New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg implemented a controversial program last year that offered cash rewards to low-income residents who practiced good behavior like visiting the doctor, attending parent-teacher conferences, and getting health insurance.

2,400 families participated and earned an average of $3,000 in what are known as "conditional cash transfers" -- a significant chunk of change given that a family of three had to have annual earnings of less than $22,301 to participate. The experiment program was privately-funded, and Mr. Bloomberg says it's too early to say whether it's a success.

"We're trying conditional cash transfers in a very different setting, to find out if they work in urban America," Bloomberg said. "Will they succeed? We'll find out -- that will take time. Has it been controversial? Sure, but so is every policy that breaks new ground."

The New York City initiative was announced in April of 2007, made possible by funding from a consortium of private partners including, somewhat hilariously, AIG -- which is now relying on its own stream of "conditional cash transfers" from the United States government. Except that it doesn't have to accomplish any task nearly as daunting as attending a parent-teacher conference to get the cash. But poor people don't pose systemic risk and they don't have lobbyists. Poor people don't have a lobby, they sleep in the lobby.

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