Weekend open thread: Dumb ideas edition

In case you hadn’t noticed that President Barack Obama named the wrong people to his debt commission, check out the commission’s preliminary recommendations, an idiotic blend of Social Security cuts and tax increases for most Americans. The cuts would cover the cost of deeper tax cuts for high earners, as if the top 1 percent in the U.S. need any more help. Congress would never pass this package as-is, but it was probably leaked to make the final horrible recommendations look reasonable by comparison. The best thing Obama could do is dissolve this commission. It only puts bipartisan window-dressing on right-wing ideas.

Speaking of Washington Republicans, the incoming House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, recently assured the Israeli prime minister that Congressional Republicans will be a “check” on the Obama administration and that “the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States.” Imagine if a Democratic Congressional leader had promised a foreign prime minister to stand up for that country against the Bush administration if necessary.

When Congress reconvenes next week, members will consider budget bills for fiscal year 2011. Incredibly, the Senate seems poised to reduce funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), even though poverty rates are up because of the recession and high unemployment rate. Helping families pay their heating bills keeps people from freezing in the winter, or burning their house down by using unsafe portable heaters. It also is stimulative, because it cash that qualifying families don’t have to spend on utility bills is cash they will spend on goods and services. The LIHEAP Action Center calculates that if the Senate doesn’t approve the higher level of funding passed by the House, Iowa’s share of LIHEAP funding stands to drop from $75 million in fiscal year 2010 to $36.8 million in the coming year.

Speaking of unwise budget cuts, Governor-elect Terry Branstad and the Republicans in the state legislature want to eliminate public funding for family planning services. That will please the GOP base but doesn’t make fiscal sense:

The results of the study by the University of Iowa Public Policy Center show that publicly funded family planning services are cost-effective for women who would use Medicaid and other public assistance programs if they became pregnant and gave birth.

“With the prevention of an unintended pregnancy, a significant amount of future public funding expenditure can be avoided,” said lead researcher Belinda Udeh, assistant research scientist at the Public Policy Center.

The study focused on women being served by Iowa’s publicly funded family planning clinics in 2009. Study co-authors were Mary Losch of the Center for Social and Behavioral Research and the Department of Psychology at the University of Northern Iowa and Erica Spies, a UI graduate research assistant.

The study based on data collected in 2009 also concluded that publicly funded family planning is most cost-effective for women under the age of 30. When considering forecasting the avoided expenditures for just one year for this age group, over $3 could be saved for every $1 spent on family planning services, Udeh said. The probability of averting a pregnancy need only be 2 percent for this age category for family planning services to be considered cost effective, she added.

The study further reported an overall weighted average for all age categories.  For women already receiving assistance, $3.40 could be avoided in the first year for every $1 spent on family planning services, and $10.84 when the savings are forecast for five years. The savings are even greater for women who would be newly eligible for assistance with savings of $3.78 and $15.12 for every $1 spent on family planning in one-year and five-year forecasts, respectively.

Taxpayers get excellent value for money spent on family planning services. Can’t say the same for the absurd amount we spend on salaries for the head football coach and his assistants at the University of Iowa.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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  • Coaching

    I understand the argument, but I know you can’t win on these matters if you take my point of view.

    State employees salaries should be based on performance and how much joy they bring to people.  Teachers and social workers don’t get the same kind of scrutiny from Democratic blogs because they are a Democratic constituency for the most part.

    I’m not saying the salaries are equivalent or that social workers or most teachers are overpaid, but I don’t see many honest evaluations of their performance going on.


    • the coaches are given every resource they need

      to succeed in their jobs. Ask a social worker, any social worker, how big his or her caseload is now and how big a caseload one person can reasonably handle well.

      Even a great teacher can’t perform at the highest level in an overcrowded classroom.

      When we cut back on services, it affect how well the remaining employees can do their jobs. You don’t get money for nothing by cutting.

      I only brought up Ferentz because I never hear Republicans complaining about overpaid coaches. Instead, they want to save a few million dollars by ending all sabbaticals at Iowa’s state universities. I see why that sounds like a good idea (most people don’t get paid leave from their jobs), but the reality is sabbaticals are standard in academia. If Iowa’s universities stop paying for them, the better faculty will leave for other universities, and it will be hard to recruit good-quality replacements. Over time, that will affect how good an education thousands of students receive at these schools.

      • Well how do we get more people back on their feet?

        Obviously we aren’t going to get more resources to social workers in the future so how do we get more people back on their feet?I’ve talked to social workers and educators, they complain about the cross the board cuts.  You ask them specifics about what should have been cut more than other programs and they just shrug.

         I don’t expect them to know they already have too much on their plate, but the truth appears to be that whether its tax credits that a billionaire can take advantage of or some sort of cut to social services people are going to complain and act like they are the only one getting screwed no matter what happens.  

        We can’t continue the same fights about cuts and increases, we have to find ways to get people opportunities again.  There are a lot of silly fights that we have, Democrats and Republicans are constantly fighting to the point that they can’t even get an appropriations bill done because they can’t come to a compromise on the issue of whether a cut in the rate of increase is an actual budgetary cut for example.  

        I’m not opposed to the sabbaticals, but I think people value football more then they do than education in society no matter what your professed political party may be.