August 12, 2007

Read This Blog – Earn 50¢

The other day, the Arizona Daily Star reported that some students in “poverty-stricken areas” of Tucson are being paid up to $25 a week to attend classes this fall. The incentive is being paid from private versus public funds, and it's a scheme that appears to be embraced by some schools and the Tucson Education Association.

The idea is basically to keep kids from dropping out of school. Of course, any increased enrollments won’t hurt the school district or the teachers union, both of which would seemingly benefit. School enrollment is a big driver in state funding for schools.

The devil is in the details, and it’ll be revealing to follow this Arizona effort.

Of course, the really big bucks to lure young people are being offered by the U.S. Army. It’s their effort to offset continuing shortfalls of recruits. Proposed new incentives include a $20,000 bonus (if you join up quickly!); new recruits wouldn’t have to meet weight requirements, and Uncle Sam would accept more recruits with GED certificates rather than high school diplomas. Plus, the Army wants to increase waivers for medical and moral reasons or for individuals testing positive for drugs and alcohol. My personal favorite is the one where the Army, according to the Associated Press, would create a "more pleasant boot-camp environment."

Throwing money at these issues – in my humble view – is NOT the way to go. It provides only temporary relief at an enormous cost.

Can you say “Mandatory Universal Public Service”? All young people should be required to dedicate two or three years of public service in the Peace Corps, the military, or a similar selfless endeavor like the old Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s.

To my mind, this would be a far more sustainable program than the bottomless pit of monetary incentives that so many policymakers are quick to offer. Would such mandatory service have problems? Of course, but they are dwarfed by the quagmire created by a seemingly bottomless pit of trying to solve every problem with money.

Young people, federal and state government – and U.S. taxpayers – would all be the better for such a program.

Thanks for reading my blog. Redeem your incentive from the cable guy when he shows up on time!

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