Who wants a handout?
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
We may be paid 1 million won ($820) each by the government. The pandemic has shed new light on many things we took for granted before. We must be thankful that we are alive. We come to value everyday things. People are laid off, forced to go on unpaid leaves as economic activities are shut down because of the outbreak. We must be watchful of the money in our pockets since there is a chance of our paycheck getting slimmer. Self-employed store owners suffer as customers stay home.
The relief payments will indeed bring some relief to many. They could sustain many families at least for a while. But we must remember we are indebted to future taxpayers for receiving these grants. The side effects already are obvious. Social fissures have opened wide ahead of the April 15 parliamentary elections.
The question of fairness has been raised. Even Solomon’s wisdom won’t be able to establish fair standards for the payments. The government first proposed to hand out money to the 50 percent of households with the lowest incomes. Then it widened the scope to the 70 percent of households with the lowest incomes due to pressure from the ruling party.
The handouts ahead of the election became complicated. It was not clear who qualified as part of the bottom 70 percent income category. The government first pointed to households with combined monthly incomes of 7.12 million won. Then all of a sudden, it changed the guideline to a household paying total health insurance premiums of 237,000 won. The explanation did not satisfy the public as there were people with accumulated wealth but modest monthly incomes. Between a person earning 50 million won a year with an apartment inherited from his parents and someone living in a rented home and earning 100 million won a year, who is more needy? Who can judge?
The emergency relief will make every adult indebted to the younger generation. The bill will have to be paid by those under 40. The Moon Jae-in administration’s generous social welfare spending has caused enormous deficits. Its “cradle-to-grave” social benefits pay cash to over 10 million children, youths and seniors. Due to the profligacy over the last three years by Moon, national liabilities would exceed 800 trillion won and a 40 percent share against the GDP by the end of this year. Fiscal integrity comes under threat if the debt ratio against GDP goes beyond 40 percent.
People in their 50s and older should feel sorry for the younger generations. The bill for our current spending will be dumped on them.
Do we really need this relief money? Few would reject the idea of cash handouts ahead of the election. When there are immediate votes at stake, politicians will do anything. They have no concern about the fiscal state of our country in the future. Each voter still has a chance. They must be prudent when they enter the polling station next week.