I know, it is hard to stay motivated to keep up with serious social policy analysis in the current political environment. So here is a mix of current great reading and podcasts that will mostly take you to another place. Read more
We know and acknowledge that our Presidential campaign has been nationally embarrassing, distracting, and virtually policy-silent. The tenor and substance of the campaign, especially post-Bernie, have conveyed virtually no empathy or awareness of the realities of our most vulnerable individuals, groups, and communities. The growing disparities in our economy and the extreme hardship faced by many in our society have fallen out of public eye and certainly out of the public policy discussion. There is quite another reality on the streets and in the front lines of call centers and social service organizations.
Here is your weekly prompt of social policy books and articles that will open your mind (click on links for sources)
Daniel Hatcher describes the triangle of federal-state-agency collaborations that take money and exploit vulnerable populations. The analysis is polemic and eye-opening. Readers interested in child welfare, long term care, TANF programs, juvenile justice, and Medicaid will learn a great deal about the conversion of mission in these programs to revenue streams for non-profit and for-profit organizations. Hatcher pulls back the veil on an important set of financial and organizational changes occurring in human services. Read more
We have the oldest slate of presidential candidates in history, but this has not led to policy proposals or policy discussion of the needed responses to our aging society. This is somewhat surprising given the political centrality of Florida in this upcoming election. The agenda and need for a national aging policy could not be more compelling, but we have experienced radio silence in this campaign. Read more
I received a number of inquiries from an earlier post about what I meant by “evidence-based public policy?”
The fact that this phrase engendered such bewilderment – especially among readers of a social policy blog — is evidence that we have a huge disconnect between the worlds of policy research, evaluation, and actual policymaking. Read more
With the collapse of any meaningful federal budget process in the 2000s, we have given up all semblance of a rational approach to considering the opportunity cost of significant federal expenditures.
Opportunity cost is one of those quaint economist’s concepts which refers to what is given up or foregone by devoting resources to one activity versus the next best alternative use. In other words, if we spend resources on one thing, whether it be defense, research, Medicare, incarceration, or other purpose, we forego the opportunity to spend it on the next best alternative, be that education, housing, mental health, or other social purpose.
For example, the estimated cost of universal preschool ranges from $2-4 billion a year (a Brookings estimate) to $10 billion a year (the administration’s estimate). What makes this preschool opportunity so compelling is that there is actual evidence that universal preschool is a bona fide social investment with a long term rate of return. James Heckman argues that preschool is an extraordinarily efficient (in cost benefit terms) social investment, bringing a return on investment of 7 to 10 percent per year.
To put this potential investment in universal preschool in context, it is comparable to the annual spending for acquiring just one very problematic weapon system, the F-35 Joint Strike fighter, estimated at over $10 billion in 2016. According to the GAO, acquisition costs for this aircraft will run roughly $12 billion every year through 2038, when the full complement of 2500 jets will finally be purchased. Other big systems, such as the Navy’s proposed turnover of aircraft carriers (estimated at $12 billion each), are so expensive that they too represent legitimate opportunity costs in other domains of federal policy, including social policy. Read more