Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Paying for things that work: government programs

My DVD player broke yesterday, and a lovely stack of wanna-see movies from the library sits unopened at its side. It's the latest assault of entropy on a household full of delayed maintenance. I should have done something when I first heard that little chugging noise. Famous hindsight words, "should have."

New players are ridiculously cheap, but this one has a VCR component too. So I'll probably save it, half-working, along with all the other half-working objects the crowd my material world.

I dream about living in a world where everything actually works as it's supposed to. Outside of fantasy, where things magically come together, that means constant work by people who know what they are doing. That, and there's no way around it, periodic infusions of cash. As Grandma said, a stitch in time saves nine, but some of us are good at ignoring early rifts and malfunctions.

The Milwaukee County Child Support system is a government program that works well, but seems in need of one of those infusions. The office sends a check for money received from the paying parent to the other parent every month at the same time. It may sound like an unnecessary step, but it means that payments are prompt and there's no wrangling about them. If the paying parent falls into arrears, the support office handles the negotiations. It's a very good thing all around, and especially for the kids who don't have to witness nagging or disputes between parents.

The program has been supported by a $65 charge to the paying parent. But according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the parent on the receiving end will now have to pay $25 a year, too.  According to the reporter, one parent hit the ceiling when she opened the letter notifying her. "It's just wrong," Sarah Willis, who said she can afford to pay it, exclaimed. "They're preying on people who are counting on this money to support their kids."

In the years I was involved with this program, the office resolved problems (with the US Postal Service, not my children's father) painlessly and swiftly. So it seems to me that $2 a month is a small price to keep those checks and emotional well-being coming. When something works, it's almost always better to invest in keeping it working than it is to toss it and start over.

It's easy to complain about government programs. But I find myself learning a lot more about them than I'd like to know, and I'm finding that two out of three work as well as you could expect programs to work, public or private. Another one that works is the state Unemployment Compensations Insurance program. I'll write about the program that doesn't work later, when my sense of humor about it returns.

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