Intercepting social aid, lateraling to NFL teams

This Just In...

January 31, 1996|By DAN RODRICKS

The governor of Maryland is downright bullish on spending taxpayer dollars for professional football franchises -- $200 million for a Browns stadium in Baltimore, another $73 million in corporate welfare for Jack Kent Cooke and his new stadium in Prince George's County.

"My intention is to get the two stadia built," said the governor, doing his best Churchill. "Whatever it takes to do that, we will do, meaning I will use the full resources of our office to get our program through."

We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets ...

It's refreshing to hear a government leader speak with such passion -- but not about football. And not at a time when the other side of his mouth emits dire warnings about cutbacks in federal funding. Not when he's chipping away at spending on human needs.

Here's the latest example: Just a blip in a $14.7 billion budget, ZTC but the governor plans to cut $1.5 million out of a $1.8 million program for poor women who become pregnant.

Before you break into applause at the prospect of this "welfare reform," consider what's being cut. This program -- General Public Assistance -- provides $209 a month during the first five months of a qualifying woman's first pregnancy. If anything, it keeps pregnant women with no other means of support (including Aid to Families with Dependent Children) from becoming homeless. It helps them get prenatal care.

Over the years, GPA has had the support of both anti-abortion groups and Marylanders concerned with the state's high infant mortality rate.

As of last fall, Maryland ranked 37th in the nation in infant mortality -- meaning that infant survival was still better in 36 states. Though our infant mortality rate fell in recent years -- a drop owed mostly to the state's programs to discourage teen pregnancy and provide prenatal care to more poor women -- it's still worse than the national rate of 7.9 deaths per 1,000. Last we checked, Maryland's rate was 8.8 deaths per 1,000 live births; the rate among African American infants was 15.2.

We have a way to go yet. Why, then, would we further cut grants to poor women? Their prenatal health is critical to further improving the infant mortality rate. The cut planned for GPA (reducing the program to $300,000) means the poor women who qualify will receive a one-time grant of only $100, and only in the fifth month of pregnancy. This seems foolish. What, in the long run, is more costly -- a preventive measure like GPA or intensive, post-natal treatment for unhealthy, even permanently damaged, babies?

Look, if you don't want to concern yourself with the details and the policy questions, fine. Look at the big picture -- cutting welfare for poor women while increasing it for rich men (Art Modell and Jack Kent Cooke). There's something wrong with that picture.

Chestnut's back in town

Great catch for the Meyerhoff: Baltimore-born and Peabody-trained jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut plays the hall Saturday, Feb. 17. Chestnut is a locally minted treasure and a hot name in the jazz world with two CDs ("Revelation" and "Dark Before The Dawn") on the shelf. "I remember when I could get him here for $50 a night," says Keith Covington of the New Haven Lounge.

ZIP-zapped

Overheard in Wheaton Plaza:

A few teen-agers were gossiping. "She thinks she is so Beverly Hills 90210," one dissed another. "But really she is so 20902." (That's the ZIP code for Wheaton, and let's face it, Georgia Avenue isn't exactly Rodeo Drive.)

Justifying his love

Kenny Campbell of "Jo Jo and Kenny" on MIX 106.5 is scheduled to show up on one of those syndicated TV shows tomorrow, billed as "a man who wants to father Madonna's baby." He sings, he dances, he falls right off the stage. The man is way cool.

Driven crazy

A TJI reader gripes:

"I think automakers should make obsolete the turn signal device on steering wheels because people in Maryland don't use them anymore. And I'm tired of women applying makeup while they navigate around the Beltway and I'm tired of seeing guys driving while talking on the telephone."

Hey, fella, it could be worse. A while back, a cellular phone rang during a movie in the pocket of a customer in a Westview theater. The guy answered it and talked for 10 minutes!

So, what do you not-know?

A photocopied excerpt from a novel, the title of which I can't remember, flew out of a pile of papers the other day. I don't know who wrote this, but he/she was onto something:

"Do you know what has been learned about people who excel in every field? That they have a high tolerance for not-knowing, for ambiguity, for not being in control. Because it's only when we can tolerate not being in control that we make a place for the miraculous to happen. Art, falling in love, magic. Not-knowing makes a window for the miraculous. Not-knowing makes it possible to know."

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