Instead of all the poverty programs, the government should just give everybody a monthly universal income. When one considers the gap between rich and poor, the rate of automation and the fact that there will never be enough jobs to go around, it might be a better way of keeping our folks out of abject poverty.
The drawback is the cost. One of the commentators during a July 30 “On The Money” business show said it would cost $3 trillion. However, there is a way to reach the goal of a universal income at a much lower cost. Here’s how:
▪ Start by expanding Social Security. Eliminate the cap on taxable income and raise the tax to 8 percent from the current rate of 6.2 percent. Then lower the age of eligibility to 50 years.
▪ Create a stipend of $1,200 a month for all adults and high school graduates. Those who do not finish high school should have to wait until they are 20 to encourage them to finish school. They can use this to support them if they go to college or to help them in getting started in life.
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▪ Place a tax of 3 percent on all Wall Street trades to fund the stipends. The market in 2016 did, according to the World Bank, over $42 trillion in trade; a 3 percent tax won’t break the bank.
The payments should be set up so one gradually loses the stipend as they move up the economic ladder. Currently we spend $1 trillion on some 126 anti-poverty programs; their elimination would certainly offset the cost of the stipend.
Imagine the country with no one in abject poverty. Imagine the numbers of kids now being able to go to college because they have the financial support to do so. The economic force of all that spending would drive the economy to new heights and would certainly close the income gap between the rich and poor, which is hurting our economy and country.
A basic stipend would free workers from starving or being held in economic servitude, making only enough to pay for food to be able to work another 40 hours.
Business would have to bid for one’s labor instead of workers begging for a job. We can take back the dignity and value our labor should produce. We can boost the spending power of the poor and middle class and leave behind the failed and greedy policy of “trickle down” economics which brought about the latest version of the Great Recession.
We can make this country live up to the promises articulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his famous “Four Freedoms” speech: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear and the last — which always seems to be forgotten — freedom from want.
The mechanics are in place. The tools are available to us. Let us end poverty and financial inequality in America once and for all.
Thomas Vance of Alexandria is a retired Air Force master sergeant and senior advisor for Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access.