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New York Post


No Big Changes Coming From De Blasio

October 14, 2013

By Nicole Gelinas

Mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio says his "big thinking and bold ideas" will make his "vision for progressive change a reality."

But de Blasio’s not really offering change or big thinking, let alone bold ideas.

He just wants to do what New York has been doing since the ’60s: spend more money, in the name of helping the poor. But if higher spending worked, it would have worked already. The local poverty rate would be zero, not 21.2 percent.

Consider the centerpiece of his campaign: Asking "the wealthy to pay a little more in taxes." Then, "to set our children on the right path," he’d spend the $530 million from the tax hike on education, including $342 million on universal pre-K.

He claims we can’t now send these kids to school because we don’t spend enough money.

Let’s see. City taxpayers will provide $14.1 billion of the Department of Education’s $24.6 billion budget this year (federal and state taxpayers pay the rest).

That’s 87 percent more than a decade ago, even after inflation. The city’s part has risen so much because the federal and state shares haven’t kept up. So, in fact, New York’s middle class and wealthy taxpayers have already ponied up much more.

That higher spending includes money for 55,000 pre-K students — including at least $114 million to transport special-ed pre-schoolers. De Blasio would add 10,000 new full-day pre-K slots to the city’s current 17,000 — and convert the rest of the city’s 38,000 slots to full-day, too.

That’s an expansion — not a radical change. And there’s no reality-based argument to be made that the Bloomberg administration hasn’t spent enough on education — including pre-K.

There’s probably no harm in sending 4-year-olds to school if they’re not learning at home — but it’s not the miracle cure for disadvantaged children with overwhelmed mothers that advocates claim. And we should be asking basic questions like: Is it even humane to send handicapped 4-year-olds to a pre-school that’s further than family walking distance?

A real progressive would say it’s time to start getting better results with the money we already spend.

The same is true for the rest of the city’s anti-poverty initiatives: Spending more won’t fix things.

This year, the city will spend $10 billion on "social services" (mostly Medicaid and welfare), $3 billion on children’s services, $1 billion on homeless services, and $390 million on youth services.

That’s about $14.4 billion to "fight" poverty — 22 percent higher, after inflation, than when Bloomberg took office.

If New York City were to instead hand this local, state and federal cash to poor people, it could give the poorest 20 percent of its residents — roughly those who fall within poverty level — $8,600 each.

These figures don’t even include public housing.

Public-housing tenants don’t seem to realize that this asset — the right to live in a New York apartment for an average $436 a month indefinitely — is worth a good $30,000 a year in pre-tax cash income. As a single one-time payment, it’d be worth at least half a million.

Once you give an able-bodied, able-minded person an apartment, that person isn’t poor anymore.

If de Blasio were a true progressive — and a brave one — he’d say that New York needs to rethink how it spends its anti-poverty money. Our costs for health care and homeless services are way too high, partly because of coziness and corruption on the part of politically connected contractors.

But you can’t entirely blame de Blasio. His main opponent, Republican Joe Lhota, should be making an anti-poverty case — saying that it’s immoral to use the poor as an excuse to spend even more money on the same old special interests.

The best anti-poverty program is good policing, which keep people trapped in poor neighborhoods safer.

After that, the city’s mass-transit system lets poor people get to work — and to the city’s public libraries and parks — without having to spend $700 a month or more for a car and insurance.

Exam high schools like Stuyvesant, too, give motivated poor kids a way out — yet de Blasio would dilute the standards for these schools, making this valuable free education worth less.

The real poverty in this campaign is the poverty of fresh ideas.

Original Source:



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