Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Here I Go Suggesting Government Efficiencies Again

Yesterday's Garrison Center op-ed is about the Trump regime's proposal to partially replace "food stamps" (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka SNAP) with the "America's Harvest Box." The column focuses on the real purpose of the "food stamp" program (to justify farm welfare) and why that real purpose makes it possible that Congress will go for the proposal.

An ABC News headline has me thinking about a solution to one of the objections raised by opponents:

USDA proposes replacing food stamps with delivery service, added work requirements

From the piece:

Current USDA requirements say that able-bodied adults without children can only get three months of food stamps in three years unless they work or participate in a job training program at least 20 hours a week. USDA would likely not change that requirement but could grant states waivers to impose stricter requirements at the state level.

So, a major objection to the plan is that its supposed cost savings doesn't account for the cost of actually getting the food to recipients' doorsteps.

Well, why not have some SNAP recipients fulfill the work/training requirements by packing and delivering the boxes? Pick the recipients who are 1) able-bodied and 2) unemployed and have them take those boxes to the recipients who are 3) disabled and/or 4) employed.

It seems like an obvious measure from both cost-cutting and putting-welfare-clients-back-to-work standpoints.

They learn to work on a packaging assembly line and/or drive a delivery truck -- both skills that will help in the job hunt.

If the work is hard enough, it might also constitute a figurative boot in the ass to go find jobs that pay in something other than SNAP bennies.

Yes, I'm against "food stamps" on principle.

And yes, I think this particular proposal is even more stupid than the existing program if for no other reason than that if I'm going to pay for a program to feed poor people, I'd rather they just got the cash because they're better judges of their own needs than some USDA bureaucrat could possibly be (see Milton Friedman's four ways to spend money).

But if feeding the hungry and reducing the costs of doing so and putting non-working people to work and/or teaching them how to work are all priorities, why not make that single program serve all three priorities?

Congratulations to Alison Foxall

Yes, really.

I'm already hearing some Libertarians (both in Florida and nationally) who are down in the mouth about Foxall "only" getting 3.x% of the vote in yesterday's special election for Florida state legislature after running a professional campaign that raised more money than any Florida house or senate campaign in the Libertarian Party's history.

Some will point out that 3.x% is pretty much average for a Libertarian candidate, but one thing they're not taking into account is the role special elections are assuming nationwide right now due to, in a word, Trump.

Democrats are pouring on the money and ground game as they take advantage of discontent with Trump to set themselves up for big gains in the US House/Senate midterms this November.

Republicans are doing the same thing as the Democrats in an attempt to fend off those prospective Democratic gains.

All of these special elections are being portrayed by both major parties as 1) incredibly tight and 2) of earth-shaking importance, which is the perfect storm for "wasted vote syndrome." They're the hardest kinds of elections for Libertarian candidates to break out in.

If I'd been forced to make a bet on yesterday's outcome, I'd have put my money on Foxall getting 1-2% of the vote. The extra 1.x% is, in my eyes, a function of better than usual campaigning. So yes, congrats.

That doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned here.

In an early stumble, Foxall appeared to endorse pending state legislation against "sanctuary cities" (she later clarified that she opposes the legislation on "home rule" grounds). Whether or not that stumble could have been avoided (the media will misinterpret Libertarians at every opportunity), it did probably hurt.

Her web site campaign platform ("The Plan") emphasized three issues (good! If you try to talk about too many things, nobody gets any of your many messages), but it may have been that those were not the three issues her prospective constituents cared most about (Libertarians can't control which issues the electorate cares about in any given election; the best we can do is offer good answers on those issues instead of trying to replace them with issues we care about).

And the LP is always having, and needs to have more, discussions on whether "professional campaigns" are as important as, or as effective as, more radical messaging. If the "professional campaign" aspect gained 1.x% of the vote for Foxall versus the notional base I posit, would big Hail Mary plays on the issues (for example, "end occupational licensing in Florida" instead of "end 80% of occupational licensing in Florida") have received more publicity and brought in more votes than, or combined with, the good pro mechanics?

But the fact that there are lessons to be learned does not overshadow the fact that she did a damn good job for her party and her district.

US Propaganda Infects Associated Press Coverage of Syria War

Opening paragraph of an AP story as it ran this morning in the Midland, Texas Reporter-Telegram:

It's a scenario many feared in the fog of Syria's multi-front war: a confrontation in which U.S. forces, responding to a provocation, kill Russian soldiers or mercenaries on a crowded battlefield.

There is no question of a "provocation" (or, as previous US DoD justifications put it, "self-defense").

Russian troops in Syria are there at the express invitation of the internationally recognized, UN member regime.

US troops in Syria are invaders, there in violation of both US law and the international law against wars of aggression which the US regime claims to support and pretends to be bound by except when it feels like violating it.

In any confrontation between US and Russian troops in Syria, the US troops are by definition the aggressors by the claimed standards of the US government itself. They're like home invasion robbers who complain that the homeowner pointed his shotgun at them after they broke in.

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