Friday, November 28, 2014

Time to Think About the Not-So-Unthinkable - A Guaranteed Income

If the American jobs crisis is permanent, it calls for a permanent solution.  Small improvements such as lower employment taxes for businesses, or even a federal work program, won’t be enough by themselves.

One possible answer is an assured amount of money for all.  It has been described as a “citizen’s income,” a “basic income,” or a “basic guarantee.”  It is as simple as it sounds – all Americans, all citizens, or all residents would receive a certain amount each month.  Although individual proposals vary, it usually involves enough money to assure people of food, shelter, and possibly medical care, but little more.  It’s not a new or exclusively liberal idea, with advocates back to founding father Thomas Paine and from all over the political spectrum. 

The main question about guaranteed income is:  How could we pay for it?  Author Charles Murray determined that, if health insurance were not included and programs such as food stamps and unemployment compensation were discontinued, our federal government could pay each adult citizen $10,000 per year, with those earning over $25,000 from outside sources returning some of it, with no increase in taxes at all.

Others have put together schemes for increasing tax revenue in various ways, with cutting corporate loopholes the most popular.  Writers have proposed many new taxes – a recurring one is a one-half percent fee for stock and other financial transactions, which could raise literally hundreds of billions of dollars. 

So what other disadvantages could assured money for all have?  One is its effect on incentive to work, as some would choose to live unproductively.  That could become a huge social problem, or no issue at all, if those not seeking jobs would only offset declining employment in general. 

As for the good side of a basic national income, there would be renewed security across the land.  Americans would not have to worry about being wiped out if they lost their jobs and could not find replacements.  The cost of administering the program, compared with the likes of welfare, would be trivial.  And the conservatives and libertarians supporting it could see their hope of lower government involvement - realized. 

Over the next year, this blog will have much more on guaranteed income – the theories, the specific plans, and viewpoints on it from all over the political spectrum.  So I want yours as well.  What do YOU think?  Get your comments in!  Because, whether a guaranteed American citizen’s income is justified or not, we need to discuss it – and there is no time like the present.     

1 comment:

  1. Does Social Security remain in place for those currently on the program? that is about $25K a year for those folks. Minimum wage advocates claim that $15 hour is needed to survive - that is approximately $30K a year. $10K per year seems too low to be successful/meaningful.