DACA Did Not Cause the Surge in Unaccompanied Children

DACA Did Not Cause the Surge in Unaccompanied Children
By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

In June, 2012 the Obama Administration announced that it had authored a memo deferring the deportation of unauthorized immigrant childhood arrivals in the United States, a program known as deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA).  The memo directed then Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to practice prosecutorial discretion toward a small number of unauthorized immigrants who fulfilled a specific set of characteristics.  In essence, some unauthorized immigrants who had come to the United States as children were able to legally stay and work–at least temporarily. 

Did DACA Cause the UAC Surge?

Some politicians contend that DACA is primarily responsible for the surge in unaccompanied child (UAC) migrants across the border in recent years.  A recent House Appropriations Committee one-pager stated that, “The dire situation on our Southern border has been exacerbated by the President’s current immigration policies.”  Proponents of this theory argue that DACA sent a message to Central Americans that if they came as children then the U.S. government would legalize them, thus giving a large incentive for them to come in the first place.  Few facts of the unaccompanied children (UAC) surge are consistent with the theory that DACA caused the surge.

First, the surge in UAC began long before the June 15, 2012 announcement of DACA.  It is true that DACA had been discussed in late May 2012 but the surge was underway by that time.  From October 2011 through March 2012, there was a 93 percent increase in UAC apprehensions over the same period in Fiscal Year 2011.  Texas Governor Rick Perry warned President Obama about the rapid increase in UAC at the border in early May 2012 – more than a full month before DACA was announced.  In early June 2012, Mexico was detaining twice as many Central American children as in 2011.  The surge in unaccompanied children (UAC) began before DACA was announced.

Second, the children coming now are not legally able to apply for DACA.  A recipient of DACA has to have resided in the United States continuously from June 15, 2007 to June 15, 2012, a requirement that excludes the unaccompanied children coming now.   

Third, if DACA was such an incentive for UAC to come from Central America, why are so few Nicaraguan children coming?  They would benefit in the same way as unaccompanied children from El Salvdaor, Honduras, and Guatemala.  The lack of Nicaraguans points to other causes of the surge.

The timing, legal exclusion of the UAC from DACA, and lack of Nicaraguans indicate that DACA was not a primary cause of the surge.  Of the 404 UAC interviewed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since 2011, only 9 mentioned that U.S. laws influenced their decision to come to the United States.  Other American laws could have influenced the unaccompanied children to come but DACA is not the main culprit.           

Details on DACA

The DACA beneficiaries, at the time of the memo, would have to fulfill all of these requirements to have their deportations deferred:

  • Under the age of 31,
  • Arrived to the United States before reaching their 16th birthday,
  • Entered the United States without inspection or overstayed a visa prior to June 15, 2012,
  • Continuously resided in the United States from June 15, 2007 to the time of the memo,
  • Physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, as well as at the time of requesting deferred action from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),
  • Been in school at the time of application, or have already graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, or have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard or the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Beneficiaries of DACA were also allowed to apply for employment authorization according to the Code of Federal Regulations.  There is a debate amongst legal scholars over whether the administration’s grant of deferred action was legal.  Those who argue that DACA was illegal contend that the President overstepped his constitutional authority to defer the deportation of some unauthorized immigrants.  Those who argue that DACA was legal point to the general power of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to defer enforcement action.  They argue that the Supreme Court has ruled that decisions to initiate or terminate enforcement proceedings fall within the authority of the Executive – an enforcement power used since the early 1970s.  Here is more of their argument.  This disagreement has not been settled.     

By the end of September, 2013, 580,000 requests for DACA were accepted by the U.S. government and 514,800, or 89 percent, were approved.  Seventy-six percent of the requests came from Mexicans.  Twenty-nine percent of the requests were filed from California, 16 percent from Texas, and 6 percent from Illinois.





July 29, 2014 at 3:41PM
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Gun Control and The Violence in Chicago

Gun Control and The Violence in Chicago
By Colion Noir

WEBSITE: http://ift.tt/1b8GlnO FACEBOOK: http://ift.tt/1aEpxSC INSTAGRAM: http://ift.tt/1hN1K7x TWITTER: http://ift.tt/13RpmVx GOOGLE+: https://plus…
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I continue to have my issues with Colion Noir, but this is on point.

July 28, 2014 at 11:04AM
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Really? No Benefit Cuts?

Really? No Benefit Cuts?
By Andrew Sullivan

Suzy Khimm questions how Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty plan will pay for itself without them:

While Ryan says his plan is budget neutral, it does not appear to account for the additional cost of hiring case managers, imposing new work requirements, and creating a new bureaucracy to administer them. That could mean less money for benefits and more for services to administer them, said Donna Pavetti of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “There are things about it that sound good, but when you get to the reality of it, it just falls apart,” she said, adding that federal agencies have often struggled to allocate limited resources to staffing and find enough skilled case workers.

“This individualized case management, the work requirements – all of that is really resource intensive. How you’d do that without pulling from resources that help people meet their basic needs?” said Pavetti, CBPP’s vice-president for family income support policy. She points to a state-level program called Building Nebraska Families, which proved effective at moving more welfare recipients to work through intensive home visits, but which was also costly, averaging $7,400 to $8,300 per participant.

In a more comprehensive critique of the plan, Pavetti faults Ryan for ignoring the tradeoffs and limitations it implies:

The case of “Steven,” whom Ryan also highlights, makes the point as well. A single 19-year-old non-custodial father, Steven is jobless and needs help to get off drugs.

Ryan’s proposal indicates that the Opportunity Grant would help him get drug treatment, move him into transitional housing (a form of subsidized housing), and get him help with attending parenting classes, finding work, and pursuing further education. These are all needed services, and limited funding keeps many people, particularly adults not living with children and who have the same needs as Steven, from obtaining that help. But the Opportunity Grant structure would not provide additional resources (and as my colleague Robert Greenstein points out, could well provide fewer resources), so the only way to provide this richer set of supports for Steven is to cut the help that other families receive.

Running down how Paul Ryan proposes to keep the plan revenue neutral, Chuck Marr criticizes the cuts he would make to existing programs:

First, he would pay for it in part by eliminating the refundable part of the Child Tax Credit for several million children in low-income immigrant working families, including citizen children and “Dreamers,” thereby pushing many of them into — or deeper into — poverty. He would also eliminate the Social Services Block Grant, a flexible funding source that helps states meet the specialized needs of their most vulnerable populations, primarily low- and moderate-income children and people who are elderly or disabled. (This program provides the kind of services and state flexibility that Ryan says we need more of when he promotes other parts of his plan that would enable states to cut food stamps and rental assistance and shift the resources to services.)

Also among the programs that Ryan would end is one that provides fresh fruits and vegetables primarily to children in schools in low-income areas. By contrast, the President would pay for his EITC expansion by closing tax loopholes for wealthy taxpayers.

In Jared Bernstein’s take, the plan is a potentially costly solution in search of a problem:

The broader reason his plan is misguided is because Ryan starts from the mistaken assumption that the current U.S. anti-poverty system is broken, when in fact it’s actually quite effective, and not just in lowering market-based poverty rates, which it does by almost half, but also by investing in the longer term well-being of its beneficiaries. (Bob Greenstein provides the details here.) That’s not good enough by a long shot, but neither is it motivation to radically change the system in ways that introduce a dangerous set of new risks, as this new plan does, I fear. …

The implication here is that while a faceless bureaucrat in D.C. can’t possibly evaluate your nutritional needs, for example, a bureaucrat in Albany or Sacramento can easily and efficiently do so. And while the plan requires state officials to use the resources for poverty reduction, and not, say, tax reduction, consolidation also raises serious risks of diverting funds to areas of anti-poverty interventions that state officials favor vs. areas of need.





July 25, 2014 at 2:51PM
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A Gift To Obamacare Foes, Ctd

A Gift To Obamacare Foes, Ctd
By Andrew Sullivan

In 2012, Obamacare advisor Jon Gruber said, “if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits,” an interpretation of the ACA that supports the anti-Obamacare Halbig ruling. He made this point more than once. Nicholas Bagley dismisses the fracas over these comments:

[I]f you think what Gruber said is some evidence about what the ACA means, you can’t ignore other, similar evidence. That’s cherry-picking. So go ask John McDonough, who was intimately involved in drafting the ACA and is as straight a shooter as there is: “There is not a scintilla of evidence that the Democratic lawmakers who designed the law intended to deny subsidies to any state, regardless of exchange status.” Or ask Senator Max Baucus’s chief health adviser, Liz Fowler. She says the same thing. Or ask Doug Elmendorf, the current CBO Director: “To the best of our recollection, the possibility that those subsidies would only be available in states that created their own exchanges did not arise during the discussions CBO staff had with a wide range of Congressional staff when the legislation was being considered.” …

Better still, ask the states, which were on the receiving end of the supposed threat. According to a report from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, there’s no contemporaneous evidence that the states feared that declining to set up an exchange might lead to a loss of tax credits. How can it be that Congress unambiguously threatened the states with the possible loss of tax credits if the states never understood that threat?

How Ezra views this controversy:

Gruber’s comments aren’t getting so much attention because anyone actually believes them. They’re getting so much attention because some people want other people to believe them.

It would be much simpler if the argument about Obamacare could simply be about what it’s actually about: some people believe the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a good law. Others believe it’s a bad law and they would like to see it repealed.

The problem is that the people who believe it’s a bad law haven’t won the elections necessary to repeal it. So they’ve turned, in desperation, to the courts. But the Supreme Court doesn’t strike laws down for being bad. It strikes them down for being unconstitutional, or incomprehensible. And that’s forced Obamacare’s critics to make some very weird and very weak arguments.

Adrianna McIntyre chimes in:

Though the controversy over what Gruber said — and what he did or didn’t mean by what he said — has been newsy and potentially embarrassing, it’s not actually very consequential, legally. Courts put much more stock in the words that Congress chose when enacting the law, and the context in which Congress put those words, than what people say about the law.

While Gruber was certainly a key advisor during the Obamacare debate, he was not a member of Congress who voted to pass the actual law. And that likely gives his words less weight than those of legislators in front of the courts.

Weigel thinks the “timing of the speech is important”:

Gruber said this in January 2012. It wasn’t until May 2012 that the IRS issued a rule, clarifying that subsidies would also be available to the states that joined the federal exchange. And it wasn’t until July 2012 that Cannon and Adler published their paper making the argument that the language of the law forbade any such mulligan for states.

But this bolsters the libertarians’ case. Gruber is acknowledged, by everyone, as an architect of the ACA. There is, to date, no evidence that he flogged the carrot/stick subsidies idea on Congress, and as Cannon writes in a piece at Forbes, Gruber has done hours of scoffing at the rationale behind Halbig. It just happens that in early 2012, when Cannon was barnstorming states to get them to avoid creating exchanges, Gruber was telling them they had better create exchanges or they wouldn’t get subsidies.

Ben Domenech celebrates:

It’s rare that a piece of video evidence comes along which, in an instant, so clearly and thoroughly undermines the case that one faction has made so consistently. I’m a little shocked myself, and interested to see how the people who’ve been calling Michael Cannon nuts for years offer their mea culpas. Because they will do that, right?

McArdle makes simular remarks:

We can draw two conclusions from this: First, the reading of the law by Halbig’s plaintiffs is clearly not ridiculous or dishonest; if it is a mistake, it is a mistake that one of the law’s chief architects could make. And second, we should be very skeptical of people who are now telling us, four years later, what the legislative intent was. Memory really is extraordinarily unreliable, and as we see here, it’s very easy to forget what you believed even a couple of years ago. This is one reason that courts ignore post-facto statements about intent and concentrate on the legal text and the legislative history.

But Scott Galupo calls the controversy “pure unmitigated cuckoo cockamamie BS”:

The cherry-picking of off-the-cuff remarks isn’t the worst thing about this absurdist drama. Take a step back: Michael Cannon, the Cato mastermind, basically went on a fishing expedition to find someone with standing in the Halbig case. His lightbulb: the average citizen has standing! And now this bombshell video: the Gruber remarks were the first and so far only piece of documentary evidence I’ve seen that anyone actually believed subsidies weren’t intended to be offered via the federal exchanges. This evidence was discovered two years after the lawsuit was filed.

Waldman piles on:

If this was actually what Congress thought the law would do, then liberals would have been freaking out about this provision for years, because it would mean that millions of people wouldn’t be able to get coverage. And conservatives would have been crowing about it for years, for the same reason. But nobody on either side was, because it was never part of Congress’s intent. It was a mistake, and one contradicted by multiple other provisions in the law.

I have no doubt that when the Halbig case is re-argued before the full D.C. Circuit, either the plaintiffs’ attorneys or one of the conservative judges will bring up Gruber’s 2012 comments. Let’s just hope it gets shot down like the baloney it is.





July 28, 2014 at 2:24PM
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More Block Than Grant?

More Block Than Grant?
By Andrew Sullivan

Josh Voorhees spells out his main concern with the Ryan plan, i.e., that the block grant mechanism he proposes for assistance programs like SNAP will result in benefit cuts:

Under the current setup, any American who qualifies for SNAP benefits receives them, regardless of how much money Washington has already spent on the program that year. But switching to a block grant would effectively set a cap on SNAP spending by stopping the program from automatically increasing along with need. That, critics warn, could leave the program unprepared and underfunded when the next economic downturn sends more Americans than expected scrambling to put food on the table.

The best case for those who want to protect SNAP and other social welfare funding would be for Congress to freeze current funding levels for the foreseeable future. That technically wouldn’t be a reduction in funding, but inflation would tell a different story. That’s what happened to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program during Washington’s last attempt at major welfare reform. Since that program was block-granted in 1996, funding has remained pretty much flat at $16.6 billion per year while the program has quietly lost nearly one-third of its spending power to inflation. Under Ryan’s proposal, food stamps would risk a similar fate.

To illustrate this point, Andrew Flowers imagines that the Ryan plan had been in place during the recession that began in 2007 and calculates how big a hit the program would have taken:

At the end of 2007, the number of SNAP recipients totaled more than 26 million, with cumulative expenditures at more than $33 billion. By 2013, expenditures had more than doubled to nearly $80 billion, with recipients surging to about 47 million. If funding had remained constant, the average monthly benefit would have fallen from $133 (its actual number in 2013) to about $53.

The impact of these safety-net programs is dependent not just on how the funding is delivered — whether as separate programs or one catch-all Opportunity Grant — but also on how the programs respond to economic conditions. It’s the difference between leaning back too far in a rocking chair and on a bar stool.

Mike Konczal also looks to the 90s for historical clues as to how a block grant system would fare:

Rather than a “welfare reform — yay or nay?” conversation, it would be really useful if people arguing for the block-granting of the entire anti-poverty agenda would point out what they do and do not like about what happened in the 1990s. Especially as proponents hold up welfare reform as the model.

As Matt Bruenig notes, the work requirements and other restrictions go against the concept of subsidiarity. Greenstein writes, “the block grant would afford state and local officials tantalizing opportunities to use some block grant funds to replace state and local funds now going for similar services…That’s what happened under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant.” In retrospect, TANF didn’t survive the business cycle, and it clearly has cut spending by cutting the rolls. Is that what people want to accomplish with food stamps, which have done wonders to boost childhood life outcomes? If not, what can be done other than assert that this time will be different?

Meanwhile, Max Ehrenfreund argues that a universal basic income is a more conservative solution to poverty than what Ryan proposes:

Another reason to see why a universal basic income is more conservative than Ryan’s block grant proposal is to compare it to other aspects of his plan. The tax code offers a yearly bonus to poor people who work, called the earned-income tax credit. It is another one of Friedman’s good ideas, and liberals should support it as well because it helps the poor get by, as Matt O’Brien argues. Ryan, like President Obama, wants to expand the earned-income tax credit for adults without children.

Yet if the goal is really to reward the poor and out of work for finding jobs, then this tax credit isn’t a perfect solution. The bonus is not available for those who earn a little more money, so the working poor have less of a financial reason to aim for a raise. They’ll pay a larger share of their income in taxes when they do. A universal basic income would solve this problem. Your payment from the government doesn’t get smaller if you start making more money.





July 28, 2014 at 4:45PM
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YOUR BODY: the missing manual

YOUR BODY: the missing manual
By

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July 28th, 2014next

July 28th, 2014: The early models that didn’t include the protective skin coating as a standard feature were… kinda terrifying to look at.

HEY GUESS WHAT?? The final issue of The Midas Flesh is out now! You can read a preview here, and catch up with all you missed at midasflesh.com!

– Ryan





July 28, 2014 at 12:00AM
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The Worrying Vacuity Of Hillary Clinton

The Worrying Vacuity Of Hillary Clinton
By Andrew Sullivan

Hillary Rodham Clinton Book Presentation

I’ve tried to avoid the Clinton book tour bullshit this past month or so. Not good for my blood pressure. When I checked in occasionally, it was to discover that nothing much has changed. The Clintons are still self-pitying money-grubbers – $12 million in speaking fees since she left the State Department? – and now their offspring, exploiting her nepotistic advantage with all the scrupulous ethics of her parents, is continuing the grift. If you ask of Clinton what she’s fighting for, what she believes in, if you want to get her to disagree with you on something, good luck. Any actual politics right now would tarnish the inevitability of a resume-led coronation. That the resume has little of any substance in her four years as secretary of state does not concern her. She was making “hard choices”, and if we cannot appreciate that, tant pis.

I’d like to find a reason to believe she’s a political force who stands for something in an era when there is a real appetite for serious change. She could, after all, decide to campaign vociferously in favor of the ACA this summer and fall (universal healthcare is, after all, one of her positions), but that might siphon money away from her foundation and candidacy. She could get out there and start framing a foreign policy vision. But, again, too risky. I see nothing that suggests a real passion for getting on with the fight – just the usual presumptions of a super-elite, super-rich and super-cocooned politician of the gilded age.

So I did watch the Daily Show interview last week, and was not surprised. As in most of her softball media appearances, she was both unctuous and vapid. But even I was aghast at the sheer emptiness and datedness of her one attempt to articulate a future for American foreign policy. She actually said that our main problem is that we haven’t been celebrating America enough, that we “have not been telling our story very well” and that if we just “get back to telling” that story about how America stands for freedom and opportunity, we can rebuild our diminished international stature. One obvious retort: wasn’t she, as secretary of state, you know, now responsible for telling that tale – so isn’t she actually criticizing herself?

Next up: could she say something more vacuous and anodyne? Or something more out of tune with a post-Iraq, post-torture, post- Afghanistan world? Peter Beinart had the same reaction: “As a vision for America’s relations with the world,” he wrote, “this isn’t just unconvincing. It’s downright disturbing”:

It’s true that young people overseas don’t remember the Cold War. But even if they did, they still wouldn’t be inspired by America’s “great story about [promoting] human freedom, human rights, human opportunity.” That’s because in the developing world—where most of humanity lives—barely anyone believes that American foreign policy during the Cold War actually promoted those things. What they mostly remember is that in anticommunism’s name, from Pakistan to Guatemala to Iran to Congo, America funded dictators and fueled civil wars.

Larison piles on:

Changing the substance of policies is never seriously considered, because there is little or no recognition that these policies need correction or reversal. This takes for granted that opposition to U.S. policies is mostly the product of misunderstanding or miscommunication rather than an expression of genuinely divergent interests and grievances. I don’t know that Clinton is naive or oblivious enough to believe this (I doubt it), but it’s instructive that she thinks this is a good argument to make publicly. She is more or less saying that there is nothing wrong with U.S. foreign policy that can’t be fixed by better marketing and salesmanship, and that’s just profoundly wrong. It’s also what we should expect from someone as conventionally hawkish and “centrist” on foreign policy as Clinton is.

My fear is that she doesn’t actually mean any of this. She just needed to say something, and so came out with a stream of consciousness that is completely platitudinous and immune to Fox News attacks. It’s a defensive crouch that is always her first instinct. Think of the Terry Gross interview – and her discomfort in grappling with actual disagreement, from her own base that time. Her goal is always safety. And safety won’t cut it in a populist age.

So if she runs, my guess is she’ll wrap herself tightly in the maximalist concept of American exceptionalism and make this her appeal as a post-Obama presidency. See? she’ll say to the same voting groups she went for last time. I’m a real American, and I believe in America. And yay America!

Maybe this is merely a function that she isn’t running yet (and still may not). Why stir the pot if your goal at this point is merely selling books and raking in more corporate, Goldman Sacks dough? But when, I wonder, has she been otherwise? She remains scarred by the 1990s, understandably so. But the country has moved on in a way she seems to find hard to comprehend.

(Photo: Hillary Rodham Clinton, former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and First Lady of the United States, speaks during the presentation of the German translation of her book ‘Hard Choices’ (‘Entscheidungen’ in German) at the Staatsoper in the Schiller Theater on July 6, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. By Adam Berry/Getty Images.)





July 24, 2014 at 1:40PM
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What Paul Ryan still misses in his new, more serious poverty plan

What Paul Ryan still misses in his new, more serious poverty plan
By Emily Badger

Rep. Paul Ryan (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

To his credit, Paul Ryan did not once invoke “bootstraps.” In a speech unveiling his new poverty proposal Thursday morning at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, he did not describe the safety net as a “hammock” a single time. He did not use thinly veiled code words about the “inner city.” He did not misleadingly suggest — as he has often in the past — that the war on poverty has failed, when in fact much research tells us suggests that federal programs, despite their flaws, have lifted millions of Americans out of destitution.

Ryan is learning to talk about poverty in ways that don’t make his ideas instantly unpalatable to the left, to advocates for the poor, to researchers and program officers who recognize that poverty is a sign of so much more than the absence of effort. But for all of his welcome nuance — his new plan includes several ideas that can be cheered across the political spectrum — Ryan still misunderstands or glosses over some crucial points about the causes of poverty and what’s needed to alleviate it.

The centerpiece of Ryan’s deficit-neutral proposal is an idea to consolidate the federal government’s many anti-poverty programs, including food stamps, cash assistance and housing vouchers, into a single more flexible funding stream that would be available to the states in the form of block grants. Local public or private service providers who know best would then tailor those resources to the needs of individual recipients. Maybe one family needs housing help. Maybe another requires subsidies for child care. This idea rightly recognizes the poverty isn’t experienced the same way by everyone. But here is what how Ryan’s plan suggests what should happen next:

Providers must be held accountable, and so should recipients. Each beneficiary will sign a contract with consequences for failing to meet the agreed-upon benchmarks. At the same time, there should also be incentives for people to go to work. Under each life plan, if the individual meets the benchmarks ahead of schedule, then he or she could be rewarded.

His “discussion draft” says more about the benefits to achieving these goals (like “getting a job within six months”) than the sanctions consequences for failing to meet them. But the idea is fundamentally punitive. It betrays the fact that Ryan’s latest thinking has not strayed all that far from the simplistic notion that people in poverty are solely to blame for their own circumstances. An incentive system like this assumes that end goals such as employment are entirely within the control of a poor people if they would just try hard enough.

This notion fails to recognize that, while personal responsibility is important, so too are structural obstacles in the economy, in the education system, in the housing market. We can hardly expect personal effort alone to overcome poverty without systemic investment on society’s part on the fronts beyond a poor person’s control.

The idea of a contract with punitive benchmarks also ignores lessons that researchers have learned about the effects of poverty on cognition. Princeton psychologist Eldar Shfair and Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan have argued that the stress of living in poverty sucks up mental bandwidth the rest of us take for granted. That mental tax means that a mom may forget to take her medication, or to pay a utility bill on time, with each mistake yielding a cascade of other problems. This means that living in poverty is like living without room for error. It also means that we should design anti-poverty programs that are flexible and forgiving, not punitive and deadline-oriented.

Another crucial element of Ryan’s plan is that we should test results as states try out new programs, replicate what works and ditch what doesn’t. In theory, evidenced-based policy is an important idea, and it’s one everyone can agree on. But, particularly in the realm of poverty, measuring success is much more complicated than Ryan suggests (his proposal devotes just one page to this topic).

Poverty is inherited across generations, which means that success overcoming it is a long game, too. Measuring it is not just about having access to data; it’s about having patience in collecting it. It’s about finding rigorous ways to isolate the value of interventions among the many interconnected factors that contribute to and stem from poverty. How are we to know, for instance, if a child performs better in school because she was given extra tutoring, or because she was given nutrition assistance, or housing stability?

How will we know what outcomes we’re looking for? The literature is full of unexpected connections: food stamps improve graduation rates, health care access increases college enrollment, housing stability leads to children with better employment prospects as adults. If we’re going to look for “results,” then we must acknowledge that aid to the poor can yield positive outcomes that are only visible when we look beyond family income and employment.

Here is one final complication: The appeal of Ryan’s plan is that it would grant local officials greater control to tailor solutions to the kinds of problems their poor residents face. Perhaps housing affordability is a bigger issue in San Francisco. Maybe reliable transportation is an acute problem in Atlanta, or childcare access an obstacle in New York. Allowing local governments greater freedom here recognizes that different communities, just like different families, have varying needs.

But here is another way to look at this variation:

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Annie E. Casey Foundation

That’s a map of states ranked by a cumulative index of child well-being, from an Annie E. Casey Foundation report I wrote about Wednesday. This is a Census map of poverty rates in the United States:

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 2.06.55 PM

This is a map from the Kaiser Family Foundation of states that have refused the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act:

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 2.11.29 PM

This is a Census map of the share of adults by state, over 25, with more than a high school degree:

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 2.18.14 PM

In reality, some states have worse track records — and differing commitments — to caring for the poor, to providing them health care, to lifting children and families out of poverty, to educating them. While block grants would recognize that a state like Texas has different needs from Minnesota, it would also place greater control in combating poverty in the hands of local governments with weak records on this front.

A child’s chances of moving up in the U.S. are already partly determined (and constrained) by where he or she lives. How would that picture change if we turned over much of the challenge of confronting poverty to the states themselves, with their differing views on who’s “deserving,” which needs are “basic,” and what role government should play? government should do? Ryan says he wants to start a conversation about reforming poverty programs. These questions should be a part of it.





July 24, 2014 at 3:09PM
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