Monday, July 20, 2015

Waste in Social Service Spending

At the end of MinnPost Obama Numbers comments. Jay, Jason, RB and myself got side tracked about government waste and being on the dole. Jay wanted to explain how "well to do" couples get more than they pay in a very specific situation, I noted that there is a small percentage of free loading citizens milking the welfare and medicaid systems (1% to 2% of citizens, less than 10 percent of those receiving benefits), and Jason wanted to change subjects to military waste.

"How would YOU prove waste in social spending? 
People say they need money. Bureaucrats who are paid to hand out benefits give them money. 
The Tax Payer pays to raise and send a girl to school. The single mother who is given the funds does a poor job of raising the daughter, the daughter fails academically and ends up a single mother at 17. And the cycle begins again... 
Is this waste or something else? Is more money going to break the cycle or encourage it? These are all important concepts worthy of discussion." G2A 

Merriam Webster defines waste as "loss of something valuable that occurs because too much of it is being used or because it is being used in a way that is not necessary or effective".

With this in mind, if the total Local, State, and Federal Social Services / Healthcare spend for the poor is nearly $1 Trillion / year... (~17% of Total Spend)  How would one determine how much is wasted each year? What is the "GOAL"? What is effective in reaching it? What is not? Thoughts?

US Spend Welfare
US Total Spend

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Schools are expensive, and surely some of the money is wasted. I think of all those expensive, Ivy League educations wasted on our current batch of Supreme Court justices. Couldn't that money have been better spent teaching the child of a single mother to read?

--Hiram

John said...

I will never understand your desire to continually eliminate the line between Private and Public property.

Now if you had said, should we spend less on Public Higher Ed to "spend it teaching the child of a single mother to read?" That would be more relevant to the topic.

Anonymous said...

Think of all public property as belonging to us, privately. In any event, waste is waste, whether public or private.

In education, some jobs are bigger than others, some risks higher than others. Failure is far from evidence of waste.

--Hiram

John said...

"Think of all public property as belonging to us, privately." What?

When Private people spend their private wealth wisely or wastefully, that is freedom. (ie beauty is in the eye of the beholder)

When Public officials and employees spend the Public's wealth, then the Public gets to weigh in on how their elected and indirectly hired representatives are doing. And that is freedom.

So back to the topic.

John said...

"Failure is far from evidence of waste."

I agree and disagree. I think the answer depends on the goal.

If a system to "End Poverty" is in place for decades / generations and the goal is not attained in such a way that the system funding can be reduced. I kind of think the failure may indicate waste.

If a system to "Care for the Poor" is in place for decades / generations and the number of poor stay the same or grows. It may have been successful.

So are these programs supposed to reduce reliance and reduce the need for them?
Or are these programs supposed to stay in place forever with no improvements in the populations they serve?

Sean said...

"If a system to "End Poverty" is in place for decades / generations and the goal is not attained in such a way that the system funding can be reduced. I kind of think the failure may indicate waste."

There are a myriad of other factors outside of the welfare programs themselves that can drive these results, though. Is it the fault of say, food stamps, if a kid goes to a lousy public school or lives in a neighborhood that has seen its job market decimated?

John said...

If it is the latter, it triggers the thought that Liberals see Welfare, Medicaid , etc as similar to feeding pet rabbits. Meaning that we are to continue caring for the poor with little expectation that they as humans can change, improve and support themselves. I think that is somewhat condescending and must be demoralizing for the poor to be thought of as the needy who need assistance forever.

The Conservatives may be more emotionally cold, but at least they truly believe that the poor can change, improve and support themselves.

John said...

"Lousy Public School": I think that is part of the government support system that fails... What are our Public Officials and Employees doing to eliminate theat waste?

How are food stamps being used to encourage good choices, even when bad things happen? How does it try to move people out of poverty? Or is it just rabbit food?

Sean said...

"How are food stamps being used to encourage good choices, even when bad things happen? How does it try to move people out of poverty? Or is it just rabbit food?"

The purpose of food stamps is to make sure that people don't starve. How would *you* suggest it be used to "encourage good choices"?

Anonymous said...

"How are food stamps being used to encourage good choices, even when bad things happen? How does it try to move people out of poverty?"

Sure sounds like you're in favor of social engineering, John.

Joel

John said...

I think we started down the path of social engineering long ago when we started to take money from one group of citizens to give it to another group of citizens based on their financial status.

For better or worse there is little known about the mice in this experiment and the consequences of rewarding the slow ones with food that is taken from the fast ones.

John said...

How to encourage good choices, beliefs, work ethics and behaviors?

That is a good question... Not to demean my fellow human beings, but with my dog I give her treats when she does something "good" and she gets a correction when she does something "not good".

So if a single parent family welfare Mom, attends classes and gets a degree / job. Could we reward her somehow? (ie financial bonus)

Or if a single parent family welfare Mom, gets pregnant again and comes asking for more public assistance. Could we insist on a correction? (ie mandatory sterilization, forced adoption, Father must be identified and provide financial assistance, etc) Something different than just giving her more money.

Sean said...

The average food stamp recipient in Minnesota gets less than $4 per day. (At the maximum level, they can get an opulent $6.50 per day.) Comparing that to giving a dog a treat is insulting on numerous levels, but revealing.

John said...

How would you recommend getting these folks to change?
Pelosi Welfare Video
Sure News
Tampa News
People Who Work are Stupid

Sean said...

If you haven't learned by now, I could care less about your anecdotes or YouTube videos. You can always find people to say stupid stuff in front of a camera. We have ample statistical studies that have been done that show that number of actual people defrauding our safety net programs is very low.

It's fascinating to me that someone who wails on here so much about your liberties and choices is willing to be quite the authoritarian when it suits your purposes.

John said...

Sean,
It really is not that revealing. It is just a pragmatic and logical example that most people can relate to.

People do respond to incentives and disincentives as do all beings.

I have no problem with food stamps to save people in the short term, however they should be paired with carrots and sticks to improve the recipients long term sitiuation and get them of the dole.

John said...

"actual people defrauding our safety net programs is very low"

Please provide a source.

Now if a welfare mom with one child has a second child, is that considered fraud?

Should we just write her bigger checks? Does this make sense to you?

If she has baby #3... Just send her more money? Does this make sense to you?

No consequences for her choices and behaviors?

John said...

Currently our government forcefully takes ~$1 Trillion from tax payers to give to other citizens. That seems kind of Authoritarian to me.

In a free society we would rely on charity.

What is your goal for the social services expenditure? Help feed these folks for their whole life no matter the choices they make?

Laurie said...

If the Walton's would pay their employees more they wouldnt have to go on food stamps. If the economy created enough living wage jobs no one would have to be on welfare.

Sean said...

Here's a couple (each with links to more detail):

Atlantic: How Wrong is Conventional Wisdom About Fraud?

Think Progress: Your Assumptions Are Wrong

Sean said...

"In a free society we would rely on charity."

We tried that and ended up with lots of people on the streets. So we changed course.

Sean said...

"What is your goal for the social services expenditure? Help feed these folks for their whole life no matter the choices they make?"

No. Food stamps (or SNAP as it is called today) is a temporary program that requires recipients to either work at least 20 hours a week, be disabled, or be enrolled in job training or full-time schooling.

The problem I have is that you're asserting these programs are riddled with fraud (which isn't true) and ineffective at combating poverty (which is arguable). We know these programs do have demonstrable effects on improving the lives of the recipients. The longer-term issue of moving people out of poverty permanently is a problem that is much larger one. The number of people staying minimally employed so they can feed off the $4/day food stamp gravy train is small. We have larger problems in the economy that effect people across the lower- and middle-classes.

John said...

Laurie,
Companies paying more than they need to to get qualified employees is just a different form of waste/welfare, and it would be charged to all consumers.

Sean,
I'll read the links when I get time. I am more interested in your view.

If she has baby #3... Just send her more money? Does this make sense to you?
No consequences for her choices and behaviors?

Sean said...

"If she has baby #3... Just send her more money? Does this make sense to you?
No consequences for her choices and behaviors?"

Yes, if needed. (Although current programs ramp down the per-person aid under this scenario.)

Of course, I would also ensure she had access to contraception (including LARC that many conservatives abhor), regardless of the mores of her employer, which would sharply reduce these sorts of scenarios.

Laurie said...

You want people to get a job but when they do they still need govt support for healthcare and maybe food or housing. Then you complain about welfare. It makes no sense to me. What do you want people to do ?

John said...

What do you want people to do?

Here is a start:
- Do not have a baby until you are mature enough and financially stable enough to take care of yourself.
- Do not have a baby until you are mature enough and financially stable enough to take care of yourself and your first baby.
- And on and on.
- Know who the Father of the child is and tell the authorities so they garnish wages.
- Get married before having a baby and stay married. Or get a room mate(s) to share the bills and child care.
- If you are healthy and not seriously disabled. Get a job. Even if it is butchering turkeys, working in the fields, doing dishes, etc.
- Work continuously to learn and improve your capabilities.

I have ZERO problem with welfare, medicaid, training assistance, etc for those who make good choices and have bad luck. However giving money to minimize the negative consequences of their bad choices, lack of effort, etc simply rewards and encourages that behavior.

John said...

If you really want to help poor unlucky kids... Somehow you need to change the beliefs of the Parents. Just giving them money is not the answer.

GF Demographics and Inequality

Heritage Marriage

NA Marriage Parenthood etc

No wonder we have poverty problems in certain demographic groups.

"This decline in marriage rates has coincided with steep increases in non-marital birth rates. As the chart below shows, in the same four decades, the non-marital birth rate for African-Americans increased by more than 90%, from 38% to 72%. In 2010, the Hispanic rate was 53%, a 50% increase over 1989 (when data on Hispanic birth rates first began to be collected separately from non-Hispanic whites). The rate for non-Hispanic whites, which stood at 16% in 1989, had increased to 29% by 2010, a larger increase in percentage terms than for any other group over that period."

John said...

To clarify my position since Laurie seems concerned that I am after all the poor.

"I agree we are not a nation of free loaders. I think only about 1% to 2% of our population are free loaders and/or criminals.

That means the 98% to 99% of us are paying the bills for between 3 and 6 million people who rely on us to allow and support their lifestyle and behavior. The choices we make." G2A

Sean said...

"However giving money to minimize the negative consequences of their bad choices, lack of effort, etc simply rewards and encourages that behavior."

In 2010, 93% of families on SNAP/TANF had two or fewer children compared to 78% of families with children overall. So, again, the notion that welfare recipients are out there just raising broods of children of the government dime is nonsense.

2010 SNAP/TANF data from HHS

2010 Census Data

John said...

To which Jason answered.

"I don't judge them since I can't claim to know how they landed in their positions. My choice is to help them...and I have zero problem with some of my tax dollars going towards their support." Jason

At which time I was going to respond in a way that the moderator would have likely blocked. It would have gone something like this.

"Jason, Since you are so open, non-judgemental and willing to support the wants of criminals, the addicted and freeloaders, do you keep your big garage door open at night so people can come in and take that which will make their lives easier? Do you post your personal data so the needy can use it to make their lives easier?

I do not think I am being judgemental as much as pragmatic. Their are probably ~18% of the USA citizens out there that need some short term help. And it is likely that 1.8% of the USA citizens, or 10 percent of the recipients who are gaming the system.

I think we should work hard to eliminate waste in welfare just like we lock our garages and keep our private info secure."

John said...

Sean,
I must say the census data link was interesting. Take a look at the 2010 percent distributions by Married couple, Male Householder and Female Householder. It looks like the Female Householder is more likely to have 1 or 2 kids, and just as likely to have 3 kids.

Since we know that single parent female households are often the lowest income type of household, it seems it should mean something.

I looked for the 93% and 78% details and had no luck. Any hints where it is?

John said...

And I noticed something even stranger.

There are 557,000 Black Female Householders with "3 or more kids".
and only 449,000 Black Married Couples with "3 or more kids".

So with only one adult in the household, how exactly is the single Mom paying the bills?

John said...

By the way, if you dropped out of High School, are single and are earning minimum wage, one child is more than you can afford. Two is way more than you can afford.

So I don't think they need a "brood" to be taking excessive advantage of the tax payers.

By the way, how many are in a "brood"? :-)

jerrye92002 said...

PMFBI, but what is wrong with a little simple math and common sense being used to answer the question? Just dividing up the total spent on means-tested programs in the US among all those officially in poverty, puts everyone "in poverty" FAR above the poverty line and, in fact, well above the national median income. The "system" is therefore an abject failure, regardless of whether the purpose is to "eliminate poverty" or "not let people fall below the poverty line and 'starve'." It fails its purpose in the first case, and is grossly financially ineffective at achieving the latter purpose. I will point out that the "war on poverty" was intended to eliminate poverty, yet after trillions spent, we have as many in poverty know as we did then. THAT is a complete and utter failure and it is long past time to do something different.

But I'm not going to talk about freeloaders, because I don't believe there are any such people. What you have are people doing what "the system" incentivizes them to do, or not do. It is the nature of government welfare that its rules preclude individual initiative and work, or "getting off the dole," in large measure. Private charity, on the other hand, has as its purpose to help the whole person, to become self-sufficient and restore their human dignity (rather than be kept rabbits). OTOH, I may be wrong. When welfare reform was first tried in Wisconsin, ALL able-bodied recipients were required to apply for work or education, and 20% immediately and voluntarily left the welfare rolls rather than comply with that simple, supposedly self-help, requirement.

John said...

I was thinking about that other aspect of the waste yesterday. If we evaluated the government like a charity, how much of the "donation" actually gets to recipients?

Of course there are free loaders, intrinsic ambition and drive are different between different people. Didn't you ever have those school "team projects" where Bob or Janice let everyone else carry the load, while Bill or Jean took charge...

Now the system can be made to provide the correct extrinsic motivation and consequences, as we have been discussing. However it is unrealistic to think that everyone is self motivated to work, improve, strive for better, etc.

Sean said...

"I looked for the 93% and 78% details and had no luck. Any hints where it is?"

In the TANF/SNAP link, it notes under "Trends in TANF/AFDC Characteristics" that the percentage of families with three or more kids is between 7 and 8 percent, depending on how you break it down.

As for the 78% number, in 2010, it shows that 55% of households had no children, and 35% of the remaining 45% of households had 2 or fewer children. That calcs to 78% of the households with children.

Sean said...

"Just dividing up the total spent on means-tested programs in the US among all those officially in poverty, puts everyone "in poverty" FAR above the poverty line and, in fact, well above the national median income."

Means-tested benefits go to more than people below than just those the poverty line, though, so that's not really a valid calculation.

Sean said...

And, going back to the respective numbers regarding SNAP and TANF, the temporary nature of such programs makes it likely that most of those children were born when the parent was not on the program.

John said...

I think there is a lot more than TANF and SNAP out there, especially in MN.

Single Mom's
Single Mother Guide
Bridge to benefits
Single Mom Assistance

And again... I am not saying the programs in themselves are bad or unnecessary. I am saying are they helping to attain the goal, whatever it is?

John said...

The idea that single Parent Mom homes have about as many kids as dual Parent homes is problematic to say the least. No wonder the single parent homes are broke and the kids are having a hard time.

I couldn't imagine having 3 young kids and no spouse even with my education, maturity and employment qualifications.

John said...

Here are some interesting articles.
Forbes: Eliminate Poverty
Forbes: Avg Welfare Payment
Forbes US has Second Largest Social Welfare System

jerrye92002 said...

"Means-tested benefits go to more than people below than just those the poverty line, though, so that's not really a valid calculation."-- Sean

That explanation simply makes matters worse! The calculation was based on no other income. Therefore, one of two things is happening. Either a) those with some income are making even MORE than the national median income than the means-tested programs already provide, or b) "means-testing" is taking away benefits in a fashion to de-incentivize their making more on their own. Either way, the program is an overall failure of massive proportions-- trillions to achieve.... nothing.