Monday, July 14, 2008

Poor Measures

Just what exactly is Mike Bloomnerg up to with his redefinition of poverty? As the NY Sun reports this morning: "Nearly one in four New Yorkers are living below the poverty line, according to Mayor Bloomberg, who says the federal government is underestimating the number of poor people in the city.The Bloomberg administration is adopting a new poverty measurement that raises the rate of poverty in the city to 23% from 18.9% by accounting for the cost of food, clothing, shelter, and utilities, as well as tax credits and government subsidies received."

Okay so we may. according to the redefinition, have more poor people than the Feds believe. So what? The purpose of these indicators is to give government parameters in the meting out of public benefits-it certainly doesn't change anyone's circumstances. According to the NY Times, Mayor Mike thinks this is helpful: "City officials hope that the new model will be adopted by other cities and states, and will also start a national re-examination about the way poverty is gauged...That model, while updated for inflation, has been criticized for being out of date, inaccurate and not taking into account how expenses like housing vary nationwide."

We're not sure what Bloomberg is up to with all of this, but we do know that his development policies have not resulted in a rising tide that lifts all boats-a fact that was drowned out by a $80 million chorus in the last election cycle. And it is instructive to point out that Hispanics as a group are rated the poorest New Yorkers since the mayor has done all he can to make it difficult for Hispanic entrepreneurs to thrive among the chain stores and mega-retailers he's been promoting.

The whole enterprise smacks of an attempt to codify a problem so that Big Brother can better address it; as if that was the best method for doing so in our economic system. The Sun captures this from the mayor: "In Washington, while there's a never-ending debate about how to confront poverty, there is hardly any clarity on who is actually poor. I spent most of my career in the private sector, and I'm a big believer in the saying, 'If you can't measure it, you can't manage it,'" Mr. Bloomberg was to have said, according to his prepared remarks."

There it is in a nutshell: poverty as a management problem. Are income supports, cash payments, far behind? The mayor has raised taxes, increased regulations, and ignored the small businesses that are the engine of neighborhood economic health. This is how poor communities rise out of their circumstances-led by their entrepreneurial class. You know what he can do with his measuring stick.