In theory, the EITC is a simple program. But in practice — and in particular from the vantage point of recipients — it’s opaque and complex. It’s almost surprising how much recipients did know about how their behavior related to the refund.
Salam’s piece has many useful links for what I am calling the Setting National Economic Priorities project. One of the project’s ideas is to introduce a standard “fade-out” rate of 20 percent for all means-tested programs in the safety net. A next step might be to consolidate all such programs into a single “flexdollar” benefit program, which I have described in previous posts.
My priors, which I think are supported by the research cited by Salam, is that trying to use a program like the EITC for social engineering is a mug’s game. I think that the flexdollar idea is a reasonable compromise between offering a pure cash benefit and trying to do fine-grained social engineering.