Thursday, January 22, 2015

What use is a sleeping watchdog?

The Idaho Freedom Foundation claims it is:

“...a non-partisan educational research institute and government watchdog dedicated to improving the lives of Idahoans by promoting private free market solutions, holding public servants accountable, exposing government waste and corruption, and promoting policies that advance Idaho’s independence.”

A post on their blog by Dustin Hurst on January 20, 2015 titled We are failing, Idaho. We can - and must - do better began by stating:
“I nearly missed perhaps the most important chart of the 2015 legislative session.

Most others did, ignoring or glossing over an inconvenient and unfortunate truth: We, as a state, are failing.

Monday morning in the legislative budget committee, Department of Health and Welfare officials showed an amazing chart depicting Idaho’s climb to welfare state status.

I’ve included the chart below, but here are the gloomy numbers: Since fiscal year 2006, Idaho’s welfare use has exploded by 69 percent. In 2014, more than 322,000 Idahoans relied on Medicaid, food stamps, cash assistance, child care or a combination of those programs.

In fiscal year 2006, that number was just about 196,000.”

That post showed a purple chart with the Y-axis trimmed to misleadingly start from 150,000 people rather than zero. It had an arrow pointing to the circled number for 2014 and a caption noting that was 20.% of Idaho citizens.

Data it was based upon can be found by starting at the Facts/Figures/Trends page at the Department of Health and Welfare web site, which has links to their Acrobat .pdf annual reports from fiscal year 2004-2005 to 2014-2015, and which list the number of people receiving assistance services as of June. (The 2004-2005 report also lists the number for 2003 on page 63, and the 2005-2006 report lists the number for 2002 on page 64).

Data is summarized in the following table, to which I’ve added the increase from year to year. Note that the largest increase happened between 2009 (245,123) and 2010 (304,414) - a jump of 59,291 or over 24%. (The more than 322,000 quoted by Mr. Hurst for 2014 is a typo - it’s really more than 332,000). 

Page 65 of the 2010-2011 report has a note warning:

“This is almost 20 percent of the state’s total population.” 

Page 65 of the 2011-2012 report said we’d passed that threshold:

“This is over 20 percent of the State’s total population.”

All 13 years of data are shown above on a chart. (Click on it to see a larger, clearer version).  A real watchdog would have told us something big was going on four years ago - not just now. I don’t recall hearing from IFF back then. What use is a sleeping watchdog?  

The century-old color image of a sleeping dog came from here.

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