Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Great Cash-Giveaway...

September 24, 2006 -- "Like his campaign against guns and the smoking ban before it, Mayor Bloomberg made national news last week with another Big Idea. This time, Hizzoner says New York needs to pay poor people to act responsibly. In cash.

This stunning recommendation comes from the Commission for Economic Opportunity, which Bloomberg created six months ago to study poverty in the city.

Using the federal definition of poverty (cash income totaling less than three times the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet), the report says 1.5 million (or 19.1 percent) of New Yorkers are in poverty.

If that seems high, maybe it's because it doesn't take note of non-cash social benefits worth thousands. Benefits like food stamps, Medicaid, rent subsidies, school feeding programs and day-care assistance don't count.

Thus, a Heritage Foundation study, for example, reveals that 46 percent of officially "poor" Americans own their homes - and 97 percent own a color TV; most have two.

Here in New York, the commission's report concedes that "Child poverty has fallen from 20.8 percent in 1995 to 16.2 percent in 2000, and employment, especially among single mothers, has surged."

The report properly credits the 1996 welfare reform act (though then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who made it work in New York, gets not a mention).

Recall that reform was meant to wean people off government assistance. Now comes Mayor Mike (the anti-Giuliani, as it were), trying to reverse the process - but with a twist.

Rather than simply distribute cash, the city proposes distributing cash to "poor" parents and children who "engage in healthy behavior, and stay in school, stay at work, and stay on track to rise out of poverty."

Mike and his minions, of course, get to decide what constitutes "healthy behavior" - and so on.

The commission offers 31 separate recommendations - each intended massively to expand the role of government in municipal life.

It suggests handouts for parents who do things like take their children to school, get immunizations and see the doctor regularly. These are the "worthy" poor, in other words.

Meanwhile, hamburger-lovin', MarlBoro-Red-smokin' poor people are flat out of luck.

It's pure nanny-statism - that is to say, Bloomberg undiluted.

Rewarding common-sense behavior will infantilize poorer New Yorkers - diminishing the self-responsibility Bloomberg claims he seeks to promote.

Worse, the plan clearly would provide a perverse incentive for those hovering above poverty to drop down and become eligible for these new entitlements.

The lesson of the '96 welfare reform bill is that people need to be trusted to look out for their own best interests.

What Bloomberg needs to do is work tirelessly to remove obstacles to financial independence - like high taxes and an environment that makes job and small-business growth prohibitively expensive.

Mayor Mike needs to bludgeon the troglodytes on the City Council who are blocking stores like Wal-Mart - the lack of which takes a terrible toll on the poor in terms of unnecessarily high prices and lost entry-level jobs.

Instead, he's channeling Lyndon Johnson and his Great Society bathe-the-poor-in-cash programs.

They didn't work then.

They won't work now."

You've read it correctly. Bloomberg wants to reward low-income families for getting their kids to the doctor and dentist when necessary. Seems these troglodytes wouldn't do so otherwise, so instead of branding them, well, troglodytes, and PUNISHING them for being reprehensible cretins, hizzoner wishes to lavish them with cash.

Keep minorities barefoot and pregnant and awash in a sea of taxpayer monies and they'll vote for you as many times as need be.

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