By Clay

I went on a trip from Lookout Mountain, Georgia to Cooperstown, New York to see a handful of Braves go into the baseball Hall of Fame with my nephew.  It was an absolute blast of a trip, and one that also gave me insight into my work with ARPI.  From a scenic standpoint, it was an opportunity to basically drive up 81 and see a goodly portion of the Appalachian mountains and its surrounding communities.  At one point, 81 was closed because of terrible accident where someone lost their life.

I had to take a detour all the way out to Bedford, VA and then take 43 up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  You can’t get mad with that kind of detour.  It is an absolutely beautiful drive.  We got back on 81 near Buchanan and I was sad I couldn’t take time to walk across the totally safe-looking swinging bridge across the James River. 

But the thing that struck me the most about the trip is that my entire life I’ve always thought that the north/south divide in the US was a distinctive one.  To some degree that is true, but regardless of what side of the Mason Dixon line I was one many of the rural towns and hamlets looked the same and (in my drive-thru diagnosis) probably faced many of the same problems.  As much as this pains me as a Southerner, maybe the urban/rural divide is a greater chasm than that of the north/south.  This was well-described in an Atlantic article from a couple of years ago.

One of the main things that I want to ensure with the work that ARPI does is that the political importance of those who live “everywhere else” does not continue to erode.

Now that the trip is over and I’m back…onto our regularly scheduled blog:

Poverty is moving to the Burbs: this has been in the news for a while now but there are several interesting articles coming out on the heels of a Brookings Institution study done by Elizabeth Kneebone (who was kind enough to talk with me last fall about my goals with ARPI).  For the Chattanooga/NW Georgia “tract”--or neighborhood--there has been nearly a 50% increase in the poor population.  There are interesting takes on the study at Vox here which I might quibble with some of their suggested solutions.  Wonkblog picked up the story as well.

Simple and Effective

Not sure this would fit either description, but I’m more skeptical of the “effective” piece of it than the “simple” part.  Maybe Cooper didn’t see another article in The Week 

False Dichotomy Alert:  “Not being able to afford the water bill is not an issue of personal responsibility; it is a symbol of a much larger systematic shift that makes being poor expensive and permanent.”

 I find this debate about poverty as structural problem or individual choice tiresome.  Why must one choose a side?  With all due respect to Professor Cha, but sometimes not being able to afford the water bill is a personal responsibility issue.  That doesn’t require me to believe that structurally we are fine. Cooper brings up this false dichotomy as well.  Maybe we can split the difference and say that some structural issues sometimes exacerbate bad personal choices?

Social Impact Bonds:  Bringin’ People Together: Social impact bonds have the potential to transform our nation’s social safety net by shifting the focus of such programs from inputs to outcomes,” Young said. “In other words, instead of arguing about how much or how little we are spending, policymakers should reward what works based on actual evidence. Whether you think government ought to do more to help our fellow Americans in need, or you think government needs to save money wherever possible, social impact bonds provide a solution on both counts.”  

And here.

More from Dr. Roman:  Breaking SIBs Down into Steps

“Step one should be an effort to understand what drives the most frustrating costs to government: individuals, families, and places that cycle endlessly through our systems.

Who are these “frequent flyers” who continually touch many systems and generate disproportionately high expenses for taxpayers? Examples include:

            Kids involved in juvenile justice, child welfare, and special education.

            Adults who are chronically homeless, mentally ill, and returning from prison.

Step two is to determine why government is ineffective in treating these frequent flyers. The answer is deceptively simple: Government knows what it spends, but not what it buys. A SIB requires that the outcomes are explicit.

Step three is to determine if there are evidence-based interventions that would alleviate the problem. It’s important to remember that not every significant problem has an evidence-based solution.

For the final step, a clear-eyed decision must be made about whether SIBs are the right financing mechanism. It should be noted that SIBs are not the answer to every undercapitalized intervention.

The social innovation field is currently in an evolutionary stage, with a focus on building a SIB-ready sector, which simply means educating and experimenting across all parties involved in these transactions."

In order to get to a stage where these innovations are scaled and serve high proportions of targeted populations, a much more strategic approach is required.

ARPI is here to help develop a strategic approach to the rural South.

Anti-Poverty PlanVox gives a thoughtful analysis on Ryan’s proposal.  This kind of thoughtful debate on the subject is a good thing. 

“In short, Paul Ryan's poverty plan appears to be an attempt to change the Republican Party's view — a view driven, in large part, by Paul Ryan and his budgets — of what to do with programs for the poor. In Paul Ryan's budgets, those programs were slashed to make way for other budgetary goals. In this plan, they're reformed in order to achieve the goal of reducing poverty.”