Friday, June 29, 2012

Do's and Don'ts for new and expectant fathers

    Sometimes you find interesting things while cleaning up your computer. This little poster has all the child-rearing advice any young father will ever need (Click to enlarge).

Schools should work to widen, not narrow, the achievement gap

    If there is one common value shared by virtually everyone involved in education today it's that we ought to try to narrow various achievement gaps in education.
    AS usual the general consensus is wrong. Our goal as a society should be to widen the achievement gap. Yes, I dare to say it! We should challenge all children, and the natural result will be the widening of the achievement gap.
    A typical kindergarten class will be made up of children who are not yet reading but who will know their letters and understand print orientation. Most children will be able to count and will recognize simple two-digit numbers.
    Yet in this class of 5-year-olds there will be tremendous variation. A few students are likely to be able to recognize and read some words, and perhaps one student will be able to actually read at about the second-grade level. A few students will be able to do simple addition and subtraction, and perhaps one student will be able to do simple multiplication or division -- so again functioning at about the second-grade level.
    On the lower end will be students who can't even recognize their letters or numbers and who can't even count to 10. These students are functioning at the level of a typical three-year-old.
    So in a typical group of entering 5-year-old kindergarteners there is already a three or four year achievement gap. That's pretty amazing, and of course a strong argument against mixed ability classrooms, as the better students need to be taught a first- or second-grade curriculum while the laggards need remedial help.
    So what are the causes of this huge achievement gap that everyone is trying so hard to narrow? Three really: age, environment, and IQ.
    The Entering Kindergarten report I linked to earlier points out that early reading and math skills are closely associated with age. Older students are more advanced on entering kindergarten than younger students. This is an achievement gap that will fade with time.
    Then there's IQ. There is no question IQ exists, and most education experts say that efforts to raise IQ after age 5 are likely to be fruitless. There is a tremendous genetic component to IQ, such that even if every child were to be given an identical environment there remain a large IQ difference, albeit a smaller one. Thus by the very nature of IQ children with higher IQs will learn more quickly, and if given challenging work the achievement gap can only grow each year.
    Next up is environment. This is where the tinkerers believe that they can make a difference, and to some degree they are correct. But what is environment? It includes whether mother drank or did drugs during pregnancy, whether the child is in a two-parent family, whether the parents talked and interacted with the child in infancy and a host of other factors that occur prior to the child's third birthday. Studies show a very dramatic difference in the way children are raised and after-the-fact efforts at remediation are going to do very little good. Unless we are prepared to put hidden cameras in every home and then jail mothers who fail to talk to their children while changing their diapers, these environmental differences will not go away.
    All of us like to think of ourselves as good parents who promote our children's education. I taught my children basic reading skills at age 4, for example, because Joan Beck said I should. A lot of children aren't ready to read at age 4, but many are. Every parent should at least make the effort to teacher their pre-kindergartener to read.
    Without a doubt parental encouragement is helpful to children. During a long car drive when my kids asked what started World War II, I began my lecture with the failure of the Acien Regime and the calling of the Estates General. After a while Jinny chimed in, "Don't forget the Schlieffen Plan!" I doubt my children remember a word of it, but deep down a seed is buried that some of these events aren't as simple as the textbooks might claim. I can't doubt that it makes some difference, but how exactly do our schools expect to close achievement gaps based on differences in parenting styles?
    And sometimes it's only partly parenting styles. For years I would greet my young son with a math problem. Obviously the type of behavior that a "tiger" parent might engage in. But I could only do it because my son liked to "play math." If he didn't have the natural ability, all the parenting skill in the world wouldn't have made him an advanced student.
    Currently our schools attempt to narrow the achievement gap by refusing to teach the better students. Students who arrive at kindergarten able to read and do basic math will nevertheless be forced to sit and be instructed in basic letter recognition. In spite of this, the four-year reading gap that exists in kindergarten will grow to 10 or more years by fifth grade, as some of the better students start reading at the college level, despite the schools' best efforts to keep them down. The math achievement gap is far less, since reading tends to be self-taught while math requires outside instruction. Thus the schools' refusal to teach helps keep the fifth-grade math achievement gap down to five or six years.
    The sad fact is that if our schools would stop abusing our children and instead would provide each child with a challenging curriculum, many students would complete their high-school course work by the age of 12 or 13 and be ready to start of college-level work. A much larger group would earn their high school diplomas by age 15. There is tremendous social utility in providing just as much education as we can to each student during the 12 years of free education that they are entitled to from our public schools. As a nation, the smarter our citizens are the better off we all are.
    But we've got to accept that schools can't change children's IQs. They can't change their homes. If each child is truly challenged, then the achievement should be getting larger each and every year.
    Show me a school without much of an achievement gap, and I'll show you a school that doesn't provide much of an education. The greater the gap, the greater the educational opportunities. It's as simple as that.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cheap luxury abounds, but I failed to load up on the best wine deal of all

    I just drove Lucy home from camp in Minnesota, and managed to stop by a St. Louis Costco to check out the wine selection. I've found that where the liquor store is outside the Costco store, as in Tennessee, the values aren't that great, but in states where wine is sold inside the Costco it's a good deal.
    This was certainly the case in St. Louis.

Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve (not Vintner's) Chardonnay, $14.99
La Crema Pinot Noir, $16.99
Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, $17,99
Conundrum, $17.99
7 Deadly Zins, $10.99
Mirassou Pinot Noir, $6.89
Coppola Diamond Claret, $11.99
Meiomi Pinot Noir, $17.99

    The prices above are anywhere from four to eight dollars per bottle less than one would expect to pay at a retail wine store that had pretty good prices. Needless to say my local wine merchant may forget what I look like for the next month or so, although I might still make an appearance every now and then to buy a bottle of Las Rocas, which the St. Louis Costco didn't carry.
    The Costco also had an Italian red which had a Wine Advocate rating of 94 and a pricetag of $39.99 (I wish I had snapped a photo so I could remember it!). Generally a red wine with a Robert Parker 94 rating will have a price of $150 or more, usually $300-plus. Part of me wishes I had bought a couple of bottles, but I'm just not in the mood for $40 wine. My budget isn't, anyway.
    What I really regret is not loading up on the $6.89 Mirassou Pinot Noir. It's a decent everyday wine that's obviously easy on the wallet, and the $6.89 price is about $4 less than retail. I was so mesmerized by the Kendall-Jackson, Conundrum, and other low-end premium names that I failed to take full advantage of the best value in the store.
    It's certainly not worth a special trip, but next time I pass through St. Louis I may buy a few of the $15-20 bottles of wine, but I'll concentrate on finding a couple of dozen bottles of decent wine under $8.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dump Obamacare, then allow every citizen to sign up for bare-bones Medicaid or take a voucher

    Hopefully the Supreme Court will overturn the Obamacare individual mandate this week and throw out his odious health car law in its entirety.
    There are a million problems with Obamacare, not the least of which is that it forces every citizen to purchase exactly the same insurance policy. We were told this wouldn't happen, but that's clearly not where we're headed with this.
    Obamacare is based on the notion that the government can simply wish any problem away by ordering the insurance companies to solve or cover it. The insurance companies are willing to go along with this scam by raising rates and cutting services to their current customers, since they know everyone is going to be forced to participate no matter how sorry their product or service.
    There is, by the way, nothing wrong with trying to extend basic, bare-bones health coverage to every American. In fact, it can be done. The problem is that most people who have insurance through their employers have luxury care, with lots of bells and whistles. They like these bells and whistles and are paying for them. It is a part of their wage. Reducing the quality of their insurance coverage and care is in effect a giant pay cut.
    While the nation was being sold this bill of goods we were ensured that Obamacare would actually reduce health-care costs. A well-thought-out health care plan can cut costs. Extending free or subsidized luxury care to tens of millions of Americans will cause them to skyrocket.
    To understanding what we need to do to provide health care for those who don't have it, we need to come to some common agreement:

    1. There is value in having a healthy populace.
    2. We are currently providing free but erratic national health care through our nation's emergency rooms. This care is outlandishly expensive, the hospitals are forced to provide it for free, and so they shift the costs to those with insurance. Even worse, they shift even more of the cost to the poor blokes who don't have insurance but who are able to pay for their care.
    3. The breakdown of the American family and the rise of single parenthood as a lifestyle choice is directly related to the fact that it is fairly easy for single mothers to get Medicaid and other care while married women have a very difficult time of it, even when they are relatively poor. There is thus utility to providing this care to everyone, not just the single poor.
    4. Medicaid, in its current form, provides very lavish, luxury health benefits that are sometimes better than those provided by private insurance. There is room to dramatically expand this program at no extra cost by making it a bare-bones, basic health program, similar to that in Great Britain.

    So how do we expand health coverage? The first step is to leave everyone who already has insurance alone. Right now everyone is seeing their insurance coverage going down the tubes, and it's all because of Obama, Pelosi, et. al. and their desire to control every aspect of our lives.
    Second, as a society I believe we need to look at increasing the minimum wage followed by the imposition of additional payroll taxes on every American to fund a bare-bones health voucher. Payroll taxes should be paid by everyone, and every citizen, regardless of income or wealth, should receive a Medicaid voucher, which can be used in one of two ways. The recipient can use the voucher to sign up for Medicaid, or the recipient can use the true cash value of the voucher to offset the purchase of luxury care private insurance that will allow doctor choice, non-generic drugs, a less-rigorously managed rationing system, and a generally more pleasant health-care experience.
    In other words, I'm suggesting that we make every citizen -- note the word citizen -- eligible for Medicaid voucher at no cost beyond a payroll deduction, regardless of wealth. Those who want more can pay for more.
    Giving every citizen a Medicaid voucher would provide basic health care to those who currently can't afford it. People with pre-existing conditions would automatically be covered by Medicaid, even if they couldn't afford a luxury care plan. Meanwhile, the rest of us would be free to use our vouchers to buy the type of insurance we've always had, insurance that would be relatively free from government control.
    That means we can still allow the Catholic church to offer insurance that doesn't include birth control. It means people who want high-deductible luxury plans can have them. It means that the lives of American people can again be free from government micro-management.
    Before we can solve our health care problems we have to first get rid of Obamacare. Hopefully the Supreme Court will see the overreach of forcing citizens to purchase a private product. Once we get rid of Obamacare we can go to work devising a plan to give every American a voucher to enroll in a bare-bones Medicaid plan, while those who want a little more can take their voucher, pay a little more, and get a little more.
    In other words, we can be free again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Students who pick Mississippi College as top choice do well on ACT; Ole Miss tops public university list

    Sometimes I stumble on a statistic that surprises me.
    I was looking at the 2011 ACT score report for Mississippi and noted that students who list Mississippi College in Clinton as their first college choice seem to have the highest ACT scores in the state (apparently not enough people list Millsaps for it to be listed as a separate school, but more on this later). Thirty-five percent of the 270 students who listed Mississippi College as their first choice scored a 24 or higher. I guess it's a backhanded compliment, but I didn't think the Mississippi College scores would be so high.
    Ole Miss does outshine other public universities. Twenty-seven percent of the 1,988 test takers who listed Ole Miss as their first choice scored 24 or higher. For State and Southern the percentages were 22 and 18, respectively.
    Another interesting fact is that a substantial number of good students are choosing community colleges as their "first choice" schools. I'm defining "good" here as a student with a 24 or higher on the ACT. With the exception of East Mississippi and Mississippi Delta Community Colleges, most community colleges had about 10 percent of the students who selected them as their first choice score 24 or higher. When compared to Southern at 18 percent, Delta State at 11 percent or the University of Memphis at 15 percent, I say that's not bad. (Note that there are several colleges that I am just not going to pick on. You can read the report to see what students the various schools are attracting).
    I mentioned that Millsaps didn't make the list. Apparently not enough students picked them as first choice so it is mixed in the "All Other Institutions." I'm fairly certain that had it been listed separately it would be able to claim the highest percentage of high scorers. But since it wasn't, that honor goes to Mississippi College. I do wonder how a college can operate if so few students select it as their first choice. I'm sure a friend of mine will enlighten me.
    Another interesting statistic is that Ole Miss is the second most popular school in the state. Roughly 3,000 students chose Mississippi State as their first-choice school versus 2,000 who selected Ole Miss. However, Ole Miss tends to draw its students from around the nation. Although the school reports that 66 percent of students are Mississippi residents, last year a majority of the Ole Miss freshman class was from out of state. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year or two. I'm actually surprised that State only beats out Ole Miss by a 3:2 ratio among in-state residents.
    Ole Miss is considered one of the "best buys" in the world of respected-but-not-highly-selective colleges (See also Forbes ranks Ole Miss top 20 Best Buy). Back in my day the Texas kids were given a choice between SMU or Ole Miss and a BMW. A lot of kids went for the car; I think they still do!

I was able to find Millsaps listed in the 2009 ACT resport. In 2009 95 students listed Millsaps as their first choice and 34 percent had ACT scores of 24 or higher. For the same year 276 students listed Mississippi College as their first choice and 32 percent had ACT scores of 24 or above. While this suggests that Millsaps might edge out Mississippi College if enough students were to select it so that it could be listed, it's likely a horse race.

Friday, June 15, 2012

'If a man marries a man in California and then moves to Mississippi and marries a woman, is he breaking the law?'

    Something came on the radio about same-sex marriage recently and the kids asked about it. I tried to explain the law as best I knew it.
    This is as follows but subject to debate: If a state prohibits same-sex marriage only by statute, it must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution (but for the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which might or might not be constitutional). But if a state has a provision in its state constitution prohibiting same-sex marriages, then the Full Faith and Credit Clause wouldn't apply and thus the state doesn't have to recognize the same-sex marriage.
    I explained that Mississippi bans the marriage of first cousins by statute, but since it is only by statute these cousins can wed elsewhere and the marriage must be recognized in Mississippi, provided the cousins don't leave the state for the purpose of evading the statute. (So don't go inviting guests to your out-of-state wedding, cousins, or it will be void or voidable in Mississippi). If the state were to put a provision in the state constitution declaring such unions void, the these cousins simply would not be married on their moving or returning to the state.
    We were using California as an example of a state that allows same-sex marriage, pursuant to a recent court ruling, although in fact the ruling has been stayed and no marriage licenses are being issued at this time. Feel free to substitute Massachusetts for California for greater accuracy. We were using Mississippi as an example of a state that had enacted a constitutional prohibition against same-sex marriage.
    Now for the conundrum. Lucy posed a question for which I did not have an answer.
Suppose a man were to marry a man in California and then move to Mississippi where his marriage wouldn't be recognized and marry a woman. Would he be breaking the law?
    Certainly the man would not be violating Mississippi law, since Mississippi views his California same-sex marriage as a nullity. But what about California? Certainly that state would view the Mississippi marriage as bigamous.
    A quick Google search on elements and jurisdiction of bigamy suggests that jurisdiction is proper where the bigamous marriage took place. So our man who got married twice could likely move back to California without fear of prosecution. HOWEVER, if he takes his new wife with him and lives with her as husband and wife, it's likely another matter.
    As for what would happen if our twice-married man were to move with his female bride to Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, or Vermont -- all states which recognize same-sex marriage, I just don't know. Essentially the Mississippi marriage is not bigamous in the eyes of Mississippi or most states, but as soon as the man enters a state that recognizes same-sex marriage he immediately has two legally recognizable unions and therefore becomes a bigamist in the eyes of that state.
    I think my daughter had a very good question. I can only guess at the answer. No doubt it's already shown up on some law school exam.

ADDENDUM, June 15, 7 p.m.: At some point this issue is bound to come up. But even more interesting and important that the criminal aspect is perhaps how the law of descent and distribution will be handled. In other words, who gets the bigamist's money and property when he dies? Clearly there will be a legal fight over the right to probate the estate the likes of which the courts have never seen.

In the above example, the jilted California same-sex spouse is sure to try to probate the estate and claim his spousal rights under California law. In Mississippi, the heterosexual wife will do the same. Both have equally valid marriages in the eyes of their states of residence, so what are their rights?

If the deceased bigamist has a bank account in both Ohio and Massachusetts, what will these banks do with the money. Will the Ohio bank send the money deposited there to Mississippi since Ohio doesn't recognize same-sex marriage while the Massachusetts bank does the opposite?

There's going to be some interesting litigation before all of this is resolved.

For fourth year, Lucy is off to Concordia Language Village's summer camp

    I drove Lucy up to Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minn., for a two-week camp stay that started Monday. I was going to drive back home and then return, but thought better of it and used frequent flyer miles to come home, leaving my car at the Bemidji airport, as Bemidji comes darn close to being in Canada. Lucy is at Lac du Bois, the French Language Village.
    This is Lucy's fourth year at Concordia, a foreign language semi-immersion camp. Essentially the kids do all the activities they would do at any other camp, but they do them while in an almost complete foreign-language setting. They are allowed to say things like "I cut myself" or "A snake bit me" in English!
    Concordia has one-week camps for children as young as 7, two-week camp sessions for children starting at age 8, with the campers grouped by ages. For example, Lucy is with an 8- to 13-year-old group because many of her friends have wanted to stay together at the same session. Obviously she soon will have to move to a different session, and I suspect this will be decided by some sort of secret agreement among her friends before she leaves camp this year.
    Starting in ninth grade students can attend camp for a full month and earn a year's high school credit. At 11th grade they can attend for a month and earn college credit. In addition to common languages like French, Spanish and German, Concordia offers such languages as Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, and Swedish.
    I've mentioned Concordia Language Villages on this blog before. I think it's a great program, and obviously Lucy enjoys it or she wouldn't keep going back. Summer camp is always expensive, but as camps go Concordia is more reasonable than most.
    My foreign language skills are limited to saying "My name is ColRebSez," and "I wish a beer" in Spanish. Lucy doesn't get much reinforcement during the year, but the French she is learning at Concordia will not only help her to be a better student, but a better citizen as well. It's certainly a disgrace that our elementary schools don't offer foreign language instruction for the better students wishing to learn.
    The camp is doing a better job than ever before this year of taking lots of photos of the kids and posting them on the "Village Pages." Kids don't send letters home from camp any more, so it's nice to see some photos. The Lac du Bois village page can be found here. A link to all of the Concordia Village pages can be found here.
    I've posted some photos of Lucy at camp below. For anyone stumbling on this page, be aware that there are lots of boys at the camps, too. But Lucy is always sitting with a group of girls.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The death of the Wendy's hamburger

    When Wendy's Hamburgers came onto the scene in a big way 30 years ago I was their biggest fan. I don't know whether it was because I loved their hamburgers or because I hated McDonald's.
    You see, when I would go into McDonald's, I would order a hamburger and make a big production of saying, "Please no cheese, please no cheese, please no cheese." "No ketchup! No ketchup! No ketchup!" I would then get my burger and it would be covered with slimy American cheese and a great big splat of ketchup. (Is there a greater afront to our national honor than to have a product so vile named "American" cheese?)
    Wendy's would let me order the hamburger the way I wanted it, with mustard, pickle, and onion -- the way most people at burgers before McDonald's started pouring ketchup on them. I would usually have to ask for extra mustard, because most establishments apply mustard with an eye-dropper, but I could get my burger the way I wanted it.
    Wendy's would still try to sell the cheese, at a 40-cent upcharge. I would always specify that I wanted a hamburger and they would always ask if I wanted cheese on it. I would decline, and would sometimes point out that you can't put cheese on a hamburger. After getting a quizical look, I would explain that I had ordered a hamburger and if you add cheese it becomes a cheeseburger, which I would have ordered had I wanted the cheese. I actually wrote my weekly column for the Daily Mississippian on this subject one week and made the local Wendy's people pretty miserable for a few days as a number of students took up my cause.
    Wendy's has solved this problem. They have taken hamburgers completely off the menu. The last Wendy's I went to didn't offer a single hamburger -- all they had was cheeseburgers.
    If it was good cheese, I might not mind. I love cheddar cheese, even pepper jack. Port of Call in New Orleans tops its steak burgers with shreadded cheddar that isn't quite melted all the way. It tastes great (the long-closed Ruby Red's down the street was even better). But I don't want the Wendy's slimy cheese.
    Wendy's doesn't give me a choice. Oh, they'll take the cheese off if I ask, but accounting for inflation they've raised the price of the sandwich by around 60 cents to cover the cost of the cheese. It's not fair and a rip-off.
    The sign outside of every Wendy's restaurant promises that they sell "Old Fashioned Hamburgers." When one goes in to discover that do not have a single hamburger on the menu, they are engaging in false advertising. They are actually lying to and misleading the public. It's false advertising.
    We are a nation of fat people. For those who actually enjoy a slice of slime on their burger, fine, go ahead and get it. But it ought to be an option, not something restaurants force on people by making them pay for it whether they want it or not. Restaurants shouldn't advertise that they sell hamburgers when they only sell cheeseburgers. I would hope that the government officials who investigate false advertising would at least look into this.
    I'm not going to say I'll never enter a Wendy's again. But I know when I get a hamburger there that I'm being cheated out of 60 or more cents. That puts them way down on my list. Way, way down.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Obama's 'jobs' plan is help we don't need, taxes we don't want, for problems we don't have

    Obama has been repeatedly flacking his "jobs" plan, which involves the federal government providing the states with money to hire 50,000 teachers, policemen and firefighters. This isn't a job plan; it's an economic disaster waiting to happen.
    The hiring of police, firemen and teachers is something we in America do at the state and local level. We determine the need, hire, tax, and pay for these needs locally. While every organization always needs more workers, we, as citizens of cities and states, have already hired the people we need to fill these positions.
    Read the newspapers! Crime rates have been falling. Sure more police would be nice, but we don't need them. I appreciate our firemen, but the fires are getting put out. We don't need to pad the payroll.
    And don't get me started on teachers. Most school districts are so heavily laden with teachers that they are able to adopt a California-inspired, left-wing educational practice known as differentiated instruction. This puts kids working at all achievement levels in the same classroom and essentially recreates the one-room schoolhouse of yesteryear. This model requires small class sizes and still doesn't work very well. If anything we need to reduce the number of teachers and increase class size until schools are forced to group students by achievement level out of absolute necessity. Make no mistake, students are far better off in a class of 36 grouped by achievement than they are in a class of 16 with a six- to 10-grade difference in achievement and ability levels between the students.
    Aside from the fact that we don't need the extra employees is the economic time bomb that awaits states that do take the money and hire unneeded help. For example, suppose Oxford should receive this money and use it to hire someone to teach both Russian and Finnish for three years.
    Now Russian and Finnish are great courses and might well deserve to be taught. But if the need wasn't there before the district was handed free money the need isn't there. What is the district to do in three years when the money runs out? Does the school fire the teacher and anger the one or two dozen parents who hoped to enroll their children in these programs? Or does the school board raise taxes and keep the teacher, thus putting an additional tax burden on the citizenry? Chances are taxes will creep up just a bit. So in the long run Obama's "jobs" plan is just a plan to put a heavier property tax burden on every American citizen.
    We all know that one of the main reasons America's unskilled workers are struggling so hard today is because of illegal immigration. We have 11 million illegal immigrants in this country driving down wages for unskilled workers, stealing their jobs, and voraciously consuming public services. We're told that the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the immigration courts are just too understaffed to do the job of expelling these people.
    I've got an idea. Let's take the money Obama wants to use to hire 50,000 policemen, firemen, and teachers and use it instead to hire border patrol agents, immigration agents, and immigration court judges and staff. Let's work on fencing for both our southern and northern borders. Good fences make good neighbors.
    If we do this we'll not only create 50,000 or so immediate jobs, but millions of additional jobs for Americans; and employers will be forced to pay higher wages as they won't have a peasant labor force to depress wages and help them destroy the lives of America's workers.
    Instead of Obama sending the states money to hire help we don't need -- help that eventually will balloon our tax burden -- the federal government should use the money to hire enough help to enforce our nation's immigration laws. Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Government programs are fine, so long as they actually benefit society

    I really don't think it can be disputed that the welfare system as it was instituted during the Lyndon Johnson years has literally destroyed the fabric of certain segments of society.
    Since 1960 the white illegitimacy rate has jumped from two percent to more than 25 percent. The black illegitimacy rate has jumped from 15 percent to almost 75 percent.
    These numbers matter. I'm not saying we shouldn't have welfare, but clearly we need to find a way to create a safety net that also rewards instead of punishes moral and prudent behavior. Many of these people aren't getting married because if they get married they lose their benefits!
    I suppose all government spending for the common weal has a whiff of socialism about it, but the government has always had programs to help those who wanted to help themselves. In the 1800s it was the granting of homesteads. Later it was the G.I. Bill. Many businesses over the years have gotten their start with small business loans. There's a role for government to play in helping people, but too often the programs that are supposed to help end up harming society.
    Right now I'm off to that great bastion of socialism, the public library, where I plan to return a book my daughter checked out and get her another. As a government enterprise the library is about as socialistic an enterprise as there is, but most of us support our local libraries because they are available for everyone to use and they promote things which are good for society.
    That's what we need to look for in our government programs, and in most cases that's what we aren't getting.