Author: Meghan Nesmith
While Justin Trudeau playing with baby pandas is inarguably the most important Canadian news story in recent memory, we’ve also been making noise about Universal Basic Income. Also known as negative income tax or guaranteed annual income, universal basic income is a “social policy that would supplant various welfare programs by providing a baseline amount of money to all citizens, regardless of whether they work or meet a means test.” The province of Ontario (where I live!) announced in its 2016 budget that it would begin a pilot program later this year. Details are scarce (how much money will I get, government?), but according to the budget statement:
“The pilot project will test a growing view at home and abroad that a basic income could build on the success of minimum wage policies and increases in child benefits by providing more consistent and predictable support in the context of today’s dynamic labour market.”
Universal basic income as a philosophy has been around for a long time, although it has yet to be implemented successfully on a wider scale. Its current resurgence isn’t surprising, however, considering the…temperamental? global economy, the failure of current policies to adequately address poverty, and the wave of recent studies that suggest millennials as a generation are struggling to keep up with their predecessors.
I asked my dad, an old Canadian, for his hot take, to which he responded “What’s a hot take?” and followed that with nine paragraphs outlining his ideas about the program.
Universal basic income, if successful, would be socialism at its finest; a government fully committed to the dignity, humanity, and essential needs of every one of its citizens, regardless of their relative ability or opportunity. It benefits the system as a whole as well, because, as my dad points out, “what you are really trying to do is reduce the administrative overhead of the current regime — which is, not surprisingly, extremely high.”
“Sounds great in theory,” says dad, which is the basic tenet of socialism (and baby pandas, for that matter). There are, of course, serious potential pitfalls. Let’s let a grumpy old white man outline them:
“If you are going to do it, you need to make sure that it provides enough for a person to live on. I don’t think $1000 per month does that. Is it $2000? Does it apply to children? If so, does it become an incentive to pop out kids? That seems to be an extremely bad idea. So, maybe you need to be over 18. But then what about kids under 18 who have left or been kicked out of home? If you don’t provide for them, you need a new structure to take care of kids; you’re trying to rid the government of these administrative costs, however, so that doesn’t work. And if it is at 18, will it encourage kids to quit school and go back to watching Netflix on the couch? Because kids at 18 are twits.
And how do you deal with regional disparity? $1000 per month in Vancouver for a single person would not be enough, but maybe that works in rural New Brunswick. Remember that this is one size fits all — the only way this works is if there is no administration, because the idea is that you are taking the administrative costs and giving them to the people.