Charlie Baker Finds Solution To Public Housing Crisis

Writing my previous post, Does Charlie Baker Care About People More Than Dollars?, finally gave me the incentive to look up a Charlie Baker quote that I had read, but had forgotten where I read it.

I found it in the September 30, 2014 The Boston Globe article Baker embraces housing program that requires work or studies.  To make my point let me change the order of some excerpts from that article.

“I’ve never met anybody who’s been in public housing or on public assistance who wanted to be there,” Baker told Worcester Housing Authority officials during a roundtable discussion about the program.

With Baker’s compassionate care for people rather than dollars, he is obviously preparing to spend money to make life more bearable in public housing.  Isn’t that what you would do if you saw such a problem, and it affected you to the core?

Charlie Baker, a Republican who has made welfare reform a central issue in his campaign for governor, promoted a controversial program Tuesday that limits how long residents can remain in public housing if they are not working or enrolled in school.

Under the program, called A Better Life, residents in Worcester public housing face eviction after three years if they or another adult in their household is not employed or enrolled in school full-time. Residents over 55 and those with a disability are exempt.

So, Baker is essentially saying that “since you don’t want to be in public housing, we’ll cater to your wishes and throw you out after three years.  Did I read your wishes correctly?  Do I have a heart, or what?”

Sometimes people don’t need any more negative incentives to change their lives. What they need is the means to change their lives. I wonder if Charlie Baker ever considered that providing the means to people who don’t have it might be a better option than punishing people for not doing what they cannot do. I wonder if he ever stopped to consider what people might need that they don’t have.

Does Charlie Baker Care About People More Than Dollars?

This has been an interesting few days for The Boston Globe.  Today they had the article Coakley, Baker face off in first head-to-head TV debate.

Baker’s desire to cultivate a softer image — a contrast with the hard-edged tone he presented in his 2010 campaign for governor — was evident throughout the night. When he was asked what the biggest misconception about him is, he said he chafed at the image painted by Democrats that he cares more about numbers than people.

“For me, it’s always been about people, and it bothers me that a guy who is pretty facile with math, which does matter when you’re talking about a $38 billion budget, is somehow considered to be somebody who doesn’t care about people,” he said.

Yesterday, The Boston Globe had the article Mental health record may be predictor for Baker.

 Charlie Baker walked in unannounced to tour Danvers State Hospital, and his face grew ashen as he witnessed patients jammed in rooms with little space, worn bedding, and most everything in disarray.

It was early 1991, Baker was Massachusetts’ new undersecretary for health, and the 34-year-old Harvard grad was having his first look at the state’s decrepit mental hospitals.

“It was almost like he was thinking, ‘My God, I have never seen anything like this,’ ” said Bernie Carey, executive director of the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, who joined Baker for that tour.

So how do you think this story ends given that Charlie Baker is “For me, it’s always been about people”?  Do you suppose he saw the horrors and vowed to fix the problem by fully funding our mental health facilities.  Would he spend the money to give these patients better conditions in the hospital’s where they desperately needed better treatment?  If you have been around long enough, did you read the news stories published after 1991 how the Massachusetts mental health facilities became a model of humane treatment that the world has gladly followed?  Maybe you can search the archives of The Boston Globe for those stories.  I certainly don’t remember them  when I was living in Massachusetts from 1976 to 1994.

I won’t keep you in suspense any longer. Here is what yesterday’s article had to say.

Soon after, a special state commission recommended closing nine of the state’s most antiquated institutions, including Danvers and two other hospitals for mentally ill patients, and moving much of that care to the community. It was Baker’s job to get it done. His strategy involved a first-in-the-nation use of a for-profit company with power to approve or deny treatments for low-income mental health patients.

Baker’s blueprint saved Massachusetts millions of dollars at a time when the state was staring at a nearly $2 billion deficit, but it left thousands of mental health patients often waiting weeks for treatments. The controversial approach became his template for rescuing financially ailing Harvard Pilgrim Health Care a decade later.

The aftershocks of both initiatives are still being felt as the now 57-year-old Republican runs for governor, and those experiences, say Baker supporters and critics, provide a window into how he might handle similarly fraught and costly issues if elected.

Here are some more carefully chosen words from the article.

Over the next several years, suicide rates among mental health patients who had received state services soared. That prompted a blistering 1997 report from a legislative panel that criticized the Weld administration for lax monitoring of patients and failing to investigate their deaths in a timely way.

Two years later, a Brandeis University study gave the state high marks for innovative community-based mental health programs launched during the 1990s, but found too many patients waiting for services. The researchers also found that claims were paid more quickly, the state reaped savings, and some health care providers felt that Massachusetts’ long-fragmented mental health services were better coordinated.

As we have been finding out in the run-up and aftermath to the adoption of Obama’s ACA, the US has some of the finest medical care for those who can get it.  For those people who can’t get it, the system sucks.  Brandeis University showed that if you take off your eyeglasses and squint just right, you can find a lot of merit in our current system.  The people who committed suicide aren’t around to tell you about what you missed.

Here, let me pile on some more with tis excerpt from  the article.

After Baker left state government and became chief executive at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in 1999, he continued to champion privatizing mental health services. With Harvard Pilgrim teetering on bankruptcy in 2000, Baker clamped down on mental health costs by bringing in ValueOptions — the same for-profit company that managed those services in the state’s Medicaid program.

Within months, a number of mental health specialists dropped Harvard Pilgrim patients because of low reimbursements for services. That exacerbated a phenomenon known as “stuck kids,” children who were deemed well enough to leave psychiatric hospital units but had nowhere to go because of a lack of community-based services.

However, here is the capper to explain how Baker cares about people, not just numbers.

He defends his decision to bring in a for-profit company to manage mental health services in state government, noting in an interview, “If it was such a bad idea, how come the Commonwealth is still running the same model 20 years later?”

Charlie, you closed the state mental hospitals.  You diverted the money you saved to other programs other than mental health. How was the state supposed to go back and fix the permanent damage that you had done?   How will we fix the damage you will do if you are elected Governor?  Will we be suffereing the consequences for more than 20 years as we have from your last reign of error?

See my subsequent post Charlie Baker Finds Solution To Public Housing Crisis.

What Happens When We Raise The Minimum Wage?

Brave New Films has put together the video What Happens When We Raise The Minimum Wage?

People are stretched -working two or even three jobs, juggling family responsibilities, doing everything possible to keep their heads above water -just to fall short every month. Is that what the American Dream is all about?

But what if we raised the minimum wage? That hard work would pay off. People would be able to make ends meet, they could quit their second jobs, and spend more time with their families. When that happens, whole communities are improved.

Raising the minimum wage means millions of extra dollars in people’s pockets. Families spend their money at Main street businesses, strengthening our local economy.

We’ve already seen this happening. The 13 states that raised their minimum wage in January of this year have added more jobs and have lower unemployment than the 37 states that did not. Hard working families deserve to thrive, not barely survive. Raise the minimum wage. It’s good for families. It’s good for business. It’s good for our community.

There are millions unemployed because some people are working two or three jobs to get by. If those people could get by on the income from one job, there would be millions of jobs opened up to other people.

The 40 (actually 44) hour week was invented in 1938 to help spread the work that needed to be done to employ more people for that same amount of work. If some people are currently working 80 or 120 hour weeks, then other people are put out of work. It is not the fault of the people working long hours. It’s not that they want to work those hours, but they have to in order to survive.

See Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage

Against a history of judicial opposition, the depression-born FLSA had survived, not unscathed, more than a year of Congressional altercation. In its final form, the act applied to industries whose combined employment represented only about one-fifth of the labor force. In these industries, it banned oppressive child labor and set the minimum hourly wage at 25 cents, and the maximum workweek at 44 hours

Germany is currently using the idea of limiting the work week to keep unemployment down.

Lest you think I didn’t notice, the cause and effect relation noted in the video is not a foregone conclusion. See RichardH’s post Diversion–Highway Fatalities and Lemons. I’ll let you come up with your own ideas of how there could have been a correlation between raising a state’s minimum wage and lower unemployment in that state without the correlation being causal. What these facts do seem to indicate to me, though I haven’t thought it through completely, that at least there can be a raising of the minimum wage without causing high unemployment as my explanation above makes plausible.

How is it that the people in the 1930s could figure out that increasing the minimum wage and limiting the work week would actually reduce unemployment. Why is it that we have forgotten what they figured out, and cannot even refigure it out for ourselves?

I think there may be a very good reason for our current failure. The people who want to get rid of these labor laws do remember how and why it was figured out in the 1930s. Therefore, this time around they can deploy propaganda techniques to get us thinking in a direction that will not lead us to the revelation I have made in this blog. (Remember that Germany, among others, still remember the lesson of the 1930s and are still using what they learned. You might ponder why that might be true.)

There is another aspect to consider. There is a never ending competition between labor and management to adapt to new rules. This is like the competition between law enforcement and the criminal. Another example is the competition in war between defense and offense.

In this case, management has adapted to the labor policies put in place in the 1930s and carried forward to this day. With minimum wage, and maximum work week (before time-and-a-half pay kicks in), the new ploy is to cut hours to avoid benefits and overtime pay. Some employees today in some industries cannot get more work than 20 hours a week in any one job. That is another driving force for people to have multiple jobs. We may not be able to get the economy working again just by putting more teeth into the labor laws that we used to have. We may have to come up with new strategies for wage and hour laws in this never ending competition between labor and management.

Perhaps we need a new rule that if you have employees (or potential employees) who want to work up to the maximum work-week, and you have the work for them to do, then you may not split that job amongst multiple people.

How a US and International Atomic Energy Agency Deception Haunts the Nuclear Talks

Truth-Out has the article How a US and International Atomic Energy Agency Deception Haunts the Nuclear Talks  by Gareth Porter.

Senior administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry have said that Iran must “come clean” about its past nuclear weapons work as part of the comprehensive settlement that is now being negotiated. … The clever dissimulation by the Bush administration and Heinonen continues to cast a long shadow over the talks.

That’s all I am going to excerpt.  You’ll have to read the article to see what the deception is and what is the evidence that this deception exists.

You cannot expect to read snippets from this blog and think you have learned anything.  That’s just not the way I run this blog.  If that’s not what you want out of a blog, then this blog is not for you.

Stop Litter – Vote Yes On 2

I may have found a way to make the point about litter thrown into my yard.  This is what I collected in the area where I decided to plant the lawn sign.

Stop Litter lawn sign and collection of litter

To get your lawn sign, see my previous post.

Goldman Makes It Official That the Stock Market is Manipulated, Buybacks Drive Valuations

Naked Capitalism has the article Goldman Makes It Official That the Stock Market is Manipulated, Buybacks Drive Valuations.

In fact, these companies are being gradually liquidated. Issuing debt, which public companies have done in copious volumes since the crash, and using it to buy shares is dissipating corporate assets. They are over time shrinking their businesses.

As an investor, this is something to keep in mind.  I am not exactly sure what you do with this information, though.

President Bill Clinton “interviews” Martha Coakley

Here is part of Bill Clinton’s talk in Worcester the other day.

If we’re going to make sure Martha gets the job, as next governor of Massachusetts, we just need to get more people heading out to the polls to do the hiring on November 4! Learn how you can get involved:

What he said about his grand daughter at the end had a surprising ending. It is something I learned when I did a research paper as a Sophomore in college around 1962. It is one of the things that turned me from a Republican to a Democrat.

What he said about interviews is also something that I learned from courses my employers sent me to. The best way to judge what a potential hire will do on the job is to look at what they have done on previous jobs.

Here is the page where you can make a donation if you are so inclined.

Learn To Code

Thanks to Carol Peter for posting this on her Facebook page.

Learn to Code Tutorial for beginners.

Picture of learning to code some angry brirds

Learn the basic concepts of Computer Science with drag and drop programming. This is a game-like, self-directed tutorial starring video lectures by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. Learn repeat-loops, conditionals, and basic algorithms. Available in 34 languages.
Ages 4-104 | Modern browsers, smartphones, tablets

I learned all this in my 40 or more years of writing software (programs) (code). You can learn it in less than an hour. :-)

Gee, I am glad that I retired before this younger generation got to take my job away.

Not with a Bang but a Whimper: DOJ Says it Cannot Prosecute “Rocket Science” Frauds

New Economic Perspectives has the article Not with a Bang but a Whimper: DOJ Says it Cannot Prosecute “Rocket Science” Frauds. The starting point for this article is a discussion of the interview with Bloomberg News of departing Deputy Attorney General James Cole. The conclusion ends with the following:

Cole (and Lanny Breuer and Holder, and Obama – all lawyers) never even thought in these terms.
They all failed to even try to do their duty.

Maybe my distaste for Obama and his team is a result of reading too many articles like this one by William K. Black. My disappointment with so much of Obama’s administration is exactly “They all failed to even try to do their duty.” Failing against strong opposition is forgivable, if you at least try. Not trying is the unforgivable part.

Sadly, Obama’s legacy will be “He didn’t even try”.

Democratic Party, Here’s the Problem

I received an email from the Democratic Party.

Here is my reply.

Well, I think you have isolated the problem. I am pretty disappointed in Obama and Biden for their failure to even argue the merits of their own campaign promises after they were elected.

A turn toward Hillary in 2016 would only be going farther in the wrong direction. I know she doesn’t even believe in some of the things Obama promised (and failed to even promote).

If the Clintons, Obama, and Biden are the best you can do while not mentioning Warren and Grayson, then I think we are very near a parting of the ways.

You don’t suppose any influential person in the party will ever hear about my response? What do you think it will take for these people to hear those of us who feel the way I do?