Sunday, December 21, 2008

Failing Ourselves . . .

"Failing our children" is a "news" story in today's OD that I don't quite understand.

"What are they selling now?" I thought. This piece should have been on the editorial page rather a news page. "Failing" is an opinion word, not a fact word. Using such a word displays an intent to motivate the reader . . . but to what end?
The numbers are stark: Oneida County children are three times more likely to be living in poverty than local senior citizens.

Senior citizens, many of whom worked for years in local factories and earned solid pensions, now find themselves with a financial cushion . . .

Why the juxtaposition between "children" and "senior citizens?" Is the intent of the article to make seniors feel "guilty" . . . and get them to support whatever is being sold? Or is it to make us turn our attention away from seniors because their lives are almost over? Seniors and children both have needs, and it should not be turned into an "either ... or" situation.

The article presumes an awful lot about seniors, perhaps reflecting the "New Hartford" perspective that colors OD's reporting . . . While some seniors may be well off, anyone who retired years ago with a "solid" pension has seen it minimized and trivialized by years of inflation, tax increases, and utility increases. For many seniors, the financial "cushion" is about as comfortable as an air-mattress that is still in its box. . . . And once the "cushion" is gone, then what? Is a 92 year old supposed to go back to work?
State Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, said more anti-poverty programs for youth are needed back the area. In recent years, there has been a lack of federal funding for such programs, she said.
Maybe that's what they're selling . . . more programs!
“Those programs help young people achieve the skills that they need to go out into the workplace,” she said. “And I think it’s been lacking in our urban settings.”
Now wait just one minute . . . Helping young people achieve skills? Isn't this what the SCHOOLS are supposed to be doing? . . . And haven't the SCHOOLS been taking ever increasing amounts of our tax dollars and an ever increasing percentage of our incomes for the last 40 years? The "lack of federal funding" argument is bogus as is any lack of funding argument in general. Schools have been awash in money, but they've blown it on high salaries, legions of unnecessary employees, crazy architecture, artificial turf, bloated building programs, and ineffective methodology: anything to build empires for local officials, but nothing to ensure that the kids "achieve the skills that they need to go out into the workplace."

As far as what's "been lacking in our urban settings," you can thank the State of New York and our local urban boards of education for that. Utica once had an exemplary occupational education program that prepared many of the now "seniors" to earn their "financial cushions." But once Utica joined state-organized BOCES to provide occupational education, the programs were removed from the local high schools (where the greatest need existed) and stuck out in New Hartford. That made them less available for use. Students from Utica suffered. Utica now suffers . . . But the BOCES empire has grown.

So now because the schools have not done what we pay them to do, do we have to create more special programs? If the past is any guide, government failure will beget more government programs, and public monies will be funneled into more six-figure salaries for people connected with our local elite.
“They need opportunities to grow and get good jobs,” she said. “It is alarming to me that we have such a high percentage of children living in poverty.”
Mrs. Destito is alarmed . . . I am alarmed, too. But the reason why we aren't growing good jobs, why people aren't getting them, and why so many live in poverty has nothing to do with seniors, and nothing to do with a lack of programs. The reason is that NEW YORK STATE policies have driven the good jobs away. Had our local economy been even just average with the rest of the country, local families would have had the jobs and been able to build their own "financial cushions" for downturns such as now.

Yes, let's get more federal funds for more "anti-poverty programs" . . . but also make sure that the money does not wind up in the pockets of high paid administrators, actually achieves results that can be measured, and is used as only a stop-gap.

Like the Detroit auto industry, Mrs. Destito is looking for a federal bailout of failed STATE policy. Without changes to that STATE policy, on which SHE is in a position to be heard, the numbers of people -- children and seniors alike -- living in poverty will only increase.

The young families in poverty, at least, have youth on their side. Like the Depression when the poor were told to "go west," they can leave the area and start anew where there are more opportunities.

The seniors stuck here in poverty . . . where are they going?


Anonymous said...

This is all a bunch of garbage........the youth living in poverty are the responsibility of their parents, not me and not you, but their parents......other than a severe and permanent illness, let the parents get off their ass and get a job or maybe two or three, to support the children they prought into the world. I took care of one gave me a free ride.......Let the kids work...alot of them have babysat, mowed lawns and yes, gone to public school and gotten a great education....learned a trade or even gotten scholarships and gone to don't give me this guilty crap..It is time the young people learned responsibility and that they learn by example set by their parents... Seniors do NOT have it easy......the majority are barely making ends meet and alot of them have to decide between medicine and food on a daily basis......
There is real need out there, but the majority of it is derived from government enabling is a form of control.......that and all the immigrants taking our tax payers dollars and living on welfare, getting medicare, free this and free that......just stop it. Let them come here legally or send them back. Let them work, and alot of them do, but what they didn't contribute to, which is anything our tax dollars go towards, they can't have part of......allout of hand and needs to stop

Greens and Beans said...

I am “alarmed” that the Assemblywoman is “alarmed.” When our legislators run for reelection they drum into our heads with costly advertisement after costly advertisement on how in touch they are with their legislative districts. But now they are “alarmed” at the amount of impoverished families there are in the same districts that, just over one month ago, they were telling us that they were acutely in touch with.

Our “au fait” legislators have been a large part of the problem. Throwing costly program after costly program at social ills, have done little to help those who really need it. What I find alarming is how our legislators feel free to institute new anti-poverty programs without first investigating where the previous attempts have failed. Strikeslip makes a good point when stating “If the past is any guide, government failure will beget more government programs, and public monies will be funneled into more six-figure salaries for people connected with our local elite.” To be alarmed at the face of impoverished young families, when prior failed programs have amply lined the school district administrators and the politically correct pockets with taxpayer gold is ludicrous.

Should we believe that our legislators are operating in some sort of vacuum when they espouse the dichotomy of their being in touch with the people (particularly when they need the votes at election time), but express their “alarm” at the impoverished families that exist right under their noses? Or is it that the Assemblywoman needed to express some sort of reaction to the news and opted to take the “I am alarmed” approach? Are we to actually believe that this senior New York State Assembly member is unaware of the magnitude of the amount of impoverished people encompassing her district? If so, perhaps she should spend some time, or perhaps reside among the less fortunate families in her district. As President Clinton expressed it best when he stated that he could “feel your pain,” perhaps the Assemblywoman should feel the real pain of her needy constituents (that she is so handsomely compensated to represent). Perhaps she should attempt to live on the very same income that the impoverished families, who she represents, have to live on. That way she too would really be able to feel the pain of all of those failed anti-poverty programs that enriches the politically correct. Perhaps her astonishment would be reinforced after she gets talked down to by some politically appointed bureaucrat who admonishes those who mistakenly fill out an incorrect line on the Social Service Department assistance form. You know the same bureaucrats who were slated to receive a 40% to 50% salary increase as a reward for their efforts.

Programs that were intended to help the impoverished among us are well intended, but the legislation that launched these programs was improperly crafted. There should be strings attached to any program that is discovered to be mismanaged. These strings should place limitations and penalties on all administrators who excessively profit from mismanaging these programs. There should be mandatory close monitoring of expenditures as well as aggregate program effectiveness. And the “one size fits all” approach to anti-poverty programs should be scraped. New York’s legislative districts encompass different communities that have diverse problems. An urban community will need a different approach to combat poverty over that of a rural community. We must remember that the legislative districts were drawn up primarily to assure the reelection of the majority political party and not necessarily to serve the citizens who need government assistance.

One very wise man taught us that “the poor will always be among you.” Therefore, we are entrusted by a higher power to care for them. This is the premise that our forefathers set out to accomplish when they formulated this great federation of United States. It is a shame to have some of our elected officials scam the electorate into thinking they are operating in a vacuum. We should be mortified over our apathy to deal with those few who profit under the guise of aiding the impoverished among us.

Cato said...

Certainly I was struck with the same suspicions as you ("What are they selling?") I think that indeed is the intent- to sell something. I don't believe the story has anything to do with the New Hartfordian mindset, merely a Big Government mindset. Politicians truly believe that they can help the little people out of their problems (all while getting rich in doing so, of course, of course). It's quite clear that politicians (local and state) do not believe that it is New York State policies causing the problems.

However, the premise of the story is true-- the senior citizens of the state and in this area are much wealthier than the youngsters and their families. The older generations have had the blessings of lower taxes, fewer regulations, and less political hot air than the young people trying to raise families today. And why else are so many young families leaving the state? It is true that the older people have that financial cushion to rest on during these difficult times. But the solution presented for such a problem is completely awry. And unfortunately I still see no glimmer of hope that New York State has any intentions of changing its ways. So the mass exodus of young people continues, while those who cannot afford to leave continue their endurance...