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24 January 2011


Mikey McD

Kudos to the welfare sales team; job security requires State agencies to push their products... I recall a representative going 'door to door' in the maternity ward (labor and delivery) signing up new mothers for "WIC" (Women Infant Child) benefits.

The WIC 'saleswomen' cited that it would be 6 months, if ever, before the mother would be asked to qualify for the then already received benefits via proving low income status (never mind the fact that our income was probably higher than that of the delivering Doctor).

The State had sent the diaper, formula, Cheerio fairy to help; 'for free.' I recall the debate with my wife (insert "Tragedy of the Commons" discussion here) it went something like this... 'everyone' else is signing up, we should get something for all the State taxes we pay...

Todd Juvinall

Also, wasn't the welfare department advertising for people not long after the reform was signed in the 90's. They were lonely I guess.

George Rebane

One could not have asked for a more timely illustration of how social programs are managed into failure than the explication given in today’s (24jan11) leading WSJ editorial.


Since setting the operational threshold, as described in the post, is a subjective policy decision based on many often fuzzy criteria, the editorial points out the specific nature of the follies that will now attend Obama’s latest lies about effective regulatory reform. Somehow, we expected nothing less.

Dixie Redfearn

Any way to dumb that down to a sentence or 2?

D. King

Oh George!
Leave it to you to explain the unexplainable (with graphs). A system that is doomed to failure from its inception begs the question; why? Is it a game played by a cruel elite or the realized musings of the insane?

Maybe it’s a need for this:


George Rebane

OK Dixie. You can never afford to help ALL the Deserving, and attempting that will cause you to go broke so that in the end you CANNOT help ANY of the Deserving. Given any level of funding, you have to make a deliberate, subjective, and cold-hearted choice of what fraction of the Deserving you are able to help. Without understanding the kinds of errors your admissions policy has built in, and the effects of such errors (as explained in this piece), you cannot select the proper admissions threshold or cutoff point that will give you a sustainable program based on reason.

Instead, the politicians/bureaucrats will continue stabbing in the dark using politically correct/acceptable feel-good criteria that give rise to the kinds of social programs foisted on us over the years. (Obamacare is turning out to be the poster child of such a program.) Because the voters are ignorant of all this, they keep electing the same sleazebags and/or idiots who promise anything to get (re)elected. The result is the unfolding economic catastrophe we have today. Jefferson predicted the endpoint of all this – ‘A nation ignorant and free, that never was and never shall be.’

D. King

The true shame is that organizations like the Salvation Army and Catholic hospitals are vilified.

Barry Pruett

Thanks George! The theoretical aspect makes a lot of sense...it would be nice if we had the data available for computation. Do you think that it is possible to accurately predict the error rates though? That seems like a tough task given the information provided by the recepient is the only information upon which to base the computations.

George Rebane

It is indeed possible to measure the Type1 and Type2 error rates to arbitrarily small uncertainty intervals by running a test of the admissions policy, and then expending resources (beyond program norms) to investigate and confirm the assessments of Deserving and Undeserving made within the tested admissions policy. Such procedures are well-known to professionals in the field. I suspect that this is not done because the answers may embarrass the program designers and its political supporters/sponsors. Bamboozling the taxpayers is much easier and cheaper.

Aaron Klein

In regards to the innnumerate, I've heard it said that 4 out of 3 people have difficulty with fractions, so that could be a larger part of your readership than you might think... ;)

George Rebane

Friends, like yourself, have advised me of that. According to the late Steve Allen, one of the reasons for our country's rampant dumbth is that we have been taught by public education's purveyors of self-esteem that the student is never responsible for not understanding the lesson - it is always the teacher's fault if learning does not take place. Coming from a culture that rails against that notion, I therefore see RR readers in a much brighter light.

Greg Goodknight

Part of the problem is that far too many of the teachers didn't understand their lessons, either. One Federal study released in the last decade found after closely following one cohort that the lower a student's SAT when entering college, the higher the probability they were teaching K-12 ten years after receiving their baccalaureate.

As a result of the whole language, whole math choices of the Grass Valley School District, we got chased out of our local public schools and into Mt. Saint Mary's, our local St. Sensible. There were a couple turkey teachers there, but most were competent, and they had a sensible and competent curriculum. About that time I became embroiled in the Math Wars, as the struggle over whole or "fuzzy" math became called. One of the professors on my side of the math wars was an avowed communist in one of the CSU's, who once revealed that the prospective teachers at his CSU entered his classes with a 4th grade understanding of mathematics, and the goal was to get them to the 7th grade level. IIRC the Education Department on that campus got so fed up with so many F's being awarded by the Math faculty that they created their own math class where the boneheads could succeed, at least as far as the letter grade was concerned.

The far left prof eventually did a few things with Lynn Cheney towards the promotion of rational mathematics curriculums, showing that bad math does make for strange bedfellows.

The GVSD still does a poor job teaching math, but after they crashed and burned with half the kids greeted with "Mathland" in the first grade being in the bottom quartile when tested at the end of the 3rd grade circa '98, they floundered a bit spent a few years trying to patch it up and then bought the text that I tried to get them to accept a classroom's worth of free books when my kid was still there. All Saxon Publishing wanted was a standardized test when they started and again after they finished, but Linda Brown, GVSD Ass't Superintendent and co-Principal of Hennessey, was repulsed by the idea of a mere "drill and kill" text, which is how educationists describe arithmetic practice. Their detritus, the kids crippled by the experiment, are almost finished making their way through the local schools but the kids that were in the 1st grade when it started are now graduating from college, if they made it there.

George Rebane

Thanks for that great explication Greg. I have it from a reliable source that math at NUHS is woefully lacking. I see echoes of that in results of the TechTest merit scholarship exam that I'm involved with.

Greg Goodknight

While the math department has probably strengthened since one particular mean spirited incompetent chair left under a cloud about 5 years ago, don't blame the high school too much; if kids don't have a solid foundation in arithmetic before they begin actual study of Algebra (8th grade by the excellent California standards that may be on their way out), there isn't much chance of succeeding. If you don't understand fundamental arithmetic, you don't have much of a chance of understanding a generalization of fundamental arithmetic.

The GVSD under Byerrum and Brown did very poorly; I was told by an insider that the NUHS Geometry X entry exam was put in place specifically to nudge most Lyman Gilmore grads away from the honors class they were not prepared for.

Doing a little googling, I see that NC Supt of Schools Holly Hermansen is the wife of retired GVSD wreaker John Byerrum; funny I never noticed that. Kind of puts into perspective Hermansen's rejection of my FOIA to her office for documents relating to the secret donor of $50K (in McAteer's days) to the county to promote the International Baccalaureate in the GVSD and NUHSD.

I understand the IB is still on the backburner.

George Rebane

Agreed, and thanks for the insight into that world Greg.

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