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columbus represent

Friday, March 30, 2007

Do the Right Thing

March 30, 2007

Seeking new solutions to New York's vexingly high poverty rates, the city is moving ahead with an ambitious experiment that will pay poor families up to $5,000 a year to meet goals like attending parent-teacher conferences, going for a medical checkup or holding down a full-time job, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday

I will be really interested to hear what you all think of this initiative.  I have mixed emotions. My first reaction was: the underlying theory of this "experiment" to get poor people to do what is "good for them," is that people simply aren't doing these things because they just don't want to, they are lazy and greedy, and if we give them money, then they will stop being the irresponsible people we all know they are, because why else would they be poor? But take a look at who were are talking about.
To be eligible, families must have at least one child entering fourth, seventh or ninth grade and a household income of 130 percent or less of the federal poverty level, which equals roughly $20,000 for a single parent with two children.
To be eligible, you have to make no more than $20,000 for a family of three. And that's $20,000 in NEW YORK CITY, not rural Ohio, where it would still be hard to make ends meet and do everything that you need to do on 20K a year. Once again, do you think the reason people aren't making routine medical checkups, or parent teacher conferences are because they don't want to? I am all for innovative, out of the box, new ideas that could rev things up, and address what is an ever increasing income gap, with the numbers of people living in extreme poverty growing faster than any other sector of the population, but.... is this the way? Hmmmm.


Anonymous rose said...

this is the problem with billionaire's buying their way into office: they think because money is their motivator and/or got them everything they ever wanted that it is the solution for everyone else's needs. this initiative, if well publicized, may get a few bad parents into their children's schools for a few conferences with teachers, but it won't help the working poor get the time or energy they need to help their kids with their homework, which is what they'd prefer to their second and third jobs.

6:11 PM

Blogger iomi said...

Ummm... wouldn't universal health care be a good first step???

I just get so frustrated by things like this. Maybe it's a great idea that would work wonders, but... I kind of doubt it. Forcing people who are exhausted to go and sit in a meeting does not mean they are going to be paying attention necessarily, and who's to say that the meetings are universally useful and well-run anyway? I agree with rose, I think if you're supporting a family on 20 grand or less... you are stressed. There's no way around it. If you have extra time, you already have something to do in that extra time, like hang out with your kids or get a fourth job.

It chaps my hide that the provisions for the "working poor" often have such extremely low thresholds for what is considered poverty. 20 grand?!?! It's nuts! Some New Yorkers spend that much on a season's wardrobe, or one handbag. If a family is surviving on that, they deserve a freaking trophy and a masters degree in time and money management. I have seen people making a lot more than that suffer from the pangs of poverty in very real and tangible ways, and I have seen folks who *make* a lot of money yet *claim* very little take advantage of opportunities like this- if someone works under the table or what have you, they might be eligible for something like this while others who make less and are taxed are not.
I've also seen families and individuals just a few hundred dollars too rich for a benefit, or a few hundred dollars into a new tax bracket, suffer for it.

I think we need a more comprehensive outlook in general on what poverty means and feels like, and also what a family looks like. If a live-in boyfriend/girlfriend/sibling is there half time and working away from home six months of the year, is his salary included, too? Or if a grandmother or other helper is in the picture and then out of the picture, if neighborhood children often come to stay over and eat, etc, etc, etc.... why should we only help people who are at a very specific dollar amount, and in very clear cut situations? We are all still a paycheck or two (maybe four) from homeless. Most of the people I know are, even those who make a ton of money.

I agree that out of the box thinking is good, and I'm glad to see *any* thinking at all sometimes, but I'm not sure this is the best way either.

5:40 PM


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