So who are the players in this intersection and what’s in it for each of them?
Fiscal Conservatives: Want limited spending. Emphasize ROI (return on investments). Focus upon practicality
Liberals & Progressives: Want a robust social safety net. Want government to lead the charge in public policies. Focus upon promise and potential.
Libertarians: Want limited government, emphasize social responsibility, self sufficiency. Want individuals to lead, not the government.
So how are these odd-bedfellows ever going to work together on anything?
The answer may lie with UBI (universal basic income) implemented in a very tough-love, no-nonsence mix of consequences & compassion. It’s ironic that I’m toting the advantages of UBI during Martin Luther King’s holiday remembrance since he advocated this approach in a speech not long before he was assasinated.
Why UBI? Why would a policy of awarding everyone $1,000/month in accordance with the following schedule be palatable for the above described odd-bedfellows? Here is my proposed schedule: If you are a single person household making more than $100,000/year, you don’t qualify. If you’re a 2 person household making more than $200,000, you don’t qualify. 3-person household making more than $300,000, don’t qualify and so on and on. Think about it….are people living above these incomes in their respective household sizes hurting financially and lacking adequate food, clothing, shelter? That’s the liberal/progressive in me speaking. If you’re above these income categories and not making ends meet (probably because of credit card debt and living above your means) then as they say “suck it up buttercup”. That’s the fiscal conservative/libertarian in me speaking.
Last but not least, implement UBI concurrent with elimination of all goverment programs (aka, welfare) with the exception of Section 8 for housing and food stamps since housing and food are such basic necessities. Also, keep Medicare and Medicaid in their current form (don’t expand them) and of course keep social securty (SSI and SSDI) in their current form but don’t expand them. Essentially cap the current costs while bearing in mind that elimination of any of the above programs/expenditures would be akin to touching the 3rd rail in the subway.
- Fiscal conservatives will like this because it’s tough/auster and simple. You essentially cap the current costs while getting out of the business of creating winners and loosers in the game of dolling out funds and rolling out programs. Think KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). This approach would be akin to the proposal that we revamp our income tax structure so that your IRS filing is completed on a postcard (like they do in some European countries). That’s another good proposal (sorry H&R Block) that could easilly coincide with this UBI proposal but let’s save that for another blog.
- Liberals/Progressives will like this because it includes the basic safety net ingredient. Furthermore, it will make their lives easier since it avoids nasty decisions about setting up competing programs for every conceivable disadvantaged interest group. They should like this format since rich folks are not sucking up the $1,000/month payments. The army of social workers, advocates and bureaucrats would likely shrink. The fiscal conservatives and the libertarians would applaud this. However, the liberals/progressives could find solace in the fact that the smaller footprint of social workers, advocates and bureaucrats would be much more effective since they could focus more on being life-coaches and counselors who actually help persons in distress rather than pushing papers, filing reports and explaining programs much to the frustration and confusion of those who are the intended beneficiaries of thes overly complicated programs.
- Libertarians will like this because its all about freedom of choice. The “nanny state” as they like to refer to government is not mandating what you do with your $1,000/month payment. They would like the implication that we are all “big people wearing our big boy pants” who can make decisions for ourselves. If a person wants to eek by on $12,000/year, so be it. If that person wanted to pick up at least a part time job and make another $12,000/year (for example), so be it. Libertairians should like the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) orientation of UBI implemented in conjunction with a stripping away of all the bureacratic over-reach of the current myriad of programs.
- Everyone should like the way this proposal avoids the trap of setting up animosities among beneficiaries who are always cognizent of “who gets what” and resentful if they feel they don’t get “their share”. If you are single and making over $100,00/year or you’re a couple making over $200,000/year (and so on), the average hard working person struggling to make ends meet and benefiting from UBI does not (and should not) worry about you. This is who I’m referring to as “everyone”. If “everyone” as I have defined them is relatively happy, the overall society will become less polarized. Then maybe the odd-bedfellows (the trinity of conervatives, liberals and libertarins) might actually pull together behind this.
Since I’m a history buff, I remind you that throughout history, the mantra of the “powers that be” has been “divide and conqurer” It works in military combat, domestic politics, labor-management relations, racial and ethnic relations and even within families. The simplicity and even-handedness of UBI coupled with the “tough love” element of stripping away all the mind-boggling, complicated, over-bearing bureaucratic administration of programs might provide a path we all can take to escape this forrest of polarization and animosity.
One last thought.…what about those persons who demonstrate that they absolutely can not manage their $1,000/month stipend because of mismanagement, addictions, etc. Studies have shown that where UBI has been implemented, the proportion of persons falling in this category is lower than what we anticipate. I use myself as an example. Once I started receiving social security (which is like UBI), it freed me up to pursue my writing and get my first novel published. Prior to that, I was working 2 jobs full time Mon-Fri and weekend gig jobs for over 25 years as a security guard. Think of the creativity that could have been unleashed if I had been able to pursue my writing avocation all these years. Maybe I could have been another Steven King novelist (ok that’s a stretch). Thankfully, I do not have an addictive personality (at least not yet) so financial backing has not turned me into a gambler or alcoholic. Now multiply my example by millions who might be freed up to do the writing, painting, inventing, and business starting thanks to the confidence that a basic financial safety net provides. Can you smell the GDP growing? Now that’s an odor that everyone (conservatives, liberals and libertarians and everyone in between) could enjoy.
There still needs to be some consideration for beefing up the system of conservatorships (fiscal conservativeship and full conservatorship) for those in severe need or establishment of a representative payee arrangement for those who by their actions display an inability to manage finances and ultimately harm themselves. I end on this point since most persons reaction when I mention UBI is to say ” their just going to piss it away”.
As always, feedback is encouraged and let’s keep thinking creatively to break out of the polarization box. This is my tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King and all persons who think outside the box, plan for a brighter future, and look boldly and positively toward that future.