UNIVERSAL GUARANTEED BASIC INCOME
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
The Corona pandemic has torn the scab off all the inequities in our economic, political, and social systems. It has highlighted the reality that the top 0.1% of the country owns 90% of the wealth. This 0.1% consists of 200,000 families in a country of 325,000,000 citizens. This disparity reflects the result of unbridled capitalism’s disregard for the needs of the people in favor of the mega-profits for the few.
Assuring that all people live with dignity and are able to nurture their creativity, as part of vibrant communities should be the role of a democratic government. Affording all citizens a Universal Basic Income (UBI) is one way to begin to build a more equitable society. This is not a novel idea; it has been around since the beginning of the democratic experiment called the United States of America. It was considered by President Nixon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and presidential candidate Andrew Yang. As a matter of fact, a UBI like payment has been distributed to citizens in Alaska for many years. It’s a permanent petroleum and oil dividend. It has improved health, education, and general welfare there. Many studies have proven that UBI does not create waste, laziness, or encourage people to leave the job market. To the contrary, it lessens stress, allows for the care of ill family member(s), and furthers education and the opening of new businesses. It has been demonstrated that putting just $1000 per month into a household eliminates hunger, benefits educational outcomes, lessens domestic violence, and reduces stress.
Looking beyond this current crisis, it is clear that the country is standing on the brink of the biggest economic and social transformation in its history. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will change our lives. Even today, 57% of the working public is living paycheck to paycheck. And this is before the full onslaught of AI, which will eliminate many retail, warehouse, service and jobs requiring drivers. It has already had a deleterious impact in work areas once like secure professions such as doctors, lawyers, teachers and pharmaceutical researchers.
Efforts must be made to serve basic human needs as a right as soon as possible. There are many models for UBI. A three-tiered guaranteed affordable income could be one approach. As a start, a guaranteed income of $3000 per month for families of four with an annual income below $24,000 (current poverty level), $2000 per month for those below $48,000 (median level), and $1500 per month for those below $60,000 (lower middle class) could be instituted.
To pay for this, reinstating corporate taxes, taxing ultra-millionaire households, closing tax loopholes, and eliminating the bloated military budget would be a fine start. Eliminating the complicated and bureaucratic welfare system would also save money. A 10% value-added tax (VAT) should also be considered. Corporations must pay their fair share because trickle-down economics is a fantasy. In the 21st century, we should not allow corporate greed to lead to a new form of slavery and colonization that serves the very few at the expense of the majority. A more equitable society brings dignity to all people and allows their self-reliance and creativity to enrich all our lives.