Saturday, June 24, 2017

Universal Basic Income For Greensboro

One of the biggest mistakes local governments can make is in looking to State and Federal governments to solve local problems. I'm always amazed at how many states rights advocates never advocate for the rights of local governments to solve the issues facing them.

And of course, even those who disagree with my rhetoric will agree that failing to invest in infrastructure can be devastating. But are you aware of the type of infrastructure that is most often overlooked? No, it's not roads, highways or bridges. The type of infrastructure most often overlooked is the most valuable infrastructure any city can have-- it's citizens.

After all, without citizens you have no city, no one to pay taxes, no one to do the work, nothing but an abandoned city soon to crumble to the ground. We, the people, are the most basic and most important infrastructure any city could ever invest in.

Of course there is only so much any city can afford to do but Greensboro gives away millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars to rich people every month. And does any of that money trickle down to Greensboro's poor?

You know it doesn't. Never has, never well.

In an article entitled Finnish citizens given universal basic income report lower stress levels and greater incentive to work, the Independent reports:

"Finland has been giving 2,000 of its citizens an unconditional income for the last five months and some are already seeing the benefits, reporting decreased stress, greater incentives to find work and more time to pursue business ideas.

The scheme is the first of its kind in Europe and sees participants receive €560 (£473) every month for two years. 

Recipients do not have to demonstrate that they are seeking employment and they are not required to regularly report to authorities to prove they still need the payment, as is the case with standard unemployment benefits. They can spend the money however they like."

So who is against Universal Basic Income in Finland? Not the right wingers. It's Finland's labor Unions who are complaining the loudest.

And in Ontario, Canada they are planning to again test Universal Basic Income:

"In 1974, about 1,000 residents in Dauphin, a small farming town of 10,000 people in Manitoba, began receiving monthly payments with no strings attached. The pilot, a joint effort by the federal and provincial government, set the stipend at around 60% of Statistics Canada’s poverty threshold, translating to roughly C$16,000 a year in today’s dollars for a single person. For every dollar earned from other income sources, 50 cents were scaled back from the monthly payment.
The payments flowed for four years, turning Dauphin into a potent test site for the policy. Research found little change in the residents’ work habits, save for new mothers who took longer maternity leaves and teenage boys who were more likely to stay in high school.
Instead the monthly income became a source of stability, buffering residents from financial ruin in the case of sudden illness, disability or unpredictable economic events. Hospitalisations dropped, as did injuries and mental health issues.
But the budget of $17m – the equivalent of about $85m today – ran short , hindering data analysis. A growing federal push for austerity along with a change in Manitoba’s government in 1977 sounded the final death knell for the project."

Wait a minute, did I read that right? "...the monthly income became a source of stability, buffering residents from financial ruin in the case of sudden illness, disability or unpredictable economic events. Hospitalisations dropped, as did injuries and mental health issues."

Examples of basic income in the USA include the Alaska Permanent Fund which pays oil dividends to every resident of Alaska who has lived there for at least 1 year. It's not much but it's a start.

Republican President Richard Nixon twice attempted to bring Universal Basic Income to the United States and was twice voted down by the Democrats.

According to Wikipedia:

"Beginning in the end of 1960s, there were four basic income experiments conducted in the United States, all in the form of a negative income tax. As Alicia H. Munnell, who was examining the experiments in Indiana, Seattle and Denver explains, [1] a moderate reduction in work effort (17% among women, 7% among men) has been found by the American economist Gary Burtless. Munnell also mentions that the money people had received was not squandered on frivolous products such as drugs and luxury goods. In addition, there has been an increase in school attendance. Nevetheless, no noticeable improvements to health and the overall well-being were discovered and the effect on home-ownership rates was found to be negligible as well."

What the Wikipedia quote doesn't mention is the fact that the majority of the 17% reduction in work time for women was for longer maternity leaves than before, and that the 7% reduction in work effort among men was attributed almost entirely to late teens and twentysomethings.

Also there was no mention of the effect on the local economy but anyone with half a brain realizes that putting more money into the hands of consumers always spurs growth in the local economy.

And this right here in North Carolina:

"A longitudinal study of 1,420 low income children in rural North Carolina designed to observe their mental condition had the unintended result of also measuring the effect of an unconditional cash transfer on a subset of this group. [4] The Great Smoky Mountains Study of Youth has found that a quarter of the families belonging to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have experienced a surge in annual income due to a newly built casino as during this study, a portion of profits of this casino were unconditionally distributed to all tribal members on a semi-annual basis.[5] Key findings of this study include lower instances of behavioural and emotional disorders among the children and improved relationship between children and their parents, as well as reduction in parental alcohol consumption."

It terrifies all the status quo institutions on the left and the right. How will the elites profit if the poor get their act together, reduce alcoholism, drug abuse, become better educated, get better jobs, have better relationships with their families..... the list goes on.

After all, if people are able to take care of themselves then what do we need the status quo intuitions for?

So why aren't Greensboro's leaders working to start Universal Basic Income programs?

Perhaps you should read Nixon's Basic Income Plan in its entirety and decide for yourself.

More recommended reading: A Brief History of Basic Income Ideas dating back to the 1500s.

And please continue reading Universal Basic Income For Greensboro, Part 2