Archives: 03/2009

Homeless Scare Numbers

The National Center on Family Homelessness has generated headlines today by releasing a report that claims “one in 50 children is homeless in the United States every year.” That would be a total of 1.5 million homeless children, a truly shocking figure. The number is all the more shocking because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says there actually only 671,000 people were homeless in 2007 (the last year for which data is available), of which only about 249,000 were people in families. Assuming even one adult per family would mean there were around 166,000 homeless children, far too many, but also far fewer than 1.5 million.

What accounts for the discrepancy? First, the National Center uses an incredibly broad definition of homeless. For example, in addition to those we usually think of as homeless (those living in shelters or on the streets), they also include people “Sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason.” Under this definition, when your out-of-work in-law crashes on your couch, he’s homeless. The National Center also includes people “living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds,” children awaiting foster care placement, and children of migratory farm workers. And, a child needs only to fall into one of these categories for a single day to qualify as homeless.

Second, this study, like the HUD study as well, are not actual counts of the homeless, but estimates and extrapolations based on reports by various government agencies. The Census Bureau does attempt to do an actual head count of the homeless (170,000 in 2000), but that estimate is both out-of-date and generally criticized as an undercount. Still, going from that estimate to 1.5 million homeless children seems quite a stretch.

Homelessness is clearly a problem, and for the children involved, a tragedy, but scare headlines are a poor substitute for thoughtful public policy.

Obama Intel Chief Sought National ID?

While Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have written a letter objecting to the experience level of National Intelligence Council Chairman Chas Freeman, Ashley Rindsberg at the Huffington Post reveals that Freeman advocated creating a national identity system in the US as a part of the “war on terror.”

During a 9/11 Commission interview, Freeman remarked that of three major changes the US government should make to effectively combat terror, one was that “the United States should implement a national identity system, so we better know who is who.”

Seems Freeman lost track of why we have intelligence and security - to preserve our freedoms. We don’t abandon our freedoms to preserve our intelligence. Not that a national ID would help with that … .

He Has a Point

Stung by accusations that he is a “socialist,” President Obama pointed out to two New York Times reporters that, “it wasn’t under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn’t on my watch. And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement -– the prescription drug plan – without a source of funding.”

Not to defend Obama’s unprecedented increase on government spending or plans to involve the government in almost every area of our lives…but he does have a point. As I pointed out in Leviathan on the Right, the Bush administration’s brand of big-government conservatism was, at the very least, the greatest expansion of government from Lyndon Johnson to, well, Barack Obama.

Looking to a Failed Model for Health Care Reform

CNN health care correspondent Sanjay Gupta, who was briefly considered for surgeon general in the Obama administration, reports that the administration is looking to Massachusetts as a model for its forthcoming health care reform proposal. That model would involve an individual mandate, an employer mandate, a “connector” with increased insurance regulation, and massive subsidies for the middle class.

Given that the Massachusetts plan is expected to run $2-4 billion over budget over the next 10 years, has failed to come close to universal coverage, has done nothing to reduce health care costs (indeed, may have driven up insurance costs), and has actually led to increased wait time for primary care physicians, that may not be the best model out there. In fact, perhaps the Obama administration might like to look at studies by David Hyman and me detailing the Massachusetts model’s many problems.

Mr. President, If You’re Involved It’s Already Politicized

Yesterday, President Obama coupled his lifting of an executive order banning federal funding for embryonic stem cell research with the signing of a memorandum directing “the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making.” In other words, at the very moment he was directly injecting politics into science by forcing taxpayers to fund research that many find immoral – and that could be funded privately – Obama declared that he wouldn’t politicize science.

Don’t insult our intelligence. When government pays for scientific work that science is politicized. Yes, it could be argued that government not funding something is also political, but which is inherently more politicized, government forcing people to fund research, or leaving it to private individuals to voluntarily support scientific endeavors they believe of value?

You don’t have to be a scientist to grasp the obvious answer to that one.  And as I’ve laid out very clearly regarding education, this kind of compelled support ultimately leads not only to ugly politicization, but social conflict and division.

Culture wars, anyone?

The rhetoric supporting federal funding of embryonic stem cell research – and lots of other science – may sound noble, but the means-ends calculations are anything but. They are divisive incursions on liberty, and make political conflict inevitable.

Bailouts, Big Spending and Bull

John Stossel joined economists from around the country Thursday at the Cato Institute for a taping of a 20/20 special that will air Friday March 13 called “Bailouts, Big Spending and Bull.”

The segment is based on Reason TV’s Drew Carey Project, and examines  “bailouts, medical marijuana, universal preschool, private highways, border walls, and the myth of the struggling middle class.”

Check your local listings for exact air time.

stossel20-20_030409_5320stossel20-20_030409_52871Photos by Kelly Anne Creazzo