Child abuse, privacy, and federalism

Very interesting article in the Raleigh News and Observer yesterday about how social welfare agencies lack the authority to check out-of-state criminal records on the cases they are dealing with.  For example, you'd think child welfare agencies in NC would want to know that a parent in a troubled family had a child abuse conviction in South Carolina, but they are forbidden from having access to that data.  The N&O story highlights several disturbing cases where children were left with parents with out-of-state criminal records that included assault and child abuse.  Apparently law enforcement agencies have access to this inter-state criminal database, but not child protective agencies.  North Carolina welfare agencies have recently won the right to at least perform in-state criminal background checks.

Apparently federal officials have privacy concerns about opening up the database more widely.  I am a huge advocate of privacy rights, but it seems to me that arrest or conviction of a felony (while an adult) should be public record and that persons do not have any particular right to keep this information private.  If it is okay for NC child welfare investigators to know your NC criminal history, they should be able to know your criminal history in any state.  A clear example of the downside of federalism.  Obviously, all the issues involved cannot be made clear from this one story, but it seems like a national law opening up these databases across state lines to child protective agencies would be a terrific idea.

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Supply Side Silliness

The New Republic (alas, subscription only, but I'll link anyway) has a very good editorial about a recent increase in tax revenues has many of those on the right crowing about the success of supply side economics (basically, the idea that cutting tax rates leads to an increase in tax revenue).  What those pointing to the 14% increase in tax receipts fail to note, however, is that when a number reaches a particularly low value, i.e., the lowest tax revenue as percent of GDP since before WWII, it is not all that hard to have large percentage increases.  For examples, if you got a 30 on a test, a 50% increase (i.e., a 45) does not mean that you are all of a sudden acing the course.  The amazing thing about all these purveyors of the supply slide myth is that it is purely wishful thinking with no empirical basis.  They would love it if cutting marginal tax rates actually increased overall tax revenue, but the simple fact is the data show this not to be the case.  (If raising taxes hurt the economy to the degree many conservatives suggest, we would have never seen such a boom during Clinton's presidency).  In no surprise to most people with common sense, when you cut tax rates, you cut tax revenue.  But for many on the right, it seems that if they repeat the supply-side mantra enough it will be true.  What's sad is that anybody gives them the time of day on it (and that many of my students fall for it). 

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