Big Apple Mayor Bill de Blasio apparently has some big plans. One of them, only now bubbling to the surface, is to revamp the city’s welfare system. It seems that the idea of asking able bodied individuals receiving taxpayer funded cash support to work as part of the deal is offensive to enlightened sensibilities.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is revamping the city’s welfare program, vowing to dismantle what was once the largest workfare program in the nation and to embrace new strategies for moving thousands of people off the welfare rolls and into jobs.
Workfare? Do you remember workfare? It is the program that ballooned during the administration of Rudolph W. Giuliani, with 36,224 people working in it or assigned to it by the year 2000.
The program mostly dropped out of the headlines after Mr. Giuliani, a Republican, left office, but his work-first ethos still prevails: In April, 9,194 welfare recipients participated in or were assigned to workfare, and thousands more were required to engage in job-search programs that de Blasio administration officials have described as largely unsuccessful.
Now, Mr. de Blasio says, it is time for change.
Mayor de Blasio wants to replace all of that “insulting and degrading” work with an emphasis on attending public funded schooling and job training. Even though those were precisely the types of policies which were in place before the workfare push, when the city’s cash welfare rolls dwarfed the population of some small countries and had helped drive New York City toward bankruptcy, de Blasio seems to think that he has “learned from the lessons of the past” and that he won’t be “repeating those mistakes.”
This should be making a lot of people very nervous. If only someone had warned us. Oh, wait… Heather MacDonald did right after de Blasio was elected.
Bill de Blasio’s mayoralty will be primarily judged on whether he sustains New York’s record-breaking crime drop. But keep your eye on another number, too: 348,000, the tally of New Yorkers now receiving cash welfare.
Sixty-nine percent fewer residents are on cash benefits today than when Rudy Giuliani took office in 1994, and 24 percent fewer than when Mike Bloomberg took over in 2002, thanks to a deliberate attack on New York’s post-1960s dependency culture. As a result, more New Yorkers are employed today than at any time in the city’s history.
Mayor-elect de Blasio, however, has opposed virtually every key element of welfare reform:
This was on the Mayor’s agenda long before most of the nation had heard of him. Unfortunately, de Blasio and his allies demonstrate the same lack of understanding of the concept and purpose of workfare which characterized the volatile arguments over it in the early 90s. The Times article, titled to indicate how this plan is “lifting hope for job seekers” in NYC, captures this theme when they describe a city issued workfare identification card as a badge of shame which must be worn to the job. It’s a stunning misrepresentation.
Workfare was never designed to “shame” anyone. It was developed to assist people who had spent a long time – for some, their entire adult lives – trapped in the welfare system in transitioning to a new style of life where going out to work and earning a living every day became a normal way of life. And yes, to a certain degree at least, it was also constructed as an incentive to seek regular employment by making welfare less attractive. And it worked. It dramatically slashed the welfare roles and expanded the work force during a time when the economy was booming and jobs were plentiful for those who sought them.
You have to wonder at the timing of this, as well. It’s funny how this is cropping up right after the elections. Do you think it’s possible that the Democrats knew that such things would outrage many working class voters and remind them of what they get when they elect a lot of Democrats? Anyway, assuming that the Mayor gets this all pushed through, it will prove an interesting social experiment for the rest of the nation to observe. Sadly, when it almost surely fails, it will be the low income workers of New York City – as well as all the taxpayers – who pay the price.