A solution to welfare everyone can agree on
Many Americans consider government welfare an underlying factor in continued poverty, but what if there was an alternative to the current safety net?
One alternative that has been debated in the U.S. is the guaranteed minimal income, otherwise known as basic income.
Basic income is a monthly income provided by the state to every person or citizen in the country, with the goal of eliminating poverty.
Essentially, supporters believe that when a person has just enough to live, but not so much as to live comfortably; he or she would have the incentive to look for a job to get paid more.
Once the person is paid more, they can live comfortably. If they do not like their job for whatever reason, they can quit without worrying about basic living needs while they search for a new job.
The idea of basic income is not new to the United States.
Alaska uses the world’s closest in-action equivalent to basic income. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon both tried to pass versions of it in Congress with no luck. What separates the concept of basic income from other welfare programs is that it might be one of the only alternatives supported by liberals, conservatives, socialists and libertarians. It is an idea that gained the support of Martin Luther King Jr. and Ronald Reagan’s former economic adviser and conservative economist Milton Friedman.
So why are not encouraging a true discussion about this?
“(The problem with the discussion is), do you want (the state) to be as minimal as possible, or do you think there is a legitimate role for the state in setting standards (for the market)?” political theory professor Naomi Choi asked. “What is the good society? Do we want the kind of society in which people are working very hard everyday, and yet they can’t get out of poverty?”
Philosophical disputes about basic income are not the only obstacles to real discussion. The question over its implementation is concerning to employed students.
“I would want to know more details about how it’s being paid for,” petroleum engineering sophomore Anthony Nowak said. “I like the idea of instead of it being something you could live on; (it is) a subsidy to be just enough to keep you afloat (between jobs).”
It is true that basic income’s implementation would be the second most challenging aspect of the discussion. Liberals would like to fund it in a way similar to social security, while conservatives like Milton Friedman prefer funding through a flat tax.
Regardless of its implementation, it is time for Congress, and every participating citizen of the republic, to discuss the idea of basic income. It would be more than productive, given the overwhelming hatred toward the current welfare state and the unifying demand for the elimination of poverty.
Everyone can support eliminating poverty in the United States, so everybody should engage in a real discussion as to how to do it. Basic income may not be the answer, but it deserves a conversation.
Opinion columnist Samuel Pichowsky is a political science sophomore and may be reached at [email protected]