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ALLLOWANCE REFORM
by Bud Buck, 10/22/99

Listen (RealAudio 3.0)

DC: Debate has been sharp lately on the topic of "Juvenile Allowance Reform" for America's youth. Bud Buck reports.

Bud: America's youngsters are for sale. If you don't believe me, listen closely to little Tommy Ungar of Middletown, Pennsylvania.

Tommy: I get two dollars a week. That's what mom and dad give me, and that's what I get. Two.

Bud: And what do you have to do for that money?

Tommy: What do you mean ... "do?"

Bud: Don't you have to perform some service? Something unpleasant that violates your "core values" as a seven year old? Chores, perhaps?

Tommy: I get the money because mom and dad love me.
AND because I do good stuff, like making my bed, keeping my room clean, that sort of stuff. But I was already doing that.

Bud: But if you were to stop doing those things ... then what? Would they cut you off?

Tommy: Um ... I don't think so. Probably not. I like cleaning my room, so it's not ... you know, an interesting conflict.

Bud: A conflict of interest?

Tommy: Yeah, it's not that.

Bud: (annc) Little Tommy has already learned to think like a politician.
So has ten year old Elvira Gulch of Lawrence, Kansas.

Elvira: Oh, I get a four dollars a week ... two dollars to keep my mouth shut, a buck to stay out of the way and fifty cents each for my two sisters ... to keep them quiet too.

Bud: What if you didn't deliver?

Elvira: Good bye moolah!
Mom and Dad would finance my sister Greta instead. They'd pay her off to keep me quiet. That's why I've really got to put the hammer down. I can't afford to lose my gravy train!

Bud: Being a kid today is a costly proposition. There are many more consumer goods for children to buy ... staying current with fashions in clothing and playthings takes quite a bit of money, and today's children are raising it all the time.

(sfx: ding dong)
(sfx: door open)

Woman: Hello?

(sfx: clatter and rustling of junk as he juggles various products)

Kid: Hi! I'm selling wreaths for my scout group, and nut rolls for my choir, and wrapping paper for my school, and shirts for my hockey team, and I'm also looking for a sponsor for my read-a-thon and you could help the school band go to a contest in Denmark if you'd buy at least one dried flower arrangement today! Whaddaya think, eh?

Woman: Um ... Let me get my checkbook. But I don't know that I can help you out with EVERYTHING.

Kid: (bold) Oh? Why not?

(sfx: outside fade)

Debra: What we're seeing is the politicization of childhood. These kids ... are fundraising constantly, just like candidates for office. They're learning to meet and greet adults and immediately size them up for a contribution. The idea is to keep the big ball rolling, you know? There's always something that needs to be financed.

Bud: Debra Braddock is a professor of Juvenile Scrutiny at Pandering College.

Debra: We've watched these kids work a room, and there's no politician on the planet who's better at glad handing than a ten year old who's on the make for his scout troop or soccer team ... networking, beating the bushes for cash. And then when you bring the allowances into it ... it's clear that they're bought and paid for ... no doubt about it.
And rather than admit it ... the kids are learning to deny.

Bud: Such as during the recent congressional hearings on Allowance reform. Listen to this exchange between Senator Harrison Lowell of the Subcommittee on Unjustified Compensation and 11 year old Bobby Remling of Springfield, Illinois.

Lowell: Are you saying ... Mr. Remling ... that the money you received from your parents did NOT come with the expectation that you would toe the line on the green pea question, and that if a debate were to start on green peas you would immediately adopt the view held by those who gave you the money?

Bobby: Well sir, Mr. Chairman ... I had been thinking of changing my position on green peas all along. So what might look to you like a payoff was actually an unrelated event. Pretty much.

Lowell: I see here you were against green peas when you were seven.

Bobby: Yes sir, most definitely.

Lowell: And when you were eight, nine and ten. Quite consistently.

Bobby: What can I say? I re-considered. Your honor.

Lowell: And cold cash had nothing to do with it? Don't make me laugh.

Bud: And yet ... the denials continue, and for those who would change the system, there are precious few options.

Debra: The money chase has poisoned childhood. It used to be a kid became a child out of a sense of duty, a mission, a crusade, if you will.
Now it's a matter of judging what the traffic will bear. Is vacuuming worth an extra dollar? Can I make fifty cents taking out the garbage?
Changes in behavior are for sale to the highest bidder.
And some of these kids get thousands of dollars a year.

Bud: One critic who intends to do something about it is Senator Lowell.

Lowell: Put a cap on allowances. Make the kids report all the income they generate from these fundraising activities. If a kid is in the pocket of the Salted Nut Roll industry, I want to know about it, especially if I'm an ice cream manufacturer. And if I make baby carrots for a living ... forget it! How can I compete when the nut roll money is flowing into the pockets of these kids?

Bud: But the likelihood that there will be significant change any time soon is very slim, especially when you hear comments like those made by Bobby Remling before the Senate subcommittee last week.

Bobby: I think if you try to control our allowances ... and clamp down on our fund raising ... you're going to have a lot of legal problems with kids who feel their free speech is being trampled on, you know?
If I clear my place at the table, feed Fluffy every morning and water 3 plants, before heading off to school, who's to say I did that for the money?
Maybe I just like being good. Well ... it's possible!
I'm not saying we'll egg your house or TP your trees Mr. Chairman ... but I can't be responsible for the actions of unbalanced, vengeance seeking loonies in our midst ... and there are quite a few, as you might imagine.

(sfx: hearing room hubub up and down)

Bud: Youthful hubris? Plain talk? Or is it cause for grounding?
Senator Lowell is unsure.

Lowell: (sigh) When I see young people like Mr. Remling ... already corrupted by the system ... I don't know where it will end.

Bud: He struck me as being a very self assured young man.

Lowell: Under our current rules ... he and thousands like him have been perfectly trained to do the necessary fundraising, back stabbing and double dealing to mount a successful campaign for public office!
And that's what scares me most!

Bud: Because of the effect on their values?

Lowell: Because they'll soon be running against ME!

Bud: The subcommittee on Unjustified Compensation will continue it's hearings for the next few weeks, and then issue it's report, which is expected to be shocking, scathing, and widely ignored. Then what? Time will tell! This is Bud Buck.

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