Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Poverty of Philosophy

We have commented before about the mayor's absurd plan to pay children and families to behave better. In the latest Weekly Standard the Manhattan Institute's Heather McDonald lashes into the mayor's program and, in the modern currency, thoroughly deconstructs it: "Anyone interested in seeing what Bloomberg's rhetoric of 'innovative,' nonpartisan problem-solving means in practice will find his new poverty plan illuminating. It combines a clever technocratic veneer with a profound ignorance of civil society."

McDonald goes on to say that if the Bloomberg war on poverty is adopted by city government (it is currently privately funded), "it could be one of the most destructive welfare policies ever devised." What the mayor and his minions-is there anyone at City Hall advising the mayor and urging caution?- fail to realize is the extent to which decades of welfare dependency have fostered a "culture of poverty" that has eroded the will of the recipients: a subculture where even free medical care for ones children is not being utilized by parents.

How to end this cycle of dependency is not easily answered. For a good many, though, the answer lay in the simple programmatic refusal to continue to subsidize folks forever-in other words, welfare reform that set deadlines so people understood that their benefits wouldn't last forever. In NYC Mayor Giuliani spearheaded this effort and was excoriated by all of the same folks that have been fawning over Bloomberg's "less confrontational" style.

The reality, however, is that Rudy was a paradigm shifter, while Bloomberg is a Back to the Future version of John Lindsay. There is no way that Mayor Mike would have ever challenged the comfortable liberal shibboleths that had held sway in this city for years. Nor would he, in this same vein, have adopted the "broken windows" concept of policing that helped to facilitate the dramatic decreases in crime that have made it easier for Bloomberg to govern.

The fact is that the mayor has been coasting on Giuliani's efforts, and has been doing so while accepting the encomiums of people who harshly resisted Giuliani's agenda. It is quite nauseating to witness the level of hypocrisy from those who, while benefiting from Giuliani's achievements, praise Bloomberg for his more acceptable leadership style.

Which brings us to Bloomberg's grotesque anti-poverty scheme. McDonald rightly points out that the plan does recognize the fact that attitudinal change is essential if we're going to address this resistant subculture of poverty. It runs aground, however, on the mistaken belief that a cash transfer-like some kind of corporate subsidy-will alter not only current behavior but future decisions as well.

It will do no such thing. What it will do, is create another overarching bureaucratic apparatus that will continue to expand as the recipients and all of their "advocates" establish another feeding trough that will institutionalize dependency even further. As McDonald points out, if Mayor Mike really wants to do something dramatic about poverty he should launch a pro-marriage campaign. But that would put Mike at odds with all of his liberal salons and would actually involve making people responsible for their behavior.

Wait till Bloomberg tries to sell this on a national stage; he'll be exposed as the liberal elitist that he is, and will be innovated right out of the race. We're actually looking forward to watching this happen.