A solution to welfare everyone can agree on

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Justin Cross/The Cougar

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]


  • Using the adage “give a man a fish — feed him for a day … teach a man to fish — feed him for a lifetime.” — Well … the government is giving away too many fish.

    Our economy has been successful in the past with everyone working in their self-interest. But when our economy is centrally planned like during FDR’s Great Depression, and now with Obama and his ObamaCare, the Market — the true indicator of the pulse of our economy suffers horribly. And people know it.
    How can we have 5% unemployment with 95 million people out of work?

    The problem is … the SocDems and GOP Establishment have stolen away self-esteem from their constituents, and in turn taking away their ability to work in their self-interest. In addition, Obama has made it easier to be on welfare with removing looking for work and other requirements.

    I can’t remember which state, maybe Maine, instituted requirements for 20 hours minimum of volunteering each week in order to receive welfare benefits. Incredibly, half of the recipients dropped their claims. So there is evidence that many on welfare, don’t need to be on it.

    Welfare used to be an embarrassment for people … and it should be. And if you are on welfare, you should be taking action (i.e.- getting credentials, improving your image, having a positive attitude, looking for work, etc). to lift yourself above the meagerness that the government will maintain your life at … to keep you voting SocDem. Unfortunately for most, government crumbs have them living in fat city, and they don’t want to improve themselves.

    This was a fair piece from Samuel.
    Not dripping with SocDem saliva so much. I think you can have a series of stories on this topic and the economy as whole. Explore the differences between the Command vs Market driven economies.

    What the SocDems readers of UH need is a proper education when it comes to successful economies, rather than only receiving SocDemProf soundbites.

    • Welfare to the poor makes up a relatively small portion of our budget, I’m not certain where you derive your arbitrary notion of “too much”. I assume you’re equally outraged by the trillions (with a T) on corporate welfare and offshore tax havens annually?

      • I think we can agree America has the fattest poor in the World.

        SocDems see a man on welfare as a vote for them by taking away their self-esteem by keeping them on welfare.

        Conservatives see a man with limitless possibilities.

        Look, when it comes to corporations — to many people have fallen for the class warfareargument, and are forgetting that we need rich people … lots of rich people.

        The nation is 20 trillion (with a T) in debt, and you focus on corporations? Obama has added more debt than all the previous presidents combined, and you want to talk to me of corporations?

        Do you like your toys? Whether it be your iPhone, 3D printer, etc.

        Of course when the first of anything comes out, it is very expensive. So who buys that? The rich. They get the ball running on a product so us middle classers can eventually buy them.

        You SocDems see only the rich. You never see the carpenter or electrician, or the plumber that built the guys yacht. or motorcoach, etc. The rich employ people, a lot of people. They spend their money generating contributions so that electrician, plumber, and carpenter, can shop for food, entertainment, etc.

        And you SocDems may not think its possible, but the rich do have their price. A generation ago, the tax on luxury yachts was raised, and the rich said No. The yacht business suffered, and layoffs took place, and then several years later, the tax was repealed, and guess what. The yacht industry picked up again.

        And this will surprise you, these corporations that you so easily degrade, are among Hillary Clinton’s big supporters.

        You need to get over the class warfare argument. Don’t be jealous of someone who has a dollar more than you.

        • Again, topicality and sheer scale dictates that it does not do to compare something as small as welfare programs to trillions in corporate welfare. And economics 101 dictates you could have all the supply (toys, as you eloquently describe them) but without demand from consumers it will do no good, and the economy will stagnate. Moreover, economic theory states that the poor and middle class are more likely to spend money on necessities (price inelastic goods) whereas the rich are more likely to accumulate that money, and money sitting in a vault does not economic growth make. Social mobility (the chance for people to work their way up the socioeconomic ladder) is lower in the US than in any social democracy in Europe. Still conservaties buy into the increasingly elusive American dream, which is arguably best displayed in Denmark. Trickle down economics since Reagan has led to the spike in both deficit and national debt, and seventeen trillion of that debt was kudos of Bush II and the trillions we spent in perpetual warfare.

  • No matter whether you call it welfare or basic income, it amounts to the same thing, a handout. Someone has to pay for it, and too many already are picking our pockets. Theft is more accurate.

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