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6 Ways the 7th Richest Man in America Has Screwed the Poor

Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves behind one of the biggest wealth gaps in the country.

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Half of the program's costs were paid by New York state. When Governor Cuomo cut off funds, the Bloomberg administration scrapped the whole thing, leaving the city with no permanent housing plan for the city's neediest families. 

2. No Plan to Address Homelessness

That didn't go well! This week, a report by  Coalition for the Homeless found that as of November, 2,818 former Advantage families had returned to a shelter.  A quarter of the families going into the city's shelters are former Advantage users, which explains, in part, why the rate of homelessness is high as during the 1930s. 

The Mayor's current plan seems to consist of saying out-of-touch-rich-guy things (" ... it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before," Bloomberg said when asked why homeless families were staying in shelters so long), and opening up emergency shelters. Spending on temporary shelter has jumped 30 percent since 2008, according to the  Independent Budget Office. 

If the Mayor had his way though, the best strategy for lowering the cost of shelter is to let fewer people stay in them. At a press conference defending his large soda ban, the Mayor philosophized about the responsibility we have to take care of one another. Minutes later he warned that the city's policy of housing the homeless  threatened to set off mass unrest.

"You're gonna see an uprising here," he said. "The public cannot afford to continue to do what we've been doing with homeless where everybody has a right to shelter, whether they need it or not. The public at some point is going to say to their elected officials: 'I don't want to pay anymore,"  he said.

Although the Department of Homeless services can deny families shelter -- only 35 percent of families that apply for shelter are accepted -- they don't have the same luck with homeless individuals because of various state and city laws that require the city to house any individual who asks for shelter. 

Meanwhile, a plan by City Council members Christine Quinn and Annabel Palma to move homeless families into permanent housing instead of putting them in expensive emergency shelters is gathering dust. They suggest re-prioritizing shelter residents in the allocation of federal housing subsidies, and adding a rental assistance program similar to Advantage. So far, the administration seems intent to leave the problem to the next guy. 

3. Crushing the Living Wage Laws

Contrary to nasty stereotypes, many people without permanent housing have jobs; they just don't earn enough to support life in one of the costliest American cities. 

The campaign for a living wage in New York famously united clergy, antipoverty advocates, and unions. A large majority of City Council members stood behind the two bills. The widespread support was not surprising, since it's pretty hard to come up with a convincing opposition to the measures, which simply demanded that development projects that receive more than $1 million in taxpayer subsidies pay their workers  a decent wage: 10 dollars an hour with health insurance, or $11.50 without. 

Advocates pointed out that developers who underpaid their workers were being subsidized by taxpayers twice: once when they got the initial public money and again when their workers were forced to resort to food stamps, housing aid, and other social services in order to survive on their measly earnings. The city had already been more than kind to developers, with business tax subsidies growing by 180 percent in the past decade, according to the  Fiscal Policy Institute. 

While the Mayor enthusiastically supported that government intrusion into the market, he deemed the living wage to be an unacceptable government overreach. The measures were "a throwback to the era when government viewed the private sector as a cash cow to be milked, rather than a garden to be cultivated," the  Mayor mused poetically. But things were serious. "The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR and that didn't work out so well,"  he warned on his radio show.