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Biting the hand that feeds you

You've really got to love the limousine liberals at the New York Times. They just provide so much fodder, whenever they start getting generous with other people's money.

Long hidden by the puffed-up image of abundance, a crisis of hunger in New York City has been worsened by rising unemployment and underemployment since Sept. 11. According to the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, more than one million city residents depend on hard-pressed food pantries and soup kitchens for their basic needs. One-quarter of them are from households with one or more members who have jobs but not enough income to survive. They have turned to charity because all else has failed them.
Step one: declare that there's a problem. If people question its existence, just say that it's a "hidden" problem.

Step two: cite an inflated statistic from a group whose funding is based upon the statistic being inflated.

Step three: insist that only a big government program can solve the "hidden problem."

And, of course, the obligatory step four: mislabel government redistribution of wealth as "charity."

In this picture, one major failure has been the city's handling of the food stamp program. More than 800,000 low-income New Yorkers get food stamp assistance, but there are at least that many, by conservative estimates, who do not get food stamps even though they could qualify.
Step five: make yourself seem reasonable by claiming your estimates are "conservative." (Of course, since all the numbers are made up, why not? A million people died of anthrax. A billion people died of anthrax. A trillion people died of anthrax. By conservative estimates, a million people died of anthrax. See how easy it is?)
The compassion gap had its roots in the administration of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, which never appreciated what an economic boon the program could be for the city. The federal government pays all food stamp benefits and half the cost of administering the program; the city and state pay the rest. But the benefit to the city, at an average $94 a month per recipient, far outweighs the expense. The Community Food Resource Center, a not-for-profit group that studies issues of poverty, estimates that the city is losing $1 billion a year by not trying to make sure that everyone who qualifies for food stamps receives them.
Two howlers in one paragraph. Of course, there's the old standby of complaining that people lack "compassion" if they don't forcibly take money from other people and give it to a third group of people. There's a word for that, but "compassion" ain't it.

But the funnier part is the Times' portrayal of the food stamp program as a profitable enterprise. According to the Times, the city should take money from city taxpayers to give to city non-taxpayers because then the federal and state governments will take more money from other taxpayers and give that money to city non-taxpayers, and this will be good for the city. An economic boon! A few more "boons" like that, and the whole country could be as rich as North Korea.

The numbers of people receiving food stamp aid increased slightly during the first six months after Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office, but have again gone down in recent weeks, perhaps because of insufficient outreach efforts and unduly complicated procedures required to apply for benefits.
I see. If people aren't collecting food stamps, it's not because the "conservative estimates" of need weren't conservative enough. It's because the city isn't doing enough "outreach." Apparently the Times takes the position that the mayor of New York City ought to go door to door, demanding that people start using food stamps. It's the responsibility of taxpayers not merely to provide the opportunity for the poor to get welfare, but to force them to take advantage of this opportunity. Nothing is ever the responsibility of anybody -- the government is responsible for everything.
Verna Eggleston, commissioner of the city's Human Resources Administration, exacerbated the situation when she adopted the ideologically driven decision by her predecessor, Jason Turner, and rejected the opportunity to extend food stamp benefits for some 24,000 jobless and childless New Yorkers, who are now limited to three months' assistance in any three-year period. The waiver, offered by the federal government to help parts of the country with insufficient employment opportunities, was accepted by two dozen other regions of the state, including several with better employment outlooks than New York City's.
Note that the Times' positions are based on "compassion," while positions in opposition to those of the Times are "ideologically driven." The Times has no ideology. In fact, liberals don't have ideology. Liberals have principles. Conservatives have ideology.
Ms. Eggleston's agency has withdrawn for now a proposal to drastically cut city funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which helps food banks. But Mr. Bloomberg and his team should see hunger for what it is, a problem that threatens to become a millstone as the city tries to emerge from the fiscal depths. A well-administered food stamp program will not only lift the neediest New Yorkers to more self-sufficiency, it will provide much-needed revenues for the city. Most important, it will help end a heartless approach to a shameful situation.
Ooh! Now the Times' opponents aren't just "ideologically driven" and lacking "compassion." Now we're "heartless," too.

But you really couldn't make this stuff up -- giving welfare to people "lifts" them to "more self-sufficiency." What exactly would less self-sufficiency consist of?


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