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New York Post

 

De Blasio's Welfare Agenda

December 03, 2013

By Heather Mac Donald

Bill de Blasio’s mayoralty will be primarily judged on whether he sustains New York’s record-breaking crime drop. But keep your eye on another number, too: 348,000, the tally of New Yorkers now receiving cash welfare.

Sixty-nine percent fewer residents are on cash benefits today than when Rudy Giuliani took office in 1994, and 24 percent fewer than when Mike Bloomberg took over in 2002, thanks to a deliberate attack on New York’s post-1960s dependency culture. As a result, more New Yorkers are employed today than at any time in the city’s history.

Mayor-elect de Blasio, however, has opposed virtually every key element of welfare reform:

Work first: The central idea of welfare reform was that recipients should work or look for work in exchange for their benefits. This principle exploded traditional welfare ideology, which held that it was demeaning to require work, especially in government-created workfare jobs. At most, recipients should be gently nudged toward optional education and training, which would allegedly allow them to leapfrog over "bad" low-wage jobs and into "good" higher-wage jobs.

In fact, few pieces of social science research are more repeatedly corroborated than the uselessness of "education and training" for getting off the dole and into the workforce. The best way to get a job, it turns out, is to get a job — any job. All jobs confer dignity, and working full-time and persistently in one is the surest way to escape poverty (short of marrying the father of your children, but that’s another controversy).

Yet de Blasio has called Mayor Bloomberg’s belief that everyone should work for a living an "ideological hang-up." He fought Bloomberg’s efforts to preserve the city’s requirement that able-bodied, childless adults at least look for work in exchange for food stamps. That requirement blocks a "path out of poverty," he said in 2009 — in other words, working or looking for work keeps one in poverty, per de Blasio, while collecting benefits without working is a "path out of poverty." He has promised to restore "education and training" as a core activity of welfare recipients and will ask the state to again allow four-year college students to collect welfare without any reciprocal obligations.

Diversion: The surest way to escape welfare is never to get on it in the first place. City case workers try to help welfare applicants without signing them up for the dole, whether through a one-time rental-assistance payment, or (ideally) through a job. Welfare rolls dropped 650,000 on Giuliani’s watch thanks to diversion.

Yet de Blasio has vowed to "stop efforts to divert individuals from accessing cash assistance." He wants to use ObamaCare outreach workers to put more New Yorkers on all government welfare programs and thinks that the city’s already high number of food-stamp recipients — nearly 1.9 million or 21 percent of the population — is at least a quarter-million too low.

Eligibility verification: Giuliani instituted finger-imaging and in-person interviews for welfare applicants. Yet the battle against welfare cheating is a never-ending imperative. In 2000 alone, the city’s welfare administration uncovered 40,000 cases of fraud and ineligibility.

De Blasio appears to believe that welfare applicants would never dream of ripping off taxpayers. He grandstanded against Bloomberg’s insistence that food-stamp applicants be finger-imaged, claiming it was "stigmatizing." Somehow an identical finger-imaging requirement hasn’t stopped hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers from working for the city.

Responsibility rhetoric: As important as any policy change was welfare reform’s public philosophy of personal responsibility and self-sufficiency. De Blasio, by contrast, holds forth on government’s alleged power to provide for its citizens: "Providing basic income and food security to all New Yorkers [is] a key responsibility of government," he announces in his mayoral blueprint.

New York has been down this path before. In 1960, 328,000 New Yorkers were on cash assistance. By 1972, after two terms of Mayor John Lindsay, the rolls had swelled to nearly 1.25 million, or 16 percent of the city’s population. One in every 10 US welfare recipients lived in New York City, reports Vincent Cannato in "The Ungovernable City."

As de Blasio promises to do, Lindsay dismantled the city’s processes for detecting welfare fraud and streamlined the welfare-application process. By 1972, welfare fraud was costing the city $100 million a year. Lindsay said that asking welfare recipients to work would return us "to the dark ages."

Not coincidentally, crime also exploded on Lindsay’s watch. Like de Blasio, he believed in government’s power to uplift individuals — except where that power really existed and mattered: in the provision of public order.

The welfare and crime triumphs of the last two decades went hand in hand: The city asked more of would-be government dependents while making sure that individuals and entrepreneurs could better themselves free from the fear of crime. Watch the intertwined fates of welfare reform and crime suppression to see how New York will weather the de Blasio years.

Original Source: http://nypost.com/2013/12/03/de-blasios-welfare-agenda/

 

 
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