“Few things portend a protracted mess as powerfully as an insane person with a totally legitimate grievance about which little can actually be done.”

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

4 thoughts on “overheard”

  1. Yesterday my spouse got involved in helping a low income person who was let go from a short-term employment program (and thus not paid even for the work he had already done) because the person running the employment program was told on the phone by someone from child support enforcement that 100% of the wages would be garnished (child support garnishment is a flat amount, not based on % of income) and they did not want to waste their funds just sending them off to garnishment. The person freaked out because he was actually current on his child support. Nobody answered the phone. So spouse and person drove over to the child support people who confirmed well, yes, he was actually up on his child support, had actually even overpaid a bit. So what was going on? Well it turns out that an envelope had come in that the official was “too busy” to open and actually read but might have been a garnishment order as garnishments come in that kind of envelope (but what was actually in the letter was a form that had to be filled out about whether the job offered health insurance). Based on seeing just the envelope, the official had taken it upon himself to tell the person running the employment program that a garnishment was in the works and, based only on this telephone report, the person running the employment program issued an order to kick the person off the program and not pay him. “So sorry, we already ran the payroll, it will be two weeks before we can cut you a check for the work you already did.”

    This kind of thing will MAKE you insane if you are not already insane.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Based on what I hear from my friends in Chicago social work, the bureaucratic inefficiencies are roughly isomorphic to those in the for profit sector. But because the stakes are the poor and not iPhones, the inefficiencies are triply infuriating.


    2. I suppose I should clarify that it turns out nobody in child support screwed up, the screw up was a guy in the firm that handles the payroll for the nonprofits. He was the one who decided what was probably in the envelope without opening it and told the social workers running the employment program that there would be a garnishment. But, Phil, yeah.


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