What if we gave every American baby a savings account with $5,000 in it? We then allowed their parents to contribute more, tax free, until the child is college age. The child could withdraw the money between the ages of 18 and 25 to pay for college, start a new business or buy a home. The catch: they have to commit to one year of national service in order to access the government money. Harold Ford Jr. and Al From are proposing just that.

In general, I think our government is most effective when creating opportunity rather than just handing out money. However, this could be a giveaway that results in opportunity. A lot of Americans lack a safety net, particularly in their early adult years and this would provide one while also invigorating national service. Unless you’re reflexively against all government-based plans, this one is worth consideration.

I do have several concerns. Will the $5,000 be held in private banks or some kind of government run account? If it the money is put into private banks, who chooses those banks? Do we have systems in place to absorb a large increase in youth joining national service organizations and do we have the funds to pay those youths a decent wage during their service?

Will we need safeguards to protect these investments from a market collapse? Will there be tight restrictions on how the money can be spent or will the recipients have access to the money regardless of how they want to spend it? Finally, this plan would balance government coercion with personal responsibility – is it wise to make those types of bargains or is it social engineering that would create undesirable consequences?

I’m always fascinated by new/different ideas. I hope this one receives some real discussion.

Business $5,000 for Every Child?