One of the defining conflicts of economic discourse today is the debate over whether government programs should be 'targeted' to particular demographics - such as stimulus payments only going to those who earn less than $75,000 per year - or if they should be 'universal', provided to all citizens (and taxed to adjust distribution afterwards).

Universal programs boast the virtue of simplicity, while carrying the burden of size. Universal programs require far less bureaucracy, since no determination of who is eligible for payments is required. Advocates suggest that society can still tailor the distributional effects of universal programs by taxing 'on the backend'. But universal programs thus carry significantly higher gross costs, and require greater disbursement of public funds up front.

Targeted programs effectively 'tax on the frontend', adjusting the distribution of a program before giving it out. Thus, they have smaller price tags, but require more complex infrastructure to keep track of eligibility and adjust accordingly.