The Basic Income Guarantee

Posted by Bob Lord

If you're done thinking about Anthony Weiner, here's something more substantive to consider: Has the time arrived for us to lift all Americans out of poverty?  

We've reached a level of national income that we have the means to do so. The real question is whether we have the morality to do so. More on that, later. 

The basic concept is a simple one. Whether it's through the tax code or some other vehicle, we restructure (and simplify) the safety net in America to ensure that each American household is at or above the poverty line. In other words, a basic income guarantee.

In my study of inequality in America, I've come to realize how well Americans would do if our income were just spread a little more evenly. One stunning statistic: Every family of four wold have an annual income of about $200,000 if our national income were evenly divided. 

Consider how little it would take to ensure each American has the bare essentials of life in terms of nutrition, health care and shelter. The poverty level for a family of four is barely more than 10% of that $200,000 average income. Only 15% or so of the population currently lives below the poverty line and the great majority of them are "working poor," who have some income. It really wouldn't be that heavy a lift to wipe out poverty in America.

So, I was curious to know if others shared my view. Lo and behold, there's an entire organization that does. 

It's called USBIG, short for Unites States Basic Income Guarantee. I'll be postiing more on this subject, but if you're interested, here's a link to their website:

This concept, by the way, should not be supported only by progressives. Before Reagan took office, it was discussed openly, and was endorsed by conservative economist Milton Friedman. And if they're true to their beliefs, the evangelical community should be on board. 

Do we have the morality to lift all Americans out of poverty? Not yet, but there's that old expression from Theodore Parker, made famous by MLK: "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." True enough, but that arc doesn't bend on its own. If we can bend that arc just a little and make sure no kid in America goes to bed hungry or cold or without health care, the benefits, both moral and economic, would be enormous. 

In my mind, the time has come to start bending that arc. 

2 thoughts on “The Basic Income Guarantee”

  1. Why work? We now know the destructive effects of welfaee on work. The economy produces less work than it did in 2008 – 5 years ago. We have 13 million more people to support. To work is to become human. Children in welare families hear 30 milloon fewer words by the age of 3. People out of the workforce deterioeate at an alrming pace.

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