Bloomberg to Give Out Shiny New Dimes to Worthy Poor

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Bloomberg on Capitol Hill last week. Photo: Getty Images


Mayor Bloomberg has just unveiled a unique new social program: The city will be paying poor families for, well, good behavior. For instance, if your household income is $20,000 or less, providing regular medical checkups for your child while holding down a job may raise it to $25,000. Plus there's more, and here's where it gets weird. Instead of simply evaluating the big picture — is the child healthy? — the program goes into jaw-dropping detail, breaking the lump sum down to micro-rewards for micro-achievements. In essence, it's going to itemize instances of good behavior, price them out accordingly, and tabulate the winnings every two months. A kid's exemplary attendance in elementary school may net the parent $25. Should she ace a test, there's $300 in it for mom and dad. Presumably, the city dispatches a trained social worker to pat you on the head if you say "please" and "thank you."

The program is in its testing stage; 2,500 families will go on it this September. We can only applaud any attempt to strengthen the slacking social-safety net in this brutally elitist city. But you don't have to be a let-them-eat-cake Republican to get a sour taste from the dainty, à la carte nature of these "conditional cash transfers." Hell, if anything, it almost breathes life into the old GOP canard about "infantilizing" handouts. There must be a way of aiding the poor without re-creating Henry Ford's notorious Sociological Department. Because we can't say we're looking forward to the rebirth of Bloomberg News as the Dearborn Independent.

New York City to Reward Poor for Doing Right Thing [NYT]