Friday, September 07, 2007

Bloomberg and the Poor

The DMI has a post on the mayor's new poverty policy initiative, and Maureen Lane describes some of what the mayor's trying to do without really evaluating either the philosophical underpinnings of the program, or the practical implications-something that we have done at length elsewhere. Lane's focus, however, is on the overall welfare situation, and she feels that the current stipend is too small, while the work requirement of 35 hours a week is too onerous.

Perhaps it is, but we remain somewhat skeptical, especially when Lane's lachrymose prose describes the arduousness of single moms who are working and going to school. "Where are the fathers," one is tempted to ask, but of course such questions are left unsaid by most for fear of being labeled callous or politically incorrect. It has always been hard for people to go to school and work at the same time, and to do so with young children is indeed hard.

Is is useful public policy, however, to increase the subsidies for these folks? Will this encourage others to behave in ways that has led to the difficulties these people find themselves in? If the current allocation is "shamefully inadequate," than what is adequate, and will this lead to a slippery slope of greater dependency among more people?

These are not silly questions. Let's not forget that so many of the folks that are most vocal about "inadequacy"-and we have no idea if Lane is one of them-were the same people who excoriated Clinton and Giuliani for their efforts to reduce welfare dependency. Let's also not forget that the mothers Lane talks about are also the victims of some of the terrible choices that they made, and that these choices also have consequences. The goal of public policy should be to strike the proper balance between compassion for the struggle and concern for the perpetuation of dependency.

After all, someone has to pay the bills for all of this, and there are hard working middle class New Yorkers who have to get up at 5 o'clock, juggle the kids and work, while making sure that they get all of their bills paid. Their concerns, and the taxes that they pay, need to be part of this discussion. We need to be sure that the policies we support are the best ones for insuring that the, "aid people receiving welfare {will enable them} to get family sustaining jobs" (and not just sustain the bureaucrats in their oversight roles).