Thursday, September 9, 2010

things that don't change: race and class, then and now

Googling about guaranteed income, aka Basic income guarantee or Guaranteed minimum income (a privilege currently enjoyed by the rich, so they shouldn't object to it), I came across The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Final Words of Advice. King's first sentence:
In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States.
That's still true.

PS. From King's "Final Words of Advice":
...the programs of the past all have another common failing -- they are indirect. Each seeks to solve poverty by first solving something else.

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective -- the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.


  1. Speaking as a conservative, we'd probably spend less and get more bang for the buck with a Basic Income Guarantee than with our current poverty relief programs. Counting federal and local assistance together, we've spent some $7 Trillion in the last 40 years on poor relief without moving the numbers at all. My only fear is that given politics as usual, what would happen is that we'd keep the current systems, and add the B.I.G. on TOP of it, rather than replacing the old system for the new. After all, there's a lot of government employees, from the township level on up, whose jobs are dependent on the system, and they vote.

  2. Joel, thanks for that. Speaking as a leftist, I am sometimes surprised by things that can have conservative support, like single-payer health care and (I hadn't noticed the acronym!) BIG.

  3. I'm almost reluctant to bring this up, because it would be easy entree into a no-win debate over welfare that I don't have time to delve more deeply into. But here goes: Back in the early '90s, a political columnist for Milwaukee's morning paper -- who was well known for having a strongly conservative bent -- defended AFDC in the face of calls for "welfare-to-work" policies. He pointed out accurately that to do W-to-W properly would require a far greater expense (subsidized job training, subsidized child care, etc.) than did AFDC, which ensured at least a minimal income for poor families in which children were being raised.

  4. Yeah, welfare's a huge debate. What I like about BIG is it could bypass it: if everyone gets a BIG payment, there's no question about who "deserves" to get it. We all do, simply by being children of our nation.

  5. Alas, I'm not so optimistic. Although not from most of my friends, during the health reform debate I encountered a surprising amount of push-back from people who saw the attempt to extend coverage to everyone as "rewarding freeloaders." And that wasn't even with single payer.

  6. Oh, there will always be people worried about freeloaders. Usually, they're people who have inherited some wealth.