Families on disability

by MooshiMooshi

This article is about the rise of families living on disability benefits in rural areas, often several generations all on disability. I noticed in the article they say that the rise began in 1996. Isn’t that about the period that welfare reform was passed? Is it possible that welfare reform simply resulted in people moving to disability benefits? And why so concentrated in rural areas in the South? Perhaps because there are so few other safety net options in those areas? One might imagine that rural work is more dangerous, but at least with this family, the disabilities don’t seem to be related to rural work.

Sadly, I knew people like this back in my day, and there is one branch of my own family that would probably, if profiled, seem very similar. But, it just seems like there are more of them now.

Generations, disabled

One other thing – I know this is the difference between being a Totebagger and being a rural disability case, but I never saw ADHD as an excuse to do badly, the way this family does. We expect success from our ADHD kids, and the supports – the medication, the 504 plans, etc, are there to help them achieve success.

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186 thoughts on “Families on disability

  1. Well that is incredibly sad for those children. DH and I listened to “Hillbilly Elegy” on our way to Pittsburgh last weekend which seems to tie into this article. It seems like the basic problems are children without fathers, mothers overwhelmed by multiple children who refuse to parent their children and act like grown ups and so they medicate their children with drugs/televisions/video games/bad food because it seems easier in the short term. I don’t know what the answer is because it does seem cultural. The fixes are simple but not easy. What started as poverty due to lack of jobs in previous generations seems to have blossomed into young adults who don’t want to work or go to school because they know zero adults in their lives that do those things.

  2. I once worked for an agency that processed disability claims. It was common to find people, who had worked for years with a disability when the economy was good and they could find jobs that paid enough to support them/their families. But, when jobs became harder to find and/or the pay for what was available did not allow them to make ends meet, they applied for unemployment and, when that and other safety net programs have been exhausted, apply for disability. The reason they didn’t apply sooner was that the disability benefits were lower than what they could earn working and receiving benefits has strings attached about the type and amount of work you can do as well as the amount you can earn.

    To some degree, your level of education is related to the level of physical work you do. And, the more physical the work you do is, the greater the likelihood you will be disabled on the job. The increase in reviews is partly due to a large number of people who qualify because of a temporary disability to ensure those people are not staying on benefits longer than necessary.

  3. Well, that’s one of the most depressing articles I’ve ever read.

    I think it’s a vicious cycle. IME, dealing with a kid who is “out there” (in my case, ADHD) requires a lot of parental involvement — not just specific parenting skills, but the ability/desire to learn about different parenting skills/approaches that may work better to keep the kid on track. And it’s freaking exhausting, even if you have the resources, because you need to do that consistent parenting 24/7. So when you have parents/grandparents with their own challenges, they can’t do the kind of things that the kids need — and in fact they don’t want to, because the incentive is to get the diagnosis to keep the checks coming, and minimizing symptoms/finding a “cure” is the worst outcome because the checks go away. All of which basically ensures that the kids don’t get the help they need to manage their disabilities and become productive members of society.

    What I don’t understand is how do kids get $500/mo in cash for disability? They are not working jobs, so there’s no lost income to replace. I can understand covering doctors’ visits, therapists, medication, etc., but wouldn’t/shouldn’t that be covered by Medicaid? Just cutting a check and leaving it to the family to use that money to “cure” the kids seems like it’s part of the problem.

  4. Laura – children in a family where the adults are already on disability can qualify for an additional payment to cover incidental costs of their care. If the adults have sufficient income then no, of course. And if you grew up as a child on disability, you don’t have to have your own work history to keep it for the rest of your life. That was intended to cover the day to day costs of caring for seriously physically or intellectually disabled children. They do get Medicaid, as well. Think of the cost of adult diapers or constant laundry or gas to get them to frequent medical visits or paying a respite caregiver if you have to do something with another child. I am sure truly disabled kids incur a LOT of non medical costs. In the case of the profiled family, yes it appears to be a way of life and that the supplemental funds don’t go to helping the kids, but of course the government has cut them off because the kids appear to function at the low level of normal and not truly disabled.

  5. From Social Security –

    Your child, if younger than age 18, can qualify if he or she has a physical
    or mental condition, or combination of conditions, that meets Social Security’s definition of disability for children, and if his or her income and resources fall within the eligibility limits.

    We consider your child’s income and resources when deciding if your child is eligible for SSI. We also consider the income and resources of family members living in the child’s household. These
    rules apply if your child lives at home.

    Your child must meet all of the following requirements to be considered disabled and, therefore, eligible for SSI:
    • The child must not be working or earning more than $1,170 a month in 2017. (This earnings amount usually changes every year.)
    • The child must have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions, that result in “marked and severe functional limitations.” This means that the condition(s) must very seriously limit your child’s activities.
    • The child’s condition(s) must have been disabling, or be expected to be disabling, for at least 12 months; or the condition(s) must be expected to result in death.

    LfB – I think there is the assumption that if you have a child with a significant disability, you likely have more expenses from things like additional attendant care (some kids must have 24 hour supervision) to additional personal care items (diapers for a child that cannot be potty trained) to more costly transportation that might not be covered by health care (medicaid).

  6. Rhett – I would almost be in favor of that if it would get people to stop using their kids for financial gain and letting them have a chance at a real life.

  7. Meme/Temp Handle — Thanks for the clarifications, that makes a lot more sense.

  8. AM,

    I’m not sure that’s possible but we could at least remove the incentive to keep them disabled.

  9. This article illustrates a culture of dependence, and a system that is not designed to help end the entitlement of dependence. I hurt for those kids. As someone else noted, when our kids have those challenges, we work on our parenting and provide support. We advocate for our kids in school. We find the support that works to get our child to a place of success. These kids don’t have that support, and the “system” (school, social workers, etc) isn’t designed to fill the gap where the parent isn’t doing the basic parenting and teaching their kids that they have value and the ability to succeed. It is messed up that the kid can be used as a source of income, though I also don’t know how to draw the line because, as someone that is fiscal conservative and socially liberal, I believe that part of the safety net we provide as a society should support the truly disabled. Thanks for posting this article. I wish our “esteemed” legislators would stop fighting and sticking to the “principle” of their ideology, talk to each other (not at each other) and find a solution to real problems like these. The long-term answer should not be more long-term welfare (disability, Medicaid, food stamps, etc) but it should focus on putting these kids in a position to be contributing members of society, capable of making a living that supports them better than a disability check. Those conversations are messy and hard and a child should not be defined by the zip code in which they are born. What is the saying, give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. Teach these kids they have value and ability, help them learn to self-regulate, deliberately teach them the basic qualities needed for employment (I am talking personal qualities – showing up on time, can do attitude, etc – not “education”), establish in them a sense of self-worth, then they can care for themselves. But, in the current set-up, where they are a commodity where a diagnosis means income and “overcoming the disability” means a loss of income, there is no incentive to set them up for success, which is what they need and what our country needs for them.

  10. Rhett – I just kept thinking that in some ways there being something wrong with those boys was in a way maybe a little self-fulfilling with their grandmother dragging them around for the sole purpose of them being diagnosed with something so she could get more money. It would be interesting to see what would happen if they lived in a functioning household, ate real food and played outside instead of playing video games inside. And the mess in that household gave me anxiety just looking at the pictures so I can’t imagine how depressing it would be to live there.

  11. It would be interesting to see what would happen if they lived in a functioning household, ate real food and played outside instead of playing video games inside.

    The adoption studies would say that not much would change. They would end up much more like their birth parents than their adoptive parents.

  12. What is your opinion on my hypothesis that the surge in people on disability is due to Clinton-era welfare reform? (not that welfare would have helped these people either, but maybe they at least wouldn’t have been trying to keep their kid “disabled”)

  13. My take as an adoptive mom, and as a bio mom…. Genetics play a profound role in our personalities and capabilities. This is as true for bio kids as adopted kids (and is why my oldest has the same problematic personality and disabilities as my sister, instead of being like me or my husband ). All 3 of my kids, bio and adopted, have very distinct personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. It is often hard to tell where some of the issues come from, and of course as a parent, I have to take each one as an individual and work with their specific personalities. But that is where a parent can do most good. How kids end up, I beleive, is due to years of interplay between the kids personalities and needs, and the parents personalities and ability to meet the kids needs.

    With my daughter, I have no idea of I am being a better parent to her than her bio parents, who may have been more like her, would have been, They are not there, so we can never know. But certainly what she is now, and what she will become, will be an outcome of both her genetics and our family’s interactions with her.

  14. I also am not a huge fan of removing kids from families unless things are dire. We do not put nearly enough effort into supporting families so they can improve. It isn’t just money. I would like to see more and better early education, but also community based initiatives like parenting collectives, where at risk parents can meet and support each other and learn new ways. They do this in some European countries. It can’t just be a small effort though, or something that happens once a month or “classes” where someone from outside the community lectures at the families.

  15. I am just so sad for the kids. In the home country where there is no government safety net, the only help you may get is from family.
    Family will provide food, shelter and clothing but anything above that one has to work for.
    A functional family environment is very important for kids. This cannot be substituted by teachers, social workers, doctors, therapists. These professionals are additional for more support not in place of a family.

  16. “I also am not a huge fan of removing kids from families unless things are dire.”

    ITA. I think family is hugely important and it’s more beneficial to try to get the family functioning than to take kids away from the only home they’ve every known. I just want to take the electronics away from this woman, clean her house, give the kids a swing set and teach her to garden and cook.

  17. The problem with taking kids away is that it adds a huge trauma on top of trauma. Plus, the foster care system is rife with abuses – many of those families are worse than the original family.

    Yes to Atanta Mom’s suggestion – teach the mom some skills, including how to clean and keep kids away from electronics. But it isn’t a one shot thing. It is going to be long and expensive. That is why I like the idea of building small collectives of parents who work with each other. And anything we do will be expensive – it is expensive to house people in prison too, which could be the outcome for these kids.

  18. I just looked up Jeannette Walls, who wrote The Glass Castle. A few years ago they wrote her up in the NYT Mag, and mom was living in a hoarder’s stinking cottage out back of the Virginia farm where the author and her husband now live. The family issues were different from the family profiled in the article – her father was a drunk and her mother was crazy, but they seem to have brought decent genes and I believe a higher social and education class to the marriage. They also moved around and were not embedded in a community of people who settled on dependency as the least objectionable way of life. The kids were isolated and got little community help while at home, but they all escaped one by one to NY city, of all places. One of the children is mentally ill but lives on her own in California, the others have middle class or better lives. They are survivors.

    I recall an article about urban ghetto kids who turned out to be survivors and thrivers and the fact that it was impossible to predict who would turn out that way. To some extent the Hillbilly Elegy guy is a survivor, although he himself did not grow up, IIRC, in an East Kentucky “holler”

  19. What is your opinion on my hypothesis that the surge in people on disability is due to Clinton-era welfare reform?

    I would agree. Which doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. At the time you had some on welfare who could, with the right combination of carrots and sticks, take care of themselves and you had those that couldn’t. Those that couldn’t’ were transitioned onto disability. Now we have a somewhat similar issue with SSI.

  20. This is so depressing. But I’m having lots of politically-incorrect thoughts. And I have nothing constructive to say other than yeah it’s a problem. But the best solution? I don’t have enough free gray-matter to ponder that thoughtfully.

  21. Today is a day I wish my Dad contributed to the Totebag- he has seen moderate levels of this dysfunctionality throughout his life and it definitely shapes his political opinions.

    As the mother of 8 year old twin boys, a toddler girl and a 10 year old, I will assert that the work necessary to keep children on track is more than most single mothers can do and certainly more than single mothers who suffer from mosaic Down Syndrome can do. Part of the problem is that the work of civilizing children is thankless, sometimes fruitless and often frustrating. It is not readily outsourcable.

    I disagree with Rhett’s take on adoption studies. I think helping (especially young) disadvantaged children perform “in the range of normal” is pretty doable in an adoptive family- nearly all the adoptive families I know have done it- but when I compare the adopted kids to the biological kids in the same family, Rhett’s statistical observation that the biological kids still have traits that track with those of their biological parents is correct.

    My Dad’s work friend who has raised a dozen kids, including four biological children who became veterinarians, is probably my best piece of anecdata on that point. His ~8 foster/adoptive kids do OK, but they are not veterinary school candidates.

  22. teach the mom some skills, including how to clean and keep kids away from electronics

    Does she not know how or she just doesn’t care*?

    * Keeping in mind how little control we have over what we care about.

  23. But I’m having lots of politically-incorrect thoughts.

    That Oliver Wendell Holmes was right?

  24. Yeah, everyone knows how to clean. We just don’t want to do it. That’s why Totebaggers outsource it.

  25. I haven’t read Glass Castle but we were talking about Hillbilly Elegy with our neighbors at dinner on Friday night and the wife mentioned that book. I’ll have to check it out from the library. I think the Hillbilly Elegy guy had some natural smarts and his grandmother/sister/an aunt and uncle gave him enough stability for him to get out. Even though his mother wasn’t an adult most of the time he had family members who played that role for him.

  26. I am old enough to remember the big debates over welfare reform. One of the big criticisms was that they were making welfare far more limited without having anything in place to help people who couldn’t cope. Of course, many people argued that once thrown off welfare, people would just find a way to cope. Well, they did – they discovered disability benefits!

  27. What is your opinion on my hypothesis that the surge in people on disability is due to Clinton-era welfare reform?

    That’s even a formally-held point of view among sociologists, although damned if I can find the article I was reading that talked about it.

  28. “‘It would be interesting to see what would happen if they lived in a functioning household, ate real food and played outside instead of playing video games inside.’

    The adoption studies would say that not much would change. They would end up much more like their birth parents than their adoptive parents.”

    This is one of those situations in which I disagree with this conclusion. My own experience with DD was that I couldn’t fundamentally improve her or change who she was, but boy could I screw her up — and the kind of parenting in that article is exactly the sort of thing that would have screwed her up.

    I think kids, on average, are pretty resilient, and there is a very wide band of parenting and socioeconomic situations in which kids, on average, can survive and become productive adults. But I think when you are talking about kids who are outside the range of “normal,” that band becomes a lot narrower. Look at autistic kids: there is a lot of evidence now that at least some number of autistic kids can significantly improve through intensive early intervention. They will probably always be autistic to some degree or other, but the ones who grow up in homes that have the resources and knowledge to provide that early intervention are, on average, going to end up more able to function in society than the ones who don’t — they will realize more of their “potential,” however you define that.

  29. And completely off topic, this happy-to-live-in-New-England grandmother is having a moment of doubt. It is 48 degrees and raining outside. It has been damp, cold and gray more often than not since the beginning of May. At least the reservoirs are full.

  30. What OWH got wrong was that Carrie Buck was of average intelligence. And she was raped. Not promiscuous. Basically OWH is just an a$$hole.

  31. Here’s another nasty article…

    To try to address the policy angles and their connection to other public policies…

    There is at least an indirect connection to 1996 in that the Clinton/GOP welfare reforms (based largely, BTW, on Olasky’s The Tragedy of American Compassion– a terrific book) moved policy to the states and encouraged state-based efforts to help in specific/helpful ways, encourage movement to training and the workforce, and so on. (In contrast, for its first three decades, the “War on Poverty” was a money-vomiting, federal program, with no finesse, no recognition of differences in poverty, etc.) Although 1996 changed “welfare as we knew it”, it left SSI’s “welfare” unchanged, as a federal, cash-spewing arrangement– thus, the common move from “welfare” to SSI. The Kristof article points to some particularly rough implications of this move– ironically, undermining effective state efforts.

    Two other problems: Long-term unemployment during the Great Recession led to a move from UI welfare benefits to SSI welfare benefits. And the ACA strongly incentivized part-time jobs, making it much more difficult for the poor to escape poverty through the workforce.

  32. I haven’t studied his particular proposal, although I deeply admire (at least most of) his work– and agree with many of his policy RX’s, so I’d default to yes if I needed to commit.

    UBI, as a broad concept, is certainly attractive as a potential replacement for the dog’s breakfast of policies we have now. (In that sense, it’s similar to the attractiveness of “single payer” for the poor and into the middle class– as a replacement for the current HC/HI system that is so strongly distorted by government subsidies, regulations, restrictions, etc.) If govt is going to be in the business of X, Y and Z, let’s try to do it as well as possible. UBI would be simpler, easier, less expensive, more obvious, and probably less damaging. Right now, few people understand that the typical marginal tax rate on the poor’s benefits is on average 80-90%. So, it’d be nice for people to have clarity on this, so we could have easier and more fruitful discussions about welfare policies and their inherent dilemmas/trade-offs.

  33. MM – I partially agree. I think that if people can find work that supports them/their families, they do not look to safety net programs. When they can’t, they start working their way through them until they are no longer eligible. IMO, the end of that road is disability.

    But, I think that the safety nets assume the person has the ability to cope with the situation and/or make logical decisions. For example, you see people who are on benefits because unemployment is so high where they live. So, why don’t they move to a lower unemployment area? Likely they don’t have the money to move, but also they may not have to skills to do a long-distance job search or even have skills that allows them to get a job that pays enough to support themselves. Life skills, job training, and relocation assistance would likely benefit people in this situation.

  34. Right now, few people understand that the typical marginal tax rate on the poor’s benefits is on average 80-90%.

    And in many cases well above 100%.

  35. Any family will struggle to meet the needs of a developmentally disabled child like Franny, but the grandmother in that family was simply not in the position to make it work, because of her own health, marital, and other life challenges. (I read the article last week and cannot recall if the reporter told us anything about the four husbands or other adult children that the grandmother may have raised.)

    Agree that children should be kept with family if possible, but a mother with significant cognitive impairments cannot be expected to raise a child, let alone four of them.

  36. In a real sense poor people voting against the current half baked welfare state are NOT voting against their self interest. They want real work and the ability to support themselves and their families. The problem in more remote areas is that there really isn’t much local work anymore, and factory work requires some facility with electronics and modern machinery or a grounding in the skilled trades. I don’t see any private sector or government solutions. The private sector responds to the marketplace – so the huge warehouse hubs in distressed areas of ten years ago are now being replaced by regional one day shipment sites, in part because there is no longer a sales/use tax advantage. I think that a single income support payment, perhaps partially in food vouchers, plus a base level of universal medical care and universal education, preferably administered by the individual states with federal inflows, is the best way to ensure more than air conditioning and TV to the least fortunate.

  37. I’m reading “Imbeciles” right now which has been fascinating to see all the pieces. And I fully understand Fred’s point about having politically incorrect thoughts/solutions. I was listening to a podcast last week (or perhaps the week before) where the guest had been molested by the “rich white” landlord. She finally brought it to her mother decades later to find out the mother knew and her basic comment (and I’m paraphrasing) was that was the “price” for their life that interviewee paid so the family could survive. That was it; end of discussion.

    From the interactions we have on this board, everyone here values their children. That is not the case for other individuals regardless of where they fall on the financial spectrum. Furthermore, as we always discuss, people have differing levels of cognitive ability. We’ve decided as a society, and I agree with that decision, that we cannot tell people if they can reproduce or not. We can only try and fix the issues after the fact or collectively ignore them until they interfere with our lives.

    Interestingly enough, on our local Next Door, someone just posted a volunteer opportunity, to be assigned a local family below the poverty line that helps end poverty – one family at a time – by focusing on doing things “with” not “for” those in need. These volunteers (or Allies as they are called) work directly with the head of an impoverished family in order work on skills necessary to move them out of poverty permanently. It is an eighteen month commitment and I just don’t have the bandwidth to take on but maybe I can in future years. Perhaps similar programs exist in others’ areas. I can imagine though one could get burned out. However, my assumption is that maybe those who have signed up for the program from the poverty sided have demonstrated motivation.

  38. I also found it interesting that this woman agreed to be interviewed by the WP. What’s the motivation? Because she wants to call attention to her plight?

  39. that we cannot tell people if they can reproduce or not.

    Is there a place for encouraging them to take steps to prevent pregnancy when it’s highly unlikely they will be able to care for a child, if they have one?

  40. Rhett, I am more willing to be coercive than other people. I would definitely support not only government funded IUD’s, I would support paying people to obtain them, with lesser payments for getting them checked/replaced on the medically recommended schedule or placed again after the birth of a child. I’m also a strong proponent of funding government research on male contraception and encouraging the FDA to accept risks associated with it. I would be delighted to see my taxes go to prevent unwanted pregnancies and don’t know why the Buffett Foundation hasn’t already tried such a thing.

    This is an even more important part of my political platform than letting liquid thru the TSA checkpoints.

  41. I love your hyper-rational proposals. As much as the world needs the the warm and fuzzy, ” teach the mom some skills, including how to clean and keep kids away from electronics.” It’s just not going work.

  42. As much as the world needs the the warm and fuzzy, ” teach the mom some skills, including how to clean and keep kids away from electronics.” It’s just not going work.

    I tend to agree.  The first problem is to teach them, and the second problem is to have the moms actually implement their skills.  And it goes on from there.

    Jeannette Walls, who wrote The Glass Castle … The family issues were different from the family profiled in the article – her father was a drunk and her mother was crazy, but they seem to have brought decent genes and I believe a higher social and education class to the marriage.

    In Unbroke Horses, Walls’ book about her grandmother’s fascinating life, it’s possible to gain additional insight into those “decent genes”.

    … urban ghetto kids who turned out to be survivors and thrivers and the fact that it was impossible to predict who would turn out that way.

    Here’s one statistic.  87 percent of poor smart kids escape poverty.

    Children born into a household in the bottom fifth (quintile) of the income distribution have a 39% chance of staying at the bottom as adults. … 

    The brightest teens have a good chance of making it to the top, even if they start at the bottom. High-skill adolescents in the bottom quintile have a 24% chance of making it to the top quintile, similar to the rates seen among high-skill students in the middle income quintiles.

  43. “I also found it interesting that this woman agreed to be interviewed by the WP. What’s the motivation? Because she wants to call attention to her plight?”

    I found myself wondering the same thing. WashPo can’t compensate them, right? And her neighbors are already telling her to “get a job”. I also found myself wondering if they voted for Trump, but then decided that the grandma probably didn’t vote.

    I also found myself thinking that they have absolutely NO business having multiple pets.

    The round up of the bills just killed me, along with the payday loans that weren’t even counted in that mess.

    There is a branch of my family that is not far from this, although they have veteran’s benefits available in some cases.

    Mostly, the article just made me depressed. Is there a policy that can really help this situation? Cutting off their SSI just hurts the kids and the truly disabled mother with mosiac Downs more. Is UBI a better solution? I just don’t know.

  44. I’ve always thought it would be interesting to try to live off of food stamps, WIC, and other government benefits, just to see how challenging it really is. I consider myself thrifty, but I wonder if I really could do it. In business school, one of my friends got on food stamps to feed his family and said “they had never eaten better.” They were from a very traditional and religious background where they had several kids already in their mid-20s (wife stayed at home). He felt it was OK as he planned for this to be the only brief time in his life where he would need these benefits.

  45. WCE said “. I would definitely support not only government funded IUD’s,”
    I suspect the Catholic Church would lobby very hard against this.

  46. “I would be delighted to see my taxes go to prevent unwanted pregnancies ”
    and isn’t that a lot of what Planned Parenthood does?

  47. Cooking every meal at home from scratch within a budget, particularly when there are cheap options to buy ready cooked meals requires discipline. Similarly with cleaning except you live in a dirty house or outsource. Just not fun (at least for me).
    If I had fewer people to cook for and plenty of time to prep and shop then it would be fun.

  48. Thanks, Rhett! Imbibe (magazine) also alerted me so I’ve had a couple of Negronis this week. Although we’re really getting more into Pimm’s weather.

    On the topic, I too remember seeing an article indicating that the rise in disability was chronologically correlated with the disappearance of traditional welfare, and I’d been looking to see if there was such a correlation because my husband and I had been speculating the same thing. So in a broad sense we never stopped sending those checks, but the shift to paying them out of SSI is significant.

  49. My mother was on disability when I was a child, and she needed the money because she was disabled in a major car accident when I was 7. She was divorced, but she was working at the time of the accident. She was unable to walk or drive for over six months, and she qualified for disability. She received the payments for several years because she was never physically able to do the same activities after the car accident. If I were a statistic, I could easily have fallen into a similar life because my background would have checked some of the same boxes as the people in the article. My mother never went to college, and her primary source of income was the disability payment. I was growing up in the Bronx. It was a decent part of the borough, but there was still poverty.

    A few things happened to break the cycle of poverty and disability in my case. The main reason that I didn’t follow my mother down the same path was family involvement and support. We had the emotional and financial support of my grandparents. We lived with them for almost a year while she recovered from the accident. Even though my father didn’t have custody of us, he stayed in the picture and we saw him a few times a month. He was college educated, and he is the one that pushed me to do well in school. He suggested that I apply for the specialized public high school and getting accepted to that HS was the main turning point to insure that I would not duplicate my mother’s life.

    As my life changed after college, I tried to encourage my mother to try to improve her life. The biggest issue was getting her to spend less money, and get a real job. I cleaned up a large number of debts that she was dealing with when she finally admitted to me how much she owed on what seemed like an endless amount of credit cards. It took several months, but I worked with debt collectors to reduce the amount and I paid off some of the bills to give her a clean start. I made her promise to just use one credit card, and she let me help her with her finances so she wasn’t able to slip back into the credit card mess. It took many years, but she is financially stable.

  50. Thank you, Lauren, for sharing your view from first-hand experience. It’s so helpful, and so many of us are just talking through our hats.

  51. Yes, thank you, Lauren. Your family, dad and grandparents at least, had the values and resources to support you, and then you had the skills and drive to help yourself. I don’t see that scenario fitting the profiled family and other families like them. It’s really hard to imagine a government program that could replicate what you experienced so that this family could achieve even a fraction of what you did. Maybe I’m too pessimistic and cynical.

  52. “Although we’re really getting more into Pimm’s weather.”

    Does the weather actually change that much where you are, or is it just a state of mind?

    FWIW, as a summer variation, I really like replacing the vermouth in the negorini with italian sparkling orange soda. Like this stuff. Or the Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods kind in the tall bottle.
    https://www.sanpellegrinofruitbeverages.com/intl/en/aranciata-229

    That stuff is also good for mixing with cheap red wine to make poor man’s sangria (or Tinto de Verano if you want to sound fancy – although they use lemon flavored soda in Spain)

  53. Based on my observations of family/friends in this situation, it is the dad sticking around that is correlated with the kids being ok/overcoming some challenges. It seems as though at least a minimal amount of support from dad really helps. As with many things, men seem to be responsible for a lot of bad stuff that happens.

  54. Curious if their church (not their specific church, but the larger organization) is helping them and if not why not? Isn’t that always the argument for reducing government support, that charities will fill that void?

  55. Ivy, I’m sure part of it is that we’re more sensitive to smaller swings than those of you in Chicago. But remember also that it’s common to not have a/c at home (we don’t ourselves). A shift of five degrees hotter for the daily highs and lows, combined with the breeze dropping away to nothing and the humidity spiking, feels very different. Especially indoors.

  56. “A shift of five degrees hotter for the daily highs and lows, combined with the breeze dropping away to nothing and the humidity spiking, feels very different. Especially indoors.”

    Oh yeah, that would do it.

  57. Our community has an ecumenical church organization (Love INC) that provides help to people in need, including people getting out of prison, etc. These people wouldn’t qualify for much help, in part because there are so many like them, the funding is limited and Love INC provide goods (sheets, towels, bicycles, hygiene items, wood for stoves, etc) and doesn’t provide cash. One of the reasons the organization became ecumenical (all churches working together) is to better separate the worthy poor from the unworthy poor.

    As Denver Dad has observed in the past, the big difference between liberals and conservatives is that liberals are willing to serve the unworthy poor so that no worthy poor remain in need while conservatives trend oppositely.

  58. “a volunteer opportunity, to be assigned a local family below the poverty line that helps end poverty – one family at a time – by focusing on doing things “with” not “for” those in need. These volunteers (or Allies as they are called) work directly with the head of an impoverished family in order work on skills necessary to move them out of poverty permanently. It is an eighteen month commitment and I just don’t have the bandwidth to take on but maybe I can in future years.”

    Perhaps in retirement or empty nesthood?

  59. “One of the reasons the organization became ecumenical (all churches working together) is to better separate the worthy poor from the unworthy poor. ”

    Sorry, your Christian church decides between the worthy and unworthy poor? Am I reading that right?

  60. Kerri, many churches do that, which is why government benefits are so important. Historically it’s been very easy to decide that black people are shiftless and lazy, but white people are Just Like Us, so the charity gets distributed unjustly.

  61. From a practical standpoint, how do they decide who is worthy and who is not?

  62. Anon, I’m not Kerri, but as someone unconnected to any church, I give to the local Foodbank and to Oxfam as our main feed-the-hungry charities. I’d be surprised if Kerri doesn’t do something similar.

  63. Franny’s primary disability is her low cognitive ability. Indeed, it’s hard to read that article without concluding that all this family needs is a smarter person to step in and run their lives for them. It brought to mind this article that appeared last year in the Atlantic, “The War on Stupid People.” The author begins by noting that calling people who are loathe to make jokes about race or physical disability or religion are quit willing to make fun of stupid people:

    “This gleeful derision seems especially cruel in view of the more serious abuse that modern life has heaped upon the less intellectually gifted. Few will be surprised to hear that, according to the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a long-running federal study, IQ correlates with chances of landing a financially rewarding job. Other analyses suggest that each IQ point is worth hundreds of dollars in annual income—surely a painful formula for the 80 million Americans with an IQ of 90 or below. When the less smart are identified by lack of educational achievement (which in contemporary America is closely correlated with lower IQ), the contrast only sharpens. From 1979 to 2012, the median-income gap between a family headed by two earners with college degrees and two earners with high-school degrees grew by $30,000, in constant dollars. Studies have furthermore found that, compared with the intelligent, less intelligent people are more likely to suffer from some types of mental illness, become obese, develop heart disease, experience permanent brain damage from a traumatic injury, and end up in prison, where they are more likely than other inmates to be drawn to violence. They’re also likely to die sooner.”

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/the-war-on-stupid-people/485618/

    There are a lot of points to ponder here, but one is the raw numbers involved. 80 million people with an IQ below 90. Free college isn’t going to help any of them. (In fact, elsewhere in the article, the author points out that, given that no more than a third of high school students can score at least 1000 on the SAT , “there’s no escaping the conclusion that most Americans aren’t smart enough to do something we are told is an essential step toward succeeding in our new, brain-centric economy—namely, get through four years of college with moderately good grades.”

    Someone earlier mentioned that nearly 90% of smart poor kids will escape poverty. What happens to the not-smart poor kids?

  64. RMS have you noticed the difference in tone nowadays when writing about these people? When it is white people destroying their lives with drugs and living off disability, we are told that we must understand the roots of their disaffection, and that they are depressed because we elites took away their jobs. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when it was black people on crack living on welfare, people mainly talked about welfare queens, criminals, and “lock ’em up!”. Hmmm…..

  65. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when it was black people on crack living on welfare, people mainly talked about welfare queens, criminals, and “lock ’em up!”. Hmmm…..

    Sure, and I’ve seen considerable commentary about that too. But this should probably be on the political thread.

  66. Anon – Since you asked, I donate blood, give money to food banks, support my kids PTA, give money to a local parks alliance, donate to my alma mater, give money to Unicef and in the past have given money to Red Cross during various catastrophes. During Hurricane Sandy, I donated supplies and money to various outlets. In the past, I volunteered at a local school helping struggling readers.

    In short, I do what I can and try not to be a judgy asshole.

  67. Most food pantries and other church- or community-sponsored relief programs have income and/or frequency restrictions.

  68. What happens to the not-smart poor kids?

    Rebuild the factories in the U.S. and impose harsh trade restrictions so that the salary is liveable? I’m not actually endorsing that.

  69. “Kerri, many churches do that, which is why government benefits are so important. Historically it’s been very easy to decide that black people are shiftless and lazy, but white people are Just Like Us, so the charity gets distributed unjustly.”

    RMS – I truly do get that many churches try to fill the void. WCE’s bluntness simply shocked me and reminded me of one of the many reasons why I am no longer Catholic.

    I do not mean to be disrespectful of anyone’s beliefs. WCE’s statement contradicts what I was raised to believe and at the same time reminds me of how ideals (love thy neighbor and all that) can be poorly implemented by organized groups, who after all are made up of humans, imperfect, fallible creatures that we are.

  70. “Most food pantries and other church- or community-sponsored relief programs have income and/or frequency restrictions.”

    That’s not really the same as deciding who is “worthy” though. It’s not yelling “get a job” at some people and giving other people free reign of the food pantry, whatever the criteria for “worthiness” may be. (I would argue that an income restriction is not a “worthiness” test in the way that WCE meant it.)

  71. “Most food pantries and other church- or community-sponsored relief programs have income and/or frequency restrictions.”

    No kidding. Remember though I am not trying to do God’s work nor holding myself out as representative of a church who is claiming to do God’s work.

    I have no issue with me judging who get my time and money. I have an issue with those who claim, on behalf of their God, to judge who is worthy and who is not.

    signing off for today. Between this conversation, the article about this family on disability and the article about the 20 year old who urged her boyfriend to kill himself, I’m done for today.

  72. Are the income/frequency restrictions what WCE meant? To me, that doesn’t seem like deciding who is worthy enough for help.

  73. There was a period, a while back, where Big Macs were either two dollars, or two for two dollars. DH and I One day had a long discussion about whether it was cheaper to eat at McDonald’s or cook at home. After the conversation went on for far longer than was necessary, we realized that if we couldn’t figure it out, it was unlikely the vast majority could either.

    Anyway, I think this gets to Rhett’s refrain about limited executive function.

  74. “That’s not really the same as deciding who is “worthy” though.”

    Well, then it’s deciding who is “eligible.” And, fundamentally, isn’t that a proxy for deciding who is “worthy?” Most of the pantries around here require a photo ID and valid address, thereby limiting their assistance to those who can produce those items and perhaps to those who live within a certain geographic area. The Salvation Army food bank makes recipients wait three months between visits. Others require proof of low income. These are all common sense requirements in which the charity decides who among the infinite numbers of needy will be served.

  75. “What happens to the not-smart poor kids?

    Rebuild the factories in the U.S. and impose harsh trade restrictions so that the salary is liveable? I’m not actually endorsing that.”

    I doubt that many factories built today would provide a lot of jobs for the not-smart. Many of the repetitive functions previously performed by humans would be performed by machines.

    I think most of the jobs in the factories that might be taken by the not-smart would be stuff like custodial/janitorial work.

  76. My former church used to get requests from people who had just arrived in Denver and had nowhere to stay and no money. Occasionally the committee would give them a grocery gift card for $25 or so, but the usual response was more along the lines of “What did you do a dumbass thing like that for? Don’t show up in a new town with no money or housing.” If the recipient could tell a really good “Queen for a Day” story, about fleeing abuse or whatever, they might get another $25.

  77. “These are all common sense requirements in which the charity decides who among the infinite numbers of needy will be served.”

    I agree, and I agree with the premise. The use of the word “worthy” implies, to me, something else. Something like “Well, Bob is hurting right now through no fault of his own but X is just lazy & needs to get a job.” Based on the quality of the sob story (like RMS said) or how sympathetic they seem or whatever.

    Maybe that’s not what WCE meant, but it seems like it has been implied that way in other discussions. I’ll let her clarify before commenting any further.

  78. The church food pantry I volunteer at makes it clear that they are supplemental assistance to families already receiving government aid. I am sure when families register at the food pantry their eligibility is checked. The second criteria is that the families will only be assisted “x” times a month. There is a separate emergency food stock in case of (fill in the blank).
    My kids were shocked at the basic nature of the items that were distributed – the proverbial rice, beans along with tinned and frozen veggies, soup, pasta, bread, cereal. When my kids saw that a family had kids they put the few stray packs of fruit in syrup.
    Most volunteers come on days to sort and restock the food. Only when you volunteer on the distribution day do you actually see and interact with the recipients.

  79. Food bank limits: DW volunteers at our local one a couple of Fridays a month. The rules of eligibility are: you have to produce an ID proving you live in one of several ZIP codes. Otherwise no questions asked for eligibility. You have to say how many are in your household to determine how much food you can take. And you can only avail yourself of the services every 2 weeks. But all are eligible/worthy.

  80. “I’ve always thought it would be interesting to try to live off of food stamps, WIC, and other government benefits, just to see how challenging it really is. “

    Local paper had an article about SNAP recently, and it presented a current average benefit of about $230/person/month, well under what my family spends on groceries, including such non-essentials as ice cream, cookies, chips, beer, and wine.

  81. “I have no issue with me judging who get my time and money. I have an issue with those who claim, on behalf of their God, to judge who is worthy and who is not.”

    I don’t necessarily see a lot of difference. Individuals have their own bases for judging, and some use their religions.

  82. I also appreciate WCE’s honesty and I assumed by worthy she meant typical eligibility requirements like income, residency, size of family, etc. Maybe even proof of participation in a drug program. These are all commonly used. by government and private entities.

  83. Also the church programs are staffed by people who need some basic job training/supervision. Once they have that they can try for outside/better jobs. It seems like a safe space to make mistakes, get coached rather than get fired.

  84. “My former church used to get requests from people who had just arrived in Denver and had nowhere to stay and no money. Occasionally the committee would give them a grocery gift card for $25 or so, but the usual response was more along the lines of “What did you do a dumbass thing like that for? Don’t show up in a new town with no money or housing.””

    Perhaps a gas card might be more appropriate, but most of them probably came from situations in which they had nowhere to stay and no money.

    Whenever local media tries to personalize our homeless problem, there’s always some of this, although in our case, they probably had some money, e.g., enough to buy a plane ticket, before coming here.

    You are fortunate in that the relatively low cost of leaving and the severity of your winters probably limits the number of such people who stay in that situation for extended periods.

  85. I thought about families going around collecting food from pantries. First, at least one member would have to be able to go to the pantry to collect food in the middle of the day, next they would have to have a car or transpiration. If they wanted to game the system they would have to keep track of where/when they collected food and not go back there before they were eligible again.

  86. “I also appreciate WCE’s honesty and I assumed by worthy she meant typical eligibility requirements like income, residency, size of family, etc. Maybe even proof of participation in a drug program. These are all commonly used. by government and private entities.”

    I didn’t make that assumption. IMO, it’s fine for a private organization to come up with their own rules for who their resources will help, although I would hope they wouldn’t be along the lines RMS described.

    But if they’re going to look at things like work history and willingness to accept help finding work, I think that’s totally appropriate.

  87. You are fortunate in that the relatively low cost of leaving and the severity of your winters probably limits the number of such people who stay in that situation for extended periods.

    You amuse me sometimes. Denver isn’t the Arctic. We have lots of year-round homeless people. Some of them even go to that church.

  88. “What is your opinion on my hypothesis that the surge in people on disability is due to Clinton-era welfare reform?

    That’s even a formally-held point of view among sociologists, although damned if I can find the article I was reading that talked about it.”

    I’ve read that many times.

    Based on what I know, I’m a fan of the Clinton-era reform, in large part because it was implemented in a robust economy, so people getting kicked off welfare had opportunities at getting jobs. I’d be very interested in any studies that showed how many people actually moved from welfare to employment because of that reform.

  89. But remember also that it’s common to not have a/c at home (we don’t ourselves).

    Why is that? In a place where it gets hot and humid, why don’t more homes have A/C?

  90. And I agree with those who say that deciding who is “worthy” for assistance has a much different connotation that deciding who is “eligible” for help.

  91. DD, a lot of new construction does. And high rise apartment towers. And most commercial spaces. But traditional residential construction uses airflow as climate control — louvers everywhere to let the trades blow through — so when the trades die down we feel the difference! And conversely, this is part of why we’ll complain about lows in the low 60s in the winter, because the whole house is in the low 60s by early morning (and we’re not used to it).

    Also, those breezes that blow into my house during the night of are scented with gardenia, night blooming jasmine, and other flowers. Obviously that works out better living in a neighborhood where you have a lot of green, and works out poorly for those old low-rises that now overlook the freeway. Those places have pretty much all put in window a/c units.

  92. “In a place where it gets hot and humid, why don’t more homes have A/C?”

    One reason is the cost of electricity.

    It’s also historical. Homes were designed to catch the trade winds for cooling and thus weren’t sealed up, and often don’t have sufficient electrical service to fully air condition them. The lack of insulation also contributes to the high cost of running AC.

  93. Example:
    Worthy: “My parole officer contacted you with my grandmother’s information and said you might be able to get me a bus ticket to Portland to see/help her.”
    Unworthy: “I need cash for a bus ticket to Portland to help my grandmother.”

  94. “There was a period, a while back, where Big Macs were either two dollars, or two for two dollars. DH and I One day had a long discussion about whether it was cheaper to eat at McDonald’s or cook at home.”

    A while back, when BK sold Whoppers and JITB sold Jumbo Jacks for $1, there was an op-ed in a local paper written by a food stamp beneficiary complaining about how hard it was to not go hungry on about $100/month, better than $3/day.

    The paper shortly afterward published a letter from a reader who pointed out that the availability of Whoppers for $1 undercut the credibility of the complaint.

  95. “Rhett, I am more willing to be coercive than other people. I would definitely support not only government funded IUD’s, I would support paying people to obtain them, with lesser payments for getting them checked/replaced on the medically recommended schedule or placed again after the birth of a child. I’m also a strong proponent of funding government research on male contraception and encouraging the FDA to accept risks associated with it. I would be delighted to see my taxes go to prevent unwanted pregnancies and don’t know why the Buffett Foundation hasn’t already tried such a thing. “

    ITA.

    A friend who works in healthcare told me that it’s very expensive to provide health insurance for women of childbearing age, because healthcare through pregnancy, childbirth, and childhood is expensive.

    I would think that the government providing birth control to women of childbearing age and on medicaid would be very cost-effective.

  96. The paper shortly afterward published a letter from a reader who pointed out that the availability of Whoppers for $1 undercut the credibility of the complaint.

    You can’t spend your food stamps on whoppers.

  97. Also, we can’t really advocate 90 whoppers/month as a healthy diet. They were Jr Whoppers, at probably around 300 cals – which means they are not even a sufficient diet if you get 3/day.

  98. At the time, it was the full, senior Whoppers that went for $1, as did Jumbo Jacks.

    And the point wasn’t literally that someone would eat 3 Whoppers/day. It was a quicker, easier way to point out that more than $3/day is enough to not go hungry than detailed shopping lists and menus.

  99. Rhett, to answer your question: yes I think there is space for encouraging people to think about when/how to have children but I also think there is a fine line between encouragement and coercion. Who gets to decide on the parameters? What if someone “encourages” this woman who has less cognitive ability to stay on these implants/BCP until she passes her child-bearing years? That is basically replacing surgical sterilization with a chemical one. People start with the best of intentions but that can quickly change into something else.

    Here is the opposite side. Vice in its third season did a story on surrogacy which is allowed in India. You can draw your own conclusions but when I watched my take was that these women were being taken advantage of due to their circumstances. Here’s an article regarding the episode in the Daily Mail.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3028043/American-journalist-reveals-heartbreaking-details-dark-underbelly-India-s-embryo-outsourcing-industry.html

    The 30 Days Documentary series (The director who did Super Size Me) did a show on living on minimum wage which was episode 1, Season 1. It is very tough to do. Also, I think Food Inc. pointed out in their documentary that one could feed a family of five at a fast food joint off the dollar menu on what it would cost to make an organic salad for 1 person. Bad food is cheap in our country. I think the farmers can weigh in on how certain subsidies encourage food production.

    Finn – I did some more research and the program is part of a national one that has been in effect since the early 2000’s. It looks the one in my area started 4 years ago. It is part of Circles Usa which has offices in 19 states and in Canada. This is the first that I’ve ever heard of it but looking at the list; my previous state does not have one. http://www.circlesusa.org/

  100. Finn, the last time I checked on 2017 amounts, the maximum SNAP benefit in the lower 48, and that is for a family of four that has is deemed to have zero income for food after the allocations for rent, etc., is 649. Average received was 500. If the article you read was using the single person (for lower 48 max 194 and average 142) with a Hawai’i bump you might get closer to 230 for the max.

    WCE’s response was that cash assistance would only be provided after some sort of official vetting. Worthy is perhaps an infelicitous word to have used in that context. Gifts of used clothing, or old furniture or food are very different from a request for cash “to visit grandmother.” Sometimes food distribution has to be controlled to make sure double dipping doesn’t leave others with nothing. All charities, including the male wet shelters in cities and the soup kitchens, have basic rules for behavior and frequency or hours of use.

    My aunt years ago ran a secular homeless resettlement program in Marin County – first she had to present evidence to the rich donors that there were in fact homeless in Marin County. They had many criteria. Established residents of the county, first. No drugs, second. They were getting landlords to take in these folks on the organization’s say so, and future placements depended on the folks knowing how to treat the property, etc., so a previous history of employment and organized life (i.e., homelessness was a bout of bad fortune, not a chronic state) was usually required. They also served families with two parents who often failed to qualify for govt assistance that (as is well documented) tends to be targeted to single moms.

  101. As a whole, Gianna said that she thinks some parents may be aware of the ‘shadier side’ of commercialized surrogacy, but a ‘vast majority’ have no idea this dark underbelly exits.

    Oh, come on. This I don’t believe. People may choose to turn a blind eye or feel that they have fairly compensated the surrogate for carrying their child. They have done the research, calculated the costs, weighed the risks and only then proceeded with a surrogate from a developing country.

  102. The Mennonites have a culturally-specific problem with charity that arose multiple times when I was attending that church (and serving on the Leadership Board, etc.) They pride themselves on their frugality, but frugality is often the opposite side of the (pinched) coin for judgmental hard-heartedness towards others. Actually it applies beyond the Mennonite universe; frugality is a very problematic virtue, because it so often is paired with a vicious schadenfreude toward others.

  103. What do you think of Indian surrogacy, Louise? I know Patri Friedman’s second child was carried by an Indian surrogate, and as a good hard-core Libertarian, he had no problem with it. She was paid for her body. The fact that she lived in horrifying circumstances wasn’t his problem.

  104. Here’s the SNAP data from the article in Sunday’s paper, for monthly averages:

    FISCAL YEAR | PERSONS | BENEFITS ISSUED

    2017* | 171,637 | $40,376,245
    2016 | 179,138 | $40,857,996
    2015 | 191,918 | $43,147,731
    2014 | 193,565 | $43,387,362
    2013 | 187,062 | $40,328,238
    2012 | 172,676 | $37,177,084
    2011 | 154,496 | $33,427,098
    2010 | 133,043 | $28,745,391
    2009 | 109,268 | $20,220,306

    I just divided total benefit by number of persons to get the average monthly benefit. Those numbers are pretty consistent with what I’ve seen in the past.

  105. Louise – I didn’t buy it either. People have convinced themselves that they’ve helped this women and have compensated her accordingly (substandard compared to the US) and will raise the child will love in better circumstances. I don’t think there was much thought to how this would/could affect the surrogate. These women are implanted with an embryo (sometimes using their own genetic material) not allowed to live with their families so they can be monitored so the best outcome can occur, have a C-section, not interact with the child and then moved along after recovery. When I watched, it was a prime example of the “haves” taking advantage of the “have nots”. Granted maybe she has improved the life’s of her other children but there is a cost that I think is being greatly ignored.

  106. Back OT, from the referenced article:

    “a $600 electricity bill that included late payments. An additional $350 for the mortgage, $45 for water, $300 for cellphones. Then $98 for cable television, $35 for Internet service, $315 for furniture bought on credit, $35 for car insurance and $60 for life insurance.”

    A few of things jumped out at me:

    A $600 electric bill? We’ve got the highest rates in the country, but our bills were well under $200 even before PV. Why so high?

    $300 for cellphones? Aren’t there just 2 adults in the family? There are a lot of unlimited plans for about $50/month or less, and family plans can cut the average below that.

    $60 for life insurance? They’re already pretty much dependent on the government to provide for them; does life insurance really make sense for them?

    So I’m guessing they don’t have the cognitive bandwidth or life skills necessary to cut their bills. Perhaps what they need is some sort of financial coach to help them with these sorts of decisions.

  107. Women can use the money to buy a home or send their own children to school, and Gianna explained that there are in fact couples who take great efforts to make sure their surrogates are a part of their lives.

    But there are also countless tales of financially desperate women who are recruited in the slums and coerced into signing contracts that they can’t read, only to be duped out of the money they were promised.

    So, I think there is a distinct difference between women who knowingly enter such a contract and bad people who steal women’s money and sell babies. The former is a situation where we can debate the ethics of surrogacy, the latter is just bad behavior that is indefensible. Choosing to use a surrogate in India does not mean endorsement of the latter, either.

  108. Worthy implies a moral judgment, IMO. From what I understand about Christ, that seems to go against all of his teachings. Of course I could be wrong about that.

    In WCE’s worthiness example, if anything, I would say the second person is more worthy of help because the first guy is a convicted criminal. And they are both asking for the exact same assistance, so apparently worthiness is determined by how you ask, not who you are or what you are asking for.

  109. So I’m guessing they don’t have the cognitive bandwidth or life skills necessary to cut their bills. Perhaps what they need is some sort of financial coach to help them with these sorts of decisions.

    Yes, clearly they need rich judgmental people to tell them how to live as morally as we.

  110. And they have life insurance because they value fancy funerals. Again, a rich frugal person must be sent out STAT to tell them that being burned in a pine box is best for them.

  111. A $600 electric bill? We’ve got the highest rates in the country, but our bills were well under $200 even before PV. Why so high?

    I recall people on here mentioning $600 heating bills.

  112. “A family of 4 gets less than 2 single moms with one child each – so dividing column 3 by column 2 may be a bit too blunt of an instrument.”

    Keep in mind, $235/person/month is the average monthly benefit per person for 2017, not the maximum benefit. If some are getting less than that, then some are getting even more.

  113. “And they are both asking for the exact same assistance”

    Not exactly; one asks for a bus ticket, the other asks for cash.

  114. Not exactly; one asks for a bus ticket, the other asks for cash.

    They both want assistance to get to their grandmother’s. As I said, WCE is determining worthiness by how they ask.

  115. To be clear WCE said the Church Organization made the determination not that she did. And I think people and organizations do this as a rule. I’m not shocked that an organization has rules they use to determine distribution of anything they give. From friends who work in fund raising/development people giving the donation do this too. One of the hardest things to get funded is an organization’s general fund – so you can have an excess of funds in one area but not use those to supplement other areas.

  116. She didn’t say it, but I thought part of why the cash request was deemed unworthy was the possibility that it would not be used to purchase a bus ticket.

    Kinda like when I’ve had guys ask me for money outside the grocery store, ostensibly to buy something to eat. Instead of cash, I offered them a choice of what I had just bought, e.g.,bread, some sandwich meat, bananas; they never accepted food.

  117. “And I agree with those who say that deciding who is “worthy” for assistance has a much different connotation that deciding who is “eligible” for help.”

    Same thing. Semantics that make Totebaggers like us feel better. With limited resources, you have to choose who to help, which means excluding some criteria based on your personal choice.

  118. “I recall people on here mentioning $600 heating bills.”

    Yeah, I wondered about that, and I don’t have a good basis for guessing at whether that’s reasonable or not for where they live.

    But still, I could see cutting about $280/month from their bills, or more if someone could’ve helped them find a better way to furnish their home.

  119. Houston perfectly captured my intention with the use of “worthy”- With limited resources, you have to choose who to help, which means excluding [by] some criteria based on your personal choice. And “ecumenical” includes support from organizations that are not Christian, I think. The director attends meetings with other social service agencies to determine who can best fill existing service gaps.

    Used to Lurk noted that it’s a director (who I think is a social worker) who sets up the rough criteria by which decisions are made. My friend whose homeless alcoholic son died last month strongly believes that our local organizations need stricter criteria, because her son and his buddies were good at gaming the system to get their daily booze. Such judgments are complex and above my pay grade.

    RMS noted that Mennonite frugality norms are often applied to the non-Mennonite poor receiving charity. I hadn’t considered it before in quite that way, but I think she’s right.

    People seeking items other than cash/cash equivalent (medical supplies, hygiene supplies, used clothing, sheets/towels) get less vetting than those receiving fungible/high value assistance.

  120. “there’s no escaping the conclusion that most Americans aren’t smart enough to do something we are told is an essential step toward succeeding in our new, brain-centric economy

    I assume you’re also on board with a UBI?

  121. “a $600 electricity bill that included late payments

    I assumed “late payments” implied that the bill includes months of accumulated charges and late payment fees.

  122. I thought about what RMS said about frugality. My in laws who are very frugal are dead set on anyone they deem unworthy receiving assistance. They think of most charities as nothing but distribution schemes for unworthy recipients and the people who donate to them fools. This mind set comes from them not being eligible for assistance under various programs – they made too much money, belonged to the wrong religion/caste and generally did not meet any criteria for assistance. I wonder, if I would have the same attitude faced with similar circumstances.

  123. ‘It all went back to money,’ Gianna noted.

    RMS – it is a commercial transaction. I get that some families want to keep in touch but my experience is that the surrogates want to move on. In thinking of their children it doesn’t include the child they got paid to carry.

  124. Finn – I was able this am to find some per state stuff and your state’s averages are TWICE the national averages. Not sure why it is such an outlier, but I agree – a family of four does not need 1100 per month for grocery store purchased food only items.

  125. ‘Houston perfectly captured my intention with the use of “worthy”’

    I sensed a slight whiff of sarcasm in WCE’s original comment about worthiness, although I was probably wrong and just reacting based on my annoyance when I see groups of people vilified based on assumptions about their intentions.

    I found the UBI comparison to single-payer health care interesting and not something I had thought about before. Both ideas are appealing in some ways, but I am still troubled by the potential of bad unintended consequences of having a potentially large underclass receiving these benefits.

  126. I wonder, if I would have the same attitude faced with similar circumstances.

    Part of it is also that some people need to convince themselves that they could never be in a position to need assistance. It’s sort of like the discussion we had years ago about parents who forgot they had a kid in the back of their car and the kid died of hyperthermia. The evidence suggests it could happen to anyone, given the right combination of circumstances. But that’s a terrifying thought, so some people cope by embracing the idea that the parent must have done something wrong or been foolish or an idiot to have something like that happen.

  127. I’m for universal basic income. I support SNAP and food assistance programs. I care less that those receiving assistance eat perfectly nutritious meals and more that they aren’t hungry.

    I would gladly pay more taxes for schools to provide free breakfast, lunch, and after school snack to ALL kids. I think it would reduce the burden of administration of who qualifies and also reduce the stigma for those who really need free & reduce meals from taking them.

    My kids are done with school and this week there is no summer care available. Today we are visiting the non profit that provides backpacks of food to kids to get them through the weekend. My kids are giving their sharing portion of their allowance to them. I think the organization does a really good job but, and maybe this is why I’m a liberal and not a conservative, is that I think the government could so a more efficient job and help more people than non profits and charities. My first day of economics class discussed how government plays a role on determining what society wants to optimize. I wish I would have kept the textbook – it had 10 basic principles of economics really well.

  128. We know a family (single mom and daughter, dad in the picture more in the last 5 years than prior) where they have been in and out of poverty for years. Daughter, until dad got a better job, was on medicaid, but now she is on dad’s plan. Mom pays the penalty for not getting insurance because that is cheaper. Qualified for free lunch until recently when mom got a pay raise and now only qualify for reduced lunch. Mom is buying her house though it is in a lower class suburb which requires her to drive roughly an hour each way (no public transportation from there) to the parts of town that hire nannies.

    But, as someone above said, they know how to game the system. Mom was told her job (nanny) was ending 60 days in advance and started job hunting, but on day 60 (a Friday) had no job, but received her last full pay check. Mom had 3 months of savings and had been on several interviews and had two more interviews scheduled the next week. On Monday, she went to the county food back, her city food bank, a regional center that gives other than food (including gas vouchers), and a local church that is “known” to be more generous. By the end of the day, she had obtained a month of food, just over 2 weeks of gas vouchers, more than a month personal of personal care items, plus some clothing and a few miscellaneous items she was allowed to “shop” for in their thrift store. All of these places allow you to go to them once every two weeks.

    At the end of the first week of being unemployed, she was offered a job that started one week later. So, total time without a job was just over two weeks. However, at the two week point, she went back to all of those places and stocked up again. So, total food and personal items amounted to about 2 months of what they consume and a month of gas.

    When I asked her why she didn’t take just what she needed and why go the second time. Her answer was because it is available and she was eligible. The idea that maybe it was unethical if one organization gave you 2 weeks of food to go ask the second one for another two weeks of food was not even on her radar. Or that the food bank might not have had enough for every other family that came in wasn’t her concern.

  129. Both ideas are appealing in some ways, but I am still troubled by the potential of bad unintended consequences of having a potentially large underclass receiving these benefits.

    I would like to see some other country that has implemented it. I would also like to know if it wouldn’t drive up inflation. But I could probably read up on it.

  130. I have seen some of this reliance on federal money in my extended inlaw family. The early-20’s girls discuss what you get “free” when you’re pregnant or an unwed mom of an infant. One woman hurt her back and applied for disability. She was so mad to find out that she wasn’t eligible because she hadn’t worked in a decade. She really thought it was just free money they gave out. That branch had relied on govt aid, but because so many of their friends are in the same boat, they are not the least bit uncomfortable with it and discuss openly their schemes to maximize benefits. After a natural disaster, the mom of three of the young pregnant girls fraudulently claimed to have had damage to get some of the free stuff that was a available. She was eventually caught and arrested, and as a result lost her job as the property manager of a nice apartment complex where she and her three kids got free rent as part of the compensation. They had to move in with a grandmother/great-grandmother where the three girls then had to share one bed in an uninsulated converyed garage. I agree it can be very hard to decide who the “worthy” poor are, and it is an unavoidable fact that whatever system you put in place, there will always be someone trying to game it

  131. I’ve been broke; I’ve never been poor. I’ve been between homes and crashing with friends as a parent; I’ve never been homeless. I’ve had to eat peanut butter the last three days of the month; I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve had 80,000 in unsecured debt; I’ve never been involuntarily unemployed for more than one month. I’ve temporairy used WIC coupons and surplus food; I

  132. Sorry putting the kids on the schoolbus

    I was Mennonite approved feeding my family from the more with less cookbook using bulk foods and powdered milk when we were no longer eligible. And I am VERY appreciative of access to medical services afforded by Medicare, which despite my payroll taxes is a general funds govt benefit.

  133. You assume there is an alternative.

    There may be.  Implanted brain chips that turn us into super critical thinking geniuses maybe?  I don’t know, but I find it hard to completely accept that there are not other possible solutions.

    Finland is one country experimenting with UBI and this article points out pros and cons.  One can imagine all sorts of potential paths, including one discussed in the article where captains of industry could take advantage of this to further build their wealth while keeping the underclass satisfied with their lot.

    Is Finland’s basic universal income a solution to automation, fewer jobs and lower wages?

  134. I don’t know, but I find it hard to completely accept that there are not other possible solutions.

    There are solutions: CRISPR, your chip idea, etc. They all have issues.

  135. All this energy gaming the system could probably be channeled in a more productive way (if their cognitive abilities allow them to figure out how to game the system then I think they can probably figure out they shouldn’t spend $300 a month on a cell phone bill). I have no problem with SNAP and I actually do think that people receiving those benefits should eat more nutritiously. Poor people are usually nutrient starved, not necessarily calorie starved (because it is cheaper to eat crappy food) which has greater costs later.

  136. All this energy gaming the system could probably be channeled in a more productive way

    If they were capable of channeling it in a productive way they wouldn’t be poor.

  137. Same thing. Semantics that make Totebaggers like us feel better. With limited resources, you have to choose who to help, which means excluding some criteria based on your personal choice.

    I completely disagree that it’s the same thing. “Eligible” to me, means there is a set of objective criteria that is applied evenly to everyone. “Worthy” means a moral judgment based on personal opinion.

    I understand you cannot help everyone with finite resources. That doesn’t mean you should be making moral judgments on who you deem is worthy enough to help.

  138. I’ve been broke; I’ve never been poor.

    But you’re a totebagger. We’re all totebaggers.  That’s why we can be “holier than thou”.  And that’s also why you didn’t make a comma splice error.  ;)

  139. I just can’t get worked up about poor people gaming the system for food when rich people do the same kind of stuff, but they do it by putting their spouse and kids on the payroll for their business when they perform no services, and not paying payroll taxes on their regular babysitter and paying the guy who paints their house in cash because he gives a discount for doing so and they know full well he isn’t going to claim it as income.

  140. I am totally supportive of UBI as well as single payer healthcare. I’m glad that these two ideas are getting more serious consideration.

  141. if their cognitive abilities allow them to figure out how to game the system then I think they can probably figure out they shouldn’t spend $300 a month on a cell phone bill

    That is a good point.
    And I too assumed that WCE’s use of the word “worthy” was partly sarcastic. IME, the vast majority of people involved with charity outreach are well-intentioned and are at least trying to practice what they preach. Also IME the folks who are most critical of charity recipients are those who are themselves struggling to make ends meet but either not eligible for such programs and/or not trying to game the system.

  142. when rich people do the same kind of stuff,

    Or the war on the stupid that Scarlett mentioned. For example, moving from a system where the CEO got a pension and a guy working the line got a pension. When they both retired they went to HR and continued to get a paycheck until they died. Now we have a system of: SEP IRAs, IRAs, Roth IRAs, actively managed bond funds, 401ks, Roth 401ks, stock index funds, actively managed stock mutual funds, bond index funds, ETFs, synthetic DRIPs,, etc. etc. Those with the cognitive ability and executive function to navigate the system do great and those that can’t end up with little or nothing.

  143. I think our current system just dooms these people to a lifetime of unhappiness and medications. And the current system causes them to devote way too much of their energy to getting benefits when they should be focused on improving their family’s lot in life. I know a few people (family members included) who grew up poor but they ultimately wanted their children to have better lives and these people just don’t seem to share that sentiment. That woman profiled in the article just makes me angry – dragging those boys around to various people to try to get them diagnosed for her financial gain with something and then being DISAPPOINTED when they aren’t diagnosed with anything.

  144. Going back to WCE’s visit the grandmother example. If you have finite resources, you can have some certainty that if you give person A a bus ticket, then that is how the money is used. If you give person B cash, you aren’t sure how if it will go to a bus ticket or some other use of their choice.

    BUT, if this transportation request falls inside the basket of goods/services the organization is offering, then it seems to me that even though person B asked for cash, you offer them the bus ticket. If they accept the ticket, then you have roughly as much certainty as with person A that they will actually be going to Portland.

    Worthiness based on person A’s criminal background – If they have done their time, then they have paid their debt to society. In this case, if you know person A’s criminal background, the fact that their parole officer has been in touch with the organization does give you assurance that you aren’t helping this person skip out on their parole.

  145. Rhett, not everyone got a pension BITD. Neither my dad nor FIL got one, in part because they changed jobs as the steel industry imploded.
    It takes a certain amount

  146. ultimately wanted their children to have better lives and these people just don’t seem to share that sentiment

    Not wanting your children to do better than you is fairly common, even among totebaggers.

  147. More and more of our society is based on high executive function and significant band width. In addition to Rhett’s retirement scenario, you have deregulated utilities (from electric and gas to cable to phone to garbage service), school choice at the k-12 level (aside from vouchers, private vs public vs specialty public to charter), school choice at the 13+ (community college only or as a starting point, straight to 4 year university, vocational training and maybe college later, graduate school, etc.), auto loans vs lease, mortgage loan choices (fixed, variable, term, larger down payment, etc.), and the list goes on.

    If you have limited financial resources, you often do not have all the choice available (such as a larger down payment on a car to reduce the payment and/or length of the loan) and you are spending a lot of that executive function and band width just to deal with what you immediately need.

  148. Cut off too soon
    Takes a certain amount of executive function and totebag virtues to find and stick with a job that comes with a pendion

  149. Rhett, not everyone got a pension BITD.

    Right, but many more people did than do now. We could have chosen a different system, one they required less cognitive ability and executive function. But, we didn’t. What we did is win another battle in the war against the stupid.

  150. Takes a certain amount of executive function and totebag virtues to find and stick with a job that comes with a pension

    There is nothing that requires pensions to require multi years of work at the same employer. We could have a system of personal pension accounts rather than 401ks. “We” didn’t chose that option.

  151. My infelicitous word choice made me wonder why I made such a choice, and I realized it’s because I so like “My Fair Lady” and “Pygmalion”. Here’s the relevant quote.

    DOOLITTLE: Don’t say that, Governor. Don’t look at it that way. What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I’m one of the undeserving poor: that’s what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he’s up agen middle class morality all the time. If there’s anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it’s always the same story: ‘You’re undeserving; so you can’t have it.’ But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow’s that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don’t need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don’t eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I’m a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I’m playing straight with you. I ain’t pretending to be deserving. I’m undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and that’s the truth. Will you take advantage of a man’s nature to do him out of the price of his own daughter what he’s brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his brow until she’s growed big enough to be interesting to you two gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you.”

  152. The system is also tough on the lazy. My BIL has a mensa level IQ but is not interested in learning about investing or really learning about how to optimally manage their finances. He and his wife were gifted some money to invest in stocks for their kids from her parents and he still hasn’t done it because he’s lazy (and also he asked me what a dividend was and he’s 37).

  153. My BIL has a mensa level IQ but is not interested in learning about investing or really learning about how to optimally manage their finances.

    Do you really have any control over what you’re interested in? I find it fascinating, so it requires no effort. I have no control over what I find fascinating.

  154. “I assumed “late payments” implied that the bill includes months of accumulated charges and late payment fees.”

    Me too. And a trailer is likely to have electric heat that is perhaps not very efficient. And the utility company is probably not legally allowed to cut off services in winter. I think here, the winter grace period is November 1 to March 31. You know, so people don’t freeze to death from not paying their bills which then get up ato $600.

  155. Rhett – I think the point is whether you are interested or facinated, do you have enough discipline to figure out what you need to? Taking myself as an example, I really have no interest in the intricacies of phone plans or auto insurance. I absolutely hate comparing them, but I do it every couple of years to make sure I am not paying more than I need to for the features/coverage I need.

  156. “I just can’t get worked up about poor people gaming the system for food when rich people do the same kind of stuff, but they do it by putting their spouse and kids on the payroll for their business when they perform no services, and not paying payroll taxes on their regular babysitter and paying the guy who paints their house in cash because he gives a discount for doing so and they know full well he isn’t going to claim it as income.”

    I totally agree.

  157. “IME, the vast majority of people involved with charity outreach are well-intentioned and are at least trying to practice what they preach. Also IME the folks who are most critical of charity recipients are those who are themselves struggling to make ends meet but either not eligible for such programs and/or not trying to game the system.”

    I agree with this too. I would also say that this may true of who is most critical of the beneficiaries of government programs. e.g., the neighbors of the family in the article who posted “get a job” on her kickstarter page

  158. July – Touchée, although I should get credit for paying particular attention to the semicolons on my phone while chasing three little kids around before my coffee kicked in. The point was that many of us, Lauren and myself included, have benefited from govt assistance and/or private charity during our lifetimes, and I didn’t even count subsidized student loans, Pell grants, private need based educational grants. But we are not members of the permanent underclass. We were in fact and not in fantasy “temporarily embarrassed millionaires”.*

    *Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires – paraphrase often attributed as an actual quotation from John Steinbeck.

  159. “but is not interested in learning about investing or really learning about how to optimally manage their finances.”

    I believe for the many people in that boat, and I’d put the vast majority of people there across all income levels, it’s not necessary to be expert at personal finance in order to do ok (i.e. better than doing nothing).

    But so many people are (1) un-banked and (2) live paycheck to paycheck, or worse, leading to (3) never starting to actually put anything away.

  160. do you have enough discipline to figure out what you need to

    Which is what we call executive function. You really don’t have all that much control over that either.

  161. “Not wanting your children to do better than you is fairly common, even among totebaggers.”

    Oh yes. Both my father & FIL were told by their working-class families to go into the trades because that was the only secure way to make a living. GFIL was very upset that FIL decided to go to college – waste of money. Big fights at the time, but ultimately they allowed it. My dad says that the only way he only convinced his parents to let him go to college was to delay getting drafted. (my grandparents didn’t contribute a penny to his college costs, but they did let him continue to live at home for free) My dad says that he doesn’t think he would have gone to college at all weren’t it for Vietnam.

    I know I probably have the same ingrained thoughts. Passing along certain “values” that don’t include being a Rich Kid of Instagram type.

  162. Ada your thoughts on the Indian surrogacy got me thinking about people like Angelina Jolie and Madonna who “rescue” these kids from these countries who often have a family. Wouldn’t the kinder thing to do be to help the family so they can raise the child in their home country? I’m not sure but lots of times I feel that way with these kinds of adoptions that are based on the mother/family inability to provide not on the child being unwanted.

  163. “I should get credit for paying particular attention to the semicolons on my phone while chasing three little kids around before my coffee kicked in.”

    Yes! I bow down to you on that!

  164. “The point was that many of us, have benefited from govt assistance…”

    I’m in that group. My dad died when I was 10. The only real thing that let my mom keep the house and have enough food/clothes/necessities was Social Security survivors’ benefits and Veterans Administration benefits that we got because he had worked enough and had served in WWII. Sure, my (SAH)mom got a job as soon as she could after my dad died, but it was at only slightly above minimum and for maybe 30 hours/week, since she could only be out of the house when my sister and I were in school.

    She remarried when I was 13, so her portion of the benefits stopped then, but mine (and my sister’s) continued until I was 22 as long as I was a full time student and that income was enough at the time to more than fully fund tuition + room + board + books for all of undergrad.

    No one gets there alone.

  165. Pondering this and the prior thread together leads me to feel sad the family profiled never had a chance to be of use to themselves or to anyone else. That is poverty of a sort.

  166. “I’m for universal basic income. I support SNAP and food assistance programs. I care less that those receiving assistance eat perfectly nutritious meals and more that they aren’t hungry.

    I would gladly pay more taxes for schools to provide free breakfast, lunch, and after school snack to ALL kids. I think it would reduce the burden of administration of who qualifies and also reduce the stigma for those who really need free & reduce meals from taking them.”

    I’m with you on the free food for kids at school, but IMO that should reduce SNAP benefits, which are already too high. I don’t think kids should go hungry because their parents aren’t responsible.

    Some schools and school districts are already doing this. One of the unintended consequences is a lack of data from participating schools on the economic status of their students.

  167. “I assumed “late payments” implied that the bill includes months of accumulated charges and late payment fees.”

    If this is the case, then on a cash flow basis, they’re not as bad off as the list of bills would suggest, since that would mean their monthly electricity use is less than $600.

  168. “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires – paraphrase often attributed as an actual quotation from John Steinbeck.”

    I like that.

    I think it also explains the level of support for tax cuts for higher income earners. Many people imagine reaching those income levels at some point.

  169. “The only real thing that let my mom keep the house and have enough food/clothes/necessities was Social Security survivors’ benefits and Veterans Administration benefits that we got because he had worked enough and had served in WWII.”

    OTOH, one can make the case that these were earned benefits, not government assistance.

    SS benefits could be viewed as insurance payouts; I assume your dad paid into the SS system while he was alive. SS provides everyone who pays into it with some level of death and disability insurance.

    VA benefits were earned through his service.

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