A while back (read here) I wrote an article describing Finland’s experiment with Universal Basic Income (UBI). Here in the USA we don’t even really look at such an idea. Most of us have never heard of it. Instead, we have a multitude of disjointed programs, some federal, some state and others local, that combined provide pieces of something like a guaranteed income program. What is guaranteed is that it is ineffeicient, unrelieable and hated by most Americans. Additionally, this method allows an austerity target to be forever placed on each program, ensuring that none are safe from the fiscal hatchet.
As Mike Konczal of the Nation Magazine article below says, “The idea is both simple and basic: Give people enough cash to eliminate poverty. A guaranteed check for, say, $12,000 a year per person would accomplish this. It could be arranged relatively easily through the tax code, without a large, stigmatizing welfare apparatus to go with it.” Any discussions on UBI are, of course, immediately derailed ” directly challenge(ing) how we think about work and money. Won’t people simply sit around and play video games? Do we want to endorse the right to be lazy?” Many even ask, won’t this “leave us with still fewer jobs”. However, where people have actually looked into the possibility, results have not necessarily supported such concerns. “Experiments in Canada have shown that the fear that a guaranteed basic income would destroy all incentive to work is unwarranted. New experiments to further test its effects are being launched in Kenya and elsewhere.”
We have programs that abound and the program / scope may come and go. People who need them can’t always rely on them and can find it difficult to get out of their difficult situations. Nevertheless, we continue with temporary unemployment insurance, food stamps, child nutrition programs, etc. and our political representatives cannot be counted on to make them stable. Konczal suggests “a basic-income starter kit, which would also include things like a $12-an-hour minimum wage and generous paid leave. And there’s one policy in particular that should lead: a basic income for children.” It may be time that we begin to discuss UBI as a legitimate alternative to our present approach of ensured and ineffective crisis management.
Read the entire article which covers much more. There are many pieces to the UBI Starter Kit and yes, funding them will be complicated, but, remember, we are already funding a multitude of fragmented programs.