NYT Annoyed: Not Enough New Yorkers on Welfare

The New York Times is outraged: not enough New Yorkers are on welfare. Government needs to take an "aggressive approach" to pumping up the number of people on the dole. That's the gist of the Times editorial this morning, "Why the Hungry Refuse Help."

The Times' recycles findings from the left-wing "Urban Justice Center" [emphasis added]:
[O]f 9,500 recipients surveyed, more than 5,800 had their benefits cut off within 20 months of enrollment. The vast majority remained eligible for food stamps, but, in most cases, they simply did not show up to get their aid renewed. Many said they could not deal with the paperwork and long waits, or get time away from work or children to reapply at a city office.
Got that? It's not that government is heartlessly kicking people off welfare. It's that eligible welfare recipients "simply did not show up" to renew their benefits.

The Times wants to "maximize enrollment" and proposes a variety of measures to pump up the welfare rolls, including "allowing reapplication by telephone . . . and requiring recipients to reapply only every 12 months, which is the federal standard, rather than every six."

Along the way, the Times also claims that "as many as 1.3 million New Yorkers, about one-quarter of them children, do not have enough to eat." That represents 15.8% of the city's population. What is evidence for that startling claim? The Times doesn't tell us. As I described here, the left has a tradition of inflating the extent of the problem, regularly claiming a national figure of 36 million hungry Americans. But as Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, an expert on these issues, recently wrote on the subject:
While hunger due to a lack of financial re-sources does occur in the United States, it is limited in scope and duration. According to the USDA, on a typical day, fewer than one American in 200 will experience hunger due to a lack of money to buy food.
Applying that 1/200 figure to NYC's population would translate to 41,000 hungry New Yorkers on a daily basis. Even allowing that the city has more than its fair share of poor people, and multiplying by a factor of 10 yields only 410,000. So where does the Times get its 1.3 million?

In any case, the editorial is the epitome of paternalism. Not enough poor are taking advantage of welfare benefits . . .and it's all government's fault.
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.