I think hell just froze over. Here’s a wild idea from Fox Business News that actually seems to make sense:
So you eliminate all welfare programs and just ensure everyone at birth has a guaranteed minimum income. The number given here is $10,000 a year. As your wages rise, the minimum income disappears. No need to debate over minimum wage. No welfare programs. No food stamps.
Just an income to go on about their lives with. No congressional bickering over funding programs. A significantly smaller bureaucracy. There’s an elegance to the simplicity. Surprisingly, it has been attempted before, according to the New York Times:
There happens to be some hard evidence to bolster the policy’s case. In the mid-1970s, the tiny Canadian town of Dauphin ( the “garden capital of Manitoba” ) acted as guinea pig for a grand experiment in social policy called “Mincome.” For a short period of time, all the residents of the town received a guaranteed minimum income. About 1,000 poor families got monthly checks to supplement their earnings.
Evelyn Forget, a health economist at the University of Manitoba, has done some of the best research on the results. Some of her findings were obvious: Poverty disappeared. But others were more surprising: High-school completion rates went up; hospitalization rates went down. “If you have a social program like this, community values themselves start to change,” Forget said.
There are strong arguments against minimum or basic incomes, too. Cost is one. Creating a massive disincentive to work is another. But some experts said the effect might be smaller than you would think. A basic income might be enough to live on, but not enough to live very well on.
What amazes me is that this idea has been discussed in the U.S. for decades. I’ve read that it was first considered during the Nixon administration. And in 2012, during the presidential campaign, the idea was reintroduced when Mitt Romney said President Obama wanted to write everyone a check.
Filner’s proposal, not including any offsets from repealing the standard deduction, would cost a little over $500 billion a year. A plan with $5,000 grants for adults, or about half the $10,000 annual poverty line for adults, costs about $1.25 trillion a year, and Murray’s proposal to give $10,000 annually for every adult over 21 comes to about $2.25 trillion.
Those are big numbers and even if you eliminated programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, child tax credit and Social Security, which a sufficiently large basic income could replace, it would require big revenue increases. But then again, they could have big effects. Murray’s proposal would grant a family of four $20,000 a year – well over the $15,000 a year poverty threshold, and so effectively eliminate poverty for such families. A single adult would get $10,000, or about the poverty threshold for those households.
They’re launching the program in Switzerland. So Swiss citizens have a guaranteed wage as well as a socialized health care system. And education is publicly funded. But the overall effect is that this is designed to save billions of dollars a year in reduced bureaucracy.
So what’s the down side. Well, it’s being supported by Fox Business News, so I really have to figure out what the catch is, especially since Fox’s philosophy is “kill the poor” and if you can’t do that “punish them.”
- Switzerland’s Proposal to Pay People (nytimes.com)
- They’ll Pay You to Live in Switzerland! – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Proposal in Switzerland to Pay Citizens for Breathing (darkgovernment.com)
- Swiss Proposal Would Guarantee Minimum Monthly Income For All Citizens (huffingtonpost.com)
- A basic income of about $10,000 per US citizen would work mathematically (nextbigfuture.com)