The Least of These

You know, I’m awfully hard on Republicans, but maybe I shouldn’t be. After all, they’re coming up with some unbelievably creative, out-of-the-box solutions to the many problems we face.

Take government waste. Decadent coastal liberals like me like to point to things like the Defense Department and corporate welfare. But what about the billions our government wastes on clothing for foster children? Nary a peep. That’s why it’s great to see deep thinkers like Michigan State Sen. Bruce Caswell, R-Adams Township.

Caswell has decided to do something about those freeloading foster children. And why not? I mean, think of all the money we lavish on those kids. Aren’t we really just encouraging other kids to end up without parents, or with abusive parents? I mean, the moral hazard alone is reason enough for us to look at these high-rolling wards of the state, and their demands for “food” and “shelter” and “someone to look after them.”

Caswell’s plan is as brilliant as it is obvious: let’s stop letting foster children buy new clothes:

Foster children in Michigan would use their state-funded clothing allowance only in thrift stores under a plan suggested by State Senator Bruce Caswell.

Caswell says he wants to make sure that state money set aside to buy clothes for foster children and kids of the working poor is actually used for that purpose.

He says they should get “gift cards” to be used only at Salvation Army, Goodwill or other thrift stores.

Of course! I mean, why should foster kids get new clothes from swanky places like Target or Walmart or (gasp!) Sears when there are perfectly good clothes on the rack at the Salvation Army? Besides, it’s not like Caswell didn’t have to wear hand-me-downs when he was a kid:

“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.”

Right! And sure, those clothes may be from the 1970s, but they fit, right? No? Well, they kind of fit, right? No? Well, whatever, kid. Serves you right for picking your parents poorly. I bet they sell bootstraps at Goodwill! Let’s get you some used ones!

Of course, namby-pamby socialist communists who like Shari’a are all aflutter at this genius proposal:

“Honestly, I was flabbergasted,” [Michigan League for Human Services President Gilda] 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.”

Blah, blah, blah. You know what? If those kids wanted a pair of fancy Payless shoes, they should have been born into a stable family.

No, only a communist fascist could oppose Caswell’s proposal. My only concern is that it doesn’t go far enough. I mean, giving children used clothes? Isn’t that really just socialism? Why not gather up burlap and twine, and some scissors — no, make that razor blades, they’ll be cheaper — and have the kids make their own clothes! You know what they say, teach a man to fish, and he’ll wear poorly-made clothes.

But still…I mean, we’d be giving the kids the burlap, just like we’re giving them food and shelter. Now that I think about it, wouldn’t it be better if we just took all the foster children and set them loose in a landfill somewhere? They could forage for their own clothes and food and whatnot, and form their own societies! Why, I’ve read Oliver Twist, and if I remember, Oliver and The Artful Dodger and their friends had just a heck of a good time roaming the streets of London. And the best part is that it wouldn’t cost the state a penny!

That’s what we need to do — eliminate all social services for poor kids. It’s so perfect I can’t believe it hasn’t been pushed before. Why, it’s just like Jesus said: “I was rich, and you lowered my tax burden slightly by tormenting a poor kid. And Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine in order to make me richer, you did for me.”

This entry posted in Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Conservative zaniness, right-wingers, etc., Economics and the like. Bookmark the permalink. 

23 Responses to The Least of These

  1. 1
    Robert says:

    Your plan allows for far too much freedom. The children might engage in antisocial activities while wandering the garbage dumps.

    It would be better to organize some type of collective farm arrangement, where they could grow their own food and raise fur- and leather-bearing animals from which to make clothes. (I’d say just start a cotton farm, but Michigan is ill-suited for cotton.) Then they can sew their own clothes and save the taxpayers quite a sum.

    Some people might consider this excessive, but I like to live by a simple philosophy: give a child a match and you keep him warm for a moment, set a child on fire and you keep him warm for the rest of his life.

  2. 2
    Ben David says:

    oooooh look how sophisticated we progressives are!

    So – how about some real ideas for making sure the money actually goes to clothe children – when we know that many of their caretakers would rather spend the money on lots of other things at Target.

    … since you’re all so concerned about The Children and all.
    How about a workable, real world solution instead of sneering?

  3. 3
    Charles S says:

    Hey, I have a solution! We can just repeal the child labor laws, and then if the lousy brats want clothing, they can earn the money to buy it! Oh wait, that’s the proposal in Missouri, not Michigan.

  4. Ben David wrote:

    when we know that many of their caretakers would rather spend the money on lots of other things at Target.when we know that many of their caretakers would rather spend the money on lots of other things at Target.

    Do we know this for a fact? If so, how do we know it? (And I mean this as a serious question, asked out of my own ignorance, not simply a rhetorical one to point out that Ben David has not presented any evidence to back his claim up.)

  5. 5
    chingona says:

    when we know that many of their caretakers would rather spend the money on lots of other things at Target.

    They might like to buy lots of other things at Salvation Army, too. I know that when I go into my neighborhood Goodwill, I always come out with more than I planned on getting.

    And the gentleman from the League for Human Services has a good point about the shoes. You can get plenty of hardly worn clothes at thrift stores that aren’t from the 70s. But shoes at thrift stores are almost never in good shape.

    Instead of limiting where they can buy the clothes, maybe the foster parents could keep the receipts and show them to the social worker when they come to visit.

  6. 6
    Adrian says:

    Children are often transferred to foster parents late at night, carrying nothing (or almost nothing.) Hey, foster parent–you just got a couple of freaked out kids of elementary school age at 11pm on Saturday night. If you’re lucky, they’re dressed in something other than pajamas, wearing shoes and a coat. If you’re really lucky, somebody grabbed one change of clothes for each of them on the way out the door. It’s very, very, unlikely that they will have school clothes*…and they will need them by Monday morning.

    Thrift shops generally aren’t open Sundays. The big discount chain stores are open Sundays, and open late at night. That’s important. So is being able to buy underwear, and pajamas, and shoes that fit growing feet.

    Ben David wrote:
    So – how about some real ideas for making sure the money actually goes to clothe children – when we know that many of their caretakers would rather spend the money on lots of other things at Target.

    The traditional approach is to give foster parents much less money than it costs to support a child. If they use the Target gift card to buy laundry detergent and toys, and take their older kids’ clothes out of the attic for the foster child, I really don’t see the problem.

    *Many schools these days have uniform requirements. When I was a kid, it was mostly expensive private schools that had uniforms, but now public schools in poor neighborhoods are MORE likely to have uniforms than those in rich neighborhoods. Or, if not actual uniforms, at least dress codes that forbid denim or shirts with writing. That’s enough to make many play clothes unusable for school clothes.

  7. 7
    embergirl says:

    Here in the UK, it’s almost unheard of to have a school without uniforms (I think this is a good thing as it helps to reduce bullying, but agree that there should be some measures to help foster parents and poorer parents pay for them.)

    If Ben David’s point is valid and there are large numbers of foster parents who waste their foster kids’ clothing money on things which are not for the kids, then maybe it could work like food stamps? Give vouchers that can only spent on clothes, just as food stamps can only be spent on food, but in any shop?

    However, given what Adrian said, that seems unecessary.

  8. 8
    doubletrack says:

    Right! And sure, those clothes may be from the 1970s, but they fit, right? No? Well, they kind of fit, right? No? Well, whatever, kid. Serves you right for picking your parents poorly. I bet they sell bootstraps at Goodwill! Let’s get you some used ones!

    Brilliant.

    But, sad, really.

  9. 9
    mythago says:

    If Ben David’s point is valid and there are large numbers of foster parents who waste their foster kids’ clothing money on things which are not for the kid

    …..then “Make ‘em shop at thrift stores” is hardly a solution, is it? You’re actually applauding those neglectful foster parents. Hey, if the kid has worn-out shoes and shirts with holes, it’s not their fault, that’s all Goodwill had, y’know?

    Ben David’s knee is just jerking because Jeff is picking on a Republican. The “modest proposal” imagines that state resources are going to buy foster children $200 blouses at Nordstrom or something and the law is needed to rein them in. Besides this being complete bullshit, it would require another layer of state bureaucracy and monitoring to implement…..which costs money. But hey, what’s a little big government and more spending if it gets to pick on poor people?

  10. 10
    Dianne says:

    So – how about some real ideas for making sure the money actually goes to clothe children – when we know that many of their caretakers would rather spend the money on lots of other things at Target.

    How about not allowing people whom you don’t trust to spend the money meant to clothe foster children on other things (presumably you mean things that don’t benefit the child) to foster children? If you’ve already trusted them with a traumatized, vulnerable child, why worry about whether you can trust them with $30 a month or whatever “generous” allowance for clothing Michigan gives? Conversely, if you think they’re such crooks that you can’t trust them with enough money to buy cheap sneakers, you’d be absolutely out of your mind to trust them with a child.

  11. 11
    Elusis says:

    Let’s also notice that this policy would disproportionately punish fat kids, and to some degree, very tall, short, or thin kids, whose sizes may be hard or impossible to find at thrift stores. It would also prevent kids from getting not only school uniforms or uniform-compliant clothing, if such didn’t happen to be in stock at the nearest Goodwill in their size, but athletic wear (often a uniform, certainly athletic shoes in the right size) required for gym class. Which of course makes it hard to fight the Obesiteez, OMG.

    There are also other things that may be required for participation at school – backpacks to conform to certain standards (some schools require them to be clear or mesh so weapons can’t be concealed), clothing for school color days, uniforms for sports and cheerleading, clothing for band or choir performances, clothing for school plays, and on and on. I can remember many nights going from store to store trying to find something in the right size that fit our (single-parent teacher) household budget. Being limited to a thrift store would have meant sitting out most of the time.

  12. 12
    La Lubu says:

    What Adrian said.

    I live in a mid-size midwestern city. The thrift shops in my city have hours designed to accommodate retirees and the unemployed—they’re closing their doors around the same time most people are getting off work and picking up their kids. Most foster parents in my city are working parents, and are thus limited in what hours they have to shop. Also, most of those foster parents are working class people, so taking a day off of work to go shop while the kids are in school means going without pay for those hours—that’s too much to ask from people who are already doing the hard job of caring for these kids.

    I think it’s also important to realize that not all thrift stores have a wide selection of clothes. What you find in a city like mine is far different from what you’d find in thrift stores with a higher tax base, or in a college town. This is the midwest, people. “Thrift” here means keeping it at home, or giving it to a friend if it doesn’t work for you. There isn’t much of value in the thrift stores here. And I guarantee you there isn’t any polo shirts or khakis for kids in any thrift store here (I’ve looked. My daughter is entering middle school in the fall, and all middle schools in my city require polos and khakis as the uniform).

    Usable clothing at area thrift stores here consists of: baby and toddler clothes, various shirts for elementary-age children (very few pants; young children tend to grind dirt into the knees or put holes in them), women’s sizes 14-18 (so if you’re smaller or larger than that, you’re screwed—also: never any women’s blue jeans at any size), and lots of men’s formal wear (the result of widows cleaning out the closet). Oh, and around wintertime, there are plenty of well-worn winter coats, if you don’t mind some ground-in dirt on the sleeves or obvious signs of wear at the collars and cuffs.

    Honestly, all these “just go to the thrift store” people make me ill. Which thrift stores have they been to—the ones in Beverly Hills?

  13. 13
    Mandolin says:

    I shopped out of thrift stores as a teen. I hated the department store selections in my size, or rather didn’t even realize I could go anywhere but Macy’s, and thrift stores had all sortsa long flowy skirts & stuff from previous decades.

    It took a *lot* of time. I don’t do it now–probably won’t ever do it again–because I like my time more than I liked the clothes I got out of it. I don’t think people are realizing how many more hours it takes to shop in a thrift store, at least if you’re not the size of most people donating clothes. In the bay area, it was NOT size 14-18 that abounded.

    Also, in the bay area, the goodwills were often stocked with the castaways from department stores that were A) pricy compared to the other clothes, and B) overrepresented sizes 2-8.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    The inventory of a thrift store is not as closely linked to demand as the inventory of a regular store. If a regular store sees a big increase in its business (say, the government says “all poor people must buy their clothes from Target”), Target can simply order more of whatever sizes it needs from the factory. But a thrift store gets its stuff from donations, and can’t simply order more of what’s needed.

    Which brings up a question: What happens when the thrift stores simply run out of clothing in a needed size?

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    oooooh look how sophisticated we progressives are!

    Wow, you really have zero respect for this site’s rules. Consider this a warning.

    Look, dude: This is a progressive website. The people here are progressives. Over the top sneering at progressives — not just at some progressive politician or columnist, mind you, but specifically sneering at the progressives who are here on this site — is unlikely to create worthwhile discussion here.

    So – how about some real ideas for making sure the money actually goes to clothe children – when we know that many of their caretakers would rather spend the money on lots of other things at Target.

    How do we know this? Seriously, did someone do a study?

    Regulation has costs. In general, the less you regulate how people spend money, the more efficient transactions will be. The more you regulate it, the more you’ll be piling on costs to the transaction.

    Sometimes that’s worthwhile, of course. I think it’s worthwhile to have health and safety regulations regarding certain products, for instance, even though that does add expense to the transaction. But regarding the buying of clothes, I’d really like to see some evidence before I favor the conservative nanny-state solutions that Jeff is criticizing.

  16. 16
    embergirl says:

    Honestly, all these “just go to the thrift store” people make me ill. Which thrift stores have they been to—the ones in Beverly Hills?

    I doubt Beverly Hills has thrift stores.

    And I apologise for my earlier comment – I was trying too hard to sympathise with an adversary and not hard enough to defend foster kids.

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    The people here are progressives.

    Hey, speak for yourself, comrade! :P

  18. 18
    Ruchama says:

    Also, many thrift stores are run by churches or religious groups. When I cleaned out my closet a few months ago and had some stuff to donate, it took me a little while to find one to donate to that didn’t have some sort of “Your donation will help bring people to Jesus!” thing on their web page.

  19. 19
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    A lot of the rules make no sense. I know a foster parent and heard about the lack of stuff for kids who came through the center. So I collected a lot of (nice, clean, washed, unstained, recent) clothes and toys from my kids, and put them into bags, all ready to donate to the “grab some things for yourself, kids” shelf. But then she and I found out they would only take new things, not used.

    Seriously. And I’m not talking about giving away rags, I’m talking about “got a nice dress as a gift from an aunt that didn’t really fit, worn for a total of 4 hours” kind of clothes. It was pretty frustrating.

  20. 20
    mythago says:

    Possibly the center didn’t have the staff or time to sort through used clothes to determine which were “still good” and which were not, especially since one person’s interpretation of “still good” might not match the centers. (“But Aunt Petunia only wore it for four hours!” Yes, and the dress still smells like Aunt Petunia.) And possibly they wanted to make sure that the foster kids got something new for once in their lives.

  21. 21
    Bbrugger says:

    I want State Senator Caswell to do a simple little experiment as a sign of goodwill.

    I want *him* to clothes shop only at thrift stores and wear only his thrift store finds for- what’s a reasonable period of time? Let’s say one year, though many children spend longer than that in the foster system. No excuses, now, surely his colleagues and constituents wouldn’t DREAM of looking down on someone or judging them based on their clothing.

    For extra brownie points he could limit himself to the same budget he’s proposing the foster children’s caretakers will have for clothing. No fair ekeing it out with money from his salary or saving from his food budget by packing a lunch to buy that special shirt for the school concert! And it’s nonsensical and squeamish to insist on underwear that is bought new. Lead by example, Mr. Caswell.

    Honestly, how hard is it to grasp the concept that being poor is not a freaking character flaw?

  22. 22
    MisterMephisto says:

    Dianne said:

    How about not allowing people whom you don’t trust to spend the money meant to clothe foster children on other things (presumably you mean things that don’t benefit the child) to foster children? If you’ve already trusted them with a traumatized, vulnerable child, why worry about whether you can trust them with $30 a month or whatever “generous” allowance for clothing Michigan gives? Conversely, if you think they’re such crooks that you can’t trust them with enough money to buy cheap sneakers, you’d be absolutely out of your mind to trust them with a child.

    Yeah. This.

    I mean, really? We’re handing over children to them, but we can’t trust them with money?

    Bbrugger said:

    Honestly, how hard is it to grasp the concept that being poor is not a freaking character flaw?

    Clearly impossible, at least until we stop electing our representatives from only the richest part of the population.

  23. 23
    Ledasmom says:

    Undoubtedly it wouldn’t pass constitutional muster, but it’d be pretty damn interesting if only people whose income was in the bottom 10% could run for Congress.
    There would be much gaming of the system. Still, it would be fun.