What would you want your legacy to be if you were nearing the end of your second—and final—term as New York’s mayor? Would you want to admit that far more New Yorkers were poor than anyone expected?
“The world has changed a lot,” said New York City Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs yesterday. She was announcing, at the NAACP conference in Cincinnati, New York City’s proposal for a new way to decide who is and who is not poor. For 40 years, we’ve used a scheme invented by a nutritionist that uses as its sole criteria the cost of food; it assumed that food costs one-third of household income. But now, food costs just one-eigthth of household income. Also, you may be aware that there is sort of an issue with the cost of housing in New York City: housing is, on average, 45 percent more expensive here.
So when you run the City’s new numbers, you see that not only are more New Yorkers than previously thought actually living in poverty, there also a great many more are living near poverty. There are more poor children; there are far more poor seniors. (Mostly “pharmaceutical” costs, said Gibbs.) But what gains New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, besides the appropriately heart-warming feeling of admitting the truth? “I think it’s an important conversation in this presidential election,” said Gibbs.