ON-Lion Letter

"New York City mayor Bill de Blasio is proposing a full employment program for government-funded social-service workers," begins an August article by Bradley Prize recipient Heather Mac Donald for City Journal.  "In the process, he will likely gut one of the most successful welfare-to-work initiatives in the country, and possibly return New York to its former status of America's dependency capital, when one in seven New Yorkers were on the dole."

Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research and a contributing editor of its City JournalThe Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Manhattan Institute.

New York's "gargantuan welfare agency, the Human Resources Administration [HRA], has just issued its 'new vision for employment and education services,'" MacDonald continues.  "Welfare users will no longer be expected to immediately look for and take a job in exchange for taxpayer support, an expectation that was the key breakthrough of welfare reform.  Instead, welfare recipients will serve indefinitely as receptacles for an endless array of taxpayer-supported services.

"Welfare applicants and recipients entering this complex new world of services will go through a three-tier assessment process," she writes.  "Those recipients deemed 'fully employable' by HRA will get ... not a job, but more services!  They will be referred to off-site 'contractor locations,' where the contractors will provide 'in-depth assessments and direct clients to the proper set of services that are tailored to individualized strengths, interests, and needs.'

"The overwhelming cause of poverty in America today is family breakdown, not inadequate government spending on welfare programs or low wages," according to Mac Donald.  "Children in single-mother households are over four times as likely to be poor as children raised by married parents.  And an adult can avoid poverty by taking just three simple steps:  graduate from high school, work full-time, and wait until marriage to have children. ...

"Those precepts rely on personal initiative and self-discipline," she continues.  "As such, they are not particularly useful or interesting to the poverty-industrial complex.  But government can enforce the message that able-bodied adults should work full-time, especially if they expect taxpayers to support them.

The de Blasio "initiative, however, takes the city away from that reciprocal contract between taxpayers and those on government assistance and replaces it with a tried-and-true formula for dependency," Mac Donald concludes.

It "is a planner's dream, in which government mediates everywhere between citizens and the economy, no matter how complex the mediation machinery becomes.  For a planner, such complexity is in fact a feature, not a bug.  The main beneficiaries of New York's new service juggernaut will be social-service providers -- not the poor."

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