The concept of national lifetime funding of each individual is hitting the news big time. The US should create both professional and citizen committees to gather facts and analyze them with the aim of implementing this kind of social change here.
In November, 2013, Business Insider analyzed the costs. A minimum income per person over 21, the article pointed out, would allow the government to eliminate SNAP, TANF, housing vouchers, and the Earned Income tax credit, for instance. A Congressional Research Service report published in 2012, the article also notes, found that about $750 billion each year is already paid out in benefits for those in need, not counting what is paid by the states.
Besides the actual funds spent, an additional savings in salaries, benefits, and workspace expenses would be realized because the numbers of administrators and frontline workers in current programs would decrease.
The big question is, of course, why we aren’t doing it here. Augmented by funding measures that are less splashy but would count nonetheless, the money could be supplied. As anyone knows who juggles a personal budget, sometimes moving an entry from one column to another opens up possibilities that were there all along.
Part of the issue in the US stems from the over-idealization of the American Dream: that anyone can come here from anywhere without a cent and achieve whatever they define as success. But glomming onto a nicely-turned phrase can cloud the fact that it isn’t necessarily so. Higher education costs, including rising tuitions and college loans, are a topic of current concern here while other nations have found ways to provide free tuition. Rent costs create de facto ghettos. Even Social Security, the prime safety net for seniors, sometimes comes under attack, and that is a program they have paid into themselves.
In 2015, thinkers, movers and shakers are continuing to entertain not only the idea but the implementation of societal balancing. In the wake of increased violence worldwide, there is new motivation to work toward a better solution than retaliatory violence. Strengthening the ability of individuals to care for themselves can enhance choices, decreasing reliance on antisocial groups and actions.
Cautionary articles mention the need to include world-wide migrants and to continue with programs for environmental and health benefits, warning that there is no sure cure for societal woes. Continuing issues would remain surrounding employment: who gets hired and for what salary, for instance.
But a conference in 2014 at Canada’s McGill University envisioned the idea of a $20,000 guaranteed family income. Over 100 speakers addressed issues surrounding the position that no one should live in poverty. Switzerland has been considering a basic income that translates to about $2600 per individual per month, more than a family might expect from disability policies or unemployment insurance here if they weren’t working because they qualified for those.
The guaranteed income would be a basic wage to cover living expenses, not a sumptuous one. But it would create a safe harbor for extended parental leave, higher education, retraining, career change, leisure pursuits and family life. It wouldn’t take away from opportunities to start businesses or employ others in them, and in fact would encourage this by reducing at least one risk factor.
Besides this, a guaranteed income doesn’t pose a threat to capitalism. The rich can still get richer, as the song says, but with a difference: the poor don’t have to become poorer. As for the work ethic, the need to work—to produce something of value–comes from a desire to contribute and utilize individual skills and talents as well as to gather resources. And not all companies need to be alike in this. Some of the coolest Silicon Valley companies, for instance, encourage creativity, individuality, and playfulness in order to invent new and profitable products.
In hunter-gatherer days, human beings roamed to find plant life and to hunt animals to sustain themselves and their group structure. Agriculture brought a different way of life, an attachment to land and crops that became renamed as ownership interests. Having predictable stretches of time to tend crops, trade them, and even cook them both necessitated and promoted new ways of relating to each other as well as modifications in the way the body uses nourishment. Bigger brain power and more sophisticated human interaction meant that language became not only useful, but important, for instance.
But both hunter-gatherer times and early agricultural times were marked by concern over resources: Would there be enough to maintain a family or a group of families through winters when animal or plant life might not be freshly available? Human beings also wanted to have what they viewed to be the best mates possible so their groups would survive into the next generation.
Looked at through the lens of Now, these circumstances aren’t as laughable as they might at first seem to those who skipped Anthro 101. But by pointing them out to us, both scholarly papers on why nations go to war and even pop culture novels like Primates of Park Avenue make it clear that the basics of human history still influence the way human beings feel and act, both internationally and interpersonally.
But of prime importance is that human beings are not slaves to their evolutionary inheritance. Cognition and consciousness can temper these on a shared planet. Because we can be aware and also be aware of our awareness, and because we can think of solutions that don’t need to destroy our neighbors, we also don’t have to destroy the earth. There is enough to go around, and we don’t have to go to war—within a country or between countries—to find that out.