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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ending Poverty

posted by on August 30 at 14:21 PM

The solution for poverty? Bloomberg believes it might be paying the poor to do what’s good for them:

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has an unconventional program for ending poverty: incentives.

Bloomberg says that after years of fighting poverty, the government has little to show for its efforts. Now it’s time to try something new. Why not offer incentives to poor people to do things that can benefit them, such as attend school, get a library card or go to the doctor?

One: For capital, the last solution will always be money. Why? Because capital invented the problem of money in the first place.

Two: This “unconventional program” simply reinforces the ancient belief that being poor is morally bad. If you are poor, you do bad things because being poor is being in a situation that is altogether bad. Money is not the root of all evil; Money is the tree of all that begins and ends well.

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Who said money is the root of all evil? The love of money is the root of all evil, Charles.

Posted by Mr. Poe | August 30, 2007 2:27 PM

It's pretty well understood that one of the roadblocks faced by the poor is the higher short-term cost of many decisions that are far more beneficial in the long term. It would seem that a program like that suggested would be trying, at least in principle, to reduce the short-term costs of the long-term optimal choices and undermine this dilemma.

So how does this imply that being poor is "morally bad", exactly?

Posted by tsm | August 30, 2007 2:38 PM

Well gee, they're gonna need the money to pay for school and doctor's visits. And the car/taxi/bus rides to and from each.

But I'm sure it won't be, you know, enough.

Posted by K | August 30, 2007 3:14 PM

This is frustrating! It is a patronizing approach to dealing with social problems, and combines the worst aspects of socialism and free-market economics. How absurd is it to pay someone to go to the doctor when the cost of medical care is skyrocketing? To pay someone to get a library card when there are cutbacks in funding to social services (including libraries)?

Not only that, but why should I pay someone to do something that they should do anyway? I'm all for making health care and social services practically free, but at a certain point, you need to take responsibility for yourself. Unless someone doesn't have the capacity to perform certain actions for themselves, I have no intention of providing a reward to someone that may not otherwise be responsible enough to take care of themselves.

*This* is an example of unacceptable "nanny-statism"...

Posted by bma | August 30, 2007 3:14 PM

It's remarks like these that show how truly ignorant people who have never been poor are.

Posted by Katie B | August 30, 2007 3:30 PM

The rationale is that many poor people can neither afford certain of these services (doctors, tutoring), or that they're so fucking overworked trying to live on their shitty, shitty pay, that they can't take the time to get library cards, read to their kids, or get involved with their kids' schools, which is one of the biggest indicators of academic success. By providing financial incentives, they can improve the lives of their children. Mind you, it'll only work if the financial incentives are large enough to make up for the money they lose out on by not working. It's not actually Bloomberg's idea, or a new one for that matter. It was originated by leftist governments in South America, like Lula. I'm fine with it, really, if it does meet the criterion that it replaces income lost from not working during those activities.

Posted by Gitai | August 30, 2007 3:41 PM

I think it's a fine idea too and I suspect anyone who doesn't has never had to choose between feeding their family or getting one sick kid to the doctor. And of course, for all of you who are critical of this idea, please send your much better ideas to Bloomberg.

Posted by call me a snot | August 30, 2007 3:57 PM

@5, which remarks are you talking about?

And Charles, sorry I'm so dense, but could you explicate what you think is wrong about the plan? I'm not clear on how it reinforces the ancient belief that being poor is morally bad.

Posted by Emma Leigh | August 30, 2007 4:46 PM

it sounds like a good idea to me. I've worked with kids in the Bronx. They need subsidized tickets to get on the subway just to go to school. Why not subsidize doctors visits, which would promote better health for the whole city? as for the issue of the morality of being poor, allow me to quote Brecht: First comes the grub, then come the morals.

Posted by Philip | August 30, 2007 5:34 PM

these statements about paying the poor to go to school, go to the doctor or get a library card assume that people that are "poor" choose to be and can just start educating themselves if given money. Maybe a few would benefit. But in reality people that are poor fall into many different categories and can not be generalized into a "Poor class" that would all of a sudden have a magic library card or become a student to free themselves from being poor. This is a typical Government way of dealing with "the poor" by creating the business of looking after the poor. The poor industry once created does not go away. Poor people are not all bad some people that do not have much do just fine. and some don't because like I said the being poor is just a generalization. Some poor people are mentally ill, and do not know how to look after themselves at all, most live on the street. So a library card is not going to help these people. They are beyond rehabilitation they are sick and in the hinterland, "the Streets". The other end of the poor scale are people that can look after themselves, have a job and eat decently but still do not have as much as others but are happy. "The poor" is just a generalization and you can not make it go away. Mental illness, alcohol and drug abuse help create a portion of the poor that are very hard to rehabilitate and a library card is not going to do it.

Posted by -B- | August 31, 2007 10:05 AM

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