Guaranteed Income? Really? June 03, 2020 Willis Sparks
Have you heard? The Republican president of the United States proposed a plan for "partial basic income" and his plan passed the House of Representatives. In 1968.
President's Nixon's plan, which he called "the most significant piece of social legislation in our nation's history," died in the Senate and never became law. It hasn't really made a comeback in the US. But the idea of "guaranteed basic income" is already back in the news in Europe, because income inequality — exacerbated by COVID-19 — will become increasingly hard for the world's political leaders to ignore.
What's the idea? Governments could provide all (or just the neediest) citizens with a small amount of guaranteed regular income. Enough cash to survive. The "guarantee" is that checks keep coming even if the recipient has or takes a job. It's an attempt to strengthen the social safety net at a time when widening income inequality, the current deep economic dive, and sweeping technological change in the workplace, are fueling public misery and anger in dozens of countries.
Many governments have looked at this idea. Spain's left-wing coalition government has just introduced a basic monthly income for families pushed into hardship by coronavirus. In addition, Finland gave 2,000 unemployed people $600 per month in 2017 and 2018. The plan was halted because it didn't prove cost-effective. A new study finds that the experiment boosted the well-being of those who received the money, but it did little to boost the economy.
Denmark, Ireland, the UK, and Sweden are now working on short-term versions of the idea. Local governments in Canada, the Netherlands, Scotland, and the US have tinkered with longer-term plans. The so-called Permanent Fund Dividend in the US state of Alaska offers a modest form of basic income. Kenya is conducting a 12-year study on the subject.
Arguments for: Unemployed people sometimes refuse work because it makes no sense to surrender benefits to take a job that pays less. With a small guaranteed subsistence-level income, they can take work and get ahead, say supporters of the idea. The idea could prove less expensive than current systems of unemployment benefits, advocates claim, because those who take work will begin paying taxes. And schemes that give money to everyone, regardless of need, eliminate the expensive bureaucracy needed to track benefit eligibility, saving the government money. They also help the workers most vulnerable to automation of the workforce get the training they need to make the leap to new forms of work.
Arguments against: Give people money for doing nothing, and they'll continue to do nothing, say the idea's detractors. They'll become wards of the state instead of productive citizens. It's the welfare state gone insane. And the idea will be absurdly expensive at a time when debt burdens are already eating away at many of the world's governments. Another entitlement program is not the answer.
Bottom line: None of the various experiments with basic income has proven that it can accomplish what its advocates claim. But we do know that wealth inequality was fueling public fury in many countries even before COVID-19 sent the entire global economy into a tailspin.
The problem is real. Until a credible alternative emerges, experiments with basic income will continue in different forms in different places.
“We all need to do more.”
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan announced a $1 billion, four-year commitment of additional support to address economic and racial inequalities in our local communities that have been intensified by the global pandemic.
Journalists under attack in the land of free speech
As protests over the police killing of George Floyd raged across the country, there have been more than 125 instances of journalists being shot with rubber bullets by police, arrested, or in some cases assaulted by protesters while covering the unrest.
Foreign news crews from Germany and Australia have been caught up in the crackdown. Australia's Prime Minister has even called for an investigation. Some of these journalists have simply been caught in the crossfire during surges of unrest, but video and photographic evidence reveals cases where police have deliberately targeted reporters doing their jobs.
<p>We are used to talking about the plight of journalists in "unfree" or authoritarian societies. It surprises no one to learn that journalists have a hard time doing their work in Egypt or China, or that they can't do much at all in Turkmenistan and North Korea. </p><p>But the grim reality is that freedom of the press is now under assault not only in authoritarian countries, but in democracies too.</p><p>A report last year by the watchdog Freedom House <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-and-media/2019/media-freedom-downward-spiral" target="_blank">found</a> that 16 of the world's most free countries – including India, Hungary, Austria, Israel, and the United States — had seen declines in press freedom over the past five years. This trend tracked a broader withering of democratic institutions around the globe. </p><p>There are many reasons that the press is under pressure. The decline of local news has whittled away the connection between people and journalists. The rise of social media provides alternative sources of information that, by design, track and cultivate people's biases. The increasing polarization of cable news in particular has eroded popular trust in the media more broadly. Last year, just 41 percent of Americans trusted the media, <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/267047/americans-trust-mass-media-edges-down.aspx" target="_blank">according</a> to Gallup. In 1972, when venerable TV anchorman Walter Cronkite spent a part of every evening in millions of American living rooms, the mark was 68 percent. </p><p>But there has also been a concerted attempt by self-styled populist leaders to demonize established media outlets. Railing against the press, a supposedly corrupt institution controlled by liberal elites, is a hallmark of populist politics raised to the level of art form by leaders like Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, Turkey's Recep Erdogan, Hungary's Viktor Orban, and Italy's Matteo Salvini. And of course, no pulpit has been more bully on this score than the twitter account of US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly called journalists "enemies of the people" – a turn of phrase with chilling historical <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/03/trump-enemy-of-the-people-meaning-history" target="_blank">resonances</a>. </p><p>Language like this from powerful political leaders creates a dangerous situation in which some law enforcement officials who share their views feel that they have license to abuse or harass reporters in the middle of protests. After all, isn't it the job of police to protect "the people" from their "enemies?" </p><p>Democracies depend on the free flow of information. Some reporters let their biases distort their work, and all of them are human, but their reporting, however imperfect it may sometimes be, is critical for the health of an open society. No matter how polarized or troubled a society is, police should not shoot, beat, or arrest them for doing their jobs.</p> More Show less
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Hard Numbers: France's contact tracing, Spain hits zero, migrants wait off Malta, blacks targeted in Minneapolis
600,000: French authorities said 600,000 residents downloaded its new coronavirus contact tracing up within the first few hours of its release. The app, which aims to prevent a second wave of infections in that hard-hit country, has stirred controversy in France amid concerns that the data it gathers could be abused by the government to surveil people.
<p><strong>0:</strong><strong> </strong>For the first time since March, health officials in Spain have reported <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/06/brazil-coronavirus-cases-surge-bolsonaro-defiant-live-updates-200531234600607.html" target="_blank">zero new deaths</a> from the coronavirus in a 24 hour period. As one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, Spain recorded a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/06/03/world/europe/03reuters-health-coronavirus-spain.html" target="_blank">155 percent</a> spike in mortality in the first few months of this year compared to the same period in 2019.</p><p><strong>60:</strong> In Minneapolis, where the anti-racism protests now sweeping the US first emerged after the police killing of George Floyd, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/06/03/us/minneapolis-police-use-of-force.html" target="_blank">60 percent </a>of people who suffer police violence are black, according to the city's own records. The data also show that black Minneapolitans are 7 times more likely to be victims of police aggression than their white neighbors.<br/></p><p><strong>400:</strong> More than <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/rescue-migrants-stranded-on-chartered-maltese-pleasure-boats/2020/06/03/10c5a5ac-a59b-11ea-898e-b21b9a83f792_story.html" target="_blank">400 migrants </a>are languishing in crowded boats off the European island nation of Malta after the country's government rescued them from smuggling vessels back in April. The migrants are now waiting for EU countries to agree to resettle them. So far, France is the only country that says it will accept some of the asylum-seekers, but has not specified how many. </p> More Show less
The Graphic Truth: Solidarity around the world
As anti- racism protests rocked US cities in recent days, thousands of people gathered in cities around the world in solidarity. In some instances, demonstrators assembled outside US embassies — in Berlin, London, Paris, and elsewhere — to condemn the police killing of George Floyd. In others, crowds inspired by the Floyd demonstrations gathered to protest systemic racial injustice in their own societies. Here's a look at where demonstrators have taken to the streets in recent days.