What if there were a simple way to reduce poverty in America? In this scenario, the government would give everyone money, so that no one would be poor. Outside of proving your U.S. citizenship, there would be no screening mechanism or ‘need’ test required. Everyone would be provided with the same monthly amount, even if they were middle class or wealthy.
This is the essence of a new policy model being proposed which is called Universal Minimum Income or Guaranteed Basic Income where, in lieu of myriad government assistance programs, there would be just one program dispensing a monthly or annual payment to all citizens, irrespective of income level, background, social status or other factors. While this idea seems nutty at first, given the federal budget deficit, it does offer some interesting arguments when you consider its full implications.
Personally, I have never been a fan of government handouts. But this one caught my curiosity because of its egalitarian approach. Besides, who wouldn’t want a little (or a lot) more money in their pocket each month for basic necessities like rent, food, gas and booze. I added booze in there because life in a society of equals would be truly boring.
Of course, the use of a handout for alcohol consumption would pique the wrath of those who believe that poverty is largely the result of an irresponsible lifestyle. As one of my Twitter trolls commented, responding to my recent tweet on guaranteed basic income:
“So there’s no reason to improve yourself? You have nothing to worry about? That has never worked. It didn’t work for the French. It didn’t work for the USSR. It won’t work now. I’d rather be free and poor than a slave to a State that meets my needs. Any liberal/progressive program will ALWAYS have the opposite outcome of it’s stated goal.”
What’s the Rationale for Guaranteed Basic Income?
At the risk of being branded a Bernie Sanders socialist, for kicks let’s explore the arguments in favor of Guaranteed Basic Income. For starters, today’s jobs economy is not what it used to be. Many workers are powering through 50+ hour work weeks, despite the fact that it’s still not providing them with enough money on which to live. Some might attribute this to greed on the part of employers; others might believe that it’s directly related to the decline of unionization. Nevertheless, a fact is a fact: for many, employment no longer provides a sustainable income because the wages of most American workers have stagnated or declined since the 1970’s. Moreover, about a quarter of all workers rely on some form of public assistance to supplement what they earn. Ultimately, advocates of the Guaranteed Basic Income proposition claim that it offers all Americans the opportunity to create a foundational base for living akin to the bottom level requirements of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. “