Cloward and Piven had chosen their target wisely. George Wiley and his welfare radicals terrorized social workers all over the country, but their greatest success came in New York. Newly elected in 1966, New York City’s liberal Mayor John Lindsay was no match for Wiley. He capitulated to every Wiley demand. New York’s welfare rolls had already been growing by twelve percent per year before Lindsay took office. The growth rate jumped to 50 percent annually in 1966. “By the early 1970s, one person was on the welfare rolls in New York City for every two working in the city’s private economy,” wrote Sol Stern in the City Journal.
As a direct result of its reckless welfare spending, New York City – the financial capital of the world – was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1975. The entire state of New York nearly went down with it. Leftist agitators reveled in their in triumph. The strategy had proved its effectiveness.
Crucial to the campaign’s success was the cooperation – indeed, the collusion – of radical elements within the federal government, who supplied Wiley with cash grants, training and logistical assistance, such as free legal aid and free office space from the famously leftwing Legal Services division of the Office of Economic Opportunity. Some readers may wonder why the federal government would have extended a helping hand to a program such as Wiley’s whose stated purpose was to bankrupt and cripple the federal government. The answer is that the War on Poverty was permeated with radicals whose goals were very much in alignment with Wiley’s. This was a reflection of the way activists involved in poverty programs had been inspired by the theories of Saul Alinsky the author of a manual called Rules for Radicals and a mentor to Hillary Clinton.
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