Student Editor: Dillon H.
The US Federal and State governments have a tradition of providing social benefit programs to help those in need of assistance stretching back more than 75 years. The basic idea behind such welfare policies is that for anyone to live in poverty or misery is against core American values and that insuring humane conditions for all people should be among the fundamental responsibilities of the Government. Today, government support can take many forms, such as help bridging an income gap after losing a job, guaranteeing affordable housing, and providing financial aid for students and retirees. In addition, there are programs for food assistance, help with paying bills, and also special programs for members of the military and their families.
Many of the social programs we have in the US are actually self-funded insurance-savings schemes. This means that you are actively contributing to a fund during your life with the idea that you will one day draw from it when you need assistance. Programs like these include unemployment insurance and social-security. When you work, a portion of your overall pay is taken out automatically and placed into an insurance-savings account so that when you lose your job or stop working all together, you can cash-in on your insurance (in this case your unemployment benefits and social-security payments). For programs like social-security and Medicare, you must also meet age qualifications or special health conditions. Social-Security and Medicare were established to direct assistance at the Nation’s elderly population.
Other programs are based on financial qualifying conditions. Medicaid is the largest such program and is designed to ease the financial cost of medical procedures and expenses for those who cannot afford medical insurance due to their income level. Another example is student financial aid. One’s ability to receive school aid depends on your financial position. The more fortunate you are, the less financial aid you will qualify for. This might seem unfair to some, but these programs are intended to benefit those who would otherwise have to go without. This is the same with food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), commonly referred to as food-stamps, and the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) designed for families that cannot afford insurance yet do not qualify for Medicaid.
There is a thriving debate among some over the need and morality of such programs. I for one, think that when designing a rational society, we must only ask ourselves this question: If I were in need of help, would I wish for a system that would lend me a hand. Sometimes things get hard and you need to turn to others. That is what these programs are built for and one of the reasons we pay our taxes. So if you or someone you know is working hard and still struggling to make ends meet, go to https://www.usa.gov/benefits or call 1-844-872-4681 and find out what type of assistance is available to you.