Citizen Wealth: Increasing Access for Participation

Financial Justice Ideas and Issues International WalMart

New Orleans Once one gets past the ideological opposition some have towards eligible citizens gaining full access to all of the income supports available, we are still faced with the cost of infrastructure and the capacity to enroll the vast numbers who are unserved.

In my book, Citizen Wealth, coming out soon I argue that we need to approach technology differently and increase access to easier filing and certification. I also argue that we need to enlist the vast array of private establishments where eligible citizens congregate in the effort to achieve maximum eligible participation. I even confront the heresy of utilizing Wal-Mart for such purposes, which is surely an indication of our deadly serious I see this mission.

For all of these reasons I was struck by an article in The Guardian offering sure proof that when a government in this case Britain wants to achieve some result and wants to do so efficiently, then it is not so difficult to offer such services through all available outlets, and even allow the piper to be paid for the tune. We need to go somewhere near there in order to make the application process ubiquitous, accessible, and easy, the outreach huge and effective, and reduce the government’s role to final verification and certification.

This story from the UK is about identity cards, and that is probably a controversial issue in the UK, as it would be here, but nonetheless, it is not a big leap to imagine out we could create a network to move eligible lower income families to easier access to benefits. Jacqui Smith enlists high street help for ID cards scheme Alan Travis, home affairs editor The Guardian, Wednesday 6 May 2009 High street chemists, post offices and photo shops are to be used to record the electronic fingerprints and other biometric data needed for the national identity card scheme, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, is to announce today. The decision to use high street shops sidesteps the need for the Home Office to set up a network of enrolment centres with mobile units to operate in rural areas. The move comes as the latest Home Office report to parliament on the costs of the scheme show they have risen by a further £221m to a total of £5.3bn over the next 10 years. That figure excludes the costs to other government departments and agencies of scanners and other equipment for verifying the identity of those trying to access public services. The home secretary is to confirm in a speech today that Manchester will be the first city where citizens – particularly younger people – will be invited to apply for an ID card from this autumn before the national roll-out in 2012. They will be charged £30 for a standalone card that will be valid for travel through Europe. Britain’s commercial airline pilots are meeting MPs and ministers to object to an initial scheme requiring 20,000 airside workers at Manchester and London City airports to sign up to the ID card scheme as a condition of employment. Smith is to meet businesses today who are keen to sign up with the Identity and Passport Service to undertake the work of recording electronic fingerprints and facial photographs for those who apply for ID cards or a new generation passport. The Home Office expects more than 12m such documents to be issued each year when the scheme is fully operational. “While private companies will clearly benefit from the increased footfall from offering this service, their customers will benefit from being able to quickly provide their biometrics while they are out doing their shopping,” said Smith. The Post Office, the National Pharmacy Association and the Photo Marketing Association are all in talks with the Home Office over the contract. The cost report puts the figure for issuing ID cards to British and Irish citizens in the UK at £4.945bn, and to foreign nationals at £372m.

Jacquie Smith