I sincerely appreciate the causes you are fighting for and wish you the best of luck in November. My question is this: what is your opinion on a Basic Income Guarantee or some similar program, where every adult citizen receives money from the government every year, no matter their earnings. I wrote a paper on a related concept, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and am curious to hear your opinion on the matter.
Thank you for your time.
Response by Arthur
Regarding your question about a Basic Income Guarantee, I am definitely in favor of it. I think that we need to do whatever it takes to eliminate poverty in this country, and the most straightforward way to do so is through direct cash payments.
As I’m sure that you know, this is not an easy process. A big question is whether the transfer of funds should be from the federal government or employers. If we raised the minimum wage to, say, $15.00 per hour and had a full-employment economic policy, employers would pay most of the money. If we preferred to take the path that you noted, with the Earned Income Tax Credit, then the federal government would be footing the bill. I think that would be my preference because using businesses as a “pass through” organization to transfer money to the poor would be very inefficient, more subject to corruption, and possibly incomplete.
I do have reservations about the federal government giving a payment to everyone each year; I would prefer for the money not to go to those individuals and families that are in strong financial shape.
We had a window of opportunity during the Great Society to try to really eradicate poverty in our nation. As we know, President Johnson got sidetracked with the Vietnam War and the other war, the one on poverty, was put aside. If we choose to eliminate poverty through direct payments to those in need, I think that our economy will grow with more individuals having purchasing power and we will be in a better position to deal with other issues such as jobs, education, health care, etc.
One final item. Some people would say that the Earned Income Tax Credit combined with a full employment economic policy would raise the national debt. It might do so in the short run, but it would be the most efficient stimulus we could have and would result in far more people paying far more taxes.