Archive for April 17th, 2006

Welfare in NYC: not as pretty a picture as Bloomberg would like to paint

Last week while listening to NPR, I heard news of the drop of welfare rolls in NYC to a 40-year low, a statistic that Mayor Bloomberg is touting as a major success. From a City Limits article published today:

“We promised to move New Yorkers to self-sufficiency and we are delivering on that promise in a historic way,” Bloomberg states. Of those who leave welfare for work, 88 percent keep their jobs for at least three months, and 75 percent still have them after six.

Now, when I heard those figures, I was immediately skeptical. Those numbers sounded good, but it’s easy to make numbers sound good by leaving the bad stuff out. And, as the City Limits article reports, it seems that’s precisely what’s going on here:

But the press release [put out by the mayor on April 5] 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.

Most of those 77% simply stop showing up for their appointments. Welfare advocates say that much of that drop off is due to the severe difficulties, obstacles, even hostility that people face when attempting to access welfare benefits. As Jillynn Stevens of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies says in the article, “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.”

Bloomberg can dress up the numbers all he wants, but the truth remains that welfare reform has done far more to harm poor folks than to help them. To his credit, Bloomberg is currently seeking to make it easier for some adults to get food stamps, but there’s a lot more to be done to redress the harm done by the anti-poor policies of current mayor and his predecessor Giuliani.

how much longer are we stuck with this jerk?

Have other New Yorkers been keeping abreast of Pataki’s recent budget veto spree? It seems like he’s trying to piss everyone and their mother off by both tremendously cutting spending on state services and also cutting tons of tax cuts. Some of his spending cuts include $650 million stripped from Medicaid and $4.6 million from legal services for poor and low-income New Yorkers. The New York State Bar Association is decrying the veto, saying that if allowed to stand, it will result in “a drastic reduction in legal services to the poor.” As if poor folks in New York don’t have a hard enough time already accessing legal services.

Apparently, much of this is part of an attempt on Pataki’s part to show just how fiscally conservative he can be and to demonstrate that, even as a lame duck, he’s still got some punch left in him – all with a view to bolster his 2008 presidential bid. Let’s hope that it backfires, as this NY Times news analysis suggests it might:

The governor’s strategy is not without its risks, especially for someone who is still flirting with a run for president. Vetoing more than $1 billion in tax cuts is not the kind of thing that plays well in Republican primaries, and is the kind of factoid that has been known to make its way into attack ads. How will the veto of $200,000 for a tractor rollover protection program play with those Iowa farmers he has been courting?

Let’s also cross our fingers and hope that Spitzer (who seems pretty much set to take the governorship in November) is a far sight better than Pataki. I admittedly don’t know too much about him, but somehow he makes me a little nervous. As I suppose most politicians do, especially the white male variety.