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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Heck of a lifestyle

The redistributionists have always promoted the idea that the way to solve poverty is to just give poor people money. But few of them have been as brazen as this:

Poor residents will get cash rewards for good behavior - such as $300 for doing well on school tests, $150 for holding a job and $200 for visiting the doctor - under an experimental anti-poverty program city officials detailed yesterday.

These healthy lifestyle payments, also known as conditional cash transfers, have been used in other countries, including Brazil and Mexico, drawing widespread praise for their success in changing behavior among the poor.
In New York, the two-year pilot program with about 14,000 participants will use private funds Mayor Michael Bloomberg has raised. More than $43 million has been raised toward the $53 million goal, Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs said.

The theory behind cash rewards is that poor people are trapped in a cycle of repeated setbacks that keep them from climbing out of poverty.

I don't know which is more dismaying, the program itself, or "some critics," who "have said the programs promote the idea that poor people could be successful if they just made better choices." Oh, well. I came to work all week, I took my garbage out, I made sure my cats had enough food and water, I was nice to every single person I talked to on the phone, and I made wise choices at the supermarket. I think that ought to be worth at least $1,500.