When a friend and recent college graduate informed me he was receiving food stamps, I was floored. He is a healthy, educated, intelligent individual, but, like many of the millennials I know, entitled. Completely and utterly entitled.
“Is something wrong?” I asked my friend. “Are you going through a tough time or something? I know you’re working and everything seems to be going well with your job.”
“It’s nothing like that,” he assured me. “My job is with AmeriCorps though, and they just don’t pay enough. That’s why I’m eligible for food stamps. I figure, they aren’t paying me what I should get paid so it seems fair I should be eligible for government assistance.”
Somewhere in Fairfax County, Virginia, George Washington is rolling over in his grave.
AmeriCorps is a federal volunteer program—and by “volunteer,” I mean you earn money—that is considered to be quite prestigious by many employers and government agencies. Made up almost exclusively of young college students and graduates, AmeriCorps places individuals into community service organizations, providing a steady stream of cheap labor.
My friend, who was receiving a salary of about $13 a day for his “service,” felt his decision to enroll in my state’s food stamps program was justified, not because he couldn’t find work and feed himself, but because he felt like he was being underpaid by the government for his “volunteer” job.
Fifty years ago—even 30 years ago—this sort of logic would not be tolerated by society. It used to be embarrassing to receive government assistance, a sign that something was going terribly wrong in one’s life. Not anymore. Government assistance isn’t exclusively for those who are down on their luck and need a helping hand; it’s for nearly everyone.
[sharequote align=”center”]Government assistance no longer for those who are down on their luck; it’s for nearly everyone.[/sharequote]
Millennials now pay for most of their tuition and college costs using federal student loans, a portion of which are guaranteed to be “subsidized.” Once students graduate from college, they are eligible to pay their loans back using income-based repayment plans. After 25 years, the loans are automatically forgiven, even if the student never paid a penny of it back. Loans are forgiven in only 10 years if students work for a non-profit organization.
While in school, non-dependent millennials are eligible for numerous government services. Because student loans do not count as “income” for the purpose of determining eligibility in many government programs, students can borrow as much as a school allows for living expenses and remain eligible for state and federal assistance.
For instance, a student attending New York University can borrow at least $24,000 for living expenses, work part-time earning $14,000, and still be eligible to receive a free cell phone from the federal government’s Lifeline Program, Medicaid health coverage, and could even be eligible for New York’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
To top it all off, because there is no lifetime aggregate limit on the amount of money a graduate student can borrow from the federal government and because students are not required to pay loans back while enrolled at least half-time, students can literally attend school forever and never actually have to pay off any of their student loans—all while remaining eligible for countless government assistance programs.
Could someone please explain why Americans should ever work another day again? What a country!
Justin Haskins (Jhaskins@heartland.org) is editor-in-chief of New Revere Daily Press and editor of The Heartland Institute, a leading free-market think tank headquartered in Chicago. Opinions are his own.
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