Thursday, June 30, 2005

Article: Special Relativity

Today is the 100th anniversary of Einstein's theory of special relativity. The net impact of this theory was to allow science fiction and fantasy characters to travel through time by mentioning it and the words "parallel universe" in the same sentence. Also, it apparently revolutionized physics or something.

Hat tip to Wikipedia and Slashdot.

Statistics: Wefare Reauthorization

I'm reposting, verbatim, the excellent testimony of Dr. Lawrence Mead on the subject of welfare reform.

Here's the low-down: When cash welfare for single moms was changed in 1996 from an entitlement to a work based, temporary benefit (the program is now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF), it was hugely successful. The economy was good, more single mothers were moved into work, poverty and the number of TANF cases went down.

But now that the economy is weak, poverty is up, and the remaining TANF cases are those that face much more serious barriers. So possible solutions are much more difficult. One of the biggest barriers to serious reform is the lack of reliable welfare data, driven by the fact that the enforcement mechanism for moving cases into work, the work participation rate (like most government statistics) is a Rube Goldberg machine of exceptions, credits, exclusions, etc. What you see is as a simple percentage is really a bizzare smoke and mirros misrepresentation.

work participation rate

A diagram of how the work participation rate is calculated.

This testimony outlines the major problems of TANF reform and the work participation rate. If you're a welfare geek (like I am) it is indespensible. To everyone else, I imagine it will be impregnable reading. Sorry, but I don't have the time right now to write an annotated version...

The Reauthorization of TANF:
Work and Child Care Provisions

Testimony of Lawrence M. Mead
before the
Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness
Committee on Education and the Workforce
U.S. House of Representatives
109th Congress, 1st session

Department of Politics
New York University
726 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

March 15, 2005

I am a Professor of Politics at New York University and a longtime student of welfare reform. I’ve written several books on the subject, most recently a study of welfare reform in Wisconsin. I appreciate this chance to testify on the work and child care provisions of H.R. 240, which would reauthorize Temporary Assistance for Needy Families( TANF).

The Success of Reform

Welfare reform is unquestionably a success. Since their height in 1994, the rolls in AFDC/TANF have plummeted by over 60 percent. The overall poverty rate fell from 14.5 percent in 1994 to 11.3 percent in 2000, before rising to 12.5 percent in 2003 due to the recent recession. For children, the equivalent figures are 21.8, 16.2, and 17.6 percent. These gains are less dramatic than the caseload fall but still notable. Other research establishes that the noneconomic effects of reform on families and children have also largely been positive.

Most analysts think that the main force behind these gains was that work levels among poor heads of family rose. In 1993, only 44 percent of poor female heads with children were employed, only 9 percent full-year and full-time. These figures rose by 1999 to 64 and 17 percent, before ebbing to 55 and 16 percent in 2003. Like the caseload fall, the work gains reflected TANF’s stiffer work requirements as well as good economic conditions and new subsidies for wages and child care. Yet most studies conclude that welfare reform was the most important of these forces.

The new work requirements diverted many families into jobs who might previously have gone on aid. Under JOBS, the predecessor of TANF, the share of AFDC cases meeting work participation norms rose from 22 percent in 1994 to 33 percent in 1996. Under TANF, much more of the caseload was made mandatory for work and the hours demanded increased, yet the work participation rate still rose from 31 percent in 1997 to 34 percent in 2000, before falling to 33 percent by 2002. By a broader measure, 19 percent of cases were active in 1994, rising to 43 percent in 2001. While the majority of cases were not yet meeting the work test, the pressure to work was sufficient to transform welfare in much of the country, at least in the conditions of the last decade.

The ideal in welfare reform is to link benefits as tightly as possible to work. That requires a clear work test that employable recipients must meet as soon as they apply for aid, not sometime later. Equally important, there must be ample benefits to support working, particularly child and health care. That combination was realized most fully in Wisconsin, the subject of my recent book. For that reason, the Badger State achieved almost the greatest caseload fall in the country as well as almost the highest work participation rate—69 percent in 2002.

Reauthorization should maintain pressure on states to move the remaining recipients toward work. That in my view mainly requires fixing problems in TANF that have shielded many recipients from a need to work at all. Raising formal work standards should be secondary. I close with some shorter comments about child care.

Fixing Problems in TANF

Recently, due to shortcomings in the original law, some states have found ways evade TANF’s work demands. Some of these problems are addressed by H.R. 240, but some are not.

Caseload fall credit

TANF demanded that states raise the share of their cases where adults were in work activities by increments, until 50 percent were so engaged by 2002. But the law also allowed states to count against those targets any percent by which their caseloads fell after 1995. Because the fall was unexpectedly great, the credit cut the standards states had to meet to trivial levels. In 2002, the threshold was zero for twenty states. In that year, all states met these reduced standards, but only twelve states would have met the original 50 percent norm, only five of them without benefit of a waiver (see further below). The national participation rate reached only 34 percent in 2000, in 2002 33 percent.

The credit adds complexity, making monitoring the states more difficult. Most important, it is duplicitous, reducing the actual work standard states have to meet far below what TANF claims to the world. The case for the credit is also weak. When PRWORA was drafted in 1995-6, some states feared that rapid caseload fall might drive the most employable cases off the rolls first, making it impossible to meet the new work participation levels on the rolls. The credit allowed states, in effect, to get work credit for the decline itself. This was plausible in TANF’s early years, when massive diversion occurred and work levels soared off the rolls. It is less plausible today, when the caseload has changed little for several years and work levels off welfare have drifted down. The main task now is no longer to divert people from welfare but to make cases already on the rolls more active. To do that, TANF’s original activity norms must finally be enforced.

To that end, H.R. 240 would replace the current credit benchmarked on 1995 with one based on the four previous years. The Senate bill has an employment credit. While both versions improve on current law, they are still complicated and misleading. I would rather omit the credits and offset this by keeping, rather than raising, the 50 percent work participation norm (see further below).


Another major limitation of TANF is that it allowed states to sanction cases only partially if they failed to fulfill work requirements. A dozen states fail to end grants even in the face of open-ended noncompliance. Among these are California and New York, which have the largest caseloads, comprising 31 percent of the national caseload in 2002. In these states, reform cannot be fully implemented because much of the caseload is allowed to defy the work test. In New York City, 31 percent of the employable cases cannot be engaged because they are tied up in sanction status or in adjudication that may lead to sanctions.

H.R. 240 would mandate a full-family sanction for cases that defied activity requirements for two months or more. The Senate bill, I am told, has no such clause. It is essential, in the eventual conference, that the House insist on its provision.

Child-only cases

An emerging crisis in welfare is that more and more of the caseload is made up of “child-only” cases. These are cases where the children receive assistance but not the caretaker. The share of AFDC/TANF cases including no adult was under 10 percent in 1988, but by 2001 it had soared to 37 percent. While there is little applicable research, many of the caretakers in these cases are thought to be aliens. Their children are American-born and thus eligible for aid, but they are not, either because they are legal aliens disqualified by PRWORA or because they are illegal. By this route TANF helps to finance illegal immigration. That is reason enough to address the problem. But what is relevant here is that these cases are not subject to TANF’s time limits or work requirements.

Under AFDC, the caretaker in a child-only case could not be the biological parent; commonly, it was another relative who took charge of children when the parent was incarcerated or incapacitated. But this restriction ended with TANF. Recently, some states have begun to classify some cases as child-only even when the biological parent is still present. This allows them to exempt these cases from the work test or time limits and still draw TANF funding for them.

The child-only “out” must be ended. One option is to restore the AFDC ruling that excluded biological parents as caretakers in such cases. This would force these parents back into regular TANF, where they would face the usual work test and time limits. Another option would be to expand eligibility to cover some alien caretakers, who in turn would face normal work tests and time limits. A third option is to bring these cases under the work tests indirectly, by including them in the denominator for the work participation rate calculation. This would put force states either to limit child-only cases or to enforce work more strongly on the rest of TANF.

The idea that only the children receive support in these cases is a fiction. Now that family welfare is a work-based program, it is inappropriate for TANF to fund cases where no adult shares responsibility for the family through employment. In Wisconsin, such reasoning led the state to exclude from TANF (the state’s W-2 system) cases where the adult was unemployable or not legally responsible for the child. These families were diverted to separate programs based on SSI or kinship care. Those programs still draw TANF funding but are closely controlled and have not undercut W-2. Through reauthorization, TANF must work toward the same outcome nationwide.

Separate state programs

Similar abuses have arisen in connection with separate state programs (SSP). These are programs that states run for cases that they cannot support on TANF. Of these cases, 64 percent are in California. That state and some others use SSP mainly to support two-parent cases. The reason is to escape the very high work participation standard—currently 90 percent—that TANF demands for these families. Other states use SSP to support aliens ineligible for TANF. New York uses SSP to support the many cases that go beyond TANF’s five-year limit due to the state’s weak sanctions. In New York City, these cases comprise 40 percent of family aid.

SSP is another “out” from the work test. The problem is smaller than with child-only. Just 84,697 families were on SSP in 2001, or 4 percent of the TANF caseload in that year, although the programs have grown recently by some accounts. SSP is also less abusive than child-only, because the programs do not draw TANF funding directly. However, states’ SSP spending counts toward their maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements, so the programs are indirectly part of TANF.

One solution is to end the special work participation target for two-parent cases, as H.R. 240 proposes. This would remove the largest impetus behind SSP. Another choice, as with child-only, would be to include these programs in the denominator for the work participation rate calculation. This again would force states to limit the programs or else enforce work more seriously in TANF.


A final out is the waiver programs run by some states. These were experimental approaches to aid that many states initiated prior to PRWORA, and then were allowed to continue afterward. In the AFDC era, these programs usually toughened work requirements beyond what was then permitted by normal federal rules. Since PRWORS, however, they have done the opposite. Typically, the programs exempt more of the caseload and expect less effort to fulfill the work test than would be allowed under TANF. Massachusetts, for instance, exempts parents with children under age 6, allows indefinite job search to count as a work activity, and demands only twenty hours of activity weekly. In contrast, TANF exempts only parents with children under 1 at state option, limits job search to six weeks a year, and demands thirty hours of effort a week.

In 2002, fifteen states ran waiver programs, and in every case the program recorded higher work participation rates than they would have under regular TANF rules. Only one of these states would have met TANF’s original 50 percent norm for 2002 (in advance of the caseload fall credit) without its waiver. Seven others met that standard only with the waiver. The remaining seven fell below 50 percent even with the waiver.

The solution is to phase out waiver programs. H.R. 240 would forbid their renewal. I understand the Senate bill is unclear. Again, the House should insist on its provision.

Raising Work Standards

I would be more cautious about raising TANF’s formal work standards than in fixing the above problems. The Bush Administration’s proposals and H.R. 240 embody some good ideas, but in some case they overreach.

Full engagement

Both the Administration and H.R. 240 require“ universal engagement,” and I support this, but the meaning has to be clear. The basic idea is that recipients cannot ignore the work test. They must enroll in the work program and enter its activities when they first go on aid. What that requires has to be defined clearly in the law or, perhaps, in regulations. H.R. 240 would require that each case have a “self-sufficiency” plan, but this might easily become mere paperwork. More meaningful might be to require actual participation in some activity such as orientation or job search.

Work participation standards

The Administration has recommended raising the all-family work participation target from 50 to 70 percent of the caseload. H.R. 240 and the Senate bill would both do so. On its face, this is too ambitious. Seventy percent is more than double the national participation rate actually achieved in 2002, only 33 percent. A real activity rate of half the caseload is probably as much as most states can achieve, given the practical difficulties of getting welfare mothers out of their homes and into programs or jobs. Wisconsin’s W-2 program achieves rates above 60 percent only through intense case management and lavish support services. Most other states are not yet capable of this.

As if realizing the difficulties, the current bills would offset the 70 percent target with many credits and exemptions, including the modified caseload fall or employment credits. These would reduce the effective rate that states had to achieve to something like the current 50 percent. I would rather keep the 50 percent, phase it in over several years, and omit the credits and exemptions. That would be more honest and also more effective, because it would make clearer what was expected.

Required hours

The Administration and H.R. 240 would also raise the weekly hours of activity required to qualify a case as active from the current 30 (35 for two-parent cases) to 40. Hours required of actual work within this total wold rise from 20 to 24. As above, however, the rise would be more apparent than real because the activities that count as work would also be broadened. The hours between 16 and 40 would now be more loosely regulated, with previous curbs on vocational education eliminated. And for three months out of every 24, clients could go into full-time substance abuse treatment or other remediation. States would also get pro rata credit for hours worked short of 40.

Again, it would be better to expect fewer hours but have the demands be real. It is unrealistic to expect an actual work week of 40 hours from poor single mothers. Even Wisconsin, with its intense administration, could not achieve this. In W-2., in practice, for most of the caseload the demand fell to 30 hours of actual work, usually in a community service job, with perhaps some education or training on the side. New York City has constructed an effective program combining 20 hours of public service employment with 15 hours of job search or training for most recipients. While most localities will prefer unsubsidized employment to government jobs, this general approach is sound.

I would keep TANF’s current 30- or 35-hour standard for overall activity, its 20 hours for actual work, and its current rules for “creditable” work activities. Omit the pro rata credit. To raise expected hours simply generates unjustified demands for increased child care funding (see below).

H.R. 240 would calculate a state’s work participation rate using the total number of countable hours worked per month, rather than the number of families meeting the participation standard. This would simplify the calculation of the pro rata credit, but it would probably concentrate hours worked on fewer cases. The number of families actually participating could be reduced. Since the goal of reauthorization should be to broaden the reach of the work test, this would be a step backwards.

Permissible work activities

Under existing law, recipients can go to school and receive work participation credit for no more than one year, and the share of recipients meeting the work test this way is capped at 30 percent. H.R. 240 would restrict educational programs to four months but remove the 30 percent cap. The Senate bill would allow longer educational programs than before, in some cases even four-year college. Both of these changes would probably lead to a higher share of the caseload meeting the work test through education than before.

This would be a mistake. It would take welfare work policy back toward the era of the Family Support Act and JOBS, when most recipients were allowed to substitute school or training for actual employment. Evaluations demonstrated that “work first” was a better strategy. The fact that many recipients today are more disadvantaged than those who left the rolls earlier does not change this verdict; they, too, are likely to profit most from actual work. To allow recipient to turn welfare into a college scholarship also offends equity, since many of the taxpayers who pay for welfare lack the same opportunity. On both grounds, TANF should continue to stress work first. I would keep current rules on permissible work activities.

Performance standards

H.R. 240 would have states define their own performance measures for TANF. I find this unrealistic. Not all states can do this well. The resulting measures would also not be comparable across the country, making holding states accountable more difficult. The dangers are illustrated by school reform, where No Child Left Behind has allowed states to define their own tests for student performance. Coupled with tough federal standards, the result has been chaos.

Welfare reform should do the opposite: Let states choose goals, but control measures centrally. The objectives could include employment outcomes, such as job entries, wages, or job retention, but also reduction in poverty or nonmarital births. Up a point, states could state their own mix of objectives. But the definitions and indicators themselves should be developed nationally. It would then be clearer what states were doing and how they compared to one another. To draft indicators may require a regulatory process, but the new TANF legislation should authorize it.

Child Care

Whether child care funding is adequate for welfare reform has become a major issue in TANF reauthorization. Advocates contend that funding is insufficient to achieve the higher work participation rates contemplated in both the House and Senate bills. As now written, neither bill would raise those levels as much as appears. If my recommendations were followed, work levels would rise somewhat more, but I still think planned funding would be sufficient.

Federal funding for child care across all programs rose from $8.9 billion to $14.1 billion from 1994 to 1999, or by 60 percent. And this increase occurred in the face of sharply declining welfare caseloads. I have seen no systematic evidence that lack of child care has impeded states’ ability to move recipients off welfare and into jobs. Arguments to the contrary are unpersuasive.

Critics charge that only a minority of families leaving welfare have claimed the subsidized child care that is offered to them. But this is probably because they do not need or want it, not because they cannot get it. Critics also note that there are long waiting lists for subsidized care, and only 15 percent of eligibles received subsidized care under the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) in 1999. But child care is a normal market good. Most of it is bought and sold privately, not provided through government. To provide a subsidy lowers the cost to consumers and raises demand; hence the waiting lines. But the fact that people seek a subsidy does not establish that they cannot afford child care without it, let alone that they cannot find care at all.

It is true that states have found CCDBG funding insufficient to meet demand. In 2002, $3.7 billion in federal TANF money was spent either directly on child care or transferred to CCDBG for that purpose. On the other hand, over 1997-2001, states spent only $62 billion of $81 billion in total federal TANF grants. It is thus implausible to say that they have done all they can to fund child care and that large funding increases are needed.

While certainty is elusive, the $1 billion increase in funding contemplated by H.R. 240 is probably enough to cover the child care needs of single mothers leaving welfare. One can argue for more money only if one posits other goals, such as providing more subsidized care to families already off welfare or improving child care quality. Those aims might be valuable, but they go well beyond the needs of welfare reform. Reauthorization should not be held hostage to them.


Welfare reform has succeeded largely by enforcing work requirement on more of the caseload than under previous law. Reauthorization should expand the reach of the work test until, in every state, aid to needy families is closely tied to employment by the parents.

The main challenge now is not to raise formal work demands but to overcome the weaknesses in TANF that have allowed much of the caseload in some states to escape the work test entirely. If we do that, there will be little need to raise work standards. The logic is the same as in tax reform: Broaden the base to which requirements apply, and what is demanded can be quite modest.

To make work standards more transparent is also important. The caseload began to fall in 19994, well before TANF was even enacted, let alone implemented. It was driven as much by politics as by formal requirements. Due to the debates over welfare, recipients got a message that work would now be expected of them. Many then went to work and left the rolls before welfare told them to. But to maintain that pressure, recipients and the public alike must understand what welfare demands. The rules under TANF are already complicated. H.R. 240 as now written would make them more so. Let us instead seek simplicity and clarity. Let us seek a more definite and more certain work test rather than a tougher one.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Distraction: Getting around DC

The DC Metro system was designed to do one thing, get suburbanites into DC to work, and then them home again.

Looking at a map of they system, you can see that all of the Metro lines go into and out of the city in a bizzarre, somewhat racially segregated, snake-pit like, spoke-hub model. It is also hampered by the fact that it closes at midnight on Sunday-Thursday and 3am on Friday and Saturday. (But I guess if I want to go out all night I should move back to NY. Washington is the city that sleeps).

Driving around DC is the stupidest thing you could possibly do. I don't own a car, and when I did, I would often leave it parked outside of the city at a friend's place or a Metro parking lot, for use only on the weekends to see friends in the suburbs or up north. Not only is our traffic among the worst in the world, parking in DC is extremely limited, and where it does exist, it makes your brain explode when you try and decipher it:

The Metro sucks at getting people from one part of the city to another part of the city...

Large portions of the city have no Metro stop, and getting across town requires you to go through the Gallery Place/Metro Center hub, adding 5-45 minutes to your travels. (You can get from one suburb to another connected suburb, but bring your copy of War and Peace or some other large Russian novel to read).

Having said that, I have to confess that I love our Metro compared to every other subway system I've been on (about a dozen). Our basic getting from point A to point B problem has gotten much easier to cope with over time, as the above-ground city has basically redesigned itself to fit on top of the Metro system. People find a job and a place to go out and drink/do stuff, and then they pick a place to live on a Metro line of whatever color connects those two places. In response, developers have built virtually all of the new places to work, live, and do stuff are built within walking distance of a Metro stop.

In addition, the city has begun to add color coded bus routes that run every 5-10 minutes along short, badly needed routes. The blue bus runs the circuit from Rosslyn to Dupont and from GWU to Georgetown. The red bus runs across downtown from Georgetown to Union Station (hitting most of the hot spots in-between), and a less useful route from the new convention center to the SW waterfront. Taken together, the blue and red busses, along with the old, sometimes helpful but mind bogglingly complex, counter-intuitive, and always late-running metrobus system, getting around the city is getting much better.

Having said that, I have an odd feeling that the Metro gods will smite me with a 45 minute delay on the Orange line when I go commute to work tomorrow, most likely because of single tracking or an electrical problem, or a clan war between the malfunctioning elevators and escalators or some such, simply to make my praise for the system ironic.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Supreme Court Happenings

Lots of important legal news today coming out of the Supreme Court. Below is my completely non-legal summary and analysis of what happened:

The government cannot display the 10 commandments publicly. This is really bad for the granite and engraving industries.

Grockster (and by extension, Kazaa, Gnutella, Blogtorrent, the old Napster, et al) is illegal. If you're using it, you're committing a crime, and its a crime to develop tools to help people do it. In other news, the FBI has begun a crackdown on people who make rockin' 80's mix tapes for their girlfriend.

High speed internet access providers do not have to provide service to their competitors - which is unlike telephones - AT&T owns most telephone lines, but they are forced to rent them to their competitors so that there is competition in phone service. Stealing wi-fi from your neighbor without a firewall is still ok though.

The Court turned away appeals from jailed reporters who refused to give up their confidential sources. This means that there is no federal recognition of reporter's privilege, unlike Catholic priests who listen to you in confessional. This is a bad for whistle blowers, who will be far less likely to step forward and leak fraud/corruption/Watergate - but sorta understandable, since my pastor never announced my sins in the church bulletin.

Chief Justice Rehnquist does not die/retire.

You can get a much better analysis at SCOTUSblog, which is where I read all of this. The people at SCOTUS blog, who live blogged these decisions, are just plain phenomenal.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Washington Post Accidentally Kills/Retires Chief Justice Rehnquist

I'm reposting the below verbatim from fishbowlDC who picked it up from Phillyblog Fables of the Reconstruction, because to inside the Beltway wonks like me, its just that funny. As anyone who has ever worked at a major news organization knows, the biographies and obituaries of all major media figures (celebrities, popes, politicians, sports stars, etc.) are kept on file, just in case they happen to die or cause a major media event, and the story needs to be written and published online instantaneously. These "canned stories" usually leak out via the internet though, because people still haven't learned how to master the "send/receive" button on their Outlook (or in this case, their RSS feed).

Post Accidentally Kills/Retires Rehnquist

In one of those embarrassing gaffes that happen from time-to-time, the Washington Post yesterday accidentally moved its "William Rehnquist Dies/Retires" package over its RSS feeds.

While the stories themselves didn't show up and weren't posted, two stories and their ledes were readable by RSS subscribers. The headline on one article by Charles Lane read, "William Rehnquist Retires/Dies" and led with an anecdote from his days in grade school, another read "Rehnquist: A Justice's Journey," and a third was a round-up of key Rehnquist decisions.


Guess someone over at is still learning about this new-fangled "really simple syndication" stuff.

Thanks to Philly blog Fables of the Reconstruction for the a screenshot.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Article: Marriage Therapy

Part of my job is to (attempt to) know everything about marriage and divorce statistics, as well as programs, laws, and other government stuff that pertains to marriage. This article is a good summary of one of the big internal debates that's going on in the "marriage community."

Hearts divide over marital therapy
By Sharon Jayson

Couples who are trying to patch up a troubled union often turn to counseling as a last-ditch effort to keep the marriage intact. That's what marital therapy is all about, right?

Not necessarily.

Most couples probably don't know that there is a long-standing debate among practitioners over whether therapists should actively try to save a marriage or whether they should remain neutral and treat the couple as two individuals for whom divorce possibly could be the best outcome.

William Doherty, a veteran marriage and family therapist at the University of Minnesota, is among those who take the marriage-saving view. He believes therapists have been too neutral, particularly since the 1970s, and have focused on the individual. He blames the period for the trend that he believes has rendered therapists so neutral that they are sabotaging marriages.

He also is among those who say that too many therapists aren't sufficiently trained to counsel couples and that the profession isn't regulated consistently, so consumers don't really know what they are getting.

So this week, Doherty is launching a therapist-finder registry called the National Registry of Marriage Friendly Therapists ( It is designed to weed out those whose skills don't meet his standards. And his list will include only therapists who sign a values statement supporting marriage and vowing to seek consultation if the therapist believes the couple is moving toward a premature divorce.

"The registry is about training and competence and about values, because most couples assume the therapist is pro-marriage, but many therapists feel they have to be neutral," he says. "The values thing comes into play when there seems to be a discrepancy between somebody's personal happiness and their commitment to the marriage."

Doherty is well respected in his field and has 30 years of clinical experience, has written several books and serves on the boards of family therapy journals. But his brainchild is stirring up controversy among his peers and probably will be much-discussed at the ninth annual Smart Marriages conference, which begins Thursday in Dallas. More than 2,000 therapists, researchers, clergy members and others will spend the next few days discussing research on marriage and marriage education initiatives.

Other counselor-finding services already exist, most notably those provided by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and the American Psychological Association. People use these services to find a therapist or check the credentials of someone to whom they have been referred. Michael Bowers, AAMFT's executive director, says his organization's locator service, which began five years ago, receives 5,000 hits a month.

"Word of mouth can be great if you have people you're willing to share such information with. The key thing on the Internet is to find what's reliable."

Some therapists question the need for an additional service. The fact that Doherty is calling his list "marriage-friendly" irks others, who say it suggests some therapists are biased in favor of divorce. Still others are concerned about what they see as an underlying conservative message with the name and the values statement.

"I don't know of any body of research that suggests therapists who sign a values statement are going to be better at keeping couples together than those who don't sign a values statement," says Alan Hovestadt, a professor of family therapy at Western Michigan University and AAMFT president.

And David Schnarch, who directs the Marriage & Family Health Center in Evergreen, Colo., disagrees with Doherty's assessment of his peers. "Certainly, there was a period in the '60s and '70s where there was tremendous focus on individual growth at the expense of relationships," he says. "But to position marital therapists as doing that is completely inaccurate."

These underlying differences could be brought to the forefront with Doherty's registry as prominent names line up on both sides.

Sue Johnson, a psychology professor at the University of Ottawa in Ontario who directs the Ottawa Couple and Family Institute, is among those lending support as an adviser.

John Gottman, a Seattle-based researcher and trainer and an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Washington, refuses to be listed on this or other professional registries. He maintains that credentials alone can't determine whether a therapist can be recommended.

Johnson's backing is based on the fact that the Web site "encourages the public to be educated consumers and seek out therapists who they know support marriage."

Still, she has a few qualms.

"I assume most trained therapists are pro-marriage," she says. "It seems to me that most marital therapists don't get trained in it if they don't see value in marriage."

Still, Doherty refers to the registry as "values-oriented but not faith-based" for a reason: "This is making a statement about marriage as a lifetime relationship."

He and Kathleen Wenger, a clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist who teaches psychology at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., are co-founders of the privately owned company that operates the online registry. Unlike other therapist locators, clients of this registry will complete a post-therapy evaluation, which will appear online.

"There are a lot of people who are trained and good at this work, and there are just a lot more who are not, and the consumer doesn't know where to turn," Doherty says.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, marriage and family therapy has grown from an estimated 1,800 in 1966 to almost 50,000 specialists. An additional estimated 25,000 mental health professionals also may counsel couples.

Therapists are licensed in all states but Delaware, Montana and West Virginia, where anyone can call himself a marital and family therapist.

Doherty says the bigger issue is that credentials and training vary widely between those who specialize in marital and family therapy and others in the mental health field, such as social workers, pastoral counselors, psychiatrists and psychologists, all of whom have been licensed but who may have minimal training in marriage and family therapy.

In the past 15 years, demand for couples therapy has increased just as attention has shifted toward improving relationships, Johnson says. Fifteen years ago, "you didn't have Dr. Phil on TV talking about relationships, and you didn't have all the books talking about relationships."

The therapist association estimates that slightly more than 3% of the nation's 57.3 million married couples have seen a marriage and family therapist or a mental health professional for marital problems in the past year. The average cost is about $80 for an hour's session.

Doherty's registry is free to consumers but costs $200 a year for therapists, who will each have a Web page listing their training and credentials. A copy of the license will be required before a therapist is listed.

Norman Epstein, a psychologist and professor in marital studies at the University of Maryland, is unsure whether he will accept Doherty's invitation to participate. He says he is "supportive of the goal but a little concerned about the values that could be read into it." He says he's also concerned that the registry seems to exclude committed couples who aren't legally married.

Despite an array of differences, therapists do agree that couples have a better chance of preserving the marriage if they don't wait to seek help. Often, they say couples wait years before facing their problems and seeking counseling.

"Studies show for a good number of couples, couples therapy is helpful and does improve their relationships," Epstein says. "If you get a reasonable percentage of couples who start out distressed and come out relatively happy, that's saying something."

Who's doing marital therapy?

Many types of therapists and mental health professionals do marriage counseling. State licensing and training varies by specialty:

Marital therapist: Master's degree and course work in marriage and family therapy, as well as a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised training with clients before being licensed.

Psychologist: Ph.D. in clinical psychology from an accredited university; licensing criteria vary by state, including number of hours of course work and supervised clinical training.

Clinical social worker: Master's degree in social work from an accredited school of social work; at least two years of post-degree supervised clinical experience required for state licensing.

Pastoral counselor: Master's degree in the fields of social work, professional counseling, marriage and family therapy or psychology, as well as theological training (degree not required). Many pastoral counselors are former clergy or congregation leaders.

Advanced practice registered nurse: Master's degree in psychiatric/mental health nursing from an accredited nursing school; state license granted post-degree.

Psychiatrist: Four years of medical school, followed by state licensing. One year of post-graduate residency in a hospital. A psychiatrist-in-training spends at least three additional years in psychiatric residency learning diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, psychotherapy (including marital therapy) and drug and other treatments.

Sources: American Association of Marital and Family Therapy; American Association of Pastoral Counselors, American Psychiatric Nurses Association, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Article: Defense industry moving away from DC

Today in the Washington Post, we have an interesting article entitled Defense Workers Tell Legislators They Won't Move. The gist of the article is that the Pentagon wants to save money by closing and/or relocating military bases that are expensive and/or inefficient and/or don't serve current strategic goals of fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq 25,000 miles away (i.e., virtually all of them). They're recommending closures and relocations that they estimate will save $49 billion over the next 20 years, roughly $2.5 billion a year. This will result in massive job losses to the effected areas. Many of those losses will be in the DC metro area, the political and military nerve center of our nation, home to the Pentagon, numerous bases, contractors, the War College, etc. The defense contractors (the industry part of the military-industrial complex, with the armed forces being the military part and the government being the complex part) are swearing that they won't relocate or cut jobs if the government decides to go ahead with the recommendations.

H.L. Mencken (early 20th century writer and Baltimor native) once wrote, "When you hear somebody say, 'This is not about money,' it's about money."

Taking these two pieces of information together, I conclude that since the defense industry is promising not to move or fire people, they will in fact move and fire people.

All of this strikes me as supremely short sited and dumb. The DC area is literally home to the most educated, and in military matters the most experienced, work force in the world. Further decentralizing what is already the world's most decentralized military production and mobilization structure (thanks largely to how Congressional pork/appropriations work) makes our military less efficient in the long run. If what they really want to do is cut the defense budget to spend money on other defense priorities, then they should use the appropriations process to cut the defense budget ($500 billion a year compared to the reccomendations which estimate savings of $2.5 billion a year), not tinker with the administrative margins so that they can pay an engineer in Texas $50,000 instead of paying an engineer in Fairfax County $80,000.

But my expertise is welfare and social policy, not military policy, so maybe I'm full of it.


Monday, June 20, 2005

Art: Lichtenstein

Picture of the day:

Oddly, I've had more then one boss who looked just like this. I might use a small one for my profile pic:

Friday, June 17, 2005

Article: U-Street

I'm always torn about posting articles touting the amazing neighborhoods in DC. On one hand, I love this city and want to be proud of it. On the other hand, I can't afford to buy a home and never will if the housing market stays at its current searingly high levels. So in dispelling the myths about crack dealers and lousy living conditions, I'm actually shooting myself in the foot. So let me be clear: Come to DC, eat somewhere, buy something, if at all possible invest in one of our thriving businesses, and then leave. DO NOT MOVE TO MY CITY! It's too crowded as it is.

From the NY Times:

June 12, 2005
A Revitalization For Washington's U Street Corridor

FOR much of the first half of the 20th century, the U Street area of Washington thrived as the heart of the city's African-American community, pulsing with culture, entertainment and soul. Duke Ellington was born there, and over the years, musical legends like Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey and Dizzy Gillespie performed at local clubs and at the legendary Howard Theater.

"In segregated Washington, D.C., U Street was the place to be," said Merrick Malone, a local real estate developer. "It was like D.C.'s Harlem and the Apollo Theater, the epicenter of African-American life here."

All of that was shattered in the 1968 riots after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Much of U Street burned. "After that, the neighborhood disintegrated - drugs, prostitution, the whole nine yards," Mr. Malone said.

"The riots went up and down the spine of 14th Street, and then east and west along U Street," said Malcolm N. Carter, an agent with Long & Foster Real Estate in Washington. "Many businesses were burnt out, and the street went into disrepute and disrepair, which was a shame because it had such strong roots in the African-American community."

During the 1980's, the "U Street Corridor," as it is commonly referred to, was further paralyzed by construction delays with the Metrorail line, said Scott Pomeroy, the executive director of the 14th and U Main Street Alliance. "That really killed most of the businesses that had survived the disturbances of the 1960's and the drug wars of the 1970's."

Kamal Ben Ali, whose family owns Ben's Chili Bowl, one of the few establishments on U Street to survive the riots of 1968 and the area's subsequent deterioration, said it became a ghost town. "They just tore the whole place up," he said, "and business came almost to a standstill."

But the U Street Corridor has since had a rebirth. "In the last six years, real estate values have nearly quadrupled," Mr. Pomeroy said. "Well over 10,000 new residents have moved into the area."

Indeed, the Washington real estate market in general is booming, fueled by, among other things, the many jobs created by the Department of Homeland Security. "There is a revitalization going on in D.C," said Bo Menkiti, president of the Menkiti Group at Coldwell Banker. "And the U Street area is probably one of the trendiest, hottest spots, as people are priced out of places like Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle."

Maybe so, but it was not always clear that early investors in its rebirth would ever get their money back.

"People told us all of the time that we were crazy to be investing in the U Street Corridor," said Ali Honarkar, whose company, Division One Architects, bought a parking lot and a deserted crack house in 2000 to develop five modern-style 2,200-square-foot row houses.

The naysayers have been proved wrong. In March 2002, Division One sold the first house for $400,000, and in December 2003 it sold the last unit for $850,000. In November 2004, the first buyer sold his home for $950,000, said Mr. Honarkar, who has lived with his family in one of the units since June 2002.

"But it definitely took a leap of faith," he said. "When we first moved in, there were cars on cinderblocks on our street, abandoned cars being used for parts, and prostitutes all over the place. And now the street is full of luxury cars and people tending to their gardens. People call it the new uptown - suddenly like the SoHo of D.C. And you can't believe this has happened in three years."

Chris Donatelli, the president and chief executive of Donatelli & Klein, one of the earlier residential developers of the U Street neighborhood, bought the two-acre abandoned site of the former Children's Hospital in 1998 for $1.6 million to make way for Harrison Square, a community of 98 town houses. Donatelli & Klein broke ground in February 2000 and immediately began selling units.

One of those who moved to Harrison Square was Heather Harrison, 36, a software developer who with her husband, Harry, 40, bought a 1,500-square-foot town house for $340,000 in 2000. "We were living on Dupont Circle at the time and wanted to buy a larger place, but could not afford to stay there," she said. "My husband said we should look at these new town homes that were being developed in this U street area, and I said, 'No way am I living over there.' "

Ultimately, Mr. Harrison, a visual designer for stores, prevailed. After their move, there were times when Mr. Harrison had his doubts. "There was still a lot of shadiness," he said. "The girls were still walking the streets. I could stand at my kitchen window and watch the drug deals going on. Then gradually, the crack houses were being sold and razed. People were buying run-down properties and rehabbing them. So it started to change, seemingly one block at a time."

In March 2004, the Harrisons, who by then had a 2-year-old daughter, Sabena, sold their Harrison Square property for $589,000 and moved to a 3,000-square-foot house with lots of outdoor space one block away, for which they paid $920,000. "Our town house was on the market for one day," Mr. Harrison said. "We were going to have an open house, and we had a knock on the door from a couple who also lived in Harrison Square but were renting, and they wanted to buy. And the next day we had an offer from them. It was very fast. The market is very hot."

Part of the neighborhood's appeal is its sheer convenience. "We are right in the heart of the city," said Louis Nayman, a union organizer who moved with his wife, Carmel, to Harrison Square in August 2001, after raising a family for more than 20 years in suburban Maryland.

"It is a 15-minute walk to Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan," he said. "I can ride my bike to work. You don't have to commute, and believe me commuting was tough."

The neighborhood appeals to an eclectic mix of people.

"We wanted to be in a diverse urban setting where we could walk to work, to restaurants and cafes and be close to the Metro," said Jennifer Kates, 38, a vice president and director of HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, who moved to Harrison Square from San Francisco with her partner, Sue Noseworthy, 36, in February 2002. "That was very important to us."

Carlos Garcia, a corporate software lawyer who also owns property in the area, agreed. "Gays, straights - I think that that is what U Street is all about," he said. "It is a mishmash of people."

From now on I'm just going to post full articles. This blog is here for me to use as an online library, and using links or comments is just too undependable.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Distraction: Firefly - go and watch it

When I first heard the internet buzz about a sci-fi space western written by the same guy who did "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" a couple years back, I chalked it up to other popular idiocy that I often read on the internet - All your base are belong to us - for instance. I generally don't like westerns made in the last 20 years, and the lousy acting and poor scripts of recent steam punk movies (Wild Wild West, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) left me with a sour taste. So I avoided it like the plague.

But after seeing just one episode at a friends house, I went out the very next day and bought the entire season. I watched the entire season. Fourteen episodes. In two nights. Firefly is, by far, the most original and well done piece of science fiction I've seen on a screen in many years.

But because it has a huge cult following and unlimited potential, Fox canceled it. Sigh.

Hopefully the movie they're making out of it will be good.

All of this is old news to anyone who owns a high speed internet connection. But hey, better late then never. I'm through with Lucas. Joss Whedon is my master now.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Meta-blogging: I'm an idiot

So I updated the comments section of my template using Holoscan so that I could have trackback on this blog. Trackback now works fine, but I've lost all of the comments on all of my posts. Arrggghh! I'll try and go back and build in the full articles when I have the chance.

Message to myself: Anything you put on the internet is by definition going to disappear one day, unless its incriminating, in which case it shall exist in the Google cache forever.

Resource: Apartment Hunting

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm looking for a new apartment in the city, and perhaps Silver Spring or Takoma Park. Well thanks to the beautiful, wonderful internet, we have Craig's List, Google Maps, and a website that combines Craig's List and Google Maps called I assume its only a matter of time before we link these websites with GPS systems and cell phones. God I love technology.

Also, if anyone knows of a good one bedroom for a reasonable price, or knows someone looking for a roommate, please email me.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Seen on the MARC train

MARC Public Safety Announcement

MARC is the light rail that runs in between Baltimore and DC.

This is really, really disconcerting. Especially in the nation's capital.

To quote Shakespeare and Huxley, "O brave new world that has such people in it."

Hat tip to Kos and Obsidian Wings.

Monday, June 06, 2005

A Beautiful Evening in DC

Article: World's Greatest Firefighters

Yet another reason this proud Washingtonian is proud that I was born in NYC:

City Firefighters Build Their Own Escape System

Less than five months after a Bronx fire forced two firefighters to jump to their deaths, the New York Fire Department is preparing to give each firefighter a costly rope escape system that was largely designed by a team of city firefighters using their off-duty skills in rock climbing and metalworking.

Department officials say the escape systems, which they hope firefighters will be using by September, will make New York the nation's only large city to provide all firefighters with a rope and anchor to use if they must jump out a window to avoid advancing flames.

The escape system is a revolutionary change from the simple one New York has used in the past, a bulky but weaker rope that was phased out after 1996 in a decision that unions said was made to save money and officials said was made to reduce the bulk firefighters carry.

The new system, which will cost $11 million to purchase and deploy, features a reinforced metal hook that can be quickly affixed to a pipe, piece of furniture or even a wall using a steel tip narrower than a sharpened pencil. The 50-foot ropes are made of bulletproof Kevlar, and the lowering device involves leverage tricks used in rappelling.

Officials say the systems would help firefighters reach the street from the fifth floor, or, in taller buildings, allow them to escape by climbing into a lower floor.

Members of the design team were dissatisfied with the escape systems available on the market, so they immersed themselves in the mission of finding a better one. They became fluent in the terminology of biomechanics. They tested the equipment by dunking it in buckets of water to simulate getting drenched with a hose line, and they coated it with plaster to mimic the damage done to buildings at fires. And some paid their own way to a fire industry convention to query vendors.

I also love rock climbing, so this is doubly cool. Hat tip to Majikthise, who picked this up in the NY Times. Full article in the comments.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Meta-blogging: Teaching myself html

I'm in the process of teaching myself html. It seems pretty simple, but generally time consuming.

I found a very useful link to Color Match 5k, which tells you the html code for virtually any color.

I'll try and keep this post peppered with additional useful links in the comments section, and maybe repost it once every couple of months as I learn more.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Distraction: A Midsummer Night's day trip to Baltimore

An obscenely talented actor friend of mine will be performing in A Midsummer Night's Dream this month. You can find out information about it here. I'm going with some friends the evening of June 18th. You should go to.