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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  January 13, 2013 1:00pm-1:15pm EST

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.. >> next, booktv interviewed the university of pennsylvania's richard gelles about his book
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"the third lie." in the book professor gelles argues that the vast majority of government social programs don't work and suggests a different approach. this is about ten minutes. gls well, booktv is on the road. we're in philadelphia at the university of pennsylvania, and we're interviewing some professors who also happen to be authors. and we want to introduce you to the dean of the university of pennsylvania's school of social policy and practice. this is richard gelles on your screen. and one of his books, his most recent, is called "the third lie: why government programs don't work and a blue print for change." dr. gelles, i'm here from the government, and i'm here to help you. is that not true? >> guest: not true. >> host: why not? >> guest: because most government social programs which are designed to help people don't actually help. in some instances it is little
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more than the, i hate saying this, but the do-gooder full employment act. it provides lots of jobs for people who'd like the help, but at the end of the day if you look at whether the needle has been moved and people have really been helped by substantial government programs and substantial amounts of money, the bottom line is very rarely are people hemmed. helped. and i thought that that was a story worth telling. the idea came to me as i was being smuggled into the back door of the statehouse in the state of hawaii. hawaii was spending about a half a billion dollars a year on special education. a pot of that was sub si ciezed -- subsidized by the federal government under the individuals with disabilities act. the rest was being paid for by the taxpayers of hawaii. and we had been there for about
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two years to see whether the of half a billion dollars was actually helping special education children. and we had gone through 500 files, and we had discovered almost no help. lot of services were being provided, lots of money was being diverted in inappropriate ways. the commissioner of education for the state of hawaii had given a $250,000 grant to someone on the big island to run a special education program. her last job was rules la dancer -- hula dancer. that seemed a little bit odd at face value, and it turned out, not surprisingly, she was having a sexual relationship with the commissioner. people giving $30, $40, $50,000 grants for horseback riding, and i wouldn't have written the book if i thought that was an isolated candidate case. but i had been in the field of social policy for 40 years, and i kept seeing this happen again and again and again, and i said,
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you know, maybe it's time to tell the story that social programs that people argue about that they don't want to cut the funding for that are sacred cow cans, in fact, do not do a whole lot of good. head start, i'm sure i made no friends when i started a chapter by saying head start is an $8 billion program. it is clearly a sacred cow. nobody wants to cut it. it's never in the debate. and yet all of the positive educational effects of head start are gone by the time children get to the third grade. >> host: why is that? >> guest: well, it's because the head start program itself only deals with educational readiness. it doesn't deal with the underlying social problems that affect the kids who are means tested eligible in head start. and that was the key. the key to why a lot of these programs don't work is they are targeted programs based on some sort of income eligibility or special eligibility, and an
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enormous amount of funding and energy goes into the means testing and eligibility testing leaving very little money for the actual programs. and so the programs end up being low dose, very minimal. and they're not sufficient to change the educational outcomes of chirp. just -- of children. just providing them head start programs department deal with the fact that they're coming from violent home, violent neighborhoods, poverty, homelessness, food insufficiency. you just can't overcome those kind of deficits by providing a head s.t.a.r.t. education program. -- head start education program. so that's where the book began, and most of the people who advised me said, well, it's a very interesting book, i'm sure you'll get on fox tv. and that was not my goal. my goal was not to be a critic. so i said, well, okay, let me do part two of the book, at least to calm people down and say
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there are some social programs that are really quite effective. -- and maybe we can learn a lesson from that. and the big quiz that in the course of writing the book i conducted with and bored to death my wife and my children was let me sit down with everybody i know and say tell me the three government programs that have been the most effective in, say, the last 65 years. almost every one of my academic friends would say head start, and i would say, wrong. no evidence that it works. the most effective government programs in sort of chronological order; social security, the g.i. bill of 1944 and medicare in 1965. now, there will be some pushback about that. even "usa today" had an editorial this week that said social security is a pay-as-you-go program. no, it's not. it can never go broke provided that you don't take the trust fund and spend it on government debt, which is what we've done
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for 60 years. but social security has all but ended poverty among those over 65. medicare has all but ended significant health care problems among those over 65, and the g.i. bill gets very little credit in 2012 for being the key social policy that built the american middle class. the american middle class was built on two basic components of of the g.i. bill; access to education, affordable access to education which was a voucher program. it's meant that the g.i.s could go to any school that they want today go to. the money went to them and not the schools. and the second was access to affordable housing. if you roll the clock ahead to 2012, why is the middle class suffering? we don't have access to affordable high-quality education. our students are taking on vastly too much debt, and my two
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sons -- 38 and 34 years of age -- who have good incomes, in one case more than mine, couldn't even buy a house recently because the price of housing exceeds their income. they're in the top 10% of income in the united states. that means housing is no longer accessible to the middle class. and when the middle class can't buy housing, the middle class as we have known it since 1950 ceases to exist. so that's part two of the book. i've got programs that don't work, programs that do work. and then the intellectual challenge which really took the longest period to get my head around was, okay, if you know that these programs don't work and you've got a good fix on why and you know these programs do work and you have a good fix on why, are you capable of developing a social program or a blueprint for a program that would work? and that turned out to be quite
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tricky. you would like to help children. you would like to deal with social disadvantage of children. and the road block turns out that it is simply not in the political cards whether you're on the left or center, right of center or right on the center. our government is not about to help children by directing significant social resources to their parents. so one of the reasons most of our social programs fail is we give so little to the parents, and it really doesn't overcome much in the way of social disadvantage. so that stopped me cold. i said, well, how do you help children if you can't get the money to them before they're 18? and the end result was you can't. you have to wait until they're 18. so i begged and borrowed and adapted the notion of a futures account which is based on the principle that every year a
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child is alive you would deposit $3,000 into a futures account. at age 18 the child would have access to the futures account, the adult now or chronological adult would have access to the futures account, and you could use the money for two things. not surprisingly, based on the g.i. bill, access to higher education. doesn't have to be a university, just postsecondary education. and/or you could use the money for housing. it would accumulate to about $54,000 a year which not coincidentally is what it would cost you for one year at penn or four years at a state-supported institution, and $54,000, interestingly enough, is a little bit more than 20% of the median selling price of a house in the united states. so it's the new g.i. bill for american children, 2012. it is not means tested. everybody gets it.
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it can be used for two things, and it would do two things, i think, that are important. one, although i can't tell children from 0-18, i can least reset the game at age 18. it's a restart. so with all the disadvantage that happened up until 18, at least at 18 you'd have the financial wherewithal to be a homeowner or at least start being a homeowner or to get advanced education. the second aspect of it, um, is to rebuild the middle class. i just don't see any social policies on the horizon. the election is over, we've heard everything that the candidates had to say. not one said anything intelligent about this is how you rebuild the american middle class. so little tiny book, not all that thick. tells three stories; what doesn't work and why it doesn't work, what does work and why it does work, what could work and
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how to make it work. >> host: professor gelles, do you come at this from a liberal or a conservative point of view? you mentioned fox news. >> guest: practical. i've worked in policy in washington. i've been a dean of a school of social policy, and i find that purple is my color. and i'm not particularly interested in taking an ideological point of view, i'm interested in results. and the danger of writing a book like this, and i've already discovered it, my extremely liberal friends wish i had never written the book, and my conservative friends wish i didn't want to spend this much of the government's money. if i can tick both sides off and be true to the data, then i've done the work i wanted to do. >> host: "the third lie" is the name of the book. it's written by the university of pennsylvania's richard gelles
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who serves as dean of the school of social policy and practice. thank you for your time today. >> guest: thank you. >> is there a nonfiction author or book you'd like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at or tweet us at >> it was almost two years ago that i decided it was time to write a fact-based primer on gay rights specifically targeted to right-of-center voters. hence the subtitle of the book. to do two things. number one, to challenge the religious right on its own you are the and to show that much of what is derisively or what they derisively call the gay agenda is actually consistent with fundamental republican and libertarian principles. and, number two, to show center-right voters who believe in social tolerance that not only are they not a voice in the
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wilderness, they actually represent a majority of rank and file republican voters. so the book has three major themes. the first one i just alluded to, that many on the right simply don't understand that properly understood gay rights are, in fact, perfectly compatible with fundamental republican principles of limited government, individual rights and equal protection under the laws. the essence of the classical liberal or libertarian philosophy is simply one of live and let live. all people are created with certain inalienable rights. the government does not dole out rights depending on what religion you are, what economic class you're in, what your gender is or theoretically, at least, what your sexual orientation is. at least that's the way it's supposed to be. certainly, most libertarians already get that, and i think that why they have a sp


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