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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Incentives for the Poor - for doing their social duty

I ran across an interesting Canadian Press piece (oddly enough) about New York's new incentives for poor people.

From the piece:
"Poor New York City residents will be rewarded for good behaviour - like US$300 for doing well on school tests, $150 for holding a job and $200 for visiting the doctor - under an experimental anti-poverty program city officials detailed Monday. "

So it seems that basically, New York will now give incentives to people for "living" - doing things that people should be doing anyway, as part of being human beings.

Holding a job? You shouldn't have to be paid for trying to do good work at work. You shouldn't be paid for not calling your boss names, etc.

Visiting the doctor? Wait. Let me get this straight. Some bloke doesn't care about his health, so I the tax payer should? Oh wait, that's our existing health care system ;)....

But the kicker is "doing well on a school test." So now we have to pay people to study? You know I'm fine for supporting education financially, in fact, IMOP, it should be the largest outlay the government makes. But giving people money for doing what normal people do on an everyday basis is offensive to me. Not only that, but it should be offensive to poor people, because it implies that the only reason they are poor is because they are trying their best not to live normal lives. It further implies that a little bit of cash could change years of ingrained behavior. I'm not so sure - seems like this kind of spending would be the kind of thing people look for loopholes to get around.

Finally, this kind of incentive focuses on the incentive it provides to the poor, but what about the incentive it provides to the middle class.

Consider: "The World Bank model for cash reward programs in other countries is that the value of the incentive should equal about one-third of a household's income to have any lasting influence on changing behaviour. "

Sign me up! I'll gladly become a part-time worker and do all the other 'hard-work' of being a human being in order to get 1/3 of my earned dollars essentially for free!

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