Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Mommy Math

Last night, I attended a debate on Maryland referendum issues hosted by the League of Women Voters. It was great to be with a group who does so much to support civic engagement. Yesterday's $5 is for the LWV.

Being at the debate reminded me how bloody sick I am of the Mommy/Daddy political dynamic around social issues. You know the script.
Mommy: It would be fundamentally equitable and better for society as a whole if we spent a little money on this school/drug rehab/public park/preventive care/job training.
Daddy: You may feel it's the best thing to do, but we have to balance our budget. If you would stop being so emotional and look at the math, you would see we just can't afford it.
Which is crap, of course. Yes, there are budgetary constraints. But what "Daddy" really means is, "Other things are more important than your feel-good program." You can only say "we can't afford it" if you pretend that tax revenues and how we spend them are decided before the discussion, so whatever Mommy is advocating is a luxury on top of the necessary expenses.

Take this quote from former Senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of President Obama's deficit commission:
Could you please cut out the babble? Would you quit talking about the poor, the vulnerable, the veterans, the old ladies going over cliffs, the hospices, the bedpans? I mean, what the hell? We all know, all of us know, that that's the people you want to take care of.
Yeah, who wants to hear about that crap?

Luckily, there are good people like Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes who do want to hear about those vulnerable people. Instead of sending women to prison and forcing their kids into foster care, Hynes spearheaded a program to allow a few women to live in a supervised, residential placement with their minor children. Women living at Drew House have a history of homelessness, substance abuse, or mental illness and are supported in their transition back to independent living upon completion of their sentences.

The New York Times ran an interesting piece on Drew House last year. Apparently, addressing people's serious, underlying emotional and substance issues is more effective at reducing recidivism than the "Don't Do the Crime if You Can't Do the Time" approach. Moreover, the cost was $34,000 per year for a mother and two children, compared to $129,000 for incarceration and foster care. In other news, having a moral compass does not interfere with the ability to do math.

Today's $5 is for the Supportive Housing Network of New York, the non-profit which manages Drew House.

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