Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Poverty Pimples

Our we the only ones who are more than slightly underwhelmed by the mayor's new $100 million anti-poverty initiative? No, we haven't done a line by line analysis but the published reports seem to us to be the same old same old; although the program to "teach the poor about financial management" that will operate (of all places) out of the city's Department of Consumer Affairs does have the capacity for high comedy.

Now there may be some more that we just haven't been informed of quite yet, since there will be an additional 30 programs that "administration officials say they are developing but declined to announce." All of which does little to overcome our endemic skepticism of the government's ability to guide folks out of poverty circumstances-without the inevitable bureaucratization that seems to always become self-perpetuating.

The Bloomberg initiative may turn out to be different but there is nothing that we have seen from these folks that would indicate a capacity to see anything through an entrepreneurial lens and not a paternalistic, "we know what's best for these people" world view. We're waiting breathlessly to see whether there is a job-creation component of the plan that recognizes the need to spur small business in those neighborhoods where high chronic unemployment exists.

Spurring economic growth through an aggressive policy of reducing regulations and high taxes is not a mind set we have come to expect from this administration; in spite of the fact that the neighborhood retail sector is probably the biggest employer of minority workers in the city. In our view, city anti-poverty efforts should be in collaboration, not so much with the sufferers themselves (although they have to be involved as a matter of course), but with the neighborhood business sector that can, with public sector help, become an integral part of the solution.