Its official: Mayor de Blasio has declared war on welfare reform. Last week, de Blasio announced that Legal Aid Society chief Steve Banks will be the citys next welfare commissioner. The poverty-industrial complex erupted in elation.
No wonder: Banks is uniquely qualified to return New York to its former status as Americas dependency capital. For the last quarter-century, he has been suing the city over its welfare and homeless policies, inevitably seeking looser rules for eligibility, fewer requirements for work or lesser sanctions for noncompliance. As a result, he is deeply versed in the citys internal protocols governing the distribution of assistance, and already understands where the regulatory levers are to open wide the aid spigot.
Banks is best known for a 25-year-long lawsuit that conferred on families claiming homelessness a court-enforceable right to housing at taxpayer expense — an entitlement that exists nowhere else in the country. But Banks and his Legal Aid Society have been equally diligent in fighting welfare reform. Their principles throughout are in perfect sync with de Blasios view that government, rather than personal initiative and self-control, is the ultimate guarantor of individual success.
If Banks believes there are better solutions to poverty than government programs, he hasnt let on. "[Family] homelessness is a horrible symbol of a failure of a whole broad range of government policies," he said in 2007. Actually, the steady stream of single mothers seeking taxpayer-provided apartments is a symbol of family breakdown; the number of married, working, drug-free families claiming homelessness is close to zero.
Banks is right only in ways he does not intend: The citys promise of a free apartment draws single mothers into the shelter system, and its rent-regulation policies limit the supply of housing. For Banks and his advocate colleagues, however, the cause of homelessness is the citys failure to shell out even more millions in open-ended rent subsidies to fatherless families.
The new welfare commissioner apparently sees no independent value in work. In 2000, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani touted the drop in the citys welfare rolls from 1.16 million in 1995 to below 600,000. The vast majority of welfare mothers who had left the rolls had found jobs and stayed off of welfare for at least a year. Banks, however, groused that most "remain[ed] as poor as ever."
In Banks worldview, it seems, someone earning $20,000 a year is no better off than someone collecting $20,000 worth of government benefits — even though the former is engaged in life-affirming activity and has a real chance at future advancement.
Banks and de Blasio have left little doubt about their intentions. Banks will replace "punitive policies" with ones that "help struggling New Yorkers," declared the mayors press release. "We have to make our government work for New Yorkers who need a helping hand — not against them," Banks said, including "making sure children and adults have access to food assistance."
Now what may those "punitive policies" be? Presumably work and anti-fraud measures.
- Expect to see Banks reimport feckless "education and training" into the welfare bargain.
- Banks will likely do away with independent medical verification of disability claims and cut back on background checks. Poverty advocates reject the idea that the poor would commit welfare fraud and have always been blasé about the possibility of transfer payments going to ineligible individuals, on the ground that they probably need the money anyway.
- Banks suggestion that the city is denying "access" to food stamps is particularly absurd: Nearly 1.9 million New Yorkers (a fifth of the city) are now on food stamps. No matter. The citys rule that able-bodied, childless adults look for work in exchange for their food stamps has long been a target of advocate ire; it will be discarded at the first opportunity, while the administration signs up hundreds of thousands more recipients.
- Benefits will likely rise across the board. The de Blasio administration has already quietly increased rent subsidies for AIDS and HIV-positive individuals, even though New York already provides more money and services to AIDS patients than any other locality in the country.
Steven Banks has been one of the citys top litigants pushing to expand entitlements. His oversight of the $9 billion Human Resources Administration will mean several giant steps back for fiscal and personal responsibility.
Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/03/07/say-good-bye-to-welfare-reform-new-york/