Equal opportunity is the right to have the opportunity to work for the life that you desire. The right to get a job, to go to college, to live where you like. Since every person doesn’t begin with an equal hand it is critical to have systems in place to ensure that equal opportunity occurs. A simple example, each child gets the to right to a free and appropriate education therefore all children, regardless of background, race, income level, get to attend the public school.
Seems pretty simple. Yet one child lives next to the school, one child lives across the highway, one child’s family doesn’t own a car, one child has drug addicted parents that can’t be depended on to get them to school. One child has a stay-at-home mom that wakes them, makes them breakfast, packs their backpack and drives them to school promptly on time. One child rides their bike, one child doesn’t own a bike, one child has autism and can’t remember the way to walk, one child is in a wheelchair and needs special transportation.
Obviously each child’s opportunity to get to school is not equal. To solve that problem the government provides transportation to school for all children by bus regardless of the situation. Each family still has their choice of how to get their children to school. It isn’t about a handing out an education you don’t have to work for, it’s about ensuring that every person gets the opportunity to work to improve themselves and their life.
I apply this same logic to all the government safety net programs. It’s about providing baseline survival to ensure that people have the equal opportunity to improve their circumstances. It’s really easy to assume that people on welfare, use food stamps, or live in government housing aren’t trying hard enough or aren’t making good choices. Everyone is born into different circumstances and with different abilities.
It’s impossible to make a sound judgement about what a person should or shouldn’t be achieving. For example, a person living with autism might only be capable of holding a minimum wage job as a greeter at a grocery store. If a person like that has no other support, I believe it is the obligation of the government to ensure that he can have a place to live within his means.
There are countless situations that can alter a person’s ability to thrive:
- Sexual abuse
- Domestic violence
- Mental health issues
- Generational poverty
- Racial biases
These are just a few that I think many of us don’t think about. It isn’t about supplying an equal outcome for everyone who is struggling. It’s an equal opportunity to survive and, with effort, improve your circumstances.