Welfare, Innumeracy & Respect

Paul Henry Rosenberg rad at gte.net
Sun Oct 11 15:36:56 PDT 1998

Brad De Long wrote:

> >> Ehrenreich has recently said that with the
> >> ending of welfare, the state no longer deserves any support.
> >
> >Anyone who thinks "welfare has ended" hasn't
> >the faintest idea what the government is and
> >isn't doing.
> >
> >No offense to PK, but the next time I see
> >this I swear I'm going to write something
> >for In These Times or some damn left
> >organ.
> >
> >MBS
> There *is* no more federal match for state welfare expenditures. We *are*
> likely to see a race to the bottom once maintenance-of-effort requirements
> expire and the next recession hits. We don't know how large the race to the
> bottom effect will be, but I am scared.
> The law that the Congress passed and Clinton signed in 1996 may well lead
> to the end of welfare sometime in the next decade. Robert Reischauer draws
> an analogy between TANF and revenue sharing--the second ended quickly once
> the economy slowed, and the first is likely to end quickly, because both
> involve Senators voting for taxes to fund programs that are then spent by
> Governors who then run against Senators...

All very sensible and on-point. Max's point was good, and Brad's was even better.

> Unfortunately Barbara Ehrenreich's... pea-sized brain is too small

This is totally unnecessary and downright ugly. I agree with both Max's point and your qualified rebuttal, Brad. But what's the point of this gratuitous attack on Ehrenreich? The inability to disagree in a measured and constructive fashion is something we all need to work on.

For my money Ehrenriech is a very thoughtful and provocative writer. This doesn't mean she's always right, and in this case I clearly think she's wrong in a number of ways, but even if I didn't think so highly of her this kind of mud-slinging would be uncalled for.

I agree 100% with Max on the innumeracy of the Left. The recent to-and-fro over proportional representation is simply another example of how innumeracy cripples our understanding. (And explains why I really didn't try to push it too hard. I know what I'm up against! <Sigh!>) If you understand the math, then you understand that "if it ain't proportional, it ain't representation." If you don't understant the math... Well, we've seen the consequences of that for ourselves this week.

And no! I don't think that those who disagreed with me are pea-brains. I think they made some good points, but due to the widespread and socially-approved innumeracy which pervades the left (as well as most of the rest of our culture) they were in no position to understand the relative merits and limitations of the points they were making compared to the reality of how different electoral systems work.

> to grasp
> that the real fiscal impact of the change from AFDC to TANF hits (a)
> sometime after 2000, and (b) only when the next recession his, and so THERE

On this point I agree 100% with Brad. Which only makes me more frustrated that he felt it necessary to slur Ehrenreich in the process.

-- Paul Rosenberg Reason and Democracy rad at gte.net

"Let's put the information BACK into the information age!"

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