Should We Help American Citizens

Taylor Berry, Honorbound

While America enjoys certain advantages from the little welfare our country provides, we are suffering in many ways because we are lacking these benefits. Around 20,000 to 45,000 people have died because they were unable to get healthcare,[1] and around 45 million people live under the poverty line.[2] Americans need to act to protect life in our nation and if we adopt parts of UK welfare system to help those who desperately need it.

Britain has a number of benefits in place to help its citizens. It has guaranteed full health insurance for all citizens and provides emergency assistance for tourists or illegal immigrants. [3] In addition to this, the government provides a certain amount of income support for different levels of income, [4] and offers 39 week paid maternity and paternity leave. [5] Because of these programs, only around 5 million people live below the poverty line,[6] and the national living wage in Britain is much lower than in America. It’s around $1,300 in Britain[7] and about $1,600 in America. [8] Overall, the British population is better off in terms of health and poverty.

Of course, there are a number of drawbacks to this way of life. There are fewer incentives in place for people to work. Since the government will pay more to unemployed workers, there are fewer reasons to race out and find work because the government will pay you anyways if you don’t. Unlike America, where you must prove you are continuously looking working to collect smaller amounts of pay. This motivates people in America to find jobs, so they are able to keep providing for themselves and perhaps their family. Consequently, there is more unemployment in England, about 5%, [9] while the US unemployment is approximately 4.7%.[10] There is also slower GDP growth per quarter. US’s GDP grows at a quarterly rate of 0.8%,[11] and UK’s GDP per quarter only grows about 0.4%.[12] Since employers are supposed to provide so many benefits to their employees, they are less likely to hire more laborers to save money. Companies are less likely to hire young men and woman, so they don’t lose workers for weeks at a time to maternity or paternity leave. This leads them to produce less, which means a lower GDP. This leads them to produce less, which means a lower GDP. The UK also spends the most of government’s money on paying for these social programs versus any other programs or activities. [13]

Ultimately, we must decide if these benefits are worth it. Just because something is less economically efficient doesn’t mean people will automatically avoid that option. If people are willing and wish to bear the costs of that decision, then it could be done. Britain has proved that citizens are willing to pay higher taxes or have a lower GDP to protect their lives and those in need. As Charles Wheelan states, “we may all collectively decide that we would like to protect a way of life…even if it means… less economic growth.” [14] Some Americans might think that saving citizen’s lives is worth the costs, but others might not. Only time will tell how our nation swings.

[1] “Facts on Deaths Due to Lack of Health Insurance in US.” Obamacare Facts. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://obamacarefacts.com/facts-on-deaths-due-to-lack-of-health-insurance-in-us/.

[2] Gongloff, Mark. “45 Million Americans Still Stuck Below Poverty Line: Census.” The Huffington Post. September 16, 2016. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/16/poverty-household-income_n_5828974.html.

[3] “The U.K. Health Care System.” The Commonwealth Fund. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.commonwealthfund.org/topics/international-health-policy/countries/united-kingdom.

[4] “Social Security.” Angloinfo United Kingdom. Accessed June 23, 2016. https://www.angloinfo.com/uk/how-to/uk-money-social-security.

[5] “Benefits for Families and Children.” Citizens Advice. Accessed June 23, 2016. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/children-and-young-people/benefits-for-families-and-children/.

[6] “Persistent Poverty in the UK and EU, 2008-2013.” The National Archives. May 20, 2015. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/household-income/persistent-poverty-in-the-uk-and-eu/2008-2013/persistent-poverty-in-the-uk-and-eu–2008-2013.html.

[7] “United Kingdom Economic Indicators.” Trading Economics. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/indicators.

[8] “United States Economic Indicators.” Trading Economics. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/indicators.

[9] “United Kingdom Economic Indicators.” Trading Economics. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/indicators.

[10] “United Kingdom Economic Indicators.” Trading Economics. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/indicators.

[11] “United Kingdom Economic Indicators.” Trading Economics. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/indicators.

[12] “United Kingdom Economic Indicators.” Trading Economics. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/indicators.

[13] Rogers, Simon. “UK Welfare Spending: How Much Does Each Benefit Really Cost?” The Guardian. 2013. Accessed June 23, 2016. http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2013/jan/08/uk-benefit-welfare-spending.

[14] Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010), 321.

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