Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Copying Tommy

There's understandably a lot of examination as to the background of the recent rioting and looting in the UK.  Whilst certain people on the left are looking to make political capital out of it by blaming it on government cuts, others are looking at what is increasingly being termed the feral nature of the rioters.  Whilst both sides seem to share the notion of an underclass they hold differing views of what is in the petrie dish in which this virus thrives.

To be honest my view is that the causes are multi faceted.  For me some of it is boundaries and holding to account, some of it is about education and some is about an over generous welfare state.  Many on the left will tell you it is all about government spending and programmes and will try to seize the moral high ground as they offer this mantra as the path to raising the life standards of these poor disenfranchised.  they've sold this message very well over the years as they pretty much dominate the electoral picture in these areas.  They run the councils, represent them as MP's and many who share their thinking have key roles in aligned roles such as social services.

Isn't it then curious how these people remain trapped in poverty?  As I mentioned in a previous post it is almost as if paradise is always over the next hill, if the population will continue to vote for them.  I remain suspicious of this, because it would seem that lifting such people from the poverty trap would mean that they would no longer be eligible for welfare programmes and massive influxes of public spending, nor would they need it.  They would thrive on their own, but of course I'm sure they would ultimately prefer that - wouldn't they?  I know that people who share my political views would certainly like to see these people turned around not only for their own sakes but for those of a thriving Britain.

So maybe we should look for a new solution to the problem compared to the one that has been repeatedly implemented in this country to no effect for some years now.

Maybe we need to look over at the work of former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.  For those who don't know who he is, he was elected Governor of Wisconsin and was around at the same time as Bill Clinton.  When he came to office, Wisconsin was a wreck as a state, to the point that they became the butt of jokes and campaigns from other states.  I believe that it was the state of Illinois, that put up signs, tempting businesses to relocate there from Wisconsin with ads such as "will the last  business to leave Wisconsin please turn out the lights".  Worse still Wisconsin had a massively expensive welfare bill.

What Thompson did however was turn around the problems in Wisconsin to such an extent that the then President Clinton took his ideas for implementation elsewhere.  Many commenters try to give Clinton the credit for welfare reform, but the ideas were really Thompson's.  Oddly enough and counter to the common narrative from the left, what we have here is a conservative politician wanting to improve the condition of the poor.

Personally I think some of his ideas would be very current if you take a viewpoint on some of the underlying problems with our rioters around welfare dependency, fatherless children and lack of education.

Among some of the key things Thompson did was to tie welfare payments to educational attendance.  Parents receiving welfare had the funds aligned to ensuring their child attended school in an effort to break the cycle of poverty that passed from one generation to another.  If your child attended 100% of the time you received your full welfare cheque.  If they missed any number of days your check was revised down by the proportion of time your child had failed to attend school.  Although there was some squealing at first drop out rates declined.

Another thing Thompson did was go after what he referred to as deadbeat dads - those who fathered children and simply disappeared paying not interest or upkeep in their offspring.  Thompson decided to take that on.  You paid up or you went to jail.  Typically in court they would be given an opportunity to avoid jail by making their payments.  Many would try to choose this and avoid it at the same time by claiming that they didn't have a job.  In those cases they were given jobs such as sweeping leaves, litter picking etc.  Oddly enough, they soon found more meaningful work not long after.  This programme moved them to the top two in terms of gathering child support payments.  There were other programmes as well and you can read about them at the Heritage Institute

As to be expected, there were howls of outrage and criticism from certain groups and other poverty enablers.  There is always a reason for such people why reform is wrong, even if it turns things around.  As they often say though, you know you must be near the target when you start taking flak.

Of course we could keep doing what we've always done, but we shouldn't be surprised when we get what we always got.

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