When The Government Wants You to Get, They Make it Easy

Disparities Ideas and Issues Safety Net

            Little Rock      It’s hard not to observe some simple facts of life about being a citizen in this great country.  One that has become strikingly obvious has to do with access to government benefits.  When the government really wants you to access a benefit, it turns out that they actually know how to do it, and can make it very, very simple.  On the other hand, when the government doesn’t want you to get a benefit, even when you are entitled, they can make it virtually impossible for many, if not most, to access.

Here’s the current best example that’s right in our face.  President Biden announced that there would be student loan relief in some cases up to $20,000.  That’s huge.  Rather than join in taking credit for this little bit of government largesse for debtors, some of the Republicans are suing to block the program, which seems politically crazy, but that’s not the point I’m really trying to make.  This is a program that the federal government right now wants people to access, so what do they do, darned if they don’t make it easy to do so.  So easy in fact that an application can be filled out in about two minutes flat, and essentially it is nothing more than name, address, social security number, email, and telephone, and boom, you’re in line for relief, and we’ll get back to you.  Remember, the government knows how much you owe them and with your social, they know your income and everything else from your tax returns, so easy-peasy.  Sure enough, 22 million applied in one-week, and the computers did NOT crash this time.

Compare that for example to the computer meltdown and unholy mess when Obama’s government rolled out the Affordable Care Act.  They were so worried about the opposition looking over their shoulders, as well as the private insurers and hospitals, that they funded people to help with the applications and still made it so complicated that many have never accessed to this date, a decade later.  Yet, they would have had the same information on government computers, and could have handled eligibility as easily, even though they would have had to work harder to narrow the choices for people on plans.

My real beef is about welfare, food stamps, and unemployment, where the government, in this case, mainly local, state governments, despite a ton of federal dollars funding these programs, as well as in the case of unemployment, our own money, seems dedicated in many places to making it next to impossible for eligible families to access these entitlements.  The number of single mothers with children who have given up on applying because of the barriers, despite their eligibility, is legion, and, remember, we’re talking about children and low-income families.  Shame, shame.  Why does the federal government allow this degree of difficulty?

You want social security; it takes ten minutes.  You want welfare, forget it about.  Senior citizens vote more than the poor.  Both parties want young people to vote, but the old dogs are afraid too many of them will vote Democratic, so is this a clue to why some applications have a fast track and some have nothing but boulders in the road?

There’s really no excuse.  If there’s a benefit offered by the government, the application process should be straightforward.  Anything else is discrimination pure and simple.