Friday, September 01, 2006

The quick start guide to why Fr. John posts so much about Welfare in Texas

I decided that I should have a one post link to explain to the casual reader who might stumble across this blog and wonder why I post so often on issues related to Welfare in Texas

I worked for what was the Texas Department of Human Services (TDHS) until relatively recently (now it is the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC)) for 13 years... the last five of which I was a supervisor.

The following are the key post that put all the others into context:

1) What's Wrong With Welfare, Part I (an introduction into my connection with TDHS as a "tent-making" clergyman, and my thoughts on Welfare)

2) What's Wrong With Welfare, Part II... Let them eat Spam! (more of my thoughts on Welfare

3) The Meltdown of the Colorado Welfare System, and what it should have taught us about the Meltdown in Texas.

4) The Great Leap Forward, and Other Examples of Bureaucratic Stupidity

5) If I had a Hammer: The Limits of Privatization

6) Foxes in the Chicken House: Big Corporations taking the Tax Payers for a Ride

I left this agency after 13 years, not because I didn't like the people I worked with, or dealing with the people who needed the services it provided. I simply reached a point where I would no longer be a part of the destruction of that agency, and pretend that I could continue to serve the people I had been serving given the increasingly impossible situation that privatization was creating. On the one hand, staff have to deal with the ongoing down-sizing of permanent (and well trained) staff, without any decrease in workload; and on the other hand staff had to deal with the promise that most of them would be out of work within a year... which made the staffing problem even worse. We had to deal with long hiring freezes in the past, as well as high stress levels; but unlike the past, this time around, the only thing we had to look forward to is busting our chops for the next year or so, and then eventually getting a position at reduced pay… if we got one at all.

Given those realities, I decided it was best to create my own options, and find other means to support my family.

This wouldn’t have bothered me so much if this was happening because the state had decided to cut welfare programs, and so fewer staff were needed to do the work. It also would not have bothered me so much if I thought that the new system would work, and save the state money. However, I am firmly convinced that this new system will be a boondoggle of historical proportions when all is said and done (and this only becomes clearer as the months go by). I am also convinced that the day will come that the state will have to rebuild the agency that they are now dismantling… but at a huge cost, because they will have lost all the infrastructure that they had both in terms of facilities and equipment, and in terms of experienced staff who knew how to get the work done. This is bad business for the state, and a shameful way to treat staff that have maintained one of the most cost efficient state welfare agencies in the United States.

When I was still working for HHSC, I suppose some might have thought my complaints were due only to selfish concerns, but now that I haven't had a personal financial interest in the matter for over a year, I hope those who think so will reconsider what I have been saying.

I believe time will prove me right... in fact, I believe that the past year has steadily been proving me right, but another year or two will remove all doubts for anyone who is willing to be swayed by evidence or reason.