I see the Canadians (or at least progressive Canadians) are considering a Basic Income policy. It would work like Social Security does in this country—delivering a fixed payment to each household regardless of need. Except that Basic Income would extend benefits to everyone—not just the older folks. The idea is that a wealthy country should provide a income floor below which no one should fall. Before you have an attack of the creeping-socialism vapors, consider some of the benefits of such a program:
1. an end to poverty. Currently 36 million Americans—13 million of them children—live in poverty (defined as income of $20,614 for a family of four)
2. none of the stigma attached to “means tested” programs—-it’s not based on need; everyone benefits
3. administrative simplicity; no elaborate bureaucracy to determine eligibility or track down “welfare cheats”. It would eliminate the mishmash of current social programs and their professional fundraising expenses.
4. no disincentive to work—or at least not as much as traditional welfare programs–since working does not reduce your basic income.
A Canadian economist has modeled the idea and thinks its “such a good idea its hard to figure out why we don’t have it already”. I thought I’d check out American think tanks to see if anyone in America has a similar proposal.
No luck. Couldn’t find one; although its possible I didn’t search long enough. I got stuck at the New America Foundation, a centrist-y think tank that I thought might have some thoughtful work on the subject; they did have a piece entitled Rethinking Social Insurance that sounded promising. But my goodness, what a mishmash disinformation and propaganda. Here’s the opening statement:
The single greatest threat to the fiscal health of the United States is the runaway growth of the nation’s major retirement and health care entitlement programs.
Not according to the CBO—it’s healthcare costs, not “entitlements” in general that threaten “fiscal health”.
I could go on criticizing the piece (and maybe I will in a future post), but suffice it to say that in America—or at least at the New America Foundation—we get tired old fear mongering about public policy instead of “new thinking”.