NYC to pay for good behavior?
New York City's Nanny (oops, Mayor) Michael Bloomberg is starting a program to supposedly address the poverty problem by paying people to perform various behaviors.
NEW YORK (AP) - Poor residents will be rewarded for good behavior - like $300 for doing well on school tests, $150 for holding a job and $200 for visiting the doctor - under an experimental anti-poverty program that city officials detailed Monday.I was initially vehemently opposed to this goofy idea for several reasons. They partially addressed one concern by by raising private funds for the pilot program rather than using money confiscated from people already making good life decisions.
The rewards have been used in other countries, including Brazil and Mexico, and have drawn widespread praise for changing behavior among the poor. Mayor Michael Bloomberg traveled to Mexico this spring to study the healthy lifestyle payments, also known as conditional cash transfers.
I have to question my opposition further because of the arguments made by someone else opposed to the idea.
But some critics have raised questions about cash reward programs, saying they promote the misguided idea that poor people could be successful if they just made better choices.Actually, Margy it is not a misguided idea that people can be more successful if they make better decisions. In fact, most human failure can be traced to lousy decisions. Noted economist Walter Williams has correctly identified four things (apologies to Williams if I don't quote him properly) that people can do to stay out of poverty.
"It just reinforces the impression that if everybody would just work hard enough and change their personal behavior we could solve poverty in this country, and that's not reflected in the facts," said Margy Waller, co-founder of Inclusion, a research and policy group in Washington. Waller, who served as a domestic policy adviser in the Clinton administration, said it would be more effective to focus on labor issues, such as making sure wage laws are enforced and improving benefits for working people.
1. Finish high school
2. Get and hold a job before getting married
3. Get married before having children
4. Don't abuse drugs or alcohol
I'm still opposed to Bloomberg's idea, but Ms. Waller's argument against it almost changed my mind. Main opposition is because of cost and an understanding of how hard it is to kill a government program once it is implemented. The pilot program may be privately funded, but that only covers a tiny portion of New York's poor. I have no doubt that after they game the system to ensure they get the desired results they will expand it to cover a lot more and will start using tax dollars to fully implement it. Beyond that, there will always be people poorer than others. We will just redefine poverty to a different level.
Separately, keep this idea (as well as his edict banning transfats, and his order that all NYC cabs must be hybrids) when Nanny Bloomberg makes an expected run for the presidency as an independent.