To borrow the parlance of a class of people who tweet too much, Michael Rubens Bloomberg saw his legacy repudiated last night. What could cheer him up today? A helicopter ride? Too ostentatious. A secret make-out session in a City Hall cloakroom with his loyal, discreet, but-still-First-Lady-for-56-more-days? Time-waster. How about a headline in the New York Times? Bloomberg, Champion of the Poor.
You click, because you know it's bullshit. The UPenn professor writing the story, Michael Katz, knows it's bullshit. The editor who chose this photo for the story definitely knows it's bullshit. An accurate summation of these words might be, Bloomberg, A Champion For Trying Things To Alleviate Poverty That Sometimes Worked But Mostly Didn't.
Katz points to Bloomberg's foundation of the Center for Economic Opportunity and its 50 or so programs that have been implemented to help poor New Yorkers. They're complex, "market-based" solutions cooked up by a group of Very Serious Thinkers. They helped some people save money. They helped others graduate college faster than they normally would. They did not help very many New Yorkers climb up from below the poverty line.
This market-based approach failed to provide much help for those trapped in deep poverty — an increasing part of the poor population — nor did it deploy redistributive measures that could have reduced economic inequality.
Mr. Bloomberg’s antipoverty approach has tested the limits of human-capital and market-based strategies. As impressive as many of its individual components are, the center’s efforts remain unlikely to result in significant reductions in poverty and inequality. To get outcomes like that, we would need an expanded and repaired safety net; direct job creation through publicly funded infrastructure projects; and new programs designed to provide an adequate guaranteed income for every American.
In an essay for berfrois published last month, Katz discusses why the seminal literature on poverty that was written in the Reagan era is sorely in need of updating.
Like most writers on poverty in the late 1980s, I did not realize how hegemonic the conservative story of welfare and poverty had become, and how far to the right American social politics would shift even under Democratic administrations.
Perhaps in this light, we can see how a mayor who presided over a city where nearly half of its 8 million residents are poor or near-poor, who watched homelessness explode into an epidemic, who stridently opposed paid sick leave and who yearns for more billionaires, is "a champion of the poor."