# blueollie

## Public money: studies and where it goes

Workout notes The neighborhood streets are still hard packed snow (some pavement peeking out here and there) so I went indoors again.
Treadmill 1: 8 miles in 1:27:30. I started off at 5.3 mph (11:19 mpm) and increased the speed by .1 mph every .25 miles This got me to mile 3 in 31:10 and I kept it up (the same pattern) until the end of mile 4 (6.8 mph, or 8:49 mph) Then I went 6.8/6.9 for mile 5, .25 at 6.0, 6.3 for .25, then 6.7-6.8 until mile 6 (58:00). Then 2 miles of walking; slow at first and then I picked it up.

Treadmill 2: hills: increased the incline every 2 minutes until I did 2 at elevation 7, then started downward. I started at 4.1 mph (14:38) and increased the speed on the way down; 28:03 was the total.
10 miles: better than zip.

Money matters Paul Ryan produced one of his “researched and footnoted” reports. Trouble is: the research he cited didn’t exactly say what he said it did:

An exhaustive critique of the federal social safety net released by Rep. Paul Ryan on Monday is meant to be the intellectual foundation for an overhaul of the federal anti-poverty programs. But interviews with economists – a number of whom are cited in Ryan’s paper – suggest that he may be building his house on sand.

Ryan’s 204-page report, The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later, is documented with hundreds of citations of academic work. The paper breaks down federal anti-poverty programs into eight separate categories – cash aid, education and job training, energy, food aid, health care, housing, social services, and veterans affairs – and reviews the evidence for and against their effectiveness, relying in large part on academic research.

Related: Paul Ryan’s New Idea Is Really Smart – But Will It Fly?

“Today, the poverty rate is stuck at 15 percent—the highest in a generation,” Ryan noted in the report. “And the trends are not encouraging. Federal programs are not only failing to address the problem. They are also in some significant respects making it worse. Changes are clearly necessary, and the first step is to evaluate what the federal government is doing right now.”

However, several economists and social scientists contacted on Monday had reactions ranging from bemusement to anger at Ryan’s report, claiming that he either misunderstood or misrepresented their research.

Ryan’s paper, for example, cited a study published in December by the Columbia Population Research Center measuring the decline in poverty in the U.S. after the implementation of Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”

One of the study’s authors, Jane Waldfogel, a professor at Columbia University and a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, said she was surprised when she read the paper, because it seemed to arbitrarily chop off data from two of the most successful years of the war on poverty.

Waldfogel and her colleagues looked at an alternative measure of the poverty rate known as the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which factors in government benefits like food stamps and programs like the earned-income tax credit. That alternative measure is thought to present a more accurate and realistic gauge of the poverty and the real-world effects of government programs aimed at combatting it.

The Columbia researchers found that, using their model of the SPM, the poverty rate fell from 26 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012. Ryan only cites data from 1969 onward, ignoring a full 36 percent of the decline.

Rep. Ryan strikes me as the frat boy who puts together a fancy power point presentation complete with references and pie charts….and makes no sense at all. But he convinces his family that he is a GENIUS.

A Michigan teacher is in trouble after filming an 11-year-old autistic boy who got his head stuck in a chair.

My first reaction: do I want our public school teachers wasting our taxpayer money on THIS at the expense of teaching those who are capable of learning? Seriously, it is easy to see some of the reasons that public education is having so much trouble. Here is more on the funding issue:

Local funding formulas also vary widely and district budgets rely heavily on local revenues. Technically, there are no unfunded federal “mandates.” Each federal education law is conditioned on a state’s decision to accept federal funds. The federal law applies only when a state voluntarily chooses to accept federal funds. Any state that does not want to abide by a federal program’s requirements can choose not to accept the federal funds associated with that program. Many states and districts accept the requirements and then find that state and federal funding is insufficient to cover local expenses. In these cases, local districts must transfer money from their general funds to pay expenses. This practice is often termed “encroachment” and can cause tension between general education and special education programs.

I can easily see people feeling under funded school districts or pulling their kids out of public schools if this is the environment that is offered to their “not special needs” kids.

Another side comment: I read some of the comments: “gee, how can so many of those commenting support the teacher here?”

I can easily see people supporting the teacher who is shaming this student. I know that I responded well to being “shamed” (appropriately); this happened to me in school, in sports and in the military…and in graduate school. So it is normal to think that shaming might work if it has worked in your life. But, shaming worked for me in the cases in which was not performing up to MY capabilities.

Perhaps not getting stuck in this position is not up to this kid’s capabilities? If so…what is he doing being mainstreamed? I don’t know because I know nothing about “special needs” education and when it is appropriate to mainstream, if this is a rare occurrence or not (and many other things).

Interesting issue; it puzzles me and I have yet to make up my mind. I simply don’t know enough.

March 4, 2014

## Crimea and US economic inequality

This little editorial talks about what is going on with Crimea and the Ukraine/Russia crisis. I am not sure as to how this will be resolved, but I think that Russia’s economic ties to the rest of the world will have a positive influence on what happens.

I am not as alarmed as some as I see that Russia is just acting to instability on its border and in areas of interest, just as the United States would. I’m sure that our leaders understand it too.

Economic inequality There is a big difference between anger and envy, and the concerns about inequality are more about the former.

March 4, 2014

## Pull ups, Republicans, Catholic Bishops, economic metaphors and access …..

Social
Handicap access: not so good in China. Note: there is a different aspect to the body and the handicapped in China:

The continuing popular horror of disability today points to the strong grip of Chinese traditions that conflate biology and morality. One of the most powerful of these is the patriarchal Confucian notion of the importance of lineage. Confucianism sees the body, especially if male, as part of a chain of continuity stretching back to an individual’s ancestors and forward to his descendants. In this vision, a crippled or deformed body is a perversion – one often attributed to the moral or spiritual flaws of parents, especially mothers, who are blamed for their failure to follow medical superstitions, such as post-natal confinement or the avoidance of certain foods during pregnancy.

As a result, birth defects occasion far more fear and disgust in China than disability caused by accidents. ‘Sometimes people outside the city think I was born like this,’ commented one travelling businessman, showing me the prosthesis he’s worn since he lost a leg in the Tangshan quake in 1976. ‘And I tell them quickly, “no, no, it was the quake.”’

Hence, less empathy.

Speaking of bodies: The Marines will require that women be able to do pull ups. One (female) Major thinks that is a great thing:

First, to female Marines: You must understand that pullups will become the single standard measure of physical fitness (Marine administrative message 035/14). The flexed-arm hang is an antiquated test that is no longer applicable. Get it out of your head that it is an acceptable measure of fitness.

United States Marines, of any MOS or gender, should be required — and able — to pull their body weight up and into a window, over a wall or into a helicopter.

If you have not reached a minimum of three pullups by June 2014, you must fall into one of two categories: broke or lazy. Those of you who are broken: get healthy. Those of you who are lazy: get up and get training.

Remember: she is addressing young, healthy people (she is 37, but 17 years my junior).

Gosh, I miss attitudes such as this one.

Economics
Paul Krugman thinks that “simple thought experiments” are extremely useful in economics; this 1997 article is amusing:

One of the points of this column is to illustrate a paradox: You can’t do serious economics unless you are willing to be playful. Economic theory is not a collection of dictums laid down by pompous authority figures. Mainly, it is a menagerie of thought experiments–parables, if you like–that are intended to capture the logic of economic processes in a simplified way. In the end, of course, ideas must be tested against the facts. But even to know what facts are relevant, you must play with those ideas in hypothetical settings. And I use the word “play” advisedly: Innovative thinkers, in economics and other disciplines, often have a pronounced whimsical streak.

It so happens that I am about to use my hot-dog-and-bun example to talk about technology, jobs, and the future of capitalism. Readers who feel that big subjects can only be properly addressed in big books–which present big ideas, using big words–will find my intellectual style offensive. Such people imagine that when they write or quote such books, they are being profound. But more often than not, they’re being profoundly foolish. And the best way to avoid such foolishness is to play around with a thought experiment or two.

Go ahead and read the article; it discusses what happens when productivity goes up in a particular sector of the economy.

The 4,500-square-foot home sits on 8.2 wooded acres in the hills of Hunterdon County. With five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a three-car garage and a big outdoor pool, it’s valued at nearly \$800,000, records show.

But it’s not quite roomy enough for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers.

Myers, who has used the Franklin Township house as a weekend residence since the archdiocese purchased it in 2002, is building a three-story, 3,000-square-foot addition in anticipation of his retirement in two years, The Star-Ledger found. He will then move in full-time, a spokesman for the archbishop said.

The new wing, now just a wood frame, will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator, among other amenities, according to blueprints and permits filed with the Franklin Township building department.

The price tag, the records show, will be a minimum of a half million dollars, a figure that does not include architectural costs, furnishings and landscaping.

Construction is progressing as Myers asks the 1.3 million Roman Catholics of the archdiocese to open their wallets for the “archbishop’s annual appeal,” a fundraising effort that supports an array of initiatives, including religious education, the training of future priests and feeding the poor.[...]

Very Republican, indeed.

But according to a TIME analysis of county-by-county food-stamp-enrollment data compiled by the nonprofit Feeding America, it appears that House Republicans represent more districts with high levels of participation in the program than House Democrats. Of the 350 congressional districts in which TIME was able to estimate the percentage of people enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), 76 had levels of 20% or higher. Of those, 43 are held by Republicans while 33 are controlled by Democrats.[...]

One caveat: Democrats may well represent more people on SNAP as Democratic districts have more people, on the average, than Republican ones. Part of that is gerrymandering, but much of it stems from the fact that Democrats tend to live in more densely populated urban areas.

February 20, 2014

## Straw people and “them”…

Paul Krugman notes that conservatives in the media often fight against non-existent “stupid liberal economists”:

It works like this: Conservatives in general, and conservative economists in particular, often have a very narrow vision of what economics is all about — namely supply, demand, and incentives. Anything that interferes with the sacred functioning of markets or reduces the incentive to produce must be a bad thing; any time a progressive economist supports policies that don’t fit neatly into this orthodoxy, it must be because he doesn’t understand Econ 101. And conservative economists are so sure of this that they can’t be bothered to actually read what the progressives write — at the first hint of deviation from laissez-faire, they stop paying attention and begin debating with the stupid progressive in their mind, not the real economist out there.

As a result, many conservatives seem utterly unable to take on board the notion that people like Jon Gruber or yours truly might understand Econ 101, but also believe with good reason that you need to go beyond that point.

On the health care issue: yes, there are incentive effects — as there are with all insurance, by the way. But there’s also good reason to believe that there’s a major market imperfection in the form of job lock, and that even aside from this, there are important benefits to expanding health insurance that must be weighed against any costs. All of that is, in brief, in both of the pieces Mulligan denounces, and there at much greater length in our other writings; but as so often happens, conservatives develop problems of reading comprehension whenever such issues come up.

I’ve encountered similar responses on many other issues. You say that deficit spending is helpful in a depressed economy? You must be saying that deficits and bigger government are always good, which is stupid hahaha. You say that increasing unemployment benefits in a demand-constrained economy can create jobs? But you also said once upon a time that unemployment insurance can raise the natural rate of unemployment, so you’re stupid hahaha.

Well, somebody’s being stupid, anyway.

Lesson: if you think that someone like Paul Krugman doesn’t understand ECON 101, YOU are the idiot here.

Speaking of economics and the economy, we appear to be a “us and them” economy:

America has a serious “We” problem — as in “Why should we pay for them?”

The question is popping up all over the place. It underlies the debate over extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and providing food stamps to the poor.

It’s found in the resistance of some young and healthy people to being required to buy health insurance in order to help pay for people with preexisting health problems.

It can be heard among the residents of upscale neighborhoods who don’t want their tax dollars going to the inhabitants of poorer neighborhoods nearby.

The pronouns “we” and “they” are the most important of all political words. They demarcate who’s within the sphere of mutual responsibility, and who’s not. Someone within that sphere who’s needy is one of “us” — an extension of our family, friends, community, tribe – and deserving of help. But needy people outside that sphere are “them,” presumed undeserving unless proved otherwise.

The central political question faced by any nation or group is where the borders of this sphere of mutual responsibility are drawn.

Why in recent years have so many middle-class and wealthy Americans pulled the borders in closer?

The middle-class and wealthy citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, for example, are trying to secede from the school district they now share with poorer residents of town, and set up their own district funded by property taxes from their higher-valued homes.

Read the rest at Robert Reich’s blog. But I’ll admit this: I am not so sure that the “upper 1/10′th of 1 percent” is the problem here. Sure they don’t have a clue as to how most people live…no doubt about that. But they are such a small slice of the population; the real issue is how people of my (meager) income level appear to be indifferent to “them”.

Ok, I might not have that much empathy either, but I can apply a bit of “if that were me….I’d hate that” to stuff like “public walkways completely buried by road snow” (Peoria is a nasty, uncaring town) or “wouldn’t I like my kid to go to a good school.”

February 15, 2014

## Facts and the Republicans

Oh noes! President Obama issued…gasp…executive orders! And…

Oh, the Republicans lie about the CBO report about Obamacare too. Sure, fewer people choosing to work has some impact, but it is minimal. So, no, the Affordable Care Act won’t cut millions of jobs.

But not funding the extra unemployment might well have a negative impact:

First, it’s still at near-record levels. Historically, the long-term unemployed — those out of work for 27 weeks or more — have usually been between 10 and 20 percent of total unemployment. Today the number is 35.8 percent. Yet extended unemployment benefits, which went into effect in 2008, have now been allowed to lapse. As a result, few of the long-term unemployed are receiving any kind of support.

Second, if you think the typical long-term unemployed American is one of Those People — nonwhite, poorly educated, etc. — you’re wrong, according to research by the Urban Institute’s Josh Mitchell. Half of the long-term unemployed are non-Hispanic whites. College graduates are less likely to lose their jobs than workers with less education, but once they do they are actually a bit more likely than others to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed. And workers over 45 are especially likely to spend a long time unemployed.

Third, in a weak job market long-term unemployment tends to be self-perpetuating, because employers in effect discriminate against the jobless. Many people have suspected that this was the case, and last year Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University provided a dramatic confirmation. He sent out thousands of fictitious résumés in response to job ads, and found that potential employers were drastically less likely to respond if the fictitious applicant had been out of work more than six months, even if he or she was better qualified than other applicants.

What all of this suggests is that the long-term unemployed are mainly victims of circumstances — ordinary American workers who had the bad luck to lose their jobs (which can happen to anyone) at a time of extraordinary labor market weakness, with three times as many people seeking jobs as there are job openings. Once that happened, the very fact of their unemployment made it very hard to find a new job.

So how can politicians justify cutting off modest financial aid to their unlucky fellow citizens?

Some Republicans justified last week’s filibuster with the tired old argument that we can’t afford to increase the deficit. Actually, Democrats paired the benefits extension with measures to increase tax receipts. But in any case this is a bizarre objection at a time when federal deficits are not just falling, but clearly falling too fast, holding back economic recovery.

For the most part, however, Republicans justify refusal to help the unemployed by asserting that we have so much long-term unemployment because people aren’t trying hard enough to find jobs, and that extended benefits are part of the reason for that lack of effort.

But, ironically, this won’t hurt them at the polls, at least too much as the mainstream Republicans will be mostly challenged from the RIGHT in primaries. Good…let the primary voters nominate kookier and kookier candidates.

February 11, 2014

## Talking past each other: the “1 percent” (not really) and work ethic…and income inequality

First, I admit that I don’t care for slogans such as “war on X”. Yes, people of all political stripes use it. So while admitting that, I find that this Robert Reich video makes some excellent points:

Adding to that: too many not making good wages can lead to a “demand” problem. And yes, I want people to be able to send their kids to my university, so, yes, I have some skin in this game. The “demand” side of the economic equation is very important to me.

And then we see this: some of the very richest among us get their feelings hurt when they aren’t catered to and some went as far as to claim that they are similar to the Jews in Nazi Germany! (no, I didn’t make that up)

So, this one person backtracked but made this statement:

Venture capitalist Tom Perkins recently caused a stir when he wrote an item comparing contemporary liberals to Nazis, insisting liberal criticism of the wealthiest 1% has “parallels” to Nazi genocide. He later apologized for having used the word “Kristallnacht,” but defended his message.

The story ran its course and faded away, right up until yesterday, when billionaire Sam Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments, decided to defend Perkins in a Bloomberg TV interview.
“I guess my feeling is that he’s right,” Zell said when asked by Bloomberg’s Betty Liu how he felt about Perkins’ stance. “The 1 percent are being pummeled because it’s politically convenient to do so.”

Zell then said the problem is that all non-rich are just jealous that they don’t have the same work ethic that the country’s wealthiest do.

“The problem is that the world and this country should not talk about envy of the 1 percent. It should talk about emulating the 1 percent,” he said. “The 1 percent work harder. The 1 percent are much bigger factors in all forms of our society.”

Given the role that randomness plays in which investments boom and which go bust…isn’t this at least a little bit like bragging about having a winning lottery ticket?

Now before you cry “foul” and say something like “well, the elite in any profession DO work harder, on the average, than the mediocre”, I’d actually agree with that.

Well, I’d agree with that to a point. For example, I might decide to shovel snow for a living. I might work 16 hour days and work very, very hard in hard conditions. And I mean “shovel snow” and NOT expert snow removal. But I won’t get rich. So it isn’t merely “hard work”.

So, when we talk about “1 percent”, what do we mean? Lots of times, it is a proxy for the top tenth of one percent, where most of the gains went. And this is NOT a diverse group; we mean mostly hedge fund, venture capitalist types, with a tiny percentage of, maybe pro athletes and entertainers of various types.

When you talk about the elite in the high prestige professions: medical doctors, engineers, business owners, SOME science researchers (say, those at big pharma), even star professors, these people ARE well paid (and should be) but we really aren’t talking about them.

There is a big difference between being toward the top in one’s high prestige profession and being among those whose incomes are part of the “income inequality” equation. These are different issues, and most of us don’t mind the former people AT ALL; personally I admire them.

February 8, 2014

## unexpected “snow” day

We had the day off due to weather; I suppose the university felt pressure to make a “night before” decision and there *might have* been white out conditions the next day.

Still, from my point of view it was sort of comical; I live only a walk away, there was hardly any snow and I ended up going to the public gym (which WAS open) and lifting (as usual) and walking 5K OUTSIDE. Yes, it WAS cold (close to 0 F) but not that bad if you were dressed for it.

What made this weather interesting is that there was a 40 degree drop (F, about 22 degree drop in C) over an 8 hour period. Now something like this has happened in 1836 in Illinois, back before we had forewarning of such events. I can recommend climatologist Jim Angel’s report on this; it is very interesting.

Other posts
Bruce Schneier has an interesting post on how income inequality can be seen as a security threat of sorts (think: a more equitable society might need fewer resources devoted to security). Paul Krugman points out how unhinged some of the super wealthy have become; some are equating having to pay more tax with…the start of the Nazi lead holocaust?

Why might they become unhinged? Well, when you are that rich, who are going to tell you that your idea is nuts? There is some value to not living in a bubble of “yes people”.

Evolution
Larry Moran directs us to an excellent post called “Seven things about evolution“. It is a non-technical post; a non-scientist should be able to understand all of it.

Then some scientists describe their trip to the Creation Museum. There is some laughter but some sadness. My wife had no desire to go; she didn’t want to give them money.

I admit that I mostly laugh at them…but then I had to remember that *I* started early life believing that BS. How many will start with that and NOT break away?

So I suppose I ought not laugh too hard even if I am tempted to dismiss most of the visitors as “the hopeless who’ll never amount to anything.” They might be ruining some potentially fine minds.

January 28, 2014

## I survived the semester, so far…

Well, they are back. The gym was unusually crowded for 6 am (“first of the semester resolutions”) and the Army ROTC took away many of the dumbbells.
But I got it all done anyway; well, all but the plank/McKenzie exercises (which I can do tonight)

pull ups: 2 sets of 15, 2 of 10 with hip hikes, Achilles
incline bench: 2 sets of 10 x 140, 5 x 150
abs: 3 sets of 10: crunch, twist, sit back, vertical crunch
pull downs: 2 sets of 10 x 140 (different machine), 10 x 160
military press: 3 sets of 12 x 50 (dumbbells, seated, supported)
upright row: 3 sets of 10 x 20 (dumbbells)
bent over row: 3 sets of 10 x 65
dumbbell curls: 3 sets of 10 x 30
rotator cuff: ALL of them; doing them at the end of the workout might be more effective as the bigger muscles are fatigued.

The weights took 1 hour flat.
Then 3 mile walk on the treadmill: warmed up on 0.5 incline and sped up from 15 mpm to 12 mpm and got to mile 1 in 13:20
Next two miles: 24:00 (12 mpm, did .25 0, .25 at elevation: 2-3-4-5 with .25 at 0 rests): 37:20 for 3 miles; 38:55 for 5K

That got me out of the gym at 7:48; time enough to walk home (in slick ice/snow), change, quick breakfast, back to work.

Two parting shots
Paul Krugman on reporting the issues: it isn’t enough for a reporter to work hard. They must make some effort to know what they are talking about:

Here’s the problem: When you’re covering policy, the usual tools of journalism — cultivating sources, pounding the pavement, pulling out the Rolodex — just won’t cut it. You have to have people who actually understand the policy issues — people who can pound a spreadsheet, or whose Rolodex includes academic experts as well as DC flacks.

Otherwise what you get at best is he-said-she-said reporting — what I mocked many years ago as responding to claims that the earth is flat with the headline “Views differ on shape of planet.” Or, even worse, you rely on people who seem like authority figures because of their style or their official position, but are in reality just guys with an agenda, and often completely untrustworthy.

The Post — I really don’t think I’m being unfair here — has been particularly guilty of the latter sin. Colin Powell says Iraq is building WMD — well, that settles it, doesn’t it? The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says we have a fiscal crisis — well, they’re the authorities, aren’t they?

What Ezra and company brought was a combination of sophistication about policy issues and skepticism toward the Very Serious People. Ezra and Sarah Kliff really understood health policy, and knew that if you needed to know more, you called Gruber or Cutler, not Senator Bomfog. Others on the team actually understood macroeconomic policy, and knew that you shouldn’t treat the hacks at Heritage as if they were symmetrical with, say, the careful wonks at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

What Krugman notices here isn’t partisan though. Example: suppose a reporter wanted to cover a GMO issue. If they just used credible sources (scientists) they would infuriate their liberal readers who wanted to see the woo-woo point of view covered too.

Or, in the case of contamination from the Fukushima nuclear accident affecting the safety of the fish catch off of the United States: well what is true isn’t what many want to hear:

Neville has sampled more than 60 fish since Fukushima. The levels of Cesium traced to Fukushima were so low that his lab couldn’t see it at all until he concentrated the samples.

Kim Martini, an oceanographer at the University of Washington, agrees that the tuna are completely safe.

“To actually get a harmful dose of tuna you have to eat 2.5 tons of tuna a year,” Martini says. “I really love Tuna, but I don’t love it that much.”

Numerous other tests since the Fukushima disaster have found the same thing: radiation levels in Pacific fish that are vanishingly small.

And yet the fear persists, and even grows, fostered in part by supposed “evidence” passed around the web. Sites have sprung up blaming Fukushima for everything from lower sockeye salmon runs in the US to conjoined twin baby whales in Baja.

Martini points to one video in particular that’s been posted on YouTube that shows a guy named “Dave” sweeping a northern California beach with a Geiger counter that suddenly starts beeping.

“I’m over background,” Dave says on the video, “The alarm’s going off. Here I am on the beach… There you go. That’s sort of the levels we’re dealing with here…”

The video, which has more than 700,000 views, prompted California officials to test samples from the beach. They found that the radioactivity was naturally occurring.

“This is one of the problems,” Martini says. “People are going out with Geiger counters and saying this is Fukushima radiation, but the Geiger counter can measure radiation but it can’t differentiate between different kinds of radiation.”

You’ll find naturally occurring radioactive isotopes in rock, sand, even in bananas and seawater itself.

But try telling that to the SFBs.

Speaking of fish, check out this catch:

(click the smaller photo to see the full size photo at the source).

Nature can be interesting, no?

January 22, 2014

## The DESERVING rich

Paul Krugman and Robert Reich talk about this. Unfortunately when some of the folks earning, say up to 500K a year see this they are likely to take offense and go on and on about how hard they worked, how they earned this credential or that credential, etc.

I’ve got some (possibly unwelcome) news for you folks: Krugman and Reich are NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU! You are an order of magnitude or two away from where the real gains in come have gone.

## One reason “safety nets” are unpopular: “someone needs to pay for all of my children”

Yes, I know, this is an anecdote and one makes policies on data (and morals) and NOT on isolated anecdotes.

But this is perhaps the prefect poster child for those who see the poor as irresponsible losers and moochers:

And while I don’t know anyone who is this bad, I do know of cases where people on public aid with unlikely financial prospects decided to have a kid just because they wanted one.

I fully understand the “if you breed ‘em, you feed ‘em” slogan.

BUT, the data shows that most public aid recipients are not of this type. But when you read these statistics, you have to interpret them properly.
When you want to know “who is on welfare”, the answer to the “who is currently on welfare” and “who has used welfare at least once during time period X” are different questions and will give you different answers.

Here is a simplified example to make sense of this issue. Suppose we examine a 5 year period. For this period, families A, B, C are on welfare for the full 5 year period.
Year one sees families X1 and Y1 get for exactly one year. Year two sees families X2, Y2 get on for that year only…and something similar happens for each individual year.

So in a give year, we’ll have 3 “5 years on welfare families” and 2 “1 year only” families; hence the percent of “chronic users (more than 1 year)” will be 60 percent (3 out of 5).
But over the 5 year period, we had 10 different families use it for only 1 year, and only 3 use it for the whole period. So the chronic users in THIS sample constitutes $\frac{3}{13} = 0.231$ which is 23.1 percent.

Also: one has to look at the stimulus effect of such programs: the poor tend to spend their money which moves up the economy.

Remember: anger at the slackers does not make for good economic and social policy…and there will always be morons and slackers.

January 17, 2014