Several days ago, we raised our eyebrows at an experimental social program championed by Mayor Bloomberg, that would literally pay the poor for good behavior. Under the program’s rules, things like taking one’s child to regular medical checkups and attending PTA meetings could net the parents up to $5,000 a year. We found the initiative noble in concept but more than a little patronizing in execution. Today, however, it finds an energetic defense in the pages of the Post, which presents an ironclad argument: It worked in Mexico.
That’s true, more or less. The program, which has never been tried in the U.S., is a Mexican import. The World Bank says that dropout rates fell 4 percent when parents started getting cash to keep their kids in school, and “tobacco use by kids in rural areas” supposedly dropped, too. Well! If it worked for rural Mexico, it’s a natural fit for Manhattan. Even the mayor himself recognizes the weirdness, admitting sheepishly, “Whether it’ll work here, I don’t know [but] shame on us if we don’t try it.”
It’s shaping up as a pretty expensive hail-Mary pass, then. The program’s budget, which Bloomberg raised privately, is $50 million. Since only 2,500 families are involved at this stage, the absolute maximum payout — if everyone behaves like an angel — is $12.5 million. We guess the remaining $37.5 million will go toward translating the manual from Spanish.