This week’s issue of Crain’s is dominated by a cover story titled “The State of Inequality: A Program for Every Problem.” The article has the byline of Crain’s head editor Greg David (although I doubt he actually wrote it — it’s not his usual style at all). It purports to be a review of the state of the “safety net” and its many subsidiary programs here in New York, together with, to some degree, a comparison of same to similar programs in certain other states (Georgia, Texas, Washington).There follows a very long list with very large price tags, tackling very serious social issues.
The basic theme of the piece is that New York has the most extensive array of social safety net programs in the country, and THEY’RE WORKING !!!!!! And how do we know that THEY’RE WORKING !!!!! ? Because we have followed the basic journalistic technique of interviewing some of the beneficiaries of the programs, and some of the bureaucrats who run the programs. And, remarkably, those people are unanimous in declaring the great success of the programs that they benefit from and/or administer. QED! Now, has anyone thought to maybe go out and collect some data as to, for example, how New York compares to other jurisdictions in actually reducing poverty, or reducing income inequality, or (in the case of medical programs) extending life expectancy? Of course, you will not find any of that in this article. Really, it’s shameful.
The piece starts with a litany of some of the vast array of safety net programs that are unique to New York, either as to their existence or scope.
And the result? Success!Statists frequently fall into the same trap as corporatists, as indeed do planned economies.
The state's medical coverage is not just large; it's also effective, innovative and more affordable thanks to reforms made during the first year of the Cuomo administration. A key has been integrated approaches to managed care, pioneered at Montefiore Health System, where Williamson receives her care. The model works by coordinating treatment—and costs—among providers. That means pushing health clinics to be more like social-services centers, said Stephen Rosenthal, chief operating officer at Montefiore's CMO, The Care Management Co., which focuses on the patient experience. "We have learned that, in order to be effective at managing care, we have to go one step beyond and manage their lives," [said a Montefiore spokesperson].
Typically, when you undertake an initiative you are 1) attempting to maintain a capability, 2) prevent an anticipated failure, or 3) achieve a new and better outcome. All of these things can be measured. It might take some work, but it usually well worthwhile doing so. Reaching agreement as to exactly what are the critical elements of the desired future state frequently reveals hidden fissures and disagreements among stakeholders. Reconciling these divides about the desired outcomes frequently leads to improve approaches (and sometimes radical overhauls) regarding how to achieve the specified outcome(s).
This effort is time consuming and can be contentious, but having done it, the odds of successful project completion and outcome achievement improve dramatically.
However, government and big corporations too often (some places, almost always) skip this hard work and jump from a vague and poorly identified purpose of the project to an exciting but unvetted solution to the problem. They measure success in terms of 1) was the project completed, 2) was it completed on time, and 3) was it completed on budget. But even that is too generous a description. The budget and timeline goals are routinely adjusted throughout a project. You will start with a three month implementation and three years later everyone is celebrating the successful completion of the project on time because the calendar targets have continually evolved over the course of the project.
Success for statists and corporatists comes down to
Can we claim that we completed the project?This is the primary focus of Menton in assessing the claimed success. Yes they spent the money and all the stakeholders involved in the spending and the recipients of free things are happy. Menton is holding them to a higher standard though. Did they alleviate income inequality? Are health outcomes better? Has education performance improved? That sort of thing.
Did we spend all the money?
Are the people who received free things happy?
And of course, in all the examined instances, the answer is not only No! but Disastrously No! Not only have things not improved but they have become worse and worse by factors and orders of magnitude.
Even I could be convinced to support such programs, if there could be a demonstration that some program or other actually worked to some degree to ameliorate the problem at hand. But instead what we find is advocacy journalism, intentionally suppressing easily-available data and information that make it completely clear how these programs only enrich the bureaucrats and leave the supposed beneficiaries languishing in a lifetime of poverty.It is the last line that is truly most insidious.
We are accustomed to government and corporations making bad mistakes and making things worse, particularly when they are in collusion with one another against the interests and expectations of individual taxpaying citizens.
What is outrageous is that the news media fails so catastrophically in distinguishing fact from fiction and repeatedly producing fiction when the facts are pretty apparent, accessible and compelling.
Things that the media spend a lot of time and money on and for which there is ready, replicated, and compelling evidence against include:
Gender wage gapI could go on for a long time, listing the things which are treated by the Mandarin class and the mainstream media as settled and indisputable and yet which are either are completely incorrect or which have fine-grain nuance and complexity which renders any blanket statement wrong.
Effectiveness of affirmative action
Effectiveness of subsidies
Effectiveness of coercive implementation of projects
All cultures are equally productive and rewarding to their members
All population disparate outcomes are primarily or solely the result of intentional and/or systemic discrimination
Education outcomes are driven by resource expenditure
The new science of climate is so robust we can distinguish the impact of the hundreds of known contributing variables to produce reliable forecasts decades and centuries in advance.
Sex is a social construct
I am not arguing the opposite of the MSM Mandarins that everything encompassed in the above arguments is the exact opposite of the position of the Mandarins. I am arguing that there are frequently well replicated contradictory evidence and/or distinctions which are not made.
Are some women discriminated against in terms of salary compared to some men? Sure. Are some men demonstrated against in terms of salary compared to some women? Sure. Are there systemic differences between sexes? Sure. Are those differences accounted for entirely by decisions and choices of the individual men and women? Yes - All the replicated and methodologically robust studies indicate that there is little or no explanatory value to gender discrimination. Making the distinction that discrimination may (and almost tautologically must in a complex and noisy system) exist for individuals but washes out at the system level is important.
But we don't need to argue the merits and where on the spectrum of confidence robust arguments will land us. The shame, as Menton points out, is that we have a small unrepresentative group of citizens who are treating many critical issues as settled and indisputable when it is clear that that is not the case. It is pretty astonishing that so many hew so closely to positions which are so demonstrably disputable.