Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The UBI

The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth.
The opposite of poverty is justice.

. . . hundreds of people in hoodies, heavy coats, and wool blankets braced against the wind. . . . dentists arriving from five states were getting ready to fix the teeth of the first 1,000 people in line.
. . . better-off Americans spend over $1 billion each year just to make their teeth a few shades whiter. Millions of others rely on charity clinics and hospital ERs to treat painful and neglected teeth. Unable to afford expensive root canals and crowns, many simply have them pulled.
. . . . . .
She looked at some of the others who had come here, despite working for a living cutting down trees, building homes, minding a town library, running small businesses.
“We are not staying home, not sleeping and living off the government,” she said. She tried not to look at the 51-year-old truck driver lying next to her who’d had three teeth pulled, his mouth stuffed with gauze. . . . [She said] “It’s like a Third World country.” 
      (Originally appeared in The Washington Post)
Something is seriously wrong when people doing essential work for a society don’t get paid enough for medical care.
A new idea that might be the best solution for closing the obscene gap between rich and poor is popping up in magazines and public discourse. When I first heard of the UBI, I thought, “No way! Impractical!”

UBI stands for universal basic income or giving everybody, no matter what work or no work they do, a certain sum of money.
“I think they call this "communism," was the reaction from my friend Ron.

But serious economists are not scoffing. The Economist introduces the concept, and an article from theWorld Economic Forum details arguments for it.

On the downside, it would be expensive and take away the incentive to work. In the May 2017 issue of The Nation, Peter Barnes advocates a universal base income as distinct from basic income—only a few hundred dollars a month rather than enough to live on. 
It would cost the government less and pose no threat to the work ethic. If the sum were low enough, say $10,000 a year, most people would still have to work, but less likely out of despair or desperation at a job inappropriate for them.

A universal basic or base income would replace at least some social safety-net programs, making it less expensive for governments. And more money available to non-rich people would stimulate the economy by boosting household spending. If funded by taxing pollution and speculation such as Wall Street transactions, a UBI could help to solve more social problems.

I see implications for peace. It would reduce stress and friction between classes. Crime could drop dramatically—another saving for government. If funded by taxing pollution and speculation such as Wall Street transactions, a UBI could also help to solve societal problems. In the long run, I believe a UBI would save money besides immeasurably improving society.

If the UBI is not yet an idea whose time has come, it’s being tested experimentally. Barnes thinks a UBI could come to pass if enough groups worked for it. He suggests
millennials (the first generation earning less than their parents),
on-demand workers or temps,
women,
African Americans,
retirees and near-retired,
and poor of all types. Together these groups make up a large part of the population.
This is a dream with real possibility.



Just for fun, learn about this cure for Trump-induced anxietydisorders.

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