Seeking My Best Self

trying to make sense of my life – and lose some weight

Eliminating Poverty Overnight

on February 22, 2014

basic incomeI believe in a national minimum income, also known as citizen’s income or basic income. What is it? Basically, minimum income provides each adult a check from the government with no strings attached. A check whose dollar amount is at or above the poverty line.

This is where some start choking and spitting their coffee across the room. While they wipe up their mess, let me quickly say: if we instituted a national minimum income in America, poverty would vanish overnight, because in one fell swoop, everyone would rise above the poverty line.

Nice thought, say the skeptics. There are just a few little problems. First of all, how would we ever fund such a program?

Funding is easy. If we replaced our current governmental social services with this program, each adult would receive at least 12,000. Without raising taxes AT ALL, we could lift every household in America above the current poverty line.

Imagine the bureaucracy we’d eliminate, because there would be no need to judge who is deserving. Everyone would be. Of course, THAT makes many uncomfortable. I guess it’s human nature to want to assay the worthiness of others – to group, divide, accuse. People feel more secure if they can decide who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’.

But this judgmental attitude is bad for society and for the individual. If I were writing in my spiritual blog, Ariyawen, I would tell the story of this guy who was once asked by a mob to judge a woman. Instead, he told the crowd to judge themselves, then doodled in the dirt while they slowly slunk away.

But humans are lazy. Given the opportunity, they’ll just sit around watching sports and soap operas. If people are provided a minimum income, they won’t want to work.

Studies have been done, and it turns out, that’s not true. For example, a study in Manitoba showed that decentivization was minimal – really, REALLY low – less than 3% in the most affected groups, which were mothers with babies and teens who were working to support their families. In other words, decentivization happened where it benefitted society – mothers were home with their infants, and teens were in school rather than at work. In addition, there were unexpected societal benefits. High school graduation rates increased, and hospitalization decreased.

Another study, this one in Namibia, showed that economic activity actually INCREASED, in part because people were empowered to start small businesses. Plus, the economy was stimulated because each household increased their buying power. Decentivization is a myth.

Fine. But I still don’t want other people to get money for free. I’m not OK with that.

Wow. Hypocrisy, much? What about health insurance? Most who have it receive benefits that far exceed their premiums. They get money ‘for free’, because they receive services they haven’t paid fair market value for. How about home ownership? Anyone who takes a tax deduction for home mortgage interest is receiving free money through reduced taxes. Free money that often exceeds the proposed minimum income. It fries me when people object to handouts yet fail to see that they are the biggest government and social ‘users’ of all.

Since I’ve publicly endorsed the concept of minimum income, I’ve been regaled with stories of welfare fraud and bad choices made by ‘the poor’. For each story, I’ve responded with my own stories of hard work, heroism and sacrifice. But these stories, mine or theirs, are anecdotes, not research.

Research shows that national minimum income WORKS to eliminate poverty and improve economies. Let’s stop being swayed by our inaccurate misconceptions (bolstered by the blustering of moralistic hypocrites) and implement it here.

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