Friday, May 12, 2017

This student takes a nuanced position on minimum wage increases

I am here on behalf of the many that oppose the minimum wage being raised to $15.00 an hour for all workers.  Some jobs are worth the minimum wage being increased—and I am thinking of nursing home staff, hospital nurse techs, and direct care workers who are taking care of people, taking care of some of our most fragile people.  That type of work needs to have a minimum wage set higher.  Most days those health care workers are working long hours, and they are understaffed.  To raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour for entry jobs like many in the food service industry is not warranted.  These types of jobs are typically for teenagers who are just working a few hours to buy new clothes or a pair of shoes, and they are not paying their bills with that kind of money.  These entry level jobs function to get people in the workforce to show that they have held a job before and to hopefully inspire people to go on a get a better paying job. 


Raising the minimum wage to $15.00 for workers in a company like McDonald’s would have teenagers making this kind of serious money, which is okay in itself, but with making this kind of money it can come some indirect consequences that we must avoid, such as having young workers decide that they do not want to further their education.  They will settle for the entry level job.  These kinds of jobs are not jobs where you should want to start and raise a family.  They are not the jobs that you would want to plan on staying at forever and making it a career choice.  Raising the minimum wage could hurt the very people that it is intended to help. 

With the higher general minimum wage, employers would need to be more cautious in their hiring and look at potential employees and wonder what they could bring to their company.  They could wonder how useful a potential employee will be if they in fact did hire them.  This selectivity in hiring would be a barrier to people just starting out without an employment history.

 People that are unhappy with the wage they are making should make strides to find other jobs.  They should get some schooling or some training to obtain a better job and get better pay.  They should not expect to stay in an entry level job and receive better pay for a job that is not worth that.  There are people that are spending insane amounts of money in school so that they can live comfortably, so that they can get that job that pays them more than minimum wage because they know what kind of life they will live if they do not make minimum wage.  Yes I am here opposing the minimum wage increase and I do hope that this bill is not passed into law. 


This essay makes some points against the general increase of the minimum wage up to $15 per hour.  Usually opposition to the minimum wage is based on three propositions: 1) higher wages will reduce the demand for labor, so unemployment will rise; 2) higher wages will spark inflation, which will erode the benefits of wage gains; and 3) it is morally wrong for the government to intervene to tell citizens what they must pay their workers, as pay is better set by having workers and employers negotiate a wage rate that is agreeable or acceptable to both sides without government coercive regulation. What is fascinating about this paper is that none of these tired old chestnuts are used.  The student has an innovative argument.
The first argument is that some jobs are underpaid, and the government might step in to increase minimum wages in those types of underpaid jobs, but the prevailing wages in other sorts of work are okay when they are low.  The student is suggesting minimum wages set by type of work or job sector, a more complicated situation than a global wage floor applying to all work.  This gets at one problem of the minimum wage: a global minimum wage often seems wrong.  The de facto solution has been for the United States to have a federal minimum wage standard that is quite low, and allow states and cities or counties to set higher minimum wages.  It makes sense that minimum wages in San Francisco or New York ought to be much higher than minimum wages in rural Arkansas or along the Rio Grande in south Texas. Having worked (like most Americans, briefly) in the food service industry, I agree that a single minimum wage for all of us didn't seem fair.  The person who worked at the grill was doing something more dangerous than the rest of us, and that cook had to work with more skill and with greater urgency than many of the rest of us.  Likewise, the danger and unpleasant nature or the higher responsibility required in some low-wage jobs in child care, elderly care, and health care seem to require higher wages than those given to persons in easier, safer, less critical work, and yet the minimum wage is the same for everyone no matter the value of their work or the danger and difficulties associated with it.





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Opposition to welfare

This student has written a paper about the opposition to welfare.

In today’s society, we have many programs that citizens use for receiving assistance. One major assistance program is public assistance, such as: Medicaid, supplemental nutrition program (SNAP and NSLP and WIC), and cash assistance (TANF, EITC, General Relief). There is a current proposal out that attempts to get rid of public assistance for citizens. This proposal to eliminate public assistance could affect families and people in need. According to the policy proposal, the federal government uses a lot of money to fund these programs, and it should not. For example, public housing received $15.8 billion dollars from the U.S federal government in order to fund rental assistance and public housing. Such expenditure seems like a waste of taxpayer money to those who want to get rid of public assitance.  Rather than taking money from everyone through taxes and using billions of dollars to help poor persons, these opponants of the welfare system would prefer to abolish all the welfare policies, and let people stand on their own; if they are too poor to afford housing or food, well then, they had better find a job and work hard to keep that job and earn the money they need. If they are too sick or disabled or impaired to find and hold a job, they must rely on family and private charities, but not on tax dollars taken from “hard working taxpayers” to support their lives.   However, most people support some form of welfare, and defend the public assistance programs, pointing out how these programs give families hope for food, health, and even living. Without such policies, we would be a society with greater illness, greater hunger, more homelessness, and people would even die from exposure or malnutrition or desperation.

Not only is spending all this money on funding these public assistance programs an issue for people who support the proposed policy, but some also feel that people who rely on these public assistance programs become lazy and they get comfortable with being provided for. Therefore, one believes that taking away these assistance programs will drive people to actually learn to provide for themselves. Conversely, people who are in favor of assistance programs claim that the difficulty of finding work and the difficulty of paying medical bills (since the bills can be extremely high at times) require a safety net of public programs to protect peopl from extreme economic hardship.  In particular, costs for low-income persons who have many people depending on their care (perhaps young children, elderly parents, or disabled persons living in their households) need help, since the economic system we have may not provide them with enough resources to survive, even if they do work for wages.  Some people with so many caregiving duties don’t even have time to work for money, since they must care for many children or other persons dependant upon their care.


A possible solution to benefit both sides might be to reduce the spending cost of the public assistance. This would allow the low income and others who are currently on public assistance to still receive help, but at a minimum level, and for some services a co-pay would be in effect. This is the compromise that opponants of the welfare system seek.  They want to lower the costs of Medicaid, TANF, SNAP, Rental Assistance, Public Housing, LIHEAP, SSI, and the EITC.  They know that they cannot abolish these programs, but at least they can cut budgets or change laws to reduce spending or increase fees and co-pays.  Those who defend the welfare state reject the idea that benefits for the poor turn people who are otherwise capable of independence into dependent welfare moochers. These defenders of welfare often want to increase the availability of services and programs, and claim that we need to spend more on programs that support people in poverty.  Such people may want to spend more on welfaer so that our country eliminates hunger and homelessness, and gives people an equal chance to participate in civic and cultural life. The debate between those who want to eliminate welfare and those who want to increase it will continue into the foreseeable future, because the people who support these two opposing sides are both motivated by visions of an ideal society and questions of morality and common sense.  Each side sees that they are right and the other side is wrong.

Student considers public funding for abortion in Illinois

Abortion Coverage
In recent news, Illinois lawmakers have passed the law that abortions can be paid with medical insurance. This topic has been a big thing recently since many people do not think that medical insurance should cover abortions because it promotes killing a child. However, others believe it allows all women to be in control of their body.
As stated earlier, many people feel that this law promotes the killing of a human being. Some critics of this newly passed law state how people will now try to use this as a new form of birth control and that this might be taken advantage of. Nonetheless, many people have been asking the question “where will funding for this come from?”. This is an issue because higher education cannot be funded but the state has money to cover the harming of children.
However, people who support the new law states that since this has now passed it will allow people who accidentally got pregnant and cannot afford to get an abortion to do so. Many say this will reduce harm towards unwanted children.
In my opinion, I think that abortions should not be covered under Medicaid because that extra money can be used to better the state. I do, however, think that abortions should be cheaper so people want have to stress about the payment of an abortion. 

SEPEDA-MILLER, KIANNAH. "Democratic Illinois House OKs Public Funding for Abortions."U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, 25 Apr. 2017. Web. 27 Apr. 2017.

It's interesting to note that poor women are more likely to have abortions.  Poor women are more likely to have their health insurance with Medicaid.  So, when poor women who use Medicaid want abortions, should their Medicaid cover the termination of their pregnancy. 

The critical question with abortion is the issue of when a zygote or embryo or fetus becomes a child.  At some point in the pregnancy, the baby is a human child, and should be protected, unless there are complications that endanger the mother’s life or possibly defects that mean the child will die within seconds or hours of birth.  But, when does this point stand?  Is it within minutes of fertilization of the egg, or the zygote's implantation into the wall of the uterus?  Is it in the eighth week of development, the 10th week, the 12th week, the 15th week, the 20th week, the 22nd week, or when?  So long as the thing in the woman is not a human child, abortions seem morally neutral, or possibly beneficial.  A person who doesn't want a child, is too young or too poor to rear the child, and wants to terminate a pregnancy before the embryo has become a child is possibly doing something meritorious.  But, when an abortion is performed after the threshold has been crossed, then an abortion is essentially the killing of a child, and it is morally objectionable. 

Very few Americans think that the embryo is a human child in the first week or two of development, and most people are not opposed to abortions performed in the first month or first six weeks of a pregnancy.  Those who do oppose abortions even in the first hours or weeks of a pregnancy almost always base their opposition on religious beliefs, and our government is supposed to stay out of theological and religious disputes.  

Opposing public spending on abortions on the basis of cost seems odd to me.  The costs of allowing a poor and unwilling mother bear a child are potentially far higher to that mother and society in general than the relatively modest cost of an abortion.  The main objection to public-funded abortions that appeals to me is the idea that some people take such a strong and deeply-held objection to abortions that we ought to respect their strong feelings and refrain from using public expenditure on such a controversial procedure.  Let abortions be funded by private charities and non-profit corporations.  I say this argument has some appeal to me, but I do not say it is persuasive.  I actually hold no firm opinion on this matter; I'm inclined to desire that abortions are legal and affordable and accessible, but I'm also inclined to oppose abortions and desire a society in which no woman chooses to have an abortion. 

I recommend the ACLU fact sheet about public funding for abortions. 

A television station in Chicago covered this issue

Public broadcasting in Urbana-Champaign covered this bill as well

Monday, April 24, 2017

Student writes complaining of Medicare's caps on physical therapy services

To Whom It May Concern, 
I have resided in Illinois for my life.  I live in Greenfield, Illinois, which, if you are not sure, it’s a small town and everyone is here to help one another.  I used to work at Blue Cross Blue Shield as a Customer Representative and due an unforeseen stroke, I had to quit work.  As a community as well as a former BCBS representative, we are there to help other people.  We see other people who been through the best and worst of things try to get better and move on with their lives.  We also take care of the elderly and people with sickness, cancer etc., and we try to help out by taking care of each other.  We are a tight knit community.
I am also not a big fan of politics.  I want the people to get into their positions by what they stand for, be listening and “go with my gut feeling” so we can see some movement in our policies.

In that regard, I want to speak to you about Medicare and Physical Therapy for people with Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. People that have these diseases do benefit from repeated physical and speech therapy.  Their quality of life depends on these benefits to gain a sense of normality.  I have been working with a woman, ____, who has Parkinson’s disease for about a year now, and her condition has taken a down-ward spiral over the last couple of years.  She used to work at the ______ _______, and although she had this disease, she could still work.  About ten years ago, she was taken off working because her tremors were getting so bad.  She used to walk, but now she is confined to a wheelchair.  She now has a nerve receptor to handle the tremors and she has been signed up to receive physical and speech therapy to gain some access to walking and swallowing techniques.

According to Medicare, “There is currently a combined $1,920 yearly cap for physical therapy and speech-language therapy, and a separate $1,920 yearly cap for occupational therapy.”  I know there can be an extension for additional services, however, after the $1,920 year-cap, it’s not getting approved through Medicare, and the facilities do not want to extend their services in fear on not getting paid.  That would become the patient’s responsibility.  Patients cannot afford to go under for physical and speech therapy.  How would they recover?

I have seen ____ progress immensely with the therapy she has received but once that happens she has to start all over again to regain her strength back.  It’s very sad to see her start over and over again to only gain her where she was before she stopped going to therapy.  She could actually get up and walk!  Her body responded well to the therapy.  She actually could feel her gaining strength! That also affected using the bathroom and showers.  She didn’t get so close to falling but, after a month or two she lost all her strength and she ended right back where she was before.  It breaks my heart.

If we can use Medicare and have guidelines to approve extended visits, such a policy would be great.  If they could send in records to show what improvements they have made with the physical therapy and speech therapy, to acknowledge what they did, then Medicare could cover it. I understand that some people will not make any improvements, and I understand that when there is no clear sign of effectiveness it makes sense to have a cap and say that after spending a certain amount and showing no benefit, that can be the end for the year.  However, when people show improvement, the cap is too low; the people who should continue therapy will only gain strength with momentum and possibly have a pain free life if they get continuous therapy, so the cap on therapeutic services is very harmful and destructive.  I know this is newer to Medicare with Parkinson’s and MS, so if we could take a look at this, we could improve Medicare for people who are relying on services.  And let’s face it, $1,920 would not get very far with therapy, but that would really help those who need it and want to stay in their home without the use of nursing home and skilled care.  To me, that would increase the payments going out, but would be a lot less for a nursing home care.

I appreciate your time and attention to this matter.
Warm regards,

[Student Name]

A Pro-Life student urges politicians to protect funding for Planned Parenthood

To The Honorable Senators of Illinois, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth,

Greetings, today I am writing to you to express my concern for the funding of Planned Parenthood. Over the years there has been many a debate about the morality of Planned Parenthood and whether their services are right or wrong. Even though I myself am an avid pro-lifer and have participated in several pro-life events such as the March for Life in Washington D.C., this is not what I want my letter to be about. I simply aim to address the issue of the allocation of funds for the Planned Parenthood program.

Despite the bad reputation among many of us who are pro-Life, which Planned Parenthood has earned itself over the years with many scandals, the program does have many good things to offer to our community. These good things include STD testing, birth control, cancer screenings, and their sex ed program. In 2014 Planned Parenthood helped 4,218,149 with STI/STD treatment and testing alone (PPFA pg. 2). In that same year they provided contraception to 2,945,059 people (PPFA pg. 2). These statistics alone prove that Planned Parenthood does more than just terminate pregnancies. 

Few would argue that Planned Parenthood is all bad and that their work in treating STDs and cancer screenings is not a valued asset to our society. However, there are people like myself who are deeply troubled by the idea of our tax money funding procedures that we so vehemently oppose. In 2014 Planned Parenthood received $528 million dollars from the government alone (Kurtzleben np).  That money counts as 40% of their total revenue (Kurzleben np).  Realistically it makes sense that not all of the tax money goes to abortions; however, people who stand on the side of pro-life do not wish for a single penny of their hard earned money to go to abortion. However, many would agree that the money the government allocates to Planned Parenthood is still useful and necessary.

Therefore, I propose that there be a policy that dictates where and how the money the government gives to Planned Parenthood is used. This policy would also require Planned Parenthood to provide the public with financial statements for every penny of their $528 million dollar revenue. The government could make it simple for Planned Parenthood by giving out their funds in the form of grants that can only be used for a certain aspect of Planned Parenthoods programing. For instance say the government only allow 100 of the 528 million to be used for the distribution of condoms overseas in impoverished nations. 

Despite how people feel towards Planned Parenthood, they are the “leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, and the nation's largest provider of sex education” (Parenthood np).  I think that having a policy like the one I proposed would be an excellent compromise to the pro-life, pro-choice battle that all too often places Planned Parenthood in the crossfires. 

Thank you for your time and attention.
Sincerely, 
[Student's Name]

References

Kurtzleben, Danielle. “Fact Check: How Does Planned Parenthood Spend That Government Money?”. NPR it’s all politics. August 5, 2015.

PPFA — Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (2015a). 2014 Annual Affiliate Service Census Executive Summary. New York: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (An internal report). _____. (2015b). 2014-2015 Annual Report. New York: Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. 


Parenthood, Planned. "Planned Parenthood at a Glance." Planned Parenthood. N.p., 17 Feb. 2017. Web. 22 Feb. 2017. 

This is an interesting example of allowing a political leader to know that although you are representing a particular camp in some controversial issue, you do not necessarily support all the opinions associated with your camp.  You are pro-life, and against abortions, and you especially do not want money spent on abortions.  Many who agree with you on that issue want to defund Planned Parenthood.  You are suggesting that despite your pro-life stance, you still want to protect Planned Parenthood and ensure that it receives government payment for the services other than abortion that is delivers.

As another aside, Planned Parenthood is already prevented from using federal dollars on abortions.  See the Fact Check story from several years ago about this. Planned Parenthood describes how it gets federal dollars mainly through Medicaid and Title X for preventive health services (never abortion, which cannot be paid for with federal dollars).  So, to some extent, the policy you are advocating for here is already one that exists. 

TANF may help families out of poverty, but it is too limited

Here is another student paper about TANF
For this assignment, we were asked to examine a policy that was related to welfare. I chose to focus on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). I want to point out the positives, the negatives, and give reasons for why I believe it should become a policy change. TANF is a federally-funded program that is run by the states; it provides limited cash assistance to low-income parents and their children (Family Equality Council, 2016). The program was designed to help families reach sustainability and eventually be able to provide for themselves. In order to receive this assistance there are requirements that must be met.

Since TANF is run by the states, some requirements may be different for who can qualify for this assistance. TANF is temporary, so the requirement of receiving cash assistance from federal funds cannot exceed sixty months. “However, states can exceed the 60 month limit for up to 20 percent of their caseload based on hardship” (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2015). Work requirements are also set for the individual to receive cash assistance. The states are to impose sanctions (reduce or terminate benefits), if the individual is not meeting requirements of work activities. Most states have chosen to create the “full-family” sanctions. This simply means that failure to meet the requirements will result in removing benefits for the entire family.

This welfare program has many positives and many negatives. For instance, it allows for the opportunity of eliminating poverty for families who receive the benefit. Many of the causes of poverty are lack of jobs, inadequate housing, and poor nutrition. This program allows for the family who may be receiving low income, to receive a little extra to feed their children, pay rent and utilities, and get a car fixed up so it can carry a parent to work. This is always a benefit of cash benefit programs compared to in-kind benefit programs.  The TANF program in some states also allows you to meet with caseworkers in order to set goals. These goals include future plans to stop receiving TANF and be able to be stable with finances. The program is just not a free ride for people who do not want to work or be lazy. You must go through meeting requirements, and meet multiple times with your caseworker.

Although it seems that trying to help assist a family financially is great, there are also drawbacks of this program. The idea that you have to prove yourself eligible starts with the assumption that applicants are unworthy or undeserving until they have proved otherwise. Why not start with the idea that the amount of income you receive is not good enough to support a family of three, and this is a program that may help you? The other issue that ought to be disparaged is the time limit. While the time limit may cause the individual to want to get goals arranged for the future, what if this is the only option? For some people, they have tried multiple things and it seems no matter what, they cannot reach their full potential. After their sixty months have run out they will still have no source of income, and they will be unable to provide for themselves or their family.  Consider all the possible cases: persons who don’t quite meet the diagnostic criteria for a cognitive disability, but really have intellectual limitations that make them difficult to employ; persons who don’t meet the criteria for a full disability, so they can’t qualify for SSI or other forms of assistance, but in fact, they are very close to being disabled, perhaps due to mental or physical health problems; persons who have reoccurring health problems that make them not very dependable as workers (they miss too many days), so they lose jobs and can’t find and keep work for more than a year at a time, but over the course of fifteen or twenty years they have used up their five years of TANF; persons who are in fact a little lazy, a little sneaky, or a little unpleasant to have as employees, but they aren’t actually criminal or menacing or belligerent or entirely non-productive, they are just minimally productive.  Society has people like these, but capitalism doesn’t offer much scope for these people to succeed and become self-sufficient. TANF could be a policy that kept these people out of harm’s way, preventing them from ending up in homeless shelters, jails, hospital emergency rooms, and courtrooms.  

With both the pros and cons of the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Family), I do believe that there should be some policy change. The time limit should be extended to families who need it. As a caseworker, you should be continuously taking into account how a family is benefitting from the program. However, if you notice that a family may almost be to their full potential and needs and extra month, extend their cash assistance. I also believe that there should be a set amount of money to be given to family sizes throughout all of the states. The federal government should be able to provide each state with the same amount of funding so that one family does not receive more than the other. Who says that this parent is not meeting the same requirements, but not receiving the same amount? With these reasons I believe the TANF program does work to help assist families, however could definitely be improved.

References
Policy Basics: An Introduction to TANF. (2015, June 15). Retrieved March 1, 2017, from http://www.cbpp.org/research/policy-basics-an-introduction-to-tanf


Temporary Assistance for Needy Familes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 1, 2017, from http://www.familyequality.org/get_informed/advocacy/after_doma/tanf/

A student considers the TANF program

A social welfare system provides assistance to needy individuals and families.  The types and amount of welfare available to individuals and families vary depending on the country, state or region.  Examples of social welfare in the United States include Medicare, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food benefits, and Section 8 housing assistance.  

The 1996 welfare reform enacted by the Clinton Administration ended Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) as an entitlement program and replaced the program with a block grant, called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).  TANF is a federally-funded program run by states that provides limited cash assistance to low-income parents and their children.  To be eligible for TANF, individuals must participate in work activity within two years of receiving assistance, and families are limited to a total of five years’ assistance in a lifetime.  If an individual refuses work requirements, states have the option to reduce or shut off assistance to that family.  Another important feature to TANF concerns minors.  Minors who are parents cannot receive TANF assistance unless they are living at home with their parents or in another adult supervised setting.  Minors must attend high school or an alternative educational program as soon as their child is twelve weeks old. 

TANF is funded not only by the federal government, but also by the states.  The federal government gives states a fixed block grant each year.  States that meet specified criteria may also qualify for federal contingency funds.  In 2013, states reported spending about $15 billion of nonfederal money on services intended to meet TANF’s goals. The Federal government spends about the same amount, with about $15.8 billion expected for TANF grants to the states from the Department of Health and Human Services for 2017.

TANF comes with multiple positives and negatives to the program.  Positives to the program include:
  1. TANF has helped provide people with food, medical assistance, and other services.  
  2. The program helps individuals stay motivated and teaches them to meet their needs.  
Negatives to the program include: 
  1. Some people abuse it and do not tell the truth about their status.  
  2. Since it is a cash assistance program, individuals who receive the cash can spend it on anything.  Although the money is supposed to go to necessary items such as food, clothing, and rent, some individuals are spending their cash on alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.  
  3. There are also people who do not want to be part of the program because they are embarrassed or for other personal reasons. 
Today, there are many different flaws in the TANF program.  TANF only exists on a short-term basis leaving those who depended on it hopeless.  The continuing growth of the human population is making TANF become ineffective because of the insufficient budget.  Another flaw within the program is that while states can set their own time limit policies, they cannot provide cash assistance from federal TANF funds for longer than 60 months to a family that includes an adult recipient.  This leaves individuals without a source of income. 

In conclusion, there are many positives and negatives to TANF today.  TANF over the years has helped low income families stay on their feet, pay for food, and put a roof over families’ heads.  While TANF aims to assist in the prevention of poverty, it only serves to keep its individuals on the brink of poverty.  



Here is another list of benefits and harms of the TANF program:

1) It is a cash benefit.
This is beneficial because it allows recipients to have some autonomy and dignity, as they may manage their own money.  It also maximizes their freedom, because it allows them to use the money for whatever is their most pressing need.
This can be harmful, because some TANF recipients have very poor financial literacy, and they may waste or squander their cash benefit.  Some who suffer from addictions will use their benefits on pursuing their addictions.

2) It offers only very little money.
This is beneficial because the small benefit levels do not attract people to become poor so that they qualify for benefits.  It also is so low that even when people receive TANF, they need more money, and so they will look for work to earn more money, and that will help them become independent and get off of welfare.
This is harmful because even poor persons should live with dignity and have their basic needs met.  During the periods when people need TANF, they need to focus on their parenting, or focus on building their skills, or focus on finding a good job.  If the benefit level is so low that they must hustle around and try to make ends meet, they will not have the energy or time to devote themselves to the tasks that are more important.  Also, the low benefit levels may make it impossible for people to have phones or cars, and so they may miss opportunities to take jobs or study.

3) There are time limits.  If you have not found a job in a certain amount of time, you benefits can be cut.  After five years in of receiving benefits in your life, you may never receive any more benefits.
This is beneficial because it makes it impossible for people to become dependent over a long period of time.  Since people can lose their benefits if they don’t find employment, they will be more willing to enter the labor force and work for an employer. This should make poor people more subservient and diligent in their work, since they will fear being fired, especially if they have no benefits left to gain when they are out of work.
This is harmful because some people may have chronic health problems or mental health issues or other life circumstances that put them in a situation where they need assistance for more than five years, or may take them a long time to find a reasonable employment opportunity.  The time limits will cut off support for the children as well as the parents, so that children with parents who have lost their benefits may suffer. 

4) It can be humiliating and complicated to apply for the TANF benefit, and the regular monitoring of your situation by a caseworker can be an invasion of your responsibility.
This can be beneficial because fewer people will apply for benefits.  Also, people who receive benefits can be closely monitored and coached or encouraged by their caseworkers, so that they will be less able to cheat, and more able to work toward their plans for self-sufficiency.
This can be harmful because the stigma associated with receiving TANF may push families who could use the cash benefit away from gaining it, and they will have even more financial trouble while going through a spell of economic hardship because they have not gained access to the resources that are supposed to help them. The caseworkers may treat TANF recipients with contempt or might try to enforce their own values on the recipients, possibly giving bad advice or generally making clients miserable.

5) the program is generally too small, offers benefits that are inadequate, and is too harsh in its sanctions and benefit limits.
This can be beneficial because it reduces government spending and punishes the poor for whatever behaviors brought them to the point where they have become poor.

This is harmful because it feeds the American hatred of poor people, and punishes people for life circumstances that are usually not their fault, which is unfair.

Student suggests that a Federal Child Allowance could replace the Child Tax Credit

Dear Thomas E. Price, M.D.,

My name is [Student’s Name]. I am writing because I know that you are the head of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and I would like to advocate for a new child tax credit policy and possibly re-introduce a new policy to help the country’s suffering children. Experts who specialize in poverty and child well-being have suggested Federal child allowances and Federal Child Development Accounts, and I think that such policies could cause a large impact on every child in the United States while helping their caregivers as well. 

As of now, our country has the highest child poverty rates among advanced nations. In 2015, 13.1% of American children were food insecure and 19.7% of Americans under the age of 18 were in poverty (“Hunger and Poverty”, n.d.).  Such statistics are evidence that our nation is failing to do everything it can to prevent horrific levels of deprivation among children. However I know that we allocate enormous amounts of money, spending it on child hunger and child anti-poverty programs annually (for example, $23 billion on child nutrition programs, $19.6 billion on child tax credit refunds where credit exceeds liability for tax, a high percentage of the $71 billion we spend on Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits, etc.), but this money is not spent well. The money that goes toward child poverty hardly affects the children who are the very worst off; instead, kids who are higher up on the ladder are getting extra assistance.  The children in the poorest families, where parents cannot get TANF, and may have difficulty getting SNAP, perhaps because they are homeless, as depicted in the recent book $2 A Day, are abandoned and harmed by our present welfare system.

I have been researching, reviewing, and learning about one of the current programs that is to help the kids who are not well off: the child tax credit. I have found that the child tax credit has a hard time reaching the severely poor families. The majority of families who receive this assistance are those who have a moderate and middle income. You would think that the people who have low to zero income would be the ones who would find the most use of this money for the children. Granted, the middle and moderate families need the help too. In fact, almost all of America could use an extra boost to ensure their kids are getting some type of aid. These tax credits help the poor by providing credit up to $1,000 per child who is under the age of 17. One of the first flaws that strikes me is that this child tax credit helps the working family. Does that mean that the people who are out of work or are unable to work do not qualify for this tax credit? Are we excluding the children whose parents are not employed from this financial boost? Also, the fact that a child is no longer eligible once he or she turns 17 can cause a burden as well. I believe that the age should be raised. The child tax credit is also confusing to file for, making it a burden for families who are unfamiliar with the process. There are many additional options that can add onto the original credit, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Lastly, one may be overwhelmed while trying to decide whether or not their child will qualify for the support. The child tax credit is providing some help, but it is seldom working. It does not help everyone—so why not try something new?

I think that the government should provide a monthly check to every child in the country regardless of income or socioeconomic status. The government would get rid of some of the child tax credits completely and instead write a check every month to families with children. Having these allowances will ensure that every single child have an equal starting base. The parents will have cash to provide food, clothing, shelter, school supplies, and other basic needs. The vulnerable will have a floor that will be hard to fall under. They know that money will be provided to help care for their family. The parent will need to claim the number of children they have and a check will be provided to each. It’s a simple process unlike the child tax credit. Obviously children age 17 and under will be able to obtain the check, but I think that the transition years of 18 through 20 should still be given a check unless the child themselves identifies as independent. The reason I think this would be an adequate addition is because at this is a confusing age for many young adults. It is this time that they are trying to go to college, which is expensive! Many students will go to a university close to home so that they can reside at home for a few more years to save a few thousand dollars. This is another two years that they are relying on their guardians to provide meals and a place to sleep. This is another two years that families could use the assistance. By the age of twenty someone tends to start to get a grip on their life and can begin to help with their own finances. This policy will treat everyone equally. No one person will receive more or less money based on income. It will be an easy process of apply and receive. Kids will have a solid base. The positives out weigh the negatives.

One of the biggest concerns will be how expensive this policy will be. I was thinking that each child’s check would be roughly $250 per month, equally about $190 billion a year (Porter, 2016). Yes, at first glance that seems like an outrageous amount, but hear me out. Simply by cutting the child tax credit, the country could pay for half of that already. Also, by giving out these allowances an enormous amount of people could be lifted out of poverty. People will be able to buy more, which will help the economy. According to John Maynard Keynes, the best way to help an economy was to spend more! With less people in poverty, more people will be able to contribute to spending, which will affect the supply and demand of products and boost our economy. Another hesitation is that citizens that don’t actually need the help will still receive a check. In reality, we could all use the help, but the point of the universal access is that everyone is treated equal. There will be zero uproar about someone having access to more money than someone else. It will be a set amount that each and every child will receive.

I hope that this letter has made you think about the current policy and has opened your eyes to a new possibility. The child tax credit does help some children who are in poverty, but there are still many glitches with the idea. I think that having a stagnant cash amount given to each child will provide a steady base for all. Thank you for your time. 

Sincerely, 
[Student’s Name]


This is a good example of a student’s letter to a person in the government in which a student analyzes a policy proposal and makes a recommendation, or writes a letter of advocacy.  

In response to the student’s paper, I had a few suggestions to make concerning the proposed policy.  
  1. As most children are poor at young ages (poverty rates for children aged 0-11 are far higher than poverty rates of children aged 12-18), the allowance for younger children could reflect this by being larger than the allowance for older children.
  2. You could compare this to the guaranteed minimum income.  I know that my idea that every citizen ought to have a guaranteed minimum income is controversial and radical, because most Americans think it is fair to force people into the capitalist labor market by denying benefits to able-bodied working-aged adults who do not or will not take employment.  But, no one expects children to work, and most of us expect that elderly persons should be allowed to retire and rest in their final years.  So, why not provide a guaranteed minimum income for children and the elderly, since we have no objections to their being out of the labor force?  
  3. A Federal Child Allowance program can be used as a reward for children who remain in school and avoid problems with the law.  Children who have high rates of being absent without excuses from school or who do not attend school could have their allowances cut or eliminated, and young persons who are convicted of crimes or status offenses could also lose some of their allowance benefits. Students who meet particular academic milestones might get a little bonus with their benefits. 
  4. It probably would make most sense to split the child allowance into two accounts; one would be a child development account, and the money in that account could be used to make a down-payment on a home, pay for education-related expenses, pay for health care, or pay for investment in a business. The other income stream would be a “living allowance” for families (very much like a refundable child tax credit), used for child care, food, clothing, housing, school supplies, transportation, and entertainment.  

I would give every child age 0-11 a living allowance (refundable child rearing tax credit) of $4800 per year ($400 per month), and $200 per month ($2,400 per year) for young persons aged 12-19 (provided they were still in school or vocational training programs).  I would give every child a “Child Development Account” of $5,000 at birth, and add $2,100 to that each year ($175 per month or $2,100 on each birthday) up to age 20 (provided the young person was in school and not found guilty of any crime or status offense).  That could be a lifetime benefit of $47,000 for each person born in the USA, and would pay a significant portion of college expenses and also pay for a downpayment on a home or condominium. 
Assuming no one ever lost benefits for dropping out of school, or had benefits reduced for crimes or school absenteeism, and everyone continued getting benefits to the maximum age because of remaining in school or getting vocational training, the total cost per year would be $512 billion. (I have used Census estimates for the American population by age and multiplied by the benefits I've suggested).  But, there could be reductions (considerable reductions) for SNAP, NSLP, Medicaid, Student Loans, and the existing tax expenditures for the child tax credit (which would be eliminated).  I estimate a $16 billion reduction in SNAP spending, a $8 billion reduction in NSLP, a $30 billion reduction in Federal Medicaid, a $4 billion reduction in student grants and loans (and corresponding tax credits associated with loans), and a $5 billion reduction in the child credit tax expenditure (eliminated) and various other tax credits associated with child care.  So, perhaps $60 billion in reductions to existing programs would leave the net cost of this policy at $452 billion.  I would pay for it by transferring $178 billion from the Defense Department budget (cut that budget by about 30%), eliminating the deduction for home mortgage interest (saving $83 billion), and raising $191 billion by increasing income taxes on households earning $50K to 100K by about 2 percentage points (actual income taxes paid would go from 14-15% to 16-17%), increasing income taxes on households earning $100K to $200K by 2.5 percentage points (actual income taxes paid would go from 17.5% to 20%), raising income taxes on households earning $200K to $500K by 3 percentage points (actual income taxes paid would go from 24% to 27%), raising income taxes on households earning $500K to $1 million by 43 percentage points (actual income taxes paid would go from 29% to 33%), and raising income taxes on households earning over $1 million by five percentage points (actual income taxes would go from about 33% to 38%).  I have used the IRS report on tax returns from 2014 (filed in 2015) showing actual incomes earned and taxes paid to calculate these tax rates and the revenue we could expect by these tax increases.

I think we can defend our nation adequately spending $425 billion a year instead of over $600 billion per year on the Defense Department, and I think wealthy people can afford to pay 38% instead of 33% of their income in taxes. The benefits we would gain by having so many children lifted out of poverty with these $4,800 per year spending allowances given to every family would be unimaginably tremendous.  The child development accounts would also have a terrific impact on our society.  Imagine the increase in home ownership, and the decrease in college debt this policy would give us.  Imagine the decrease in crime that would follow from young people having all this money saved up and the decrease in poverty.  

Since I’m worried about overpopulation, I think parents would only get the child allowances for their first three children, and then fourth children and subsequent children would get no further benefits, but there would be no limit on adopted children (and I’m not proposing elimination of the Child Adoption Tax Credit, either).  

Immigrant children would get the benefits after naturalization, but there would be no retroactive bonus of benefits for the child development accounts (you can’t immigrate here when you are five, and then get the $5,000 initial deposit you would have received if you had been born here).  There would also be regulations with the benefits so that they would be paid to parents who were citizens, so if you are visiting here from abroad (you aren’t an American citizen) and your child is born here (your child is a citizen), and then you return abroad with your child, your child would not get the living allowances or additional contributions to the development account while living with you abroad, but they would still get the initial “American citizen born in the USA” benefit of $5,000 in the development account, and allowance benefits for every month they lived here with their parents, and annual development account benefits for every year in which they lived more than half the year in the USA.  The development account benefits could only be spent in the USA (business investment, housing purchase, health care expenses, and educational expenses in the USA are legitimate uses of the development account, but not expenses abroad, aside from study-abroad semesters or foreign language study abroad when permanent residence is in the USA).  



Works Cited
Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved February 27, 2017, from http://www.feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/impact-of-hunger/hunger-and-poverty/hunger-and-poverty-fact-sheet.html

Porter, E. (2016, Oct 18). Giving Every Child a Monthly Check for an Even Start. Retrieved Feb 26, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/19/business/economygiving-every-child-a-monthly-check-for-an-even-start.html?_r=3 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A student offers a reaction to welfare reform

This student reacted to the $2 A Day book and a report on welfare reform.

My reaction to welfare reform

In my social welfare and policy class we study the history of social welfare policy and services. The policies and services are introduced through lecture and text.  We also study the client(s) in relations to policy and services, sometimes as their advocates. One of the texts required for the class is “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America” written by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer. This informative book described the history of welfare and its reform. Formally known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), now known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare (cash assistance) is supplemented with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and sometimes Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other programs. Edin and Shaefer’s book explained that the purpose of reform was to keep people from taking advantage of the system, and also the reformers wanted to help those on the program become independent. Edin and Shaefer also gave insights, using cases of actual people who were dealing with the system and the current effects of the reform. 
The requirements when you apply for TANF consist of having an address proving where you reside (lease and rent receipt), your recent pay stubs (if working) or proof of any income (SSI, Disability, retirement child support,..etc), proof of income for everyone living in the household, your checking and savings account statements (cannot exceed $2,000), birth certificate, and Social Security card. I was a bit curious and decided to search the internet for more information on the welfare reform and came across a research report conducted in 1998 by Michigan State University. “Social Welfare Reforms in the Midwest: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio Wisconsin”, written by Dr. Fayyaz Hussain. Dr. Hussain received his Ph.D. from Michigan state University in 1991, his expertise includes: poverty, hunger, social demographics and rural sociology.

Per Dr. Hussain the new policy for food stamps in the state of Illinois states:

  1. Food stamps will be given out for only 12 months (can be extended for 12 months if a person in the household is elderly or disabled)
  2. People would be found ineligible for any of the following reasons.
 A) refuse to register for employment 
B) refuse to participate in job training programs
C) refuse to accept an offer for a job
 D) quit a job.

I feel the problem with the reform is it has narrowed the requirements so much that people who qualify and benefit from the program the most are denied or do not qualify at all, because of a technicality. I feel the system is not equipped to deal with individual cases that need special circumstances granted to ensure the health and wellbeing of the individual and/or children, mainly because it does not address the needs of the clients as individuals upon initial contact.

 This book read to me like a novel put together of some of my friends and family life experiences. I was born and raised in Chicago and knew stories like the ones in the book all too well. In the book, it shows how the system reformed to help people has put them in more chaos (poverty, hunger, and homelessness). 

The system was set up to serve and provide for the public the basic needs for survival but people’s circumstances and needs vary. The policy requirements can be unrealistic for someone homeless with children. What if a woman finds a job that requires her to be outside past the homeless shelter’s curfew time. It leaves her with the decision of being homeless with SNAP benefits and a job, but will she be able to keep the job while fighting homelessness? If she quits she is most definitely going to be kicked from the program. An example in the book illustrated a woman and her daughter who were forced to live with distant relatives, a situation in which her daughter was sexually assaulted by the family member. The people in the book want what most of middle and upper class people take for granted, a stable home, stable work, and food. I think the system needs to be revised again to better serve the people in need. We all deserve to be fed and safe at night in a home with our loved ones. The US is a rich, powerful, and influential country yet our people are homeless and starving everyday. 

Yes, the key points are that TANF is now so paltry and restrictive that many people (about 1% to 1.5%) of the American population is not getting any cash assistance, and they cannot get any steady cash income. Many of these people have difficulties finding stable housing. With almost no cash income and no secure housing, their lives are so precarious that holding a job becomes extremely difficult.  If we as a society gave people more resources and stability, those who are willing to work would have a foundation of welfare that would help them settle down and find work, if any work were available.  
Providing jobs and providing stable and secure housing would solve many of the problems for these desperately poor persons.  However, in come cases we may also need to provide a more generous system of benefits if the adults are unable to work, or if they would be better off devoting their time to the care of their children and self-improvement until the children are older. 
The assumption that people must work, and must accept whatever jobs the capitalist system offers them, is an assumption that devalues human liberty and dignity, and puts more value on property rights and wealth.  Surely workers and potential workers ought to be given security in their basic rights to a life of dignity and freedom from material want, so that a spartan but secure and healthy lifestyle is available to all. Those who want luxuries or material advancement beyond the basic fundamental material necessities should be able to enter the labor force, but I see no reason to force everyone into the labor force.