Friday, April 20, 2007

Welfare Alternatives

I will compare at least two different views on alternatives to welfare. One view is extremely liberal and suggests that the government give the poor a substantial amount of money after they reach a certain age. The other view focuses on the advances of the welfare system by creation of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The first opinion I will discuss is possibly the most ridiculous opinion on this matter that I have ever heard. This ideology is taken from an article written by Bruce Ackerman & Anne Alstott. They suggest that when an individual reaches early adulthood he should be given what they term a stake. The stake will be given by the government in the form of cash installments totaling eighty thousand dollars ($80,000). The eighty thousand dollars is to be repaid to the government upon the death of the recipient. This is a ridiculous idea for a number of reasons, couple of which I will point out: 1) the financial assistance does not ensure the recipient is responsible enough to put the money to productive use; 2) It takes away the incentive of those not in poverty to excel, it becomes easier to be poor and collect $80,000 at early adulthood. Americans frown upon the idea of welfare and handouts, generally. A gift of $80,000 is not an expenditure of tax revenues that most Americans will support. The justification of the stake rest on the idea that every individual deserves an equal opportunity. The question becomes how far are we willing to go to make the playing field equal.
We each have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as declared by the United States Constitution. However, in that pursuit we will each face different challenges depending on our own strengths and weaknesses. Some individuals may have financial struggles because they do not have a job, they do not have a well paying job, or they do not know how to manage their money, or any combination of the three. Others may not have the education they desire because of intellectual challenges. Others may have different challenges, however the point is that we all have challenges. It is not the government's responsibility to supplement the weaknesses of these individuals. It is the responsibility of the individual to work on their weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths. Besides, if your weakness is financial management, a gift of $80,000 will only give you more money to blow. No, the government should be in the business of leveling the playing field.
Another alleged alternative to the welfare system is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The government established the earned income tax credit (EITC) in the mid 90's, but there is still considerable question as to whether this is sufficient remedy to the welfare system. Personally, I think not.
The EITC aids the working poor, it is not, however, an alternative to welfare. In fact, I think it is just a different form of welfare. Too much credit is given to the idea that the EITC causes a person who ordinarily would not work to find a job in order to receive an income and get the tax credit. While in a perfect world this would be an incentive to encourage those who are not working to find work, but realistically I doubt that any person actually seeks a job just because he/she will get the tax credit. Additionally, even if one of every fifty people decide to work in order to get the credit, will they work to really establish themselves financially or just enough to get the maximum amount of the credit? Most likely, they will work only enough to get the maximum benefit, and then quit.