Just wanted to highlight a post from January 2017 as to how I think about and prioritize policy evaluation:
I want to lay out one of my key heuristics for policy analysis and evaluation for the next four years. But first I need to go back a little in my life to two time periods.
1992 sucked for my family. I am one of five kids. My mom worked a retail job as she was mainly trying to get all of us going in the right direction while managing half a dozen minor chronic conditions between all of us. My dad was a union electrician. Construction is a pro-cyclical industry so when times were good, they were very good and when times are slow, they are really bad. The 80s were good as Boston boomed. The late 80s after the S&L crisis plus the overbuildout of Boston sucked….I remember crying in happiness one day when my parents decided to get me a treat of sweet canned corn instead of frozen corn…..
Mid-2008 my wife had gotten laid off as her organization got a new CEO who wanted to quickly leave their mark for decisiveness and wiped out several profitable but not exciting departments. She was pregnant with our daughter. I was working as a program evaluator for a behavioral health care coordination program. It was funded by a federal grant that was due to run out at the end of FY09. We were trying to transition our funding to local and foundation money. By mid-2009, my wife was working part time at a position far below her skill level, our daughter was happy making faces at her parents, and there was absolutely no local or foundation money as 51 mini-Hoovers were in effect for state level austerity. I got laid off. The next year I stayed home with our daughter as the combination of unemployment insurance and not paying for daycare …. [made the most sense]…
sixten years have been great for my family. My career has taken off. My wife’s career has launched. We have two great kids. We have stability and we have a cushion… We’re in good shape.
Some of this is a humble brag. But most of this is how my policy evaluation heuristic is formed. If a policy helps 2009 Me or 1992 Me out more than it helps present day me out, I’m most likely for it. If
20172021 Me is advantaged over either 2009 or 1992 Me, I’m highly likely to be opposed to it.
Since I wrote this four years ago, we have even more stability and shock absorbers. My wife saw a CNN headline that the proposed $1,400 check might be means tested and we would not be getting the entire check. Her response to that was to laugh and say “we made it….” And we have.
1992 and 2009 shape how I view the world. Those years shape what I prioritize and value. And those values inform what I implicitly weigh when making trade-offs. Realistically, my family is doing well to very well. Programs should not be targeted at us. I want programs to be targeted at people who actually need the help even if that means my taxes go up a bit. I want programs to be well run and comprehensive enough so that if something happened, I could count on them but most things should be not be designed to tickle my fancy. This was true four years ago. It is even more true today.