to break out. Their parents, who have each struggled because of dropping out, did not force their girls to finish high school. Only 1 of the 3 graduated, and unsurprisingly the dropouts are really struggling. They don’t have any one to help them figure out even the most basic issues with managing life. Their father was encouraging one of the girls to attend a culinary program at a for-profit school to be a “government certified” cook at a cost of $38k, when the same program was available at a vo-tech for $2k. Consistent guidance, accurate info, support and encouragement would go a long way. But if depression or other medical issues interfered, I would not want to see them on the street.

  65. These discussions seem to come to one question.
    What should a guaranteed minimum income (including via Section 8, WIC, Medicaid, etc.) not include? If the basics (food, shelter, electricity/heat/AC, water, sewer, medical care) are provided, is it OK that some people have a preference for leisure? Is there any limit on how many people, as a percentage of the population, can have a preference for leisure?

    When I compare life as a Section 8 resident to life as a cook on an air craft carrier, life as a Section 8 resident seems more appealing.

  66. Is there any limit on how many people, as a percentage of the population, can have a preference for leisure?

    That’s a technological question. Ultimately, there will be no limit to that percentage.

  67. This is a key reason why time limits are so important to welfare policy. Under welfare pre-1996, benefits were largely indiscriminate and indefinite. This exacerbated the inherent problems in trying to render charity and esp. impersonal govt welfare. If there are time limits, at least people have to think about life post-welfare– and adjust accordingly.

  68. @PTM – for field trips here Dad’s are encouraged to chaperone. That has made DH go as a chaperone. However, there ended up being so many parents that DH had DS and only one other kid in his charge.

  69. “However, there ended up being so many parents that DH had DS and only one other kid in his charge.”

    That was the case for me on a zoo trip; in fact, I paired up with another Dad I was already friends, and, besides our own respective children, we had one additional child between us.

  70. My experience chaperoning first graders at the zoo was that a 2:1 adult/child ratio was not too many adults. Especially when you end up with that child who WILL NOT stop for more than 10 seconds to see anything. That was also my experience taking my own kids to the zoo when they were small. The Baltimore Aquarium was even worse. After my first solo visit with three mobile young boys, I made them wear their tie-dyed T-shirts on subsequent visits so that I could spot the strays. (At the time my SIL arranged the tie-dying project on a rainy beach vacation day, I thought the shirts would never be worn. I was wrong.)

  71. Scarlett – I like that idea! It’s better than those backpacks with leashes attached… :)

  72. The Totebaggy schools should simply establish a policy wherein eager-beaver parents earn classroom or field trip involvement privileges by volunteering at any OTHER school within a 30-mile radius that is under-resourced. One hour for one hour.

  73. Our totebaggy district needs more volunteers because parents are busy. They are willing to volunteer in grades k -2, and for class trips. It is like pulling teeth to get volunteers for other events. For example, even formerly popular events like the elementary school book fair didn’t have enough volunteers this year. I went in for a couple of mornings because they had to reach out to middle school parents since they couldn’t get enough volunteers.

    It was even necessary to pull favors to get enough class parents this year because their just weren’t enough volunteers in the older grades ( 3 and 4) for some of the classes. This is just two parents per class.

    I’ve shared that I am sit on a board that is a collective group of five local micro districts, and the other districts have similar problems with a shortage of volunteers.

    I even see it with local volunteers for sports teams; the local AYSO had to beg for people to come paint lines or coach some teams this year. I am just tired of seeing the same 10% of the population in my town volunteer in the schools, little league, soccer, rec basketball, etc. It is the same families over, and over and over again. I totally understand that people are super busy, but even when I was out of the house 80+ hours a week, I managed to run an AYSO division remotely by spreadsheet. If you want your kid to participate in volunteer run sports, then at least show up once a year to paint some lines even if you don’t have the time to coach.

  74. Lauren, I’m surprised to hear about your district and others. Back when my kids were in school, it seemed there were always many parents willing to volunteer. Class trip spots were chosen by lottery or similar, of course. And even for other volunteer spots there were usually more than enough parents . However, I do remember:

    1. Parents generally eschewed leadership roles, probably because of logistical headaches and politics. They overwhelmingly preferred being ON a committee rather than CHAIRING a committee. Same with PTA executive positions.

    2. Our schools generally did not want parents in the classrooms much. Opportunities to help out with paperwork administration., reading, or similar tasks did not pop up very often. I think it’s partly due union resistance to volunteers taking over their jobs since I’ve seen this actually play out in a couple of instances.

    3. After elementary school in particular, the schools and PTAs seemed mainly to want parents to bake cupcakes or raise money but otherwise stay out of their way. Parents did not seem particularly welcome to participate in any meaningful way in “partnering” with their children’s schools.

  75. I think it is a combination of things about the shortage of volunteers. People are really busy now, and there are fewer full time SAHPs. The cost to live in these communities is high, and I definitely see a generational shift with more people working.

    As for the schools, our district is similar to Sky after Newtown. The unions do want to protect jobs, but the schools definitely have stricter policies about access to classrooms and kids. The local police said it doesn’t make sense to just have free access to these buildings with young children because you don’t really know the backgrounds of the parents unless you do formal background checks. My friends do that in California, and they have to pay each year to get a background check done if they are going to volunteer in classrooms in the schools. Their schools actually need parents in the elementary school buildings to help because they have no cafeterias, and no money for full time art, music or library teachers. This is in the San Mateo school district, but there is still a shortage of funds for any extras.

  76. Lauren, I year you on the “10%”. Having run our Little League for 3 years (akin to having another full time job in case any of you are thinking about stepping up to that level of commitment), that’s what I noticed. But I also noticed it when DW and I were very involved with our grad school alumni group…that was pre-kids. Some people are very committed to one thing; some seem to have the bandwith to be involved with lots of things; others just want to pay the fee and drop their kids off at the practice or the game. Only when even minimal family involvement is required for the kid(s) to participate will you get close to universal “volunteering.”

    At the Little League we discussed the idea of tiered pricing e.g. $x if you step up, $2x if you want to be the drop off parent, and concluded that if we take the $ (1) we’d need to answer too many questions and (2) in our demographic 2x would be a small enough premium that at least some of our genuine volunteers might decide it was worth it just to pay and be able to walk away.

  77. I don’t think the over-eager mothers are going to be happy being shipped off to a school where Snowflake and Quinoa are not in attendance.

  78. At the school my kid attends the middle school buildings are like fortresses compared to the elementary school. At that level, parental involvelment means getting your kid to behave at school. Academics yes, but behavior is their # 1 concern.

  79. “At the Little League we discussed the idea of tiered pricing ”

    Our swim club went to this model a couple years ago when the modest annual dues were forcing the Board to draw money from savings to pay for some maintenance. You could pay $100 extra or “volunteer” 10 hours of labor during a few scheduled clean-up or work days. Our area has a lot of families with a SAHP, and our pool in particular is a popular summer option for many very religious families on a tight budget with many children, so I know quite a few chose the volunteer option.

  80. On topic, I repeat that housing is not the same as other forms of assistance. Plenty of people who use Section 8 certificates or live in mixed use or quality public housing are also employed. If the economy needs local people to fill face to face jobs for which a reasonable market wage is too low to participate in the local housing market, it is necessary for someone to subsidize that housing.

  81. On topic, I just heard the director of a homeless shelter complain about NY Gov. Cuomo’s new directive that homeless people must be forced into shelters when the temperature dips below 32 degrees. Because shelters will be forced to accept everyone without requiring drug testing, shelters like his will become dangerous and unappealing to those who seek shelter and who are trying to get their lives back together.

  82. “homeless people must be forced into shelters”

    It seems like a civil liberties issue. They should just ignore the directive.

  83. It seems like a civil liberties issue.

    Should the cops bring in a little old lady with dementia who is wandering down the street in the middle of the winter in her nightgown? Even if she doesn’t want to go with them?

  84. Rhett – I’m not familiar with the legal protocols for handling those who are clearly mentally ill. However, just because the temperature drops below freezing doesn’t mean that individual citizens forfeit the right to be outdoors.

  85. Here we have a number of seemingly able bodied men who wander around the downtown area. Some politely ask for money, others sit around. They don’t appear to have a drug or alcohol issue. I have seen some regulars now for eight years. The office workers acknowledge them with a nod of the head every day.

  86. The issue about homeless people is a big deal because you don’t know if they’re also mentally ill. The other night a homeless person stayed in a McDonalds for almost 8 hours in NYC. This McDonalds is right next to a police precinct and cops are in there all of the time. The manager finally asked the guy to leave when he was going off shift, and the guy stabbed and killed him.

    Many of my neighbors know they guy’s mother because she works in a hospital in Yonkers. He was a just a decent guy working the overnight shift so he could start to work his way up the management chain. The homeless problem was huge was I was a kid in NY, and I see homeless people on the subway at least once or twice a week. I don’t think the solution is to just force them into shelters, but it also isn’t right to just allow them to live in public places on a permanent basis.

  87. However, just because the temperature drops below freezing doesn’t mean that individual citizens forfeit the right to be outdoors.

    Properly worded vagrancy laws are constitutional.

  88. “even when I was out of the house 80+ hours a week, I managed to run an AYSO division remotely by spreadsheet. If you want your kid to participate in volunteer run sports, then at least show up once a year to paint some lines even if you don’t have the time to coach.”

    1. Umm, I have never been out of the house for 80 hours a week, and I still couldn’t have done that. Got as much as my temperament can take with job and kids and husband. Also why I expressly rejected the idea of moving to NY for the big bucks — not cut out for that always-busy lifestyle.

    2. I pay for this [stuff]. I will donate money and attend events in two circumstances: (1) to support things that are free where I know the budget is insufficient to sustain them (e.g., school events/PTA, to cover the “extras” that have been cut from the state budget); and (2) things where the “volunteer” expectations are both reasonable and clearly laid out in the sign-up docs (e.g., DD’ softball league requires 1 parental morning running the snack shack during games; DS’ after-school club requires 1 parental afternoon shepherding kids per semester).

    The problem is this fluffy “it’s a volunteer thing/it’s a business” model, with fees set at some low level + unstated/unquantified expectations of free labor to keep those fees low. IMO, if you’re charging people $, then you’re running a business. So treat it like a business and set your fees at a level that covers all of the costs of running that business. If it would cost more to hire out some jobs, then give people the choice to pay the difference or do X themselves; or do like colleges and jack up the price even more so people who can afford it can subsidize people who can’t. But if you are charging me money for my kid to participate, and then after I’ve signed up you are constantly sending emails for help with XYZ, that’s a bait and switch, and it pisses me off.

  89. “On topic, I repeat that housing is not the same as other forms of assistance. Plenty of people who use Section 8 certificates or live in mixed use or quality public housing are also employed. If the economy needs local people to fill face to face jobs for which a reasonable market wage is too low to participate in the local housing market, it is necessary for someone to subsidize that housing.”

    This is the root of the local housing conflict. Housing prices have more than doubled in inflation-adjusted terms while wages have declined slightly in inflation-adjusted terms over the past 25 years.

  90. It’s interesting that people are generally cool with food vouchers and housing vouchers, but not so cool with educational vouchers.

  91. “IMO, if you’re charging people $, then you’re running a business. So treat it like a business and set your fees at a level that covers all of the costs of running that business. If it would cost more to hire out some jobs, then give people the choice to pay the difference or do X themselves; or do like colleges and jack up the price even more so people who can afford it can subsidize people who can’t. But if you are charging me money for my kid to participate, and then after I’ve signed up you are constantly sending emails for help with XYZ, that’s a bait and switch, and it pisses me off.”

    That in a nutshell is the discussion we at the LL Board. We were running a business with participant, sponsor revenues and donations of ~$200k/yr, and expenses for field maintenance, uniforms, umpires, equipment (playing and maintenance), insurance, subsidy for those who could not afford even our fairly modest fees, etc. We ultimately did not want to have to source, hire and manage paid coaches and felt we had more leverage to ask people to devote some of their time to the League if we kept the single tier / low cost model. We certainly did not want to get into the college game of charging higher rates and then needing to create a “financial aid office(r)” to somehow make the net average price to all participants roughtly equal to what it was under the low-cost model.

  92. “If the economy needs local people to fill face to face jobs for which a reasonable market wage is too low to participate in the local housing market, it is necessary for someone to subsidize that housing.”

    It’s easy to think of the subsidized housing problem as an urban-only issue, but to Meme’s and WCE’s point, I know in e.g. Telluride, CO where I doubt there is any subsidized housing and if there were the costs wouldn’t be affordable enough anyway, teachers for instance end up living 15 miles away in Placerville at the closest. I’m sure that’s the same in other resort-type areas.

  93. Yeah, when we were in Aspen I read an article in a local paper about how many people had to commute in from 15 to 30 miles away. Of course people easily commute that far in urban areas, but I suppose with a small town it feels more like you should be able to live where you work.

    I would prefer to be the parent who just writes a check and drops the kids off, but there are volunteer expectations for stuff my kids do so we make sure we do our part.

  94. I commute 10 miles because a family home near me is $300k vs. $500k closer to work. The time to commute is ~15 vs 18 minutes, due to traffic. Many (most?) middle class families would rather commute than live in multifamily housing, which is the “affordable” option in the university town. At some commute length, we would make a different choice.

  95. “Of course people easily commute that far in urban areas, but I suppose with a small town it feels more like you should be able to live where you work.”

    Exactly. To pick an example: If you work near Aloha Stadium and live near Kahala Mall that’s 13-14 miles, but except for some local distinctions people will probably think they are part of Honolulu. Those who work live in Placerville, CO and work in Telluride, roughly the same distance, know there is a big distinction. And also probably the residents of Telluride won’t let them forget it.

  96. Many people in low wage jobs don’t have reliable private transportation, or can’t afford to park near their jobs in urban areas. The suburban malls and other labor intensive lower wage businesses run special vans to transport employees because bus service is either unavailable or does not start early enough or end late enough. And the winter woes of the aging public transit system in Boston area bringing workers into or across the city were the final straw in retracting the Olympics bid. Not all ten mile commutes are the same. I live ten miles in opposite directions from my last two jobs. One commute into the city was 45 min to an hour plus by car or public transit. The other, car only, was 20 min, 30 at the height of rush hour.

  97. “These discussions seem to come to one question.”

    OK, but you follow this with three questions. Sorry, I could not let that pass.

    “What should a guaranteed minimum income (including via Section 8, WIC, Medicaid, etc.) not include?”

    It definitely should not include fertility treatment. IMO, it should be a bare minimum, and should not include things like cable TV. Once again, Milo’s story about taking food to the family with the bigger TV than theirs comes to mind.

    ” If the basics (food, shelter, electricity/heat/AC, water, sewer, medical care) are provided, is it OK that some people have a preference for leisure?”

    The preference is OK with me, but acting on that preference at the expense of others is not. Part of the problem, IMO, is the stepwise nature of some benefits that can lead to very small or even negative net increases to disposable income with increased earning.

    “Is there any limit on how many people, as a percentage of the population, can have a preference for leisure?”

    Well, everyone can have that preference, but if everyone tries to act on it by leeching off of others, then the model obviously falls apart.

  98. “And the winter woes of the aging public transit system in Boston area bringing workers into or across the city were the final straw in retracting the Olympics bid.”

    This surprised me, considering it was a bid for the summer games.

  99. I didn’t realize Boston public transit was bad. I remember getting on a bus at Logan that drove for a while before stopping and hooking up to an electrical line (overhead?) before proceeding to the subway station. That was cool, but maybe they sacrificed a certain amount of coverage in exchange for green cred?

  100. The MBTA is not bad most of the time, but the previous winter exposed how aging the infrastructure is. To support the massive amount of riders generated by three weeks of the Olympics, including additional rail service on the lines shared with Amtrak, the lines would need expansion and overhaul at a cost that the region cannot bear. the above ground lines simply couldn’t run in the snow and cold, and the busses were hampered by snow clean up. So people, especially low wage hourly workers, couldn’t get to work even if they had cars because there was no place to park. For the knowledge workers it was a non event other than school closings, because power and internet was mostly unaffected and everyone worked from home.

  101. I don’t know if anyone is still reading this thread. The issue with the housing in the resort towns in Colorado isn’t that commutes are 15 miles, it’s that they can be 50 miles. And it’s not just the teachers who are making something of a living wage, it’s all the resort staff who are making $12 an hour or whatever.

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