Paying the Poor to Do the Right Thing?

Getting a library card . . . $50.

Going to the dentist . . . $100.

Passing a statewide subject exam . . . $600.

Taking responsibility and ownership over your life . . . priceless.

No, that's not the latest ad from MasterCard.

It's the idea behind Mike Bloomberg's new effort to fight poverty.

"My perspective is this," New York's billionaire mayor said last month, "why shouldn't we experiment with a program built around the one strategy that has proven time and again to work wonders . . . capitalism?"

Bloomberg's Opportunity NYC initiative, which is modeled on efforts that have been tried in Latin America, will be officially launched Wednesday at a news conference in Brooklyn. The program consists of three separate pilot programs aimed at improving the education, health and work-force outcomes for adults and children living in poverty.

The education incentives are designed to promote school attendance, parental engagement and improved performance on standardized tests. Health incentives will be offered for maintaining adequate health coverage as well for making timely medical and dental visits. Work-force incentives will be offered for those who sustain full-time employment and upgrade their job skills.

Families that complete the noted activities will receive their cash payments every two months.

Click here to see the schedule of payments:

The $50 million program is being privately funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the Starr Foundation, the Robin Hood Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the American International Group and Bloomberg.

The launch comes less than a week after Bloomberg, who says he is not running for the White House, posted a statement on MikeBloomberg.com saying, "It's time for something real" in the 2008 race.

Bloomberg dropped his Republican affiliation in July and finds himself to the left of the GOP -- and even some Democrats -- on issues ranging from immigration to gun control to same-sex marriage.

But his anti-poverty initiative was praised by a Republican icon weighing his own presidential bid.

"The beset way to help the poor is to help them help themselves," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. "Providing incentives to the poor so they acquire the same habits that get successful people ahead is a great idea."

ABC News' Jacqueline Klingebiel contributed to this report.

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