My View: Being Poor Means Inhuman Treatment

Gonzales-building-WoodlandEvery year in June, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada takes what she calls the “Hunger Challenge.”  According to a press release from back in June, “Hunger Challenge participants pledge to live for one week on the nation’s average weekly food stamp benefit of $4.46 per day, or just $1.49 per meal.”

“The challenge is a reminder to me that for millions of Americans, hunger is a daily reality,” said Assemblymember Yamada.  “While I struggle for only a week, far too many who cannot make ends meet face going hungry every day.  Those living in ‘food deserts’ – often students, the disabled, and seniors – are particularly affected.”

While I respect the Assemblymember’s efforts, in my opinion and from my experience the worst part is not the limited budget you get on food stamps – but rather the horrible treatment that poor people get across the board.

If Assemblymember Yamada wants the true picture – she needs to hold her job and attempt to get food stamps, Medi-Cal, and take her children to CommuniCare.

My wife and I are not the typical consumers of social services.  We are both college educated.  We live middle class life styles.  And while we have been hit a bit harder than most by the recent recession, our main reason for receiving services is that we chose to help three young children and, by extension, society.

For that, we have been treated by a number of agencies in this community and this county as though we were the scum of the earth.

Three years ago in December of 2009, we took in one-day old Jasmine as a foster child.  As such we were entitled to a small monthly stipend from the state. She was entitled to Medi-Cal, and received mostly good medical treatment, both at Peterson Clinic in Woodland and the Davis Community Clinic.

Last October we finally adopted Jasmine and eventually she will be on our own medical insurance.

In September of 2010 we took in our nephew, who is now 9, and in September of 2011 we took in his infant brother.  Sacramento CPS got involved after the baby was born and basically told us that the two boys would be placed in voluntary placement.

Why voluntary placement?  Because that way we did not have to receive money from the state – that’s $1200 a month that we should be getting from the state, that we are not.

We were told, if we complained, that the boys would be placed into a receivership and be placed with a stranger.  Of course, the stranger would get their $1200 a month.

The older boy needed to receive counseling and other mental health services.  After inquiring around, we were told that Medi-Cal would not cover it.  So here’s a kid that is having all sorts of serious problems and we cannot get him medical services.

It took us from September of 2010 until April of 2011 before he finally saw a counselor.  How did it finally happen?  Did Social Services in Woodland point us in the right direction?  No.

We walked into Supervisor Jim Provenza’s office, his staffer Gina Daleiden walked us across the hall, and Katie Villegas made a few calls and several days later finally got us counseling.  I want to stress this was a kid that most people would have considered in SERIOUS need of medical services.

A month after that, we finally got services for him through the school district as part of AB 3632 – something that entitles a student with an IEP (Individualized Education Program) to academic-related counseling, something that was a vital lifeblood that has been threatened with being cut due to state budget problems.

Food stamps were a nightmare.  Because the kids – our daughter was a foster child up until last October and we were the boys’ guardians – were considered sole incomes, we were entitled at least to food stamps.  But that required hours of paperwork and multiple trips back and forth to social services.

Even when you have an appointment at social services, it takes hours to be called forward and hours more to process paperwork.  Can you imagine a working single mother having to take off a half to full day of work to get the paperwork processed?

The level of incompetency was unreal – there were basic concepts that the department simply did not understand, despite our explaining over and over again.  It took weeks and then months.

Some of the workers at the County Department of Social Services were nice, friendly and helpful.  Many were rude, mean, incompetent and suspicious.

How suspicious?  One day last year, we received a call from a District Attorney investigator accusing us of fraud.  We had to meet at our attorney’s office, at which point not only did the investigator clear us of any wrongdoing, he basically thanked us for our service to the community and believed, if anything, we were entitled to more assistance than we were getting.

Getting Medi-Cal was tricky, in part because multiple counties were involved, and that too required multiple forms, documents, weeks of time, hours of wait and multiple visits.

Then there is the actual service we receive.  CommuniCare is actually pretty good in a lot of respects, but the problem is that if someone is sick you either have to take them to the emergency room or you have to sit around and wait all day in hopes that a physician is freed up.

They have some after-hours care, but you have to call in and wait.

And then there are times when the people are downright rude.  All we wanted to do was get the kids’ vaccination records because they needed them to go to Head Start.  That was apparently too much, as the worker in West Sacramento would end up being rude, berating my wife and refusing to press a simple “print” button so we could get the vaccination records in time.

The kicker – that individual is about to become the manager of that facility.

This past week I attempted to get in touch with a board member of CommuniCare.  The contact information is not readily available and, amazingly, none of the elected officials I talked to this week knew any members of the board or their contact information.

Overall, our experience with CommuniCare, both in Woodland and Davis, has been good – but not so at the Salud Clinic in West Sacramento.

I have also learned that some workers, for instance in the Department of Social Services, know there is a problem there.  They have spoken out and for that they have been retaliated against.  Some have lost their jobs, others forced to retire early.

I have made the Board of Supervisors aware of these problems numerous times, but I have seen little to no effort to investigate and rectify the problem.  I understand we have a budget crisis, but that is no excuse for the treatment and service that we have received.

The irony is we got into this because we were trying to help.  However, for those who need these services for a variety of reasons – they do not deserve this treatment either.

The bottom line is that in the last three years since we have done things, I believe, to help our community, we have been treated rudely, and we have seen levels of incompetence that would boggle your mind.  It is impossible to get some needed services, certainly without much heartache.

The thing that baffles me most is that we are knowledgeable, we know to walk into our representative’s office, I can text message most elected officials in this county if I need to, and yet we are having this kind of difficulty – how does the typical user of these services get by?

How can people take off hours to get the services they need?  How do they look for jobs while they are trying to get services?

How do they get medical attention for their kid if they have to take off work to do so?

These are the challenges that Mariko Yamada and most of my readers have never experienced, and for us they were eye-openers.

I don’t believe anything happens by accident.  We have had to go through this because we are meant to bear witness and be the voice for those who lack a voice.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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75 thoughts on “My View: Being Poor Means Inhuman Treatment”

  1. rusty49

    Welcome to big government, it works so well that we should make it even bigger. Is this what’s in store for Obamacare?

    I applaud you David and your wife for taking in those kids.

  2. David M. Greenwald

    We would be in a lot better shape under Obamacare because we would not have to go to the clinic, we could have a private doctor and insurance for them. And I would argue this isn’t big government, this is little government at the local level.

  3. rusty49

    “And I would argue this isn’t big government, this is little government at the local level.”

    Local, State and Federal programs are all part of big government.

  4. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > My View: Being Poor Means Inhuman Treatment
    > Some of the workers at the County Department of Social
    > Services were nice, friendly and helpful. Many were
    > rude, mean, incompetent and suspicious.

    First off I want to thank you for helping out the kids. I’ve never met David (or even seen a photo of him), but I’m going to assume that he does not “look poor”. Over the years I’ve known people on both sides of the desk) both getting and giving out government money).

    If you come in for help and look and sound like you are dirt poor and really need help the people are for the most part real nice. If you come in for help and look and sound like you are better educated than they are for the most part they will get suspicious and assume that you are trying to game the system and get something you don’t deserve.

    After the 2008 financial crisis a friend lost his (~250K a year) job at a private equity firm and since he had been paying in to unemployment for 20+ years he decided to go down to EDD in Redwood City and sign up. He said that he was treated like crap by everyone down there that seemed to feel that he did not “deserve” to get the unemployment that he was legally entitled to. Since he is fluent in Spanish he was talking with some illegal aliens and they told him that the (Spanish speaking) staff at the EDD could not be nicer and were always very helpful getting unemployment for people even if they were not here legally.

  5. J.R.

    Rusty is right. Poor service and abuse of customers is typical of government services. It would never happen in a competitive environment where customer satisfaction must be earned to get repeat business.

    As for Yamada, her pretense of supporting the needy is all for show. When it comes to her votes in the legislature, she always votes for the corrupt unions that fund her

    She diverts funds from the institutions that provide services to the poor, who scramble for the remaining trickle after the unions have had their fill. She is contemptible.

  6. Frankly

    A few thoughts:

    1. David’s situation is one that justifies these services. Responsible people doing the right things to help children, the truly disabled and seniors… that is what we should be supporting.

    2. Rusty is correct. As Bush said “government is not a loving institution”. The incentives and motivations for delivering friendly and helpful customer service are non-existant. This is not a natural thing for employees… it requires a significant top-down effort from management to inject these principles into the performance work culture. If revenue depends on attracting and retaining customers, management will be naturally incentivised to motivate employees to provide the most friendly and helpful customer service. Otherwise, why would they? It requires extra effort. Public sector business does not suffer any direct consequences for delivering poor service… they continue to get their revenue despite treating their customers like they are irritants and scum.

    Poor customer service is endemic in government. It is not just social services. Just visit the DMV.

    3. I would like to see a requirement that ALL government employees be required to wear a name badge while on the job, and there be a system where citizens can complete a customer service assessment for any government employee that they had any transactional interaction with. The results of these assessments would then be incorporated into an overall performance management system. Employees with high customer service success would earn bonus recognition. Those with low success would be put on progressive discipline.

    Ideally we would just reduce the size and scope of government because we realize that government-run business will always tend to be less efficient and deliver lower service quality than could otherwise be achieved in the private-sector. However, if we must fund certain government business, we should demand that it deliver the highest service quality using best-practice methods.

    3. I think applying for social services needs to come with some challenges and warrants some suspicions. However, all government employees and people in general should treat all beneficiaries of these services with basic human dignity and respect. The challenges and suspicions should all be professional and part of a vetting process to ensure that only the truly needy are getting the services.

  7. Rifkin

    [i]” I’ve never met David (or even seen a photo of him), but I’m going to assume that he does not ‘look poor.'”[/i]

    Here you go:

    [img]http://i.ytimg.com/vi/YWTlim-ulqA/0.jpg[/img]

  8. rusty49

    David:
    “Many were rude, mean, incompetent and suspicious.”

    Jeff:
    “I think applying for social services needs to come with some challenges and warrants some suspicions.”

    I agree Jeff. I was actually happy to see that some social service institutions were actually suspicious. I was of the opinion that this stuff was being handed out way too easily. Good to hear.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    I think there is a line between healthy vigilance and verification and suspicious – particularly in a case where you are dealing with documented foster and kinship kids.

  10. Lydia L.

    So very sorry & dismayed to read this, David. I worked for a big state agency for many years; you are right. Some people do care.Some people started out jaded. Some people became jaded and burnt out like in every profession. When I was a manager, I used to observe my employees on the phone when they didn’t know I was there. It shocked me how some of the goody-two-shoes types behaved with our customers when they didn’t know I was in an empty cube a few feet away, when they thought I was out of the office. Those employees were called into a private meeting, with our union rep, and a formal written document was placed in their personnel file, to be removed after a year or two if they behaved perfectly with our customers after the warning. I respected the public we were serving. All managers have this duty, or they shouldn’t be a “civil servant.”

  11. David M. Greenwald

    “I think applying for social services needs to come with some challenges and warrants some suspicions. However, all government employees and people in general should treat all beneficiaries of these services with basic human dignity and respect. The challenges and suspicions should all be professional and part of a vetting process to ensure that only the truly needy are getting the services. “

    BTW, I think this is largely fair. If you create process by which someone has to demonstrate need – then I think if the worker should be able to work within that process.

    Part of the challenge is that these things take hours to perform, hours that we don’t have and I’m sure people who need these services because of their life circumstances don’t have either.

  12. Alan Miller

    Another difference between government and the private sector . . .

    “Your conversation may be monitored or recorded by a supervisor hiding in a nearby cubicle.”

  13. Frankly

    [i]Part of the challenge is that these things take hours to perform, hours that we don’t have and I’m sure people who need these services because of their life circumstances don’t have either.[/i]

    You are talking about means testing here, and I think we can take a page out of the bank lending business as a model to help improve the business of doling out public assistance.

    In lending, we call this process credit underwriting.

    Each loan request is analyzed (the process of credit analysis) for the borrower’s need, indented use of funds, and ability to pay back the loan. The four “Cs” of credit analysis include: capacity, collateral, capital & character. Capacity is the ration of debt service to income (cash flow). Collateral is the appraised value of the assets that could be liquated to pay for the debt obligation in the event of a loan default. Capital is the amount of liquid assets (general cash in the bank) that would help the borrower make payments with income fluctuation.

    Capacity, collateral and capital are all definitive and objective calculations for the most part. Character is the only generally subjective criteria… this includes definitive things like borrower credit score, education and employment stability; however, it can also include things like general assessment of personality and demeanor.

    The general goal with credit underwriting is to maximize ongoing returns from, and minimize ongoing risks to, the loan portfolio.

    After the loan funds, it moves to loan servicing. For a small business loan this includes the borrower having to submit business and personal financial statements every year so that a similar credit analysis can be competed to confirm or adjust credit risk.

    When the 4 Cs are strong, credit underwriting is less rigorous, and the loan can be put on fast-track. When any one or two of the 4 Cs are weak or marginal, extra effort is required to vet the general credit worthiness of the borrower and loan.

    The business of public assistance should borrow these bank lending practices. The concept would be a public assistance “loan” being made with non-cash repayment (e.g., benefits derived from the use of funds provided). Instead of the lending business were the credit analysis assesses the abilty to pay, the public assistance business would assess the actual need and entitlement.

    In the case where the need and entitlement are strong, the process should be less cumbersome to the recipient requesting assistance. However, in the case where there is marginal need (including character issues), the vetting process should be more rigorous.

    Also, to help speed the initial application and approval process, there should be an ongoing audit/reporting process comensurate with the level of assistance provided. For example, if the assistance is large, then a more rigorous follow-up should be required. For example, maybe quarterly meetings with the recipient.

    A process like this could be designed and implemented. However, I suspect it would never be done because of the work required. In the business of banking there is a direct impact for taking on too much loan portfolio risk. For one, the bank regulators will require higher loan loss reserves that reduce lendable capital. Second, higher loan losses will erode bank profitability. Conversely, gubment employees will all get their paycheck reguardless of how poorly they treat their clients, and how much risk they built in the portfolio of “loans” given to people requesting public assistance.

  14. Rifkin

    Jeff: [i]”Poor customer service is endemic in government. It is not just social services. Just visit the DMV.”[/i]

    I know you used this merely as an example. However, service at the DMV varies greatly. They do have some conscientious employees who do a great job and earn their pay.

    At the same time, I have been a customer at plenty of private companies and received horrible service. In theory, that should mean the business will fail or the employee will be fired. But often that is not the case. There are plenty of companies which thrive because they provide a low price, a very convenient location, or a product selection that others don’t have, and those companies profit just fine despite bad customer service.

    I think the bad customer service usually is a reflection of an owner who is anthrophobic or just plain angry. You find a lot of these miserable customer service guys in blue collar businesses: say they repair specialty cars or sell mechanical parts or they clean out sewage. But every once in a while, you will even find this kind of thing at a restaurant, where the food is exquisite, but the service is horrible.

  15. Rifkin

    [i]”… in my opinion and from my experience the worst part is not the limited budget you get on food stamps – but rather the horrible treatment that poor people get across the board.”[/i]

    I can honestly say that I want our society to be one which treats all people, wealthy or poor or in between with dignity and respect. However, I think the one service that is really missing when it comes to our government (and frankly our entire society) in dealing with the poor is explaining the obvious as to how to avoid poverty and how to stop it from passing on from generation to generation.

    We need to make it clear: Your odds of being poor and having to put up with all the sh!t which comes along with poverty and having the culture of poverty cycle down to your children and grandchilren will fall dramatically if you just do this one thing: Don’t have any children until you are in a stable, marital relationship, with stable employment.

    If everyone who is poor today would follow that simple advice, all of our larger problems of food stamps, housing, medical insurance, bad schools, overcrowded prisons, street crime and so on would mostly disappear, and to the extent that we still had a problem in any of these areas, it would become manageable.

    But this is something we do not sufficiently stress as a society. No one is getting through to our young, poor, uneducated and unskilled girls who are sleeping with irresponsible males that if they have kids before age 25 and before they are married and before they can support themselves financially that the chances they will be poor for the rest of their lives goes up dramatically and the odds that their kids will wind up in the same straits or even in prison go up dramatically.

    We could get this message through with a proper and sensible incentive structure: My idea has long been to take young women* who have all of the well-known and long-studied generational poverty risk factors and offer them a sh!tload of money if they don’t have any babies before say age 25; or if they have a kid under age 25, but they are married to the father and the couple makes a decent income, they too would get the sh!tload of cash. The amount of money I suggest is the amount it costs to house a prisoner in state prison for one year. Now that is about $48,000.

    If a young woman who grew up in poverty and went to bad schools and had parents who were split up or an absent father and so on put off having kids until she was 25, getting a check for $48,000 would be awesome for her. She could have a much better life using that as her capital foundation. Or she might just blow it on expensive jewelery and clothes. But at least our society would be better off if she avoided producing kids who would then become financial burdens on the rest of us and who would make our schools worse and likely would end up in the criminal justice system, etc.

    My idea, of course, is anathema to the left wing extreme, because they think it is racist. Never mind that it would make life much better for all those who received this money. The extreme left (perhaps including David Greenwald) loves to think that Americans are mostly racists and thus a program like this must reflect that racism.

    The extreme right is likewise against my idea. They don’t want tax money to be spent on anything other than the subsidies which go to them.
    ———————–

    *It could be with young men, too. The reason I favor the females here is because they the ones who get pregnant, and the “fathers” rarely stick around to raise their kids. So the real cost is disproportionately borne by the mothers.

  16. Rifkin

    [i]”Don’t have any children until you are in a stable, marital relationship, with stable employment.”

    FWIW, look at the poverty rates of children ([url]http://www.familyfacts.org/charts/329/poverty-rates-are-higher-among-single-mother-families-regardless-of-race[/url]) comparing single parent households with married parents:

    White — single 33.0%; married 5.2%
    Black — single 47.7%; married 12.2%
    Hispanic — single 49.1%; married 19.7%
    Asian — single 30.1%; married 9.1%

    So for whites, we could reduce the childhood poverty rate by 6 times simply by strongly incentivizing mothers to wait to have children until the mother herself is mature and she is in a stable marriage. All the other racial categories, likewise, could greatly reduce childhood poverty doing the same. I realize, of course, that there are good reasons for divorce; and that even those who think they married the right person at the right time in life will need to separate. All I am suggesting is that the odds are far better for the children of people who marry first and who only have children after they are financially stable.

  17. Frankly

    Related to my previous point and link, I find it very interesting that all the countries lauded by my liberal blogging friends as models for the US have the highest out of wedlock birthrates. See figure 6.

    Could it be that a liberal progressive society somehow promotes promiscuity while also causing a drop in marriage rates?

  18. Don Shor

    Using statistical correlation to determine causation, though, it is very clear that weekly church attendance causes poverty: [img]http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/churchattendance.jpg[/img]

  19. Frankly

    Don, one could draw the conclusion that European-style liberal progressiv-ism creates many more out-of-wedlock births and this doesn’t work very well for the US, the most diverse and 3rd highest populated country on the planet.

    Also, I don’t see a source for this graph. What is the source for the data? One thing that is very common is to exclude government payments and taxes paid in the calulation of income gaps and poverty. That is a little trick of the left which works very well since increasing taxes and distribution to poor will never change the gap or the graph.

  20. Don Shor

    As noted in the link I provided: [i]”The child poverty rates shown in the figure are the percentage of children in families with an income less than half of median income (adjusted for family size), a commonly used poverty
    standard in cross-national comparisons.”[/i]
    Why would you exclude government payments? Those are part of income and affect poverty. Higher tax rates for the purpose of redistributing income is a standard procedure for reducing poverty in many of the countries listed.
    More likely they have more nonmarital births simply because their marriage rates are lower. Because they are more secular. Sweden, for example, has a much lower marriage rate than the US.

  21. Rifkin

    Regarding Sweden: This book, which I found by Googling the topic, called “Single-Mother Families and Social Policy: Lessons for the United States from Canada, France, and Sweden,” says that in Sweden the poverty rate, while still very low compared with that in the U.S., is twice as high for the children of single mothers compared with that of the children of two-parent households.

    There is a lot to admire about the success of Sweden and other nordic countries. However, I think it is worth pointing out that our notions of individual freedom and our far more complex, pluralistic society could not really pull off what the Swedes or the Norwegians have done in their much more homogenistic cultures with no sense of what the limits of government should be and no values for individual liberty.

    Even other European countries with much more robust welfare states than we have–say Germany or Italy, for example–cannot manage to do what the Scandanavians have done, and I suspect a part of that is having much larger populations with more complex cultures and diversity.

    Yet something the Swedes do (and maybe other nordic countries do as well, I don’t know) with their welfare system is they still greatly encourage work, far more than our welfare system does. The Swedish welfare programs subsidize work, rather than subsidize food or rent or vacations (like the French do).

    In a very limited sense, we do this, too, with our EITC. My belief is that we should make the EITC much more generous. And we should entirely get rid of the minimum wage in concert with that.

    The Swedes, famously, greatly subsidize child care. They do this in order to allow and encourage mothers to work. I am not sure if that is the right way to go for a mother who has very young children. But if we were to equally encourage young mothers to work outside of their homes, then subsidizing child care the way the Swedes do would be a necessary component of that.

    Of course, the other thing the Swedes do to encourage and allow for job creation is they have, like most Euros, divorced medical care from employment. They pay for their much cheaper, and of course much better health care system with taxes. The only tie to the employer is that when a worker becomes sick and cannot work, employers are required to pay the employee his full wages for a short time until he gets well. If the person is sick or injured for very long, the government covers the cost of his wages.

    Another interesting thing about the Swedish economy: they have had over the last 20 years roughly the same average real growth in GDP that we have had. The big difference is how stable their growth is compared with ours. Our good years are much better than their best; and our worst have been more common and much worse than theirs. I am not really sure why this is the case. I was surprised, when looking at the data, to see how close the average annual increase in real GDP has been. I expected that Sweden’s would have been lower, due to their high taxes and capital flight.

  22. Don Shor

    [i]”in Sweden the poverty rate, while still very low compared with that in the U.S., is twice as high for the children of single mothers compared with that of the children of two-parent households.”[/i]

    Yes. The income of a one-person household is likely to be lower than the income of a two-person household. We have established beyond a doubt that poverty is caused by a lack of money.

  23. Frankly

    [i]Why would you exclude government payments? Those are part of income and affect poverty. Higher tax rates for the purpose of redistributing income is a standard procedure for reducing poverty in many of the countries listed. [/i]

    My point is that many reports on poverty and income gaps do not factor payments to and from government. In other words no tax payments, welfare, medicaid and food stamp dollars are included.

  24. Adam Smith

    [i] We have established beyond a doubt that poverty is caused by a lack of money. [/i]

    Yes. And almost as clearly, we have established that children raised in a married household are much less likely to live in poverty than those children raised in a single parent household.

  25. Don Shor

    So, to modify Rich’s prescription:
    [i]Don’t have any children until you are in a stable, marital relationship, with stable employment.[/i]

    The [i]marital[/i] is not necessary to alleviating poverty. Having two parents, or their equivalent, increases the likelihood of having a two-income household. The marriage rate in many countries is much lower than ours, but their poverty rate is even lower still.
    Early pregnancy prevention education and ready availability of contraceptives will reduce poverty as well. Poor people should have easy access to family planning information and options at a low cost. More than likely that will have to be provided through federally funded programs. But if you prefer a private option, then making it part of the minimum health insurance requirement is another alternative. There seems to be some pushback on that principle, though.

  26. Lydia L.

    I worked for the State of Oregon & the state of CA for a total of 35 years. I worked for 5 different agencies. By far, the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program was the most efficiently run. The people I worked with truly cared about the families with children aged 5 and under that we served. David, I hope to God that you had a good experience if you ever dealt with anyone at WIC. If not, please write to the Director. She does care. I believe that the problem w/ state agencies is inefficiency and ego’s. People put their careers ahead of their customers. Also, not to make excuses, but their are many federal and state guidelines that make it difficult to work quickly. And everyone wants stats to make sure we are working hard, but stats take so much time to gather. Please don’t suggest better computer applications to gather stats. We need more people actually serving real people, not entering stats on their computers. I have had some experience with the DMV in a small community in Arizona. Those folks were all extremely friendly & efficient, and I noticed they smiled the entire time that they were helping me. The same with the AZ smog check people.($12 to smog a car there, at a state run smog dealer.) I think that it is the shear volume of work to do in CA that makes people anxious & irritable. I am not making excuses. I have told bitter co-workers that maybe they should think about changing professions. I am extremely proud of the 36 years I spent serving Oregonians and Californians.

  27. Lydia L.

    “We need to make it clear: Your odds of being poor and having to put up with all the sh!t which comes along with poverty and having the culture of poverty cycle down to your children and grandchilren will fall dramatically if you just do this one thing: Don’t have any children until you are in a stable, marital relationship, with stable employment.”

    I’m a little surprised to say that I agree w/ this sentence except I would remove the word “marital” and add the word “committed”.

  28. David M. Greenwald

    The problem is that you are dealing with people that either have substance abuse problems or are otherwise suffering from emotional or psychological problems, and they are not in most cases operating rationally. People get into a cycle of bad behaviors and often it takes into their thirties or later if ever before they start getting their lives back on track. Some people end up getting multiple kids taken away before they straighten up.

    I’m not defending the behavior – but if we wish to address we have to be much more forceful with the intervention.

  29. rusty49

    You know what, so what if it takes hours of sitting around and hours of paperwork in order for people to get free handouts. Ask people that don’t get the freebies how many hours of actually working it takes them to pay for the same things.

  30. David M. Greenwald

    “You know what, so what if it takes hours of sitting around and hours of paperwork in order for people to get free handouts.”

    What do you mean so what?

    1. People have jobs or should be looking for jobs. Taking them away from either of those two pursuits is a huge pain.
    2. I don’t consider them free handouts. They certainly are not for me or many other foster, kinship, IHSS providers.
    3. A huge complaint is with wait for medical care – you really want working people to have to take off work to take their kids to the doctor. Who can afford that? The result is that a lot of working parents end up not taking their kids to the doctor until it’s an emergency situation. Is that really the incentive you want?

    You need to re-think that comment Rusty.

  31. medwoman

    [quote]Don’t have any children until you are in a stable, marital relationship, with stable employment.” [/quote]

    I would modify this statement once again to: Don’t have any children until you are in a stable social and economic situation. We know from studies in this country and the practices of other countries what actually works in terms of lowering the number of children living in poverty. That is lowering the number of children born to women living in poverty. And we also know how to achieve that. Make education about sex, sexuality, contraception and responsible parenting as important a part of our education as is reading and mathematics. Make statistically effective contraception free and place it in the hands of the individual who will actually bear the direct consequences of a contraceptive failure. And of all things, stop portraying women who are attempting to act responsibly as “sluts” or “whores”. For every woman who is at risk of pregnancy, there is a man who has the same degree of responsibility, but without the same stigma or burden.

    For those who would object to this approach, is not being fully informed about the consequences of our sexual choices as important as being informed about the consequences of our career choices ? What other event in our lives is more life changing than having a child ? And yet we treat sexuality as though it is something to be hidden or learned from your peers or porn sites.

    Two years ago on a rural outreach medical trip to Honduras I had an admittedly anecdotal but highly illustrative experience. The compound that where we were housed had an orphanage that housed approximately 100 children. These are economic orphans most of whose families come to visit them when they can but cannot provide adequate food, shelter, and medical care. it was explained to me that the number had been dropping significantly. I was soon able to see why. During my outreach work I saw 35 to 40 women daily almost all in the reproductive age range. All but two were using contraceptives ( mostly the IUD or injection which are provided free) or BCPs which were dispensed at minimal cost. If you think that this is the government taking peoples tax money for other peoples entertainment, look at if for a moment from a different perspective.
    Which do you suppose is more cost effective, providing a $200.00 IUD which prevents pregnancy for ten years,
    or paying for the children that would be conceived during that time period from infancy to adulthood ?

    The rate of unintended pregnancy in this country varies between 45 and 50 %. I have not seen it any lower during the 30 years that I have been in medicine. Nearly half of these pregnancies end in termination.
    So from the preventive medicine point of view… what is the most effective way to reduce both the number of children living in poverty and the number of abortions ? After 30 years in medicine and 24 years specialized in
    women’s health….the answer is obvious although not simple in our society….provide sex education in a comprehensive, matter of fact, professional manner exactly as we provide other information that we consider necessary for a responsible member of our society, and provide free readily accessible contraception.

  32. Frankly

    Which would be more effective?…

    1. Use the education system to teach kids about sex and the consequences of out-of-wedlock (or, per medwoman, out of a two-adult relationship committment… what ever that is) pregnancy.

    2. Bring back much more religion into our children’s upbringing, teach morality of sex and abstinence from a religious perspective.

    To help answer this question, consider how we have bveen increasing the former, while the latter has declined at the same time out-of-wedlock pregnancy has skyrocketed.

    Also consider, that the teen pregnancy has remained more stable; while it is the 20 and 30 somethings that are cranking more unwanted kids these days.

  33. David M. Greenwald

    Jeff: I’ll never forget probably 15 years ago a friend of mine invited me to his church youth group as I visited him in Florida. It was a singles group at a very conservative Baptist Church. The entire group was in their late 20s and 30s and all divorced.

    You see what happened is that these people all married in their late teens and early twenties, had kids, and then got divorced for a variety of reasons. So while the kids were not born out of wedlock, they ended up in single parent and mixed homes.

    I just don’t buy either one or two based on what I have seen.

  34. medwoman

    [quote]Which would be more effective?…

    1. Use the education system to teach kids about sex and the consequences of out-of-wedlock (or, per medwoman, out of a two-adult relationship committment… what ever that is) pregnancy.

    2. Bring back much more religion into our children’s upbringing, teach morality of sex and abstinence from a religious perspective.
    [/quote]

    Their are a number of problems with this approach Jeff:
    1) We have not ever introduced sex education into the schools in a comprehensive manner that teaches about
    human sexual function in the same objective way that we teach about how the heart or lungs work. We do not
    provide any solid objective information that builds on previously objectively presented information. We wait until
    puberty and then have it taught by adults that are woefully under informed and often themselves embarrassed
    about discussing this information with children in this age group. How do I know this ? Multiple discussion
    through the years with the actual teachers who are blocked by parents from doing the obvious, bringing in
    people with the expertise to actually present the material factually without any embarassing overtones.
    2) Whose religion did you have in mind ? This reminds me of the representative who was all for parochial school
    vouchers until she realized that it would include mosques. We don’t teach mathematics from a “religious” point
    of view. Why should we treat information about how

  35. medwoman

    Oops, sorry about hitting “add comment” prematurely.

    That second point should be continued as :

    Why should we treat accurate information about how the reproductive system works ( and how to use it safely and effectively) any differently than how we treat other information that we consider essential to functioning responsibly in our society ?

    This is in no way disparaging of religion. The reproductive system works exactly the same way whether or not you believe it was “intelligently designed” or whether you believe it came about as part of an evolutionary sequence of events. The functionality is the same.

    A rather telling conversation that I have had with women in my clinic who come in questioning how to address these issues with their pre adolescent and adolescent daughters often goes something like this.

    Patient: I don’t know if I should bring up the subject of sex with my daughter.
    Me: Did your mother discuss sex with you ?
    Pt: No
    Me: Did you ask her before you became sexually active ?
    Pt: Of course not….( often followed by nervous laughter)
    The implicit point is that I rarely have to state outright, is why would we expect that our sons and daughters will bring up the subject of sexuality and especially contraception with us if we did not do so with our own parents?

    Many, many of these women who are concerned have good reason to be. They are aware that they conceived their first child prior to marriage ( yes, even those who are very religious). Being religious is not synonymous with making the wisest or most responsible decisions. If that were the case we would not have any adulterous people of faith! Religion does not offer protection against ignorance or the consequences thereof.

    These women are aware that they do not have the information or the objectivity to educate their daughters adequately for adult feelings and challenges. They know from direct personal experience. I do not expect you as a businessman to have had much exposure to this aspect of life, but I see it in my life every working day both in terms of the outcomes for those who choose either abstinence or adequate protection because they are educated in their options, and the outcomes for those who are not. Since preventative health care is a major emphasis of my career, I also see the consequences for not only the individual patient, but also for our society.

  36. Don Shor

    Jeff: religion doesn’t prevent bad choices, religion doesn’t prevent pregnancy, and it certainly doesn’t prevent poverty.
    Just curious: did you abstain from sex until marriage?

  37. Don Shor

    medwoman: [i]”Make [b]education[/b] about sex, sexuality, contraception and responsible parenting as important a part of our education as is reading and mathematics.
    Make statistically [b]effective contraception[/b] free and place it in the hands of the individual who will actually bear the direct consequences of a contraceptive failure.
    And of all things, [b]stop portraying women[/b] who are attempting to act responsibly [b][b]as “sluts” or “whores”[/b][/b]. For every woman who is at risk of pregnancy, there is a man who has the same degree of responsibility, but without the same stigma or burden.”[/i]

    Exactly.

  38. K.Smith

    “And of all things, stop portraying women who are attempting to act responsibly as “sluts” or “whores”. For every woman who is at risk of pregnancy, there is a man who has the same degree of responsibility, but without the same stigma or burden.”

    Unfortunately, there’s very little chance of this being changed, since the overwhelming religious sentiment in this country relating to women’s sexuality is that women must be “punished” with pregnancy for daring to have a sex life. Part of the whole Puritan heritage, I guess. “Taking responsibility” for this crowd does not entail contraception, but only being able to “take responsibility” for any resulting babies that arise.

    So, by all means, let’s “bring back much more religion into our children’s upbringing, teach morality of sex and abstinence from a religious perspective” (but, of course *only* if that comes from your own narrowly-circumscribed “religious perspective”), and continue to have sexual relations thought of as “shameful” and “dirty,” have non-scientific information about sexual health taught to kids (omg!!! we can’t say “vagina”), and as an added bonus have society continue to slut shame women for daring to have pre-marital sex.

  39. Rifkin

    Re: Don’s point that the poverty alleviating factor is not [i]marriage[/i] but rather it is having a [i]two-parent household[/i].

    Point well taken.

    That said, traditionally in the United States, marriage has been a stabilizing institution which holds together couples who have kids more than cohabitation does. It probably was this way in Sweden for most of its history, too, but maybe that is no longer the case, there. And perhaps going forward our culture has changed enough or will change enough to the point where we can no longer ascribe family stability as a benefit of marriage*.

    *An anecdote about marriage and its stabilizing effects on relationships: a male cousin of mine, who is gay, and who told me he had never really thought about getting married until the California Supreme Court ruled (pre-Prop 8) that prohibitions on gay marriage were unconstitutional, got lawfully married during that short window in the summer of 2008 after the Court decision and before Prop 8 passed, when gay marriage was legal in our state. A couple of months ago I was visiting a mutual relative of ours and saw my cousin and his spouse. (Saying his “husband” sounds weird to my ear, but my cousin and his “husband” if you prefer.) They related a fact about their now 10 year old relationship to me: That like any couple they have had ups and downs; and that a few years ago they started going to couples couseling and things are very good now. But they said that if they had never married, they likely would have just broken up and moved on to someone new. Each had done that many times when they were younger and, of course, not allowed to marry their partners. Their point was that marriage imposes a financial and emotional cost on splitting apart. And thus marriage in and of itself has been a stabilizing factor for them to stay together. Oh, and one more thing: dogs. My cousin and his spouse have four dogs and a large yard in the Richmond District of San Francisco where they all live. If they divorced, they wouldn’t know what to do with those dogs. So, almost like children, perhaps having pets who need both partners to stay together can have a stabilizing effect, too.

    (One more small anecdote: My girlfriend at Davis High School my junior year had parents whose marriage had broken up. But her father believed that their kids needed a mom and dad at home. So he never moved out. He stayed in the guest bedroom and lived with his family until their youngest graduated from high school. I thought that was strange at the time. I respect it more in hindsight.)

  40. medwoman

    [quote]Yes, but we haven’t established that marriage makes poverty less likely. Only that a two-parent household does.[/quote]

    I am not sure that this is not a product of how we have chosen to gather or approach the data. For example, does anyone know whether the true determinant is a two adult household, or a two parent household ?

    It was the anecdotal evidence brought up by some us who have posted that brought this issue up for me.
    My children, one currently a college grad serving as a TA at Berkeley and the second still in college were raised by a single parent, but often with another adult, aunt or grandmother in the home. I have one friend whose husband died and is raising her son in a household consisting of her son, herself and her mother. Another raised her two children with her mother as primary alternate care giver.
    I am not sure that the effect of two full times adults, as opposed to a biologic parent couple, has ever been adequately studied.

  41. Frankly

    [i]Jeff: religion doesn’t prevent bad choices, religion doesn’t prevent pregnancy, and it certainly doesn’t prevent poverty.
    Just curious: did you abstain from sex until marriage?[/i]

    Don, your are getting a little personal aren’t you? Let’s just say I did abstain for moral reasons and because it did not take a degree in rocket science to calculate the risks to my life path should I make that HUGE mistake.

    Maybe the ease for my rational risk calculation had to do with the fact that my family would never consider public assistance, and I would not consider it should I make that HUGE mistake.

    Maybe the ease of my moral decision had to do with my Christian upbringing and my sense of shame should I make that HUGE mistake.

    Just maybe.

  42. Frankly

    Medwoman, do you really think in this day of open sexuality and sex all over the media we are going to make many reductions in unwanted pregnancy through more sex Ed? What about the Nordic countries that Liberals point to as models for our education system? I think one could surmise that more Ed leads to more children born to single mothers.

    What is missing is the moral Ed.

  43. Rifkin

    [i]”… do you really think in this day of open sexuality and sex all over the media we are going to make many reductions in unwanted pregnancy through more sex Ed (and open access to contraception)?”[/i]

    Understand, Jeff, that the rate of teens having sex has not changed markedly since the 1950s. But what you might deem as a time of “open sexuality” changes up and down over time.

    To now answer your direct question: The rapidly declining teenage birth-rate tell us the answer is a resounding [b]yes.[/b] It’s not even close. The very few states (all in the Bible Belt, of course) where teen pregnancy is still a big problem have less comprehensive sex ed and less available birth control.

    This is from WebMD and is based on CDC numbers: [quote] The birth rate for teenagers ages 15-19 fell to an all-time low of 31 births per 1,000 teens in 2011, down 8% from 2010. … While teen birth rates hit a historic low in 2011, birth rates among young women aged 20-24 also reached the lowest rate ever recorded at 85 births per 1,000 women, a 5% drop from 2010. … Researchers also found that the birth rate among single women has dropped a total of 11% since 2008 after rising steadily from 2002 to 2007. … [/quote]

  44. Rifkin

    An op-ed in the NY Times makes it even clearer: [quote]From 2009 to 2010, the birth rate among young women ages 15 to 19 fell 9 percent, to 34.9 per thousand, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is a record low for the 65 years that data have been available, and a remarkable 44 percent drop from the 1991 rate. This good shift is largely [b]the result of an increase in teenagers’ use of birth control[/b] — a fact that Congressional Republicans ignore as they seek to dismantle reproductive health programs. …

    Analyzing data from an earlier C.D.C. survey, the institute found hormonal contraceptives were used by 47 percent of sexually active adolescents from 2008 to 2010, compared with 37 percent from 2006 to 2008. Teenagers’ use of dual contraceptive methods, generally condoms together with hormonal contraception, rose to 23 percent from 16 percent. [/quote] One of the biggest failures in human social engineering since the death of Stalinism in Eastern and Central Europe is the religious right’s program called “abstinence-only sex education.” It has proved itself a terrible disaster in every single place it has been tried. No exceptions, not even in the Palin household. Again, from the NYT: [quote]Some voices on the right unconvincingly assign credit for the latest change to abstinence-only sex education, even though the percentage of sexually active teenagers has remained fairly constant. Besides, some of the states with [b]the highest teenage birth rates[/b] — like Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas — have policies that emphasize teaching abstinence over comprehensive sex education. [/quote]

  45. Don Shor

    [i]”Let’s just say I did abstain for moral reasons…”
    [/i]
    That would make you extremely unusual. Most Americans have premarital sex, and have done so for many years. Americans don’t even highly value premarital abstinence.

    Yes, more sex education would reduce unwanted pregnancies. Lots of studies show that. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to tie federal dollars to abstinence-only programs. In fact, state programs funded under the federal welfare-reform act often mandated that the funds could only be used for abstinence-only education, and prohibit them from even discussing contraceptive use outside of marriage. This is the kind of ‘moral education’ that is completely counterproductive.

  46. Ryan Kelly

    David, what you describe about your access to a pediatrician happens even with families who have insurance. Even with an appointment, I had to wait many times in a waiting room for hours, while the doctor was seeing another child who was in more critical condition than my child, or the doctor was at the hospital dealing with a ailing newborn. There is no urgent care in Davis for families insured by Healthnet and we have to call and wait for someone to direct us to Sutter’s emergency room or to drive to UCDMedical center or ” take two aspirin…” During outbreaks of illness, it is hard to get an appointment on the same day you call. Parents have all sorts of strategies in manuvering through the traffic jam of patients. So I don’t think what you are experiencing there is out of the ordinary, except for the rudeness. This is totally unacceptable. I hope Robin Afrime with Communicare looks into your allegations about West Sac.

  47. Frankly

    [i]To now answer your direct question: The rapidly declining teenage birth-rate tell us the answer is a resounding yes. It’s not even close. The very few states (all in the Bible Belt, of course) where teen pregnancy is still a big problem have less comprehensive sex ed and less available birth control. [/i]

    I think we need both.

    But knowledge of sex is not enough, IMO. The morality of sex in general, and out of wedlock and unwanted pregnancy needs to be front and center. The anything-goes culture needs to combatted with something.

  48. Rifkin

    [i]” The morality of sex in general … needs to be front and center.”[/i]

    I don’t agree with you here. And I would be surprised if you really believe that, either. What you are talking about is in its deepest sense the realm of religion and or the family. It is not the realm of government. It never really has been in our culture.

    If you believe in Shariah law–I would say the Christian equivalent but there is no Christian equivalent given your faith’s credo to “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”*–then you believe there is a strong role for government to interfere in this kind of a question of morals and religion. But if you believe in the Western ideal of a separation of church and state, you believe that government should not be in the business of making sexual morality lessons ‘front and center.’
    ——————
    *The line “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s,” is in all of the synoptic Gospels, including Matthew 22:21. It is usually quoted in red print, meaning that Jesus said it. But if you have an ounce of common sense and a little historical knowledge of Judaism, you know there is not a chance in hell that Jesus of Nazareth ever would have said anything remotely like that. It completely contradicts other things he is quoted as saying. I am quite sure that after Constantine made the Roman Empire into a Christian empire, Church leaders decided that it was important to pretend that Jesus once said “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” So they just added that to their Bible. But here is why Jesus never said that. First, he was a Jew, a deeply religious Jew. And Jewish law, like Islamic law, sees no separation of church and state, because Jews (in that time) believed that all realms were the realm of God. Second, it is quite clear from the moneychanger story, where Jesus turned over the tables outside of the Temple, that Jesus, like all pious Jews of his time, loathed every single thing about Caesar, and saw the Roman empire as pure evil. Relgious Jews (unlike Christians) take very seriously the commandment, one of the Ten Commandments, that says that thou shalt make no graven image. Jesus believed that the same as all other religious Jews of his day. That is why he was angry with the moneychangers. They were Jews who dealt in Roman coins. And Roman coins had engraved on them the image of Caesar. This was a serious afront to all pious Jews. Jesus wanted the Temple to have nothing to do with Caesar or his filthy money. (Note that the Temple priests would themselves never touch Roman coins. For that reason, they used moneychangers to convert Roman currency into Israeli currency, and then the Temple priests would accept the sheckels for “scapegoats” which were ritually slaughtered as a sacrifice. By the way, Jews invented this scapegoating, literally the killing of goats, to distinguish themselves from all the other religions of that time in that region which sacrificed virgins, that is, real live human women.)

  49. Frankly

    Me: [i]”The morality of sex in general … needs to be front and center.”[/i]

    Rich: [i]I don’t agree with you here. And I would be surprised if you really believe that, either.[/i]

    I wouldn’t typically, but I think the scope of the problem… the tragedy of so many unwanted children… warrants this approach.

    There is very little proof that sex education has any significant impact on out-of-wedlock birth rates. However, I support it.

    But, I also believe that we need to reinvest ourselves into moral teaching for human sexuality and parenting. I would prefer that it come from the church and/or the home (do NOT bite that apple!) because the state will generally do a lousy job at it for all the victim-ology.

    But the state needs to reinforce a moral message about sex and parenting regardless.

    If not a solution of morality, then how then do we combat the destructive hormonal responses and reckless decisions of youth; and the subsequent destructive circumstances of so many unwanted single-parent children?

    Sexual attraction and sex are biological functions. You can educate young people on the reproductive system and the risks of unprotected sex, but ultimately there has to be some greater conflicting impulse for when the opportunity to have sex occurs.

    And what about the responsibility factor? What happen to shotgun weddings? What happen to the social/cultural norm of marriage following out of wedlock pregnancy?

    In addition to Sex Ed, I think we need moral teaching and a dose of shame and social stigma for creating babies out-of-wedlock. The home and church should lead the teaching for this, backed by government-provided education.

  50. Don Shor

    Wow. You’re welcome to believe in shame and stigma, but I don’t share those values. So please keep that stuff in your church and your family, and clearly there’ll be no agreement on exactly what should be taught in the public schools if it starts from those premises.
    Teaching enlightened self-interest, rational decision-making, emphasizing the economic costs of child-bearing, and providing factual information about contraception and how to acquire it would seem more likely to serve the public interest.

  51. Lydia L.

    I agree w/David re: when he’s wasting time trying to cut through govt. red tape, he can’t do other more productive parental activities. That can mean looking for work or if you are a woman, establishing a healthy breastfeeding bond with your baby, or either sex:tending your vegetable garden on your little patio to provide healthy, inexpensive food for your children, so you may one day get off govt. assistance. Sharing grocery coupons w/friends to get the best deals, etc. Also, I have seen very young moms get extremely impatient while waiting w/ their toddlers for over an hour, the toddlers are trying to find ways to amuse themselves (books, coloring, etc.) but everyone’s patience wears thin. These are teachable moments to explain child abuse prevention. But why put anyone through this in the first place? Some of the red tape is 100% unnecessary.

  52. Lydia L.

    “And of all things, stop portraying women who are attempting to act responsibly as ‘sluts’ or ‘whores’.”

    Thank you, medwoman. Sad that it is the year 2012 and these words still need to be printed in a column that is read by highly educated people.

  53. Lydia L.

    I have the opportunity to discuss birth control issues from time to time with women my own age and younger women. It amazes me and dumbfounds me to hear from women who are dating that men still think of condoms as a bother & often my friends tell me that men do not want to wear them & have to be convinced, which often leads to such a turn off that the woman doesn’t even want to continue dating the man…What more needs to be written about “safe sex”? Not all men have this view, but enough still do. It’s shocking.

  54. Frankly

    [i]”Teaching enlightened self-interest, rational decision-making, emphasizing the economic costs of child-bearing, and providing factual information about contraception and how to acquire it would seem more likely to serve the public interest.”[/i]

    Don, your ideas on this are the convention talking points but they don’t work. These are the same progressive sex ed teaching principles that all those European countries use.

    See again…

    [img]http://www.cscdc.org/miscjeff/unwedbirths1.jpg[/img]

    Why would you want to model a solution that has clearly not worked?

    I brought this to your attention earlier, and your response was that there is less poverty in these countries. So, if I understand your line of thinking, you are advocating that our youth be more educated about sex, attend less church, and we should ramp up our social spending to care for the inevitable flood of more children of unwed mothers. From the easy to see stats, this looks like a big pile of bad ideas to me.

    The explosion in out-of-wedlock births correlates nicely with the decline in church attendance and the increase in liberal progressive demands for acceptance of anything goes social behavior. I still cannot wrap my head around a liberal-progressive view that government must force people to wear seatbelts and helmets, but we only need to educate about sex to keep everyone safe and reduce damage to society. If we are looking for moral equivalency, how about we start fining unmarried people for having unprotected sex?

  55. Don Shor

    We don’t “only need to educate about sex.” We need to stop putting obstacles in the way of attaining effective birth control. And the groups within our society that do that are conservatives and church leaders. Any sexually active person, male or female, should have access to effective birth control and know how to use it.

    If you make birth control readily available at a low price to the young women who are having children before they are in stable relationships, their rate of unintended pregnancy will go down. I could go ahead and prove that to you with studies if you’re interested. Medwoman can elaborate. Or you can google it.

    The biggest group is the young women 18 to late 20’s who have children before they intended to. Teen pregnancy is actually declining. Young adults are marrying later, but having relationships. Relationships usually involve sex. Sex sometimes leads to babies, even when birth control is used. People are still surprisingly ignorant about the efficacy of different types of birth control. When they learn about it, it works better and they tend to use it.

    So the single thing that could be done to reduce unintentional pregnancies is to make birth control information available before people become sexually active, and make birth control itself available readily. That means funding Planned Parenthood, expanded federal funding for community clinics (because many states won’t do it), subsidizing the cost of pre- and post-conception birth control through health insurance regulations and cost support, eliminating restrictions on morning-after pills.

    Youth should be educated about sex, and especially about the costs of childbearing and about birth control. From about the age of, say, 10. I don’t care if they attend church more or less in this regard. I don’t think that matters much, and it is definitely the parent’s decision. With increasing secularism, the decline of valuing marriage, and easy divorce, the likelihood of single parenthood is increasing. Working to reduce the likelihood of that, and the consequences of that, should be goals we agree on.

  56. Frankly

    Don, isn’t birth control free and plentiful in these Nordic countries?

    [i]With increasing secularism, the decline of valuing marriage, and easy divorce, the likelihood of single parenthood is increasing. Working to reduce the likelihood of that, and the consequences of that, should be goals we agree on.[/i]

    Completely agree on the second sentence, but think part of the solution is to reverse the trends you mention in the first sentence.

  57. David Suder

    [quote]Poor customer service is endemic in government. It is not just social services. Just visit the DMV. [b]Jeff B.[/b][/quote]While I get your point, Jeff, I must say that I have found the staff at the DMV office in Davis to be excellent, both in their efficiency and attitude – despite being clearly understaffed.

  58. Don Shor

    [i]”…part of the solution is to reverse the trends you mention in the first sentence…”
    [/i]
    Those trends are irreversible.
    What’s your point about the Nordic countries? They don’t have anywhere near the child poverty levels we do. I thought child poverty was the issue, not how many kids are born outside of marriage. People in Nordic countries don’t value marriage, and they do value social welfare. Their outcomes reflect their values, as do their taxation rates.

    I agree about the Davis DMV. I’ve also noticed efforts to keep the lines moving, keep people sorted more efficiently, and lots of effort at the state level to implement better service. Things like making appointments online, faster and better website for online payments, etc. I really think the DMV is trying very hard to do better.

  59. Frankly

    David, compared to my expectations for customer service at the DMV, the Davis office is better than average. The problem is that expectations are low.

    One interesting factoid… apparently a lot of people from Sacramento come to the Davis DMV because it is run more efficiently and with better service than most of the DMV offices in Sacramento. The result is a more over-worked Davis DMV.

    Which then brings up the point of incentives. If you work for the DMV and want fewer customers to deal with, just be a grouchy jerk to the customers so the flee to the other office.

  60. Frankly

    Interesting 1996 report on the increase of out-of-wedlock births…

    [url]http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/1996/08/childrenfamilies-akerlof[/url]

  61. K.Smith

    “Interesting 1996 report on the increase of out-of-wedlock births…

    http://www.brookings.edu/resea…es-akerlof”

    Great solution. Let’s bring back shotgun weddings and even more slut shaming.

    While they’re at it, why don’t they open up the Magdalene laundries again?

    Again, what is the big problem here: out-of-wedlock births or childhood poverty? It has been pointed out time and again by other folks on this board that in the Nordic countries, while there are lots of out-of-wedlock births, there is a very low rate of childhood poverty.

    Despite all the pearl-clutching that goes on about pre-marital sex, the answer is not to force marriage, but rather (as Don and Medwoman have pointed out) to provide widespread and -early- education on sexual health, contraception, etc.

    Reversing the secular trend is neither possible nor (I would argue) desirable, because again you have one big problem: whose religion, and how are you going to enforce it in what is supposed to be a free society (and that means freedom -from- religion, as well as freedom -to- whatever religion you wish to practice).

  62. Frankly

    Ok Don, I think it is time to deal with this liberal progressive love-fest for all things Nordic.

    Let’s just deal with Norway.

    From Wikipedia:
    [quote]The country is richly endowed with natural resources including petroleum, hydropower, fish, forests, and minerals. Large reserves of petroleum and natural gas were discovered in the 1960s, which led to a boom in the economy. Norway has obtained one of the highest standards of living in the world in part by having a large amount of natural resources compared to the size of the population. In 2011, 28% of state revenues were generated from the petroleum industry.

    Export revenues from oil and gas have risen to 45% of total exports and constitute more than 20% of the GDP. Norway is the fifth largest oil exporter and third largest gas exporter in the world, but it is not a member of OPEC. To reduce overheating in the economy from oil revenues and minimize uncertainty from volatility in oil price, and to provide a cushion for the effect of aging of the population, the Norwegian government in 1995 established the sovereign wealth fund (“Government Pension Fund — Global”), which would be funded with oil revenues, including taxes, dividends, sales revenues and licensing fees.[/quote]
    This is interesting…
    [quote]There is no official count of ethnicities in Norway.[/quote]
    Makes me wonder if they are ashamed of their lack of diversity… or maybe there is just not enough of it to bother keeping track of.

    Basically they are a very ethnically and culturally homogenous country…
    [quote]As of January 2012 almost 87% of the population had at least one parent who was born in Norway[/quote]
    There are only about 5 million people in Norway compared to 312 million in the US. Our illegal immigrant population alone is estimated to be 4 times the size of Norway’s population.

    Their population density is 35 per square mile… the same as Kansas or Utah the 40th and 41st most population-dense state in the US.

    Basically, Norway, and other Nordic countries that score high on the American liberal progressive “we should be like them” meter, are all just lucky abnormalities. They are low population, low population density, ethnically and culturally homogeneous, geographically isolated, cold temperature, natural-resource mega rich per capita, countries that have a lot of money to spend on social welfare.

    But for all the lauding done about Norway, in terms of global benefits, they are a selfish and self-serving gated community. They do not even belong to the EU where their natural resource wealth could help with the bailouts of Greece, Spain and Portugal.

    We saved their ass in WWII and continue to keep the world a safe enough place for them to enjoy drinking their akevitt while getting their 10 months of maternity leave and government-paid health care.

    One thing to be considered though… the suicide rate for Norwegians is higher than for Americans. This seems to prove that point that money and free stuff do not buy happiness.

  63. David M. Greenwald

    “the suicide rate for Norwegians is higher than for Americans. This seems to prove that point that money and free stuff do not buy happiness.”

    Or that deprivation from the sun is harmful to human mental health.

  64. Frankly

    Sun deprivation? Well there is not correlation with that in the US…

    [quote]
    Source: Thomson Healthcare
    State Ranking on Suicide Rates
    Suicides per 100,000 residents**

    1. District of Columbia: 5.3

    2. New York: 6

    3. Massachusetts: 6.4

    4. New Jersey: 6.8

    5. Rhode Island: 7.5

    6. Illinois: 8

    7. Connecticut: 8.2

    8. Maryland: 8.9

    9. Hawaii: 8.9

    10. Nebraska: 9.5

    11. California: 9.6
    [/quote]

  65. Don Shor

    [i]”I think it is time to deal with this liberal progressive love-fest for all things Nordic. “
    [/i]
    Why? I just think they do a better job educating their young people about sex, and providing birth control. I don’t aspire to be Norwegian. Nor do I have any hostility to them. You clearly do.

  66. Frankly

    [i] I don’t aspire to be Norwegian. Nor do I have any hostility to them. You clearly do.[/i]

    No I don’t. I very much admire them and their countries. Who wouldn’t?

    What I don’t like is the comparison with the US. We are completely different countries with different challenges and and resources.

    I don’t think there is much we can learn from them that translates over to useful designs to address our needs. There are many differences state to state that do not translate over; so why would we think we can take a page out of the Nordic social governance book and make it fit the US?

  67. Frankly

    Me: [i]”But for all the lauding done about Norway, in terms of global benefits, they are a selfish and self-serving gated community.”[/i]

    Ok Don, I can see where that sounds like hostility. It was sarcasm. I say the same thing about Davis.

    My point was that as a wealthy liberal country they do a great job taking care of their own people… while the US saves the world from fascism and global terrorism and tries to solve the Aids epidemic.

    The Norwegians do give away a higher amount of foreign aid per GDP. However, it is about 10% of what the US spends… not including our military spending to keep the world, and the Norwegians, safe.

  68. Frankly

    [i]Despite all the pearl-clutching that goes on about pre-marital sex, the answer is not to force marriage, but rather (as Don and Medwoman have pointed out) to provide widespread and -early- education on sexual health, contraception, etc.[/i]

    K. Smith: So do I understand that you think this will reduce poverty in the US?

    I don’t understand. If Norway has a lot of great Sex Ed for the kids, and they have a much higher out-of-wedlock birth rate, how are we connecting these dots that doing more Sex Ed in the US is going to lower US poverty rate?

  69. Rifkin

    I may be the only participant on this blog who has ever lived in a Norwegian town: Petersburg, Alaska, where I worked as a deck-hand on salmon fishing boats (called Seiners). This is a photo of Petersburg near the Sons of Norway Hall:

    [img]http://photos.igougo.com/images/p211098-Petersburg_AK-Norwegian_Bunads.jpg[/img]

    An observation: every Norwegian I ever met in Petersburg is a far right-winger who believes the IRS is a communist plot*. I don’t think they are racists or anti-Semites (though, like a lot of whites in Alaska, they hold negative views of drunken Tlingits). But when you think about the politics of the typical white person in Alabama or Mississippi, the average Norwegian in Petersburg shares his views. My take: part of the reason the people of Norway today are so liberal is because all of their conservatives emigrated.

    [img]http://0.tqn.com/d/gocalifornia/1/0/k/p/IMG_3418-a.jpg[/img]

    [img]http://www.petersburg.org/photos/norway1.jpg[/img]
    —————–
    *An irony: the Norwegians of Petersburg are all fabulously wealthy fishermen. The reason they are so rich? Government. A long time ago, their ancestors came to Alaska and bought commercial fishing licenses for $1 or $2. Then, in the late 1950s, once there were “enough” fishermen working, the government stopped issuing any and all new commercial fishing licenses. So what happened? The handful of people with the licenses became monopolists. They each got a big quota. And no new fishermen could enjoy the profits, unless they bought a license from someone who already had one. So those licenses got bid up. Today each one is worth millions of dollars. (I think the last one put up for auction sold for $6 million.) What should have been done, of course, is the licenses should have been allowed to expire about every five years. And then as each expired, the government should have held an auction for the lot of them and the government should have collected those revenues and used the money to enforce the regulations (which are in place to stop overfishing). …. Anyhow, the Norwegians hate government. Except they love those fishing licenses. Love them!

  70. K.Smith

    @ Jeff Boone:

    “K. Smith: So do I understand that you think this will reduce poverty in the US?

    I don’t understand. If Norway has a lot of great Sex Ed for the kids, and they have a much higher out-of-wedlock birth rate, how are we connecting these dots that doing more Sex Ed in the US is going to lower US poverty rate?”

    Yes, I do think it will reduce poverty rates in the U.S.

    Out-of-wedlock births per se do not cause poverty, but rather it is caused by multi-generational teen pregnancy or pregnancy in the early 20s.

    While I don’t know the stats (and I’m not sure if the chart you linked to or produced has these numbers), I would like to know the ages of these out-of-wedlock births. In the Nordic countries, I would suspect they are to adults and not teens, and probably to people in committed (although not married) relationships.

    And, as a couple of other people have already pointed out, the U.S. has -never- had a widespread comprehensive sexual education program. Yes: I firmly believe that if we had such a program from about age 10 upwards, we could take a big chunk out of teen/young 20s pregnancies and thereby get rid of some childhood poverty.

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