Posts Tagged ‘incentives’

Feeding the Birds and the People

June 8, 2018

While staying on Kauai, Hawaii, I have been observing a cardinal every morning. This beautiflul red bird has lighted upon the deckrail, shortly after each sunrise each day. His visits demonstrate a boldness on his part to venture into areas of human domain. But that boldness is tempered with a shyness by which he promptly flys away as soon as I make any movement in his direction.

Comparing these bird encounters with similar episodes at our home in the Carolina Blue Ridge, I surmise a personality trait that seems to be characteristic of the cardinal breed. It’s probably my imagination that the  colorful creature has some comprehension of his special status among the kingdom of the birds. He seems to understand  (or so it seems to me) that this human is fascinated by his flashy appearance; he also knows that his bright profile is, in some settings, a liability, because the bright red makes it easier for nearby predators to catch sight of him and perhaps eat him.

However, Mr. Cardinal’s skittishness did not interfere this morning with my continuing attempts to capture a pic of him. I was pleased this morning to find that the different physical arrangement here in Hawaii have made it possible for me to snap the pic.

FeedCardnl

My Christian perspective on life in this world prompts me to accompany this amazing  (to me) photo with a scriptural reference. Here’s the first one I thought of, in the words of Jesus:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

In this case, I, human, am representing the heavenly Father in dropping those cereal crumbs onto the deckrail for our scarlet friend.

Meanwhile, feeling satisfied that I have managed to capture, here in Hawaii, that flighty image of the bright cardinal which I could never manage to obtain back home, I’ll cast another crumb of interest in here for you to nibble on.

Before Mr. Cardinal visited this morning, I was continuing my read of Edward Joesting’s excellent book on Kauai, Kauai: The Separate Kingdom.   

https://www.amazon.com/Kauai-Separate-Edward-Joesting-III/dp/0824811623/

In chapter 7, Mr. Joesting reports on the beginnings of commercial agriculture on the island of Kauai. The earliest enterprises were initiated by a trio of American business partners who were working with Hawaiian leaders with assistance from Christian missionaries who had arrived in the 1820’s.

Long about 1835, some Americans leased a large tract of land from Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) Kaikioewa, the governor of Kauai.

What fascinates me about this development in Hawaiian history is the changes in motivation that Hawaiian working people found themselves adopting in response to the new capitalistic farms.

On page 131 of his book, Edward Joesting wrote:

“In agreement with the philosophy of the missionaries, the lease stipulated that native laborers be encouraged to work on the land. For this right the company would pay to the king and the governor twenty-five cents per month for each man. And it was further stated that each worker would be paid a satisfactory wage and be exempted from all taxation. This taxation had taken the form of labor performed for the chiefs and such other contributions as the chiefs wished to impose.”

As agriculture and business later developed in Kauai during the next twenty years or so, what this arrangement amounted to, economically and sociologically, was this:

Whatever ancient cultural motivations that had traditionally compelled Hawaiian working folk to labor for their tribe and their chiefs—these motivations were being supplanted by new incentives, directly related to 19th-century agricultural scales and practices, and modern, capitalistic business.

On page 132, Edward Joesing wrote:

“The idea of Hawaiians working for an employer who paid them wages, which could be disposed of as the earner saw fit, suddenly introduced a concept of independence that was not easily understood by the commoners and was feared by the chiefs. Adding to the independence of the commoners was the fact that the commoners no longer had to pay taxes to the chiefs. It was more than the average islander could comprehend. There was nothing in their history, no precedent, no legend, that could be used to bridge the gap. . .

On occasion the workers went through the motions of caring for the fields, accomplishing practically nothing. The plantation manager was beside himself (mad). He did not know the Hawaiians still could not comprehend the fact that their wages and the things they bought with them would be their own posessions and coud not appropriated at will by the chiefs.”

My rationale for combining these two different encounters—one with a fresh understanding of historical changes in 1830’s Kauai, and the other with a visiting cardinal this morning—my reasoning may not be entirely clear to you; it’s not even so clear to me, except it has something to do with this quote from a gospel:

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

FieldHawaii

King of Soul

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Ben Carson for HUD head?

December 7, 2016

MLKDream

Boy born in poverty grows up to be brain surgeon. Say what?

He kept his eyes on the prize, gave steady attention to what is important for his own personal development and advancement; Ben cultivated good habits, studied hard, pulled himself up by bootstraps, climbed the achievement ladder, learned a trade, surgery.

Brain surgery. Brain surgery?

No kidding. He became a brain surgeon, head of neurosurgery at Hopkins; among his many operations was the separation of congenitally conjoined twins. No easy task. The man’s a problem-solver.

Later on in life, Ben trained his eyes on expanded horizons, became an advocate for productive self-sustaining endeavor. Disdaining a systemic predisposition toward .gov dependency, he became a classic example of the American self-made man, although he would tell you much credit should be given to his loving, resourceful mother. Furthermore, his dependency was not in .gov programs; rather, his sufficiency was found in God.

Ben moves along well in this life; his eyes are, as they say, on the prize.

So, by n’ by,  he runs for President. Why not? This is America.

Trump berates him on the campaign trail.

But later, after all the recounted ballots have hit the fan, Trump nominates Ben for head of a federal department, Housing and Urban Development.

Say what?

For a brain surgeon? Why not HHS? Why not Surgeon General?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

But now what do we see? All kinds of protest from the welfare Establishment, elites of housing elevation inside the beltway don’t like it one bit. Why?

No experience in the field. No experience in running housing programs.

No experience in federal .gov. No experience in any .gov whatsoever.

What about all the .gov programs he had to get around in order to be a brain surgeon running for Prez?

So here’s America wondering, what needs to happen here? What is appropriate experience, resumé, and background for running/reforming a big .gov housing dep’t.? Experienced proficiency in running a megalith .gov department?

Or something else, perhaps . . . intelligence, good sense, uncommon ability to apply one’s self to daunting tasks, integrity, character, intimate familiarity with problems of poverty, incredibly unique educational accomplishment, persistence, determination,  methodical approach to solving problems, an analytical mind, a skilled hand, a precise approach to cutting and mending,  a winning smile. . .?

On the point of  Ben having no .gov-departmental proficiency, the critics are legion. Their verdict: unqualified, ill-prepared, nothing in resumé to qualify him, he’s anti-government, yes-man, uncle tom, blahblahblah.

Now why is this happening? Is there something wrong with Uncle Ben, or is there something wrong with big brutha HUD?

But I ask you this. Has HUD solved, since its inception in 1965, the problem of substandard housing in cities?

Has HUD solved the housing-related problems of poverty in the inner cities?

Uh, no, don’t think so.

Could this HUDdish inability to solve the problems of affordable housing indicate, perhaps, the need for a new approach? a new diagnosis, new prognosis? The mood of the nation after this election would suggest: yes.

Ok. Let’s take a look.

But an analytical look. Let’s step back. Back to basics. Why do we even have a federal government? Why do we have, within that .gov, a Department of Housing and Urban Development?

To answer this question, we look to the Preamble of our Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare . . .”

Welfare? Well golly, our 21st-century image of that bureaucracy-burdened idea is a fact of life in the real world. It is what it is.

But let’s promote it–welfare–anyway, because our Constitution says so. Let us go then, amid the noise and haste, and promote our best interests, the welfare of Us the People. But let us do it in in a revisionary way, a way that will  permit some necessarily corrective surgery on a bloated, debilitated .gov institution that promotes programs of incentive-destroying dependency.

Let us move forward progressively, proactively, with a plan for overcoming the systemic dependency of HUD. Let us, instead permit, by whatever means can be devised, personal and familial independence, as we find it so boldly declared in  our Declaration of Independence:

. . .whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Therefore, I move we allow the man who worked his way out of substandard housing, and ultimately out of poverty, take charge of a new effort to correctively administrate affordable housing.

Let Ben Carson administrate the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Glass half-Full

Incentives for Development instead of Dependency

December 13, 2015

I’ve been working for the last six years as a maintenance man in an apartment complex that houses 92 households.

You know as well as I do that it is not easy to get up and go to a job five days out of every week that goes by, and to do this week after week, month after month, year after year.

Now for an old guy like me, age 64, while approaching that precipice called “retirement” and considering how/when such an arrangement may take shape, it has been difficult lately.

I’ve been struggling with a few issues, both public and private, pertaining to this job that has occupied 40 hours of my time every week for the last six years.

The apartment complex in which I maintain all this stuff–toilets, faucets, sinks, drains, light fixtures, electrical outlets, water heaters, doors, windows, cabinets, floors, stairways, interiors, exteriors, dumpsters, trash, smoke-filled rooms. . .this apartment community is a public housing arrangement in which rents are subsidized, according to need and income, through funds that have been provided through taxpayer money.

I confess that one problem I have had lately comes from wondering why I have to do all this work, when many tenants don’t seem to have much to occupy their time. I mean, everybody has a TV and that’s okay.

I don’t really want to elude my responsibilities as an employed person. But I do believe that if there is, among the hundred+ residents here, a good person who is willing to take on some responsibility to do some necessary work. . .that person should be allowed to contribute some of their time and effort toward making the community facilities cleaner and more operative.

But I cannot expect this type of help from tenants.

I am, you know, the employee, while they are the tenants. I am the worker; they are the recipients of my services.

And I have, during previous periods of my life, benefited from some college-level training in education. Accordingly, I would like to take opportunities now and then to teach others, especially children, to do for themselves instead of me the Maintenance guy doing all of it.

A year or two ago, a good thing happened in this complex where I work. A helpful tenant who lives here took it upon himself to help me in cleaning one of our two laundry rooms. I was pleased to have his participation, especially since I have a steady stream of vacancies to deal with–vacancies that require painting, cleaning and repairs. There should be more people in the world who are like this good citizen who has volunteered to help make the community in which he lives, in which I work, a better place.

Nevertheless, I was informed that it was not his place to do so. Because he is, after all, the tenant, while I am the employee.

In other instances during my six years, tenants have been compelled to uproot plants–decorative and vegetable– that they had planted in the mulched sterile areas around the buildings. Because it was against the rules. Management is supposed to do all that, and make those decisions, etc. And this place is subsidized by the USDA. The A stands for Agriculture. Fed-approved agriculture of course, not tenant-planted agriculture.

I told a friend of mine recently that if I had a million bucks I’d buy the whole dam place and then let the tenants have their own community garden instead of these useless ornamental shrubs and mulch, and I’d turn my maintenance job over to a tenant committee where they could divvy out the work as it arises, and be compensated accordingly with rent credit or benefits or cash.

Well, my struggle with these issues was punctuated this Sunday morning with some other inputs about this type of situation.

I was listening in on Listening In, which is an online audio program that is provided weekly by World Magazine, of which I am a subscriber.

  http://www.worldmag.com/player.php?podcast/7467

In this recorded discussion, I heard host Warren Smith interviewing guest Jennifer Marshall, who represents the Institute for Family, Community and Opportunity of the Heritage Foundation. They were conducting a fresh discussion about a tired old topic, welfare reform.

Jennifer was explaining the outcome of a recent forum at Heritage, the purpose of which was to help people escape poverty.

She mentioned that the major welfare reform of 1996 had been successful in reducing welfare loads and reducing child poverty. But only one program was dealt with. She further stated what needs to happen is reform of–not just cash welfare program– but food stamps, public housing and other programs. And then she made this statement:

“The incentives right now are structured toward dependence; let’s get them structured toward moving people back to independence, back to flourishing in their communities.”

And I thought, she may have a good point there. But I don’t know what I could do about it.

Life goes on.

In other news, its a beautiful, sunny day here in the Blue Ridge.

Have a nice day, and a satisfyingly productive week.

Glass half-Full