Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fiscal Reform in Michigan: Lean and Mean

Apologies to readers on Google Reader, who may have a duplicate posting for the early part of this post. Blogger pulled a fast one and left me unable to edit the post. I had to publish it in order to recapture my editable text. Networked Blogs readers will get an error notice if they click on the prior version of this posting. And to Blogger: Grrrrrrrrrrrr! *stab* into the Blogger doll. ~ Marzie

(Image from:

As readers of my blog and Cynical Nymph's blog well know, the Comtesses, a group of women bloggers who share friendship and a love of Portlands, get fired up about all manner of topics. We have rapid email discussions about news items, blogs, books, films, clothes and accessories, our children, cats, dogs, James McAvoy (other actors or actresses are occasionally mentioned here, but let's be frank that The McAvoy dominates because of a minor obsession, excuse me, appreciation, on the part of one Comtesse). Usually we're pretty quiet on the weekends. [Redacted] and I will play Words With Friends, CN, Glam and I may exchanges photos of our kitties. CN and I might chat about books or corsets. Personal Failure doesn't always have much chance for exchanges on the weekends and so we keep it pretty low key. Unless we read something that is so objectionable it can't wait until Monday morning. Some like this, for instance:

Foster children would be allowed to get clothing only from second hand stores.

which was located by [Redacted] and forwarded to us late last night with the subject header "This makes me sad". It's also discussed over at Michigan Public Radio. (That bastion of elitist communism, that should be destroyed by cutting all congressional funding to Public Broadcasting Corporation/National Public Radio, because it is totes obvious that they are UnChristian and UnAmerican. So help me we had better destroy them just like those feckers at Planned Parenthood, who kill unborn babies and make it possible for people to have sex without getting pregnant, which is against God's will and especially denies us the ability to have an increasing number of taxpayers and consumers for... Oh, wait a minute... I digress)

Yeah, Michigan State Senator Bruce Caswell thinks that his state really needs to make sure that money in those clothing allowances for kids is spent on clothing, goddamit! Of course, the best way to do that is to make them buy used clothing at Salvation Army or Goodwill stores. Caswell's statement:

"I never had anything new," Caswell says. "I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was -- and quite frankly it's true -- once you're out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes."

According to MPR, Gilda Jacobs, the CEO of Michigan's League for Human Services was rather dismayed.
"Honestly, I was flabbergasted," Jacobs says. "I really couldn't believe this. Because I think, gosh, is this where we've gone in  this state? I think that there’s the whole issue of dignity. You’re saying to somebody, you don’t deserve to go in and buy a new pair of gym shoes. You know, for a lot of foster kids, they already have so much stacked against them.”

I posted the link on my personal Facebook page and one of my American friends said: "Honestly, how do people think of these "solutions" in the first place?? And how do they have the balls to actually say them out loud?" (Hence the Picard image above...) A British friend, said "I'm sorry. I am having trouble stretching my head around this."

The Comteseses had a lot to say about Mr. Caswell's splendid plan, too. I'm giving you the short version.

Cynical Nymph: "This is awful.  I get wanting to make sure the money goes to clothes (which is what the bill is nominally about, according to some comments), but oh my word, this is just hateful."

Personal Failure: "fuck? we hate foster children now?  oh, right, poor and possibly brown. got it." 

CN: "Duh. Also, don't know if you knew, but thrift stores are renowned for having the bestest A'murr'cin bootstraps there ever were!"

PF: "they have, however, had all their pulling used up already."

Glam: "It makes me want to cry. :( (Once I got over my jag, I'd be ready to find that asshat and slap the taste out of his mouth.)"

PF: "at which point he'd forbid foster children from tasting things because he couldn't."

[Redacted]: "I'm with the commenter who said that guy gets paid with tax dollars, so I say he can only drive used cars and buy used office equipment. Stewardship, right?"

Well, I have to admit that I was pretty much dumbstruck by the whole thing. (I believe I said something along the lines of "Unfuckingbelievable"?) But you know, if evil foster children are misappropriating clothing money from the great state of Michigan... o_O  Although, in actuality, my mind sorta spun at the whole idea of finding the sizes that one might need for a given child in a thrift store, and how many thrift stores a foster parent might have to visit, especially since not all of them carry children's or youth sized clothing. (Visions of the challenge of squeezing Snow White's 34DDs into a prom dress bought in a Goodwill or Salvation Army that just happened to fit her and wow, made her feel like she was going to the prom just like any other kid in her high school, or fitting Tanya into anything regular sized because she's got that dwarfism thing going on, or hey, how's about underwear bought in these stores or what about shoes? I bet those shoes are gonna be all nicely broken in, in all the right spots. Because all kids have the same gait, right? And even if you found a pair that fit you and the heels were worn the opposite of the way you normally wear shoes, all that fuss about achy-ness from wearing the differently worn shoes is just... fuss! Poor feet are strong feet! Or they better be...) But then I started feeling excited for Mr. Caswell, because he is just so insightful about how to save his state money! His plan is so very clever and so many people, maybe even Paul Ryan (oooo! ahhhhh!), are going to be needing a lot of his time and assistance now that he's coming up with these great ideas! Yes, I was struck by how experienced Mr. Caswell is about buying clothing for children in a wide range of ages and sizes and needs in thrift stores. He's spent way more time looking than I have, clearly. As we all know, thrift stores have the widest selections and the best discounted prices for everything. Plenty of clothes that really suit all shapes and sizes and their stuff is always in almost new condition, so that yes, indeed, as you walk down the street, no one would know you bought your clothing looking like it was already worn or, um, I mean gently used, because that's all that they have in Salvation Army and Goodwill in Michigan, of course. And even if the clothes and shoes were looking a bit worn or faded, hey, people will probably just think you're poor, and really, if you're in foster care, you are poor, right? (One commenter on MPR, Lyttle_Bird, said : "The gift card idea wouldn't save the state any money" but it will sure keep those poor people from getting above themselves, won't it?" Has LB got it, or what?!) I'm also struck about how much Caswell understands the foster child experience. I'm sure he's been in lots of foster homes and spent oodles of time with children in care and that in his state, these children are just spoiled rotten, always getting overfed with the best food, having posh rooms and tons of things like all the other kids. Getting new clothes or shoes or undergarments on top of all that would just be the final straw that would ruin their characters by providing them with excess.

But Michigan has other fine plans in play to save their state money. Cynical Nymph came across this little gem, for instance, which led me to: 

Let me tell you, it is worth 9 minutes of your time to watch that report.

The successes of Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young (Pregnant) Women, and its demise caught the attention of E.D. Kain at Forbes. Among the stats for the school were a 90% graduation rate, and 100% chance of college admission for graduates, since it was a requirement for graduation that you be admitted to a college or university. Of course, such programs are expendable because the very last thing that Detroit needs are teenage moms who are getting an education and bettering themselves so they stand a chance of getting jobs that will allow them to support themselves and their children rather than subsist on public funds like the WIC. The letter-writing campaign and sit-in staged by the school really just show that this place needs to be closed down. Those teachers and especially the pregnant girls needed to be arrested. Who the heck did they think they were? Sure it's April and many were no doubt close to graduation, but they can just sort it all out, including their daycare options if needs be, later, okay?

Ferguson's successes, which might, on the face of it, look like something the Detroit Public School system would want to hold onto, made no difference to appointed Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, whose powers obviate the entire elected School Board's power to make decisions. (Elections = Pointless?) He decided the school was just as worthless as a whole bunch of other schools, evidently.

As Rachel Maddow's rather frightening report states, the idea of side-stepping democracy in poor areas is taking hold in Michigan. Maddow mentions the idea of dictators and it seems potentially hyperbolic.

Unless you start having more people like Bruce Caswell and Robert Bobb dictating. Because then, my friends, I think we are going to be looking at a very different America.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2011

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