Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Mike Bloomberg can be such a colossal dick

As you consider the two items below, keep in mind that Michael Bloomberg has a net worth of over $5 billion, making him the 40th richest human being in America.

[This has turned out to be very long, so I'm putting it below the jump.]

The welfare caseload dropped this year, as announced in this press release.


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Human Resources Administration Commissioner Verna Eggleston today announced that New York City public assistance caseloads have dropped to their lowest levels in more than 40 years. The March 2006 public assistance caseload of 402,281 persons is the lowest since 1964, the same year President Lyndon B. Johnson and Congress launched the War on Poverty. Currently, of those public assistance recipients who move from welfare to work, 88% have retained their jobs after three months, and 75% percent have stayed employed after six months.

Wow, Mayor Mike! That's awesome.

"We promised to move New Yorkers to self-sufficiency and we are delivering on that promise in an historic way," said Mayor Bloomberg. "People are leaving the welfare rolls in record numbers and they are getting - and keeping - jobs that allows them to live independently and enjoy the dignity of work."

You da bomb, Mayor Mike!

Or maybe not. City Limits did a little digging.

...the press release never explains that those numbers apply only to the 23 percent of former clients known to have jobs at all. The other 77 percent aren't tracked by HRA, according to spokesperson Robert McHugh.

Wait, what?

Of the recipients who leave welfare each month, only around 23 percent are known to have found work. The rest, according to HRA, just stop showing up for appointments.

Meanwhile, a dramatic 67 percent of cases added to the rolls each month are returnees, proof of what advocates call "churning," the tendency of low-wage workers to cycle between government assistance and dead-end jobs.
Jillynn Stevens, director of policy, advocacy and research at the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA), pointed out that a drop in rolls could also reflect barriers that prevent clients from receiving or maintaining their benefits. “There is every attempt to not sign people up, to exclude them from eligibility, to make it as unfriendly and difficult as possible to be a welfare recipient,” she said.

Okay, a bit of anecdotal full disclosure here: I date a law student who has spent the last semester representing people being sanctioned in one way or another by the welfare system. It is abundantly clear that welfare agencies are doing exactly what Stevens accuses them of, making people jump through more and more hoops just to stay in the same place. As my law student girlfriend says:

They're doing everything they can to cut people off, or just make them feel that it's not worth it to have to go to some lame appointment every week, clean the parks, and be harassed for $200 a month.

It's hard to know how much of their runaround act is by design and how much is incompetence--there are clearly elements of both. Since the vast majority of welfare clients can't get legal representation, merely showing up with a lawyer (or law student) at an administrative hearing seems to be enough to get the OTDA to just drop the matter.

Incidentally, in at least one of my girlfriend's cases, benefits were being cut because someone in the family got a job. That's not at all uncommon. Many public-assistance programs are pegged to your family income, so if you start earning money, your benefits get reduced. It's a terrible system.

City Limits ends on a hopeful note.

Levitan is encouraged, for instance, by Bloomberg's recent move to ease food stamp restrictions...

That move even made the front page of the New York Times.

The Bloomberg administration, in a significant departure from the welfare policies of the Giuliani era, is pursuing a federal waiver that would make it easier for able-bodied adults who do not have children to qualify for food stamps, even if they are not working.

About 43,000 able-bodied childless adults in the city use food stamps, and easing the eligibility requirements would make at least 13,900 more people eligible...

The number of New Yorkers receiving food stamps has steadily risen in the last four years, even as the number of those receiving cash welfare assistance has fallen to its lowest level in 40 years.

With little public attention, the Bloomberg administration has been turning to the federally financed food stamp program over the past year as a way to help needy New Yorkers.

You get that last part? Federally financed. Food stamp waivers don't cost the city a goddamned thing. Yet the next day Bloomberg reversed himself.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took the rare step yesterday of overruling his own top two social service officials, deciding not to pursue a federal waiver that would make it easier for able-bodied childless adults to receive food stamps.

Gee, Mayor Mike, that's odd. Why not?

Mr. Bloomberg said yesterday that his decision not to seek a federal waiver that would have allowed some able-bodied adults ages 18 to 49 to receive food stamps for longer periods of time was simply part of a fair-minded refusal to reward people who were able to work but not employed.

"I'm a believer that people should have to work for a living," Mr. Bloomberg told reporters at a Queens hospital. "You have to have a penalty if there's a requirement to work, and this penalty is one that's appropriate," he added. "The city has a whole host of programs to make sure that nobody goes without food."

Are you remembering that $5 billion? I mean, seriously, the man is like one of those cartoon pigs with the dollar signs on its chest, strolling down the street and telling the homeless people, "quit being so lazy! get a job!" Also remember that the public-benefit system in many ways actually penalizes people who start to work.

Ugh. How could a Democrat lose to this man? He'd have to be the worst campaigner ever. Like Kathleen Kennedy Townshend bad.

Oh yeah. Freddie Ferrer.

Tags: New York, politics, Michael Bloomberg, food stamps, welfare


  • At 1:31 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Come on. Do you really think voters care enough about food stamps/pay enough attention for this to affect who they vote for?

    Mark Green ran a flawed but pretty good campaign. Bloomberg was just willing to do whatever it took (i.e., spend whatever it took) to win. And he was the first Republican to opportunistically capitalize on 9/11.

  • At 2:01 PM, Blogger Antid Oto said…

    I wasn't thinking about the Green/Bloomberg campaign. That was a mess for a whole lot of reasons. I was thinking about the more recent race, where Freddie blew a big lead.

  • At 2:19 PM, Blogger Solomon Grundy said…

    Right, but I meant, even with a worthy opponent, Bloomberg would do whatever it took to win. Including outspending by 30 to 1 or whatever the figure was during the Green/Bloomberg race.


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