Category: Individual & Economic Liberty

Fare Well with Wealth-fare

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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. “

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The Geography of Personal and Economic Freedom

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My friends will tell you that I’m prone to frequent bouts of uncertainty in terms of where I want to live. One minute it’s Portland, OR; the next it’s Portsmouth, NH. Well today, its Chicago, IL. This I blame on a phone conversation with my pal John earlier in the week which rekindled my desire to return to the Windy City.

But I also have a rational side, one that pontificates on the unappealing side of a particular state or city. By way of an example, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo are all locales that get me jazzed; that is, until I consider issues such as cost of living, high taxes and onerous regulations that keep one feeling trapped and hamstrung. Then there’s Chicago and the whole State of Illinois which are both mired in a debt crisis of epic proportions. Things are so fiscally serious in the Land of Lincoln that IOUs are now being issued to many of the state’s lottery winners.

Another factor that I take very seriously is the fact that I’m a black male. So the vast majority of cities in the south are out, along with small midwestern towns with a ‘ville’ at the end of their name. And yes, I do look at racial profiling and stop-and-frisk statistics in places like New York that make moving there unconscionable.

The Economic Freedom Factor

At some level, I believe all of us value our freedoms and liberties. That’s certainly been the case for me which is why I’ve engaged in a great deal of due diligence in terms of finding a home. My current locale of Denver has perhaps been the most accepting place in which I have ever lived

Medicating and Educating – Does it Matter How Much it Costs?

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The year was 2003. My former wife and I were living in Nevada and expecting a child. Problem was, we were without health insurance and were faced with paying for the baby’s delivery and a subsequent hospital stay.

As a former health care senior administrator responsible for several medical centers in the Midwest, I figured I could exert influence to ensure that our bill was manageable. So a few days before my wife was admitted while in the throes of labor, I took the initiative and asked a Nurse Manager whether he could provide an itemized estimate of our hospital bill. Open-mouthed in disbelief at my question, he was clearly lost for words.

As an advocate for free market competition in the healthcare industry, I am astounded that a price list is not provided prior to medical services being rendered. Pricing is something that every consumer deserves to know in light of the fact that more than one-sixth of the U.S. economy is devoted to healthcare spending, a percentage that continues to rise every year. The ramifications of this are severe: higher costs for health insurance (even under the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare), the perilous state of our nation’s flimsy safety net and our long-term fiscal woes.

Rand Paul, Republican Senator from Kentucky and a Presidential Candidate, says in his new book ‘Taking A Stand: Moving Beyond Partisan Politics to Unite America’, the problem with Obamacare, and even the old system, is that when insurance or government pays for the first dollar of healthcare, the consumer doesn’t care about the price and neither does the physician; without a market, the price keeps going up.

Paul, who is a board-certified Ophthalmologist, believes that consumer choice is the key to transforming today’s broken healthcare system into one that truly places the patient first. He bristles at the lack of thoughtful consideration on the part of political leaders with respect to a solution. He advocates a model that combines tax-free health savings for routine visits with a catastrophic insurance plan for serious health issues. Doing this, he says, would force healthcare providers to compete on price and quality care: two fundamental elements in a high-quality healthcare system. “

The Hidden Economy of Hemp: Fueling its Emergence

Hemp…..Sure, knew a little about its nutritional repute. In fact, two women that I crossed paths recently at a social event were laudatory in their praise for this cannabis derivitive’s health qualities. But frankly, it wasn’t until picking up the book Hemp Bound: Dispatches From The Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution that it’s stunning implications for the U.S. economy became apparent to me.

First, a little about the author Doug Fine. He’s an investigative journalist with credits at the Washington Post, Wired, The New York Times and National Public Radio, among many others. And he touts his pride at being a father, rancher, patriot and citizen of the planet. But what I found most intriguing is the signature job title he has anointed himself with:

Hemp Journalist

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So What’s All The Fuss About Hemp

Hum? Well let’s start with the fact that this variety of the cannabis plant possesses some of the strongest fibers on the planet. It’s seed oil is nutritious and has proven curative qualities. And it has demonstrated massive potential as an energy source and climate mitigation tool for the planet.

But, as Doug Fine points out…….

Federal law has effectively renedered it illegal to grow hemp (aka Industrial Cannabis) in the United States! Yes, you heard correct, it’s a federal felony to grow it in the U.S. even though Americans consume billions of dollars worth of hemp a year, mainly in the form of health products produced by our Canadian neighbors to the north. “

Could ‘Dig Once’ Bury Free Internet?

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Internet regulation has become one of the hottest political topics of late, taking it’s place alongside such old chestnuts as foreign policy and social agendas. So far, net neutrality has been the most widely discussed and publicized internet regulation, inciting bloggers and pundits across the web to opine. Early this year,
the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality. Many people supported the decision and were pleased with this outcome. On the surface, it seems to have certain benefits, but it also sets a precedent for related issues in the future.

 

According to a recent Washington Post article, Obama has begun to make broadband issues a key part of his remaining agenda. Part of his proposed plan is to implement

The Poverty of Marginalization: Can Free Market Capitalism Help?

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I have an embarassing confession to make……..

Due to my meager earnings these past three years, I officially meet the government’s threshold for poverty. Yep, you read that correctly: pure-on 100% original Made in America poverty.

Talk about being hard to swallow, after having been a middle-to-upper income earner almost all my life.

The main catalyst for my present circumstance was a divorce which left me with clothes and bare essentials. It’s been very humiliating at times because people do judge you. I never imagined waiting for a public bus while enduring weather extremes, couch surfing at the homes of strangers, or trolling networking events for free food.

For me, this face-plant-in-the-mud period of my life has delivered untold wisdom and perspective about the ugly financial truths that face so many Americans. I continue to be intrigued by the number of people I encounter daily who are deep in the trench of silent dispair, including small business owners, college students, baby boomers and even former top-level executives. In my opinion, none of this has to do with a lack of willingness to work hard or a desire to succeed. Rather, I believe it’s largely the result of systemic forces like unsustainable wages, public mandates, rising housing and food costs, and onerous government regulations that are quietly chipping away at our economic freedoms.

But despite my recent experiences, I remain an avowed advocate of free market capitalism. More on that in a bit. “