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Poll: Cash incentives

Should low income people be paid for things like going to the doctor and getting good grades?

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  • Anonymous

    This is one crazy poll, I’ll tell you. First hard working taxpayers pay for their healthplan and now we have to pay them to go. What a nonsense!

  • Anonymous

    I cannot believe how penny wise and pound foolish people are. Poor people in our current system do not have the money to go to school or see a doctor (even if most of the fees are paid by medicaid you still have to take time from work and pay for transportation. If you make it not only possible but make it beneficial to do these things then it saves the entire population money. It saves in health care costs and it moves people from poverty into a higher tax bracket where they pay more taxes. I know. Because I was helped to go to college I was able to become give back more.

  • Anonymous

    You went to college where you learned marketable skills to obtain employment. Most people aren’t ambitious like you that’s why there are multiple generations of the same family living in section 8 housing, low income housing, welfare & Medicaid. The only people that deserve are help are the senior citizens that had to pay down their assets so that Medicaid would pay for their nursing home care

  • isk

    It’s cheaper to pay forward to get a kid to learn to be self sufficient early in life, rather than wait and hope that the kid doesn’t graduate into adulthood dependent on permanent public assistance. I’m all for incentives.

  • bfortier

    Society is going to pay, no matter what we choose to do. Shall we pay for more jails. Shall we continue to half-heartedly fund, even at great expense, our often inefficient, and politically demonized response to the crisis in public health?

    I believe we wil be far more successful in educating our young, marginalized, population through incentives toward positive achievement in school and thoughtful habits of practicing preventive health. Good habits, self esteem, and a belief that “I can succeed” are essential to changing the course of one’s life.

    The Memphis program helps students focus on positive goals and achieve results. This is a real game changer because before these students were challenged and given incentives, they may not have had any realistic and specific goals to strive for.

  • Milton

    It’s not enough to provide free health and dental care, but now people need to be paid to use it. Let them get a cavity while they still have baby teeth. Pain is a great motivator.

    I’ve tried to motivated academically gifted young people with the carrot of making “serious money” with a BS in this or that field, only to be told at the time, “Mister, I’m making that now.” My reply, “Do it my way and you can sleep at night.”

    Of course, not one father or adult male figure to be found in the lives of these young people. How about turning back the decades old policies that undermine the family unit. Twenty years ago, because of social welfare policies, my own brother did not live with the mother of his two boys so she could get more money from the state.

    Want to get radical and experimental, how about requiring identification of the father in order to receive government assistance and forced sterilization for any man who has fathered two or more children that he cannot support financially.

    As for the playwright who was interviewed after this piece on “Cash Incentives” and her comments on there being no jobs, I guess she wasn’t referring to the burgeoning hispanic population in Memphis from 2000 to 2010:

    “What I liked about Memphis was the room for growth. There (were) not a lot of Hispanic businesses,” said Diaz, who now lives in Olive Branch and operates offices on Summer in Memphis and in Horn Lake.

    Lured by ample work, particularly in construction, and a low cost of living, Hispanic residents have been pouring into the eight-county Memphis metropolitan area since at least the 1990s…

    An estimated 27,268, or just over half, of the metro area’s Hispanic residents are foreign-born, according to the survey. But there is no data as to how many are in the U.S. illegally.

    After watching Ken Burns latest, “The Dust Bowl,” I thought of our present society and feared that should something similar happen again, anarchy would more than likely be the result. It would get real ugly, real fast, especially when so many are convinced they should be paid to do what is in their own best interest.

  • theGuyFromMakiki

    I am receiving Social Security and foodstamps. I participate in a rehabilitation program. I am glad to be receiving help, but I am even more glad that I am receiving through the rehab. In order to receive rehab, I get Social Security to help. I am ninety-five better psychiatrically through all the help. And, I don’t spend my time watching MTV. I know that I am a better citizen because I watch PBS Hawaii. I am using the help very good by watching PBS Hawaii and not watching silly and misleading programs.

  • Timothy Lee

    There is “workfare”: the incentive linked to the behavior of working. You could call this “schoolfare”, an incentive linked to the behavior of getting good grades.

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely not, the incentive for these students is seeing the excellent grades they’re receiving, getting into an excellent college, obtaining a good paying job with benefits. Their incentive to go to the dentist is that they won’t lose their teeth & will be able to eat. Their incentive to go to the doctor is that they won’t die at an early age, they’ll be well to enjoy life. It’s not the taxpayers job to mother & father every child in this country.

  • Brent Logan

    Extrinsic motivators don’t result in the behavior you want over the long term:

  • Rebecca

    I cannot believe this is even up for discussion. Personal responsibility has officially ended.

  • T4T3

    It seems that you are saying that 1) people should not get paid to do what they should already be doing, 2) that you tried to motivate students stating the same end goals (a degree and higher paying jobs) but were unsuccessful?, 3) long-standing social policies undermine the family unit, 4) that the government should be legally allowed to medically intervene with a person’s body without their consent (not radical or experimental as it’s been done before, but quite violating of basic human rights) and that 5) contrary to what Katori Hall states, there are many jobs in Memphis and that they are being both created and staffed by Hispanics (I wasn’t sure what point you were trying to make here. Was is that Hispanics are “taking” jobs away from other populations or that other populations should adapt to this and search for jobs alongside Hispanics and with Hispanic businesses?)


    1) and 3)- As Gibbs stated in the special, the American government (both federal and state-level) directs millions of policies that are based on changing individual and collective behavior by offering economic incentives to both business and families that sway them to act in one way or another. To critique the program on this front would require you to critique all US fiscal policy and even many more domestic and international policies that are developed and implemented. I agree that we should be critical of policies (how about criticizing those that incentivize the rich?), but you’re directing your criticism to the wrong program, one that costs only an extremely small portion of the state budget and one that actually helps poor families out.

    2) Exactly. So why not try to balance that discrepancy in motivation between underground and legitimate economies by offering an economic incentive that is immediate?

    4) In no way should be a policy and would have even greater opposition by the general population.

    5) Population change in the United States has been pretty constant for the last 50 or so years. There are decades when we had a greater number of specific populations coming over than others. The dust bowl was about people fighting to survive (like literally survive, like your children are dying because you can’t feed them) and to create a better life for themselves by migrating. Anarchy is one result, but insinuating that incentivizing people will make them feel entitled and thus more violent is silly. If anything, incentivizing people know will delay that kind of scenario.

  • Amerikan Peasant Subject

    Great program, replace welfare, NON-PROFIT, NOT GOVERNMENT!!! I would donate to a local program like this, LOCAL!

    The tax code argument, proves the point, stop government intervention, EVERYWHERE! Stop the extortion!

  • Milton


    Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I will attempt to be as thoughtful with
    my own:

    1) and 3) Yes, I mentally noted Gibbs’ comments, but chose, in the interest of brevity, not to comment on them. Suffice to say I believe that the government has become much too involved in picking winners and losers and incentivizing and/or discouraging behavior through various means, including the tax code.

    2) I see many problems with the money for grades scenario, unless it’s coming directly from parents:
    a. It places undue pressure on teachers to give that extra 1% to change a B to an A.

    b. In the case of the student I referenced in my original post, the student came from a neighborhood where young men his age made 10’s of thousand of dollars doing things other than homework each day after school. So, I’m not convinced that $10 for a C, $20 for a B…
    is going to have a long-lasting impact on at-risk youth. (I am happy to
    report that years later the same young man contacted me to share how he had finally escaped the neighborhood, moved to a new state and began a rewarding career in telecommunications.)

    c. Warren Buffett has made clear his opinion about the importance of delayed gratification, and in my opinion, education falls into this category. Why is it that so many amass so much debt to get a college degree and yet, many young people feel they should be paid to learn?

    4) The sterilization of dead-beat dad’s would only be an issue if public assistance was sought for their child and it could be made consensual if offered as an alternative to prison. One “poster child” for the “snip option” could be the Wisconsin man with 9 children from 6 different women who was order by a judge to stop procreating until he could show he could support the children he has already fathered. Or perhaps the 21 year-old with 10 children from “about four”
    different women that was on Judge Judy.

    5) With regard to “(I wasn’t sure what point you were trying to make here. Was is that Hispanics are “taking” jobs away from other populations or that other populations should adapt to this and search for jobs alongside Hispanics and with Hispanic businesses?),” I believe some of both; migrants, legal and illegal, do take jobs from
    citizens. During the Dust Bowl, these migrant workers were forced to leave the country. I’m not saying there should be such a forced program now, but only question what would happen should there be another Dust-Bowl like event. In my opinion, given the increased government assistance in the lives of so many citizens, it’s subsequent inability to provide that assistance will result in anarchy.

    Yes, the dust bowl was about people trying to survive. My point is that it occurred during a time when people looked to their families and neighbors more than to the government and they were willing to “take up stakes” and move their family “whole hog” to a new state, often displacing foreign migrant workers. Our most recent economic hard times, a far cry from the Dust Bowl era, resulted in unemployment benefits being extended to as much as 99 weeks and few Americans
    willing to make anywhere near the same sacrifice as families willing to risk their life savings and even their lives to come to the US in search of work.

    I think Ray Suarez should have asked the fundamental question of Katori Hall, “Why, during the years prior to 2008, did so many low-income Hispanics, who relocated to Memphis for the economic opportunities, seem to benefit so much more than Memphis’ long-time resident poor during the boom years?”

    A couple of questions that I would have like to have answered of Ms. Crawford, the college-educated, laid-off social worker who is
    on government assistance:

    i. Why is your mortgage, for a family home that was purchased 52 years ago, $700 per month?

    ii. Is the twelve-year-old car she drives the BMW seen in the driveway? (That might explain the $700 per month mortgage).

    I’m not saying that I don’t feel she needs some kind of assistance after losing her job. However, there are other take-aways here,
    like, not all college degrees are created equal and be careful what you buy in good times.

  • Glenn

    I wonder if you have ever gone hungry, worried about where you would get your next dollar
    Easy for you to say cause you really don’t have a clue of what it is to be really poor!

  • Glenn

    Right on!

  • TwoEyedFiddler

    Sure, lets give more money to people that don’t know how to manage it. I’m not against short term relief to individuals that need food and housing, but is offering incentives to school children going to teach long term independence after the funding stops? Does it encourage it? It’s more important to support these students with adequate classrooms and sensible curriculum. It’s also important to understanding that not every student is going to be great in science and math. There are plenty of other good jobs if people are willing to work – ones that will keep people off government aid. I grew up in a family short on funding at times, but now I’m paying myself through college. p.s. way to bias the wording of the two questions.

  • Ellen Dannin

    To put this in perspective, we give cash incentives to reward desired behavior that are far, far larger than those in this segment. Who gets these outsize incentives, you may ask? Corporations for one. And as we saw during the presidential campaign this year, multi-millionaires get tax breaks for all sorts of perverse behavior that actually harms our economy.

    To return to the segment that was aired, one way to think about the cash incentives there was that the recipients may have been eligible for welfare or some other cash support. This program shifted some percentage of those supports to the inventive program. So for the amount of money they would have received, this program provides incentives that may get more productive behavior and the acquisition of important skills. Perhaps they will even lead to the participants’ becoming fully self-supporting, well educated members of our workforce.

    It’s hard to say that we get the same benefits from the outsize tax breaks we give the super-wealthy who hide their money in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens and corporations that move jobs overseas.

  • lgfromillinois

    I see value in such a small program to give incentives. As I listened to the piece, I was thinking that with little resources to spread over many needs, this extra allowed the interviewed people to go for medical visits, remain in school, etc. Because there are many who receive disincetives to do what we who have resources do, this program is necessary.