July 31, 2014

EVERY MAN A MANITOBAN:

Universal Basic Income: Something We Can All Agree on? (PAUL HIEBERT, July 31, 2014, Pacific Standard)

In the 1970s, the Canadian Government gave a lot of money to several families living in a small town in Manitoba. The goal of the experiment, which cost $17 million and lasted for four years, was to see if the community's overall health and well-being would benefit from many of its members receiving a guaranteed minimal annual income.

It worked, apparently. Life in that small pocket of the province improved. Researchers noted a decline in accidents, injuries, and visits to doctors and hospitals for mental health reasons--most likely due to the town's new-found financial security.

This past June, a group of academics and advocates gathered in Montreal to discuss and debate the advantages of governments providing citizens with basic income--an idea somewhat similar to what occurred in Manitoba a number of decades ago, except on a much larger scale. Presently, Switzerland is taking steps toward making this a reality. [...]

So the government sends an identical monthly check to every U.S. citizen regardless of whether they earn $100,000 or $20,000 per year?

Exactly. It goes to everybody. It's universal, unconditional, and paid individually. These are the three core tenets of basic income.

Now, the amount of a basic income is something that different advocates have different opinions about. My position is that basic income should be tied to basic needs. While people's needs differ depending on whether they are disabled or unable to earn another income, the amount should, in a broad sense, cover the essentials. In the U.S., for example, you could tie basic income to the poverty threshold, which is about $12,000 per person. It could be a bit lower or a bit higher, but that's a good ballpark figure.

Would the amount take into account that some parts of the country are more expensive to live in than others?

Basic income would need to be a federal benefit. It would need to be uniform across the United States; otherwise we might have the problem of people wanting to move to higher basic income areas.
Posted by at July 31, 2014 4:47 PM
  
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