There’s so much more to caregiving than government ‘support’ – Mero Moment, 7/8/14

elderlyThis post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Big-government advocates at AARP tell us that Utah ranks dead last in support for family caregivers. To be clear, AARP means that Utah ranks dead last in providing government support for family caregivers. A claim to which most Utahns would respond, “Well, isn’t that the cultural point of family caregiving?” We care for our own loved ones for a variety of reasons, including that most of us feel as if caring for our elderly parents and relatives is our personal responsibility.

The AARP research isn’t news. It’s politics. They admit that 89 percent of adults with disabilities in Utah are satisfied with their quality of life. Nearly every solution AARP has to the genuine needs of elderly Americans involves your tax dollars.

I was 26 years old when I asked to be and was appointed legal guardian for my disabled sister, my only sibling. I remember our small two-bedroom apartment in Provo back then. I was a student at BYU. My sister shared a bedroom with our two young daughters. When our son was born, we put his crib in the living room. We sacrificed to care for her.

Today, my elderly parents and my sister live with us. Mom is at a rehabilitation facility due to a broken hip. Dad has dementia and my sister has developed even more health complications. My wife and I live in our basement because my parents and sister can’t go up and down steps. Caregiving is what we do. We feed them. We shop for them. We handle their finances. We drive them to appointments. We keep them company. We have their health care proxies.

I think I can speak confidently for all family caregivers when I say – we’re exhausted. My wife and I hardly have time for each other. Family caregivers do need support but not like AARP thinks.

Here’s the support we could use. Read more

What children learn from welfare: stay on welfare

empty pocketWhat are the effects of government welfare programs on families, and especially children? Do they simply provide a temporary hand up to families, so their children can go on to lead self-reliant, productive lives?

Or do they actually teach children, through their parents, to rely on government welfare, encouraging a soul-crushing dependency on the state and destroying what could be a life full of the human dignity and fulfillment that comes from self-reliance?

According to new research on “family welfare cultures,” the latter seems more likely to be the case.

The study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found “strong evidence that welfare use in one generation causes welfare use in the next generation.” Note this is not a study showing correlation only. The authors, based on their statistical analysis, firmly believe they have found a causal link between parents being on welfare and children following their parents’ example.

What is that link? It is what most parents already understand: Children learn from their parents. The researchers “find suggestive evidence … in favor of children learning from a parent’s experience” with government welfare. In other words, children gain information from their parents’ welfare experience that leads them later in life to similarly go on welfare.

Read more

Voices across the political spectrum question dependency culture

Nicholas D. Kristof (Photo: World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland)

In The New York Times, columnist Nicholas D. Kristof makes an uncomfortable point:

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Mr. Kristof notes that part of the problem is the anti-marriage incentives in welfare programs:

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

The column is heartbreaking.

In an extended comment on the Kristof piece, the excellent David French makes a compelling argument through a story that concludes: Read more

Personal responsibility in public policy

Personal responsibility is a core feature of sound public policy. Policies that try to relieve individuals of personal responsibility are unjust and unwise. Policies that recognize and encourage responsibility are far-sighted and effectual.

This point is typically and appropriately made in the context of discussions about government entitlement programs. The government has, increasingly, usurped many individual and family responsibilities, weakening character by fostering dependency.

The concept of personal responsibility has broad applications in other areas of policy, including, prominently, family policy.

Utah’s adoption law, for instance, places a heavy emphasis on personal responsibility. Section 78B-6-110 provides: “An unmarried biological father, by virtue of the fact that he has engaged in a sexual relationship with a woman: is considered to be on notice that a pregnancy and an adoption proceeding regarding the child may occur; and has a duty to protect his own rights and interests.” Yet this provision has been targeted by advocates who would like to force mothers to disclose to someone who did not marry them before impregnating them that they would like to allow the child to be adopted. Read more

Romney, Obama and the 'takers'

Like many Americans by now, I listened to the recording of Mitt Romney talk about the “47 percent.” While there are some things to criticize about what Romney said, I have to admit that after I listened to him I thought, “Yeah, he’s right.” I had an instinctive concurrence with what he said. I didn’t pay attention to the actual number 47 but I sure felt like that number was pretty close to what I imagined Romney was talking about. So what was he talking about?

I assumed he was talking about a composite citizen – a person who comprises many of the characteristics he described. Are there people who are dependent on government? Yes, of course, there are. My mom and dad receive Social Security payments. Was Romney talking about them? No, I didn’t think so. Social Security isn’t a welfare program even if seniors are dependent upon it today.

Frankly, I assumed Romney was talking about people, who because of a variety of socio-economic variables, choose government welfare over work, inflexible people out of work who pridefully choose unemployment checks over work, people from intergenerational poverty who only know government assistance, and even young people from strong families who choose food stamps, WIC and Medicaid benefits instead of asking parents for help just to maintain the appearance of independence and adulthood.

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Government is all too eager to displace your family

The great conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet notes: “It is the nature of both family and state to struggle for the exclusive loyalty of their respective, and overlapping, members.” (Robert Nisbet, Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary 110 [1982].) This struggle seems to be accelerating of late as an emboldened “progressive” presidential administration competes for the loyalty of family members at the expense of family autonomy.

Exhibit one is the justly derided “Life of Julia” presentation in which a government dependent is depicted through the life cycle. As has been much noted, her only serious relationship seems to be with the government until at age 31, “evidently by parthenogenesis” as National Review notes, she “decides to have a child” whose other parent we can only assume is the, by then, long-serving presidential administration.  Read more

Isn't a dollar still a dollar?


While waiting in an excessively long line in the grocery store the other day, I overheard a little girl say to her mom, “Can I have this? It’s just a dollar.” The girl’s mother didn’t respond. But the child persisted and began listing the reasons she had to have what she wanted, her main argument being “It’s not like it’s a lot of money; it’s just a dollar.” The mother’s response was “I’m using my credit card, I don’t have a dollar.” The child retorted, “You don’t have to spend any money if you use the credit card.”

After about five minutes the child had moved on to the next shiny wrapped thing that had caught her attention and asked, “No, wait … can I have this instead? It’s just five dollars.” At this second request, the mother rolled her eyes, obviously having given up even trying to reason with her daughter, and added the item to her pile of things.  Read more

Winds whip up power of people


Photo credit: Lisa Montgomery

The 100-plus mph wind gusts in northern Utah caused millions of dollars of harm to people and property yesterday, but they also whipped up something else. As the powerful winds diminished, the power of people kicked into high gear.

[pullquote]These values – preparedness, self-reliance, generosity – are the best tools we have for any challenging time.[/pullquote]Neighbors with willing hands and chainsaws helped each other. Trees and branches were cleared from houses, cars, driveways and roads. People helped return each other’s patio furniture and toys. Family members went to check on family members. Friends checked on friends. Strangers helped strangers. Impromptu and fun “campouts” sprang up in cold, dark homes as family and friends made the best of a difficult situation that meant no power for thousands amid freezing temperatures. Others found refuge inside the warm homes of their family and friends or were offered hot meals.

Here’s a sample of tweets: Read more

Student loan ‘relief’ undercuts attempts to teach self-reliance


Late last month, President Obama unveiled his “Pay as You Earn” student loan relief plan, which he intends to impose by executive authority. According to the White House, this new plan would allow student loan borrowers to cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of their discretionary income beginning in January 2012, regardless of how much they owe. In addition, if a graduate is unable to pay back the entire loan within 20 years, the remaining debt will be forgiven.

[pullquote]As I raise my children, there are times I feel thwarted at every turn by policies like this one.[/pullquote]As a result of this executive order, a graduate with $40,000 in federal student loans and an adjusted gross income of $30,000 a year could see his or her monthly payments drop from $460 in the standard 10-year repayment plan or $278 in the 25-year repayment plan to just $115 a month. Doesn’t this sound like a great deal for students?

Perhaps, but as a parent I have a problem with this proposed scheme. Read more

If you give an occupier a cookie


Growing up one of my favorite stories to read was “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” The book’s simple illustrations and the ingenuity the young boy used to accommodate the insatiable mouse made it a fun and enjoyable read.

As I’ve gotten older and my understanding of government has grown, I find myself continually drawn back to this story. Perhaps this speaks volumes about my simple-mindedness, but we’ll leave that for another discussion. Read more