Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Alberta’s Preloaded Debit Cards

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If there has been one thing worse than the damage caused by the flooding in Southern Alberta, it is the government’s response. Ronald Reagan had it right when he said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’” Part of the Redford’s government reconstruction plan is a preloaded debit card. Residents affected by the flood will or have already received a debit card with $1250 on it, or $500 for residents under 18.

These debit cards are truly arbitrary in every sense of the word. First off, some victims are worse off than others. Take my sister for example. She works at a hotel where she receives staff accommodation. Since she lives on the first floor, her room flooded but not to the extent that all her belongings were ruined. Even so, she doesn’t actually own the room. Her rent is deducted from her pay; if she quits her job the room is no longer hers. Naturally, my sister is saving that $1250 for a trip to Europe.
Compare my sister’s experience to the lady who runs a karaoke night in Canmore. This lady, let’s call her Michelle, is from High River. She was just allowed back in to her house (minus the guns). As she tells it, her house – which she owns – is damaged beyond belief. It will take thousands of dollars to repair, not to mention the money she’s already spent living out of hotels and camping trailers. How much will be preloaded onto her debit card? The exact same as my sisters: $1250.
Premier Alison Redford’s debit cards follow a “one-size-fits-all” strategy that is completely arbitrary and at odds with the realities of the flood. The market would handle this situation better and in some ways already has. Many businesses are collecting donations for flood victims; sometimes it’s as easy as rounding your purchase up to the closest dollar. If government “help” were non-existent and the amount of taxes and regulation were reduced, Albertans would have more to give and more of an incentive to do so. The market depends on voluntary participation and thus allocates resources efficiently; the government forces people to pay for its half-baked socialist schemes.
My sister is using the $1250 to save for a trip to Europe. Michelle is using the $1250 as it was intended – but it is a mere drop in the proverbial bucket that is High River. Meanwhile Redford’s government continues to spend $1 billion of other people’s money as if it were doing any good.

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