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Wed Dec 12, 2012, 10:28 PM

Citizen Coupon

from Dissent magazine:

Citizen Coupon
By Mike Konczal - December 12, 2012

Imagine there was no such thing as a library, and that members of the current neoliberal policy consensus were to sit down today and invent it. They might create complicated tax expenditures to subsidize the poor purchasing and reselling books, like the wage support of the earned income tax credit. They might require people to rent books from approved private libraries, with penalties for those who don’t and vouchers for those who can’t afford it, like the individual mandate in the latest expansion of health care. They might come up with a program where they take on liability for books that go missing from private libraries and thereby boost profits for lenders themselves, like federally backed private student loans. Or maybe they’d create means-tested libraries only accessible to the poor, with a requirement that patrons document how impoverished they are month after month to keep their library card. Maybe they’d exempt the cost of private library cards from payroll taxes, or let anything calling itself a library pay nothing in taxes.

Of course, there’s no saying exactly what the neoliberal library would look like. But we know one option that wouldn’t be on the table: the straightforward public library, open to all, provided and run by the government, which our cities and towns enjoy every day.

Whatever the furor around Obamacare, the fundamental ideological conflict surrounding the welfare state in the United States is no longer over the scope of government, but instead over how the government carries out its responsibilities and delivers services like education, health care, old-age pensions, and a wide variety of other primary goods. Conservatives and neoliberals envision a government that provides a comparable range of benefits to the one advocated by earlier American liberals. But rather than designing and delivering services directly, the neoliberal government provides coupons for citizens. Coupons—often defined in anodyne terms such as “vouchers,” “premium support,” or “tax subsidies”—can be used to purchase services in the private market. Whenever neoliberals have sought to expand the scope of the welfare state or conservatives have tried shrink it, they have come bearing coupons.

Over the past thirty years, efforts to privatize what government does and replace it with vouchers have taken hold in elite policy circles. But recent popular pushback against the privatization of Social Security, the use of private military contractors, and the voucherization of Medicare in Paul Ryan’s budget shows that the way we provision government services is still a point of contention. ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/citizen-coupon

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marmar Dec 2012 OP
PETRUS Dec 2012 #1

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Thu Dec 13, 2012, 11:01 AM

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