Tuesday, May 31, 2016

You Mean Reducing Poverty Might Cost A Bit Of Money?

I saw a play once which was a bit too heavy on policy and politics (education in this case). It was well done and funny, but didn't quite escape the basic problem that such pieces generally face. Theatre generally isn't the best way to advocate for your particular wonky policy proposal.

Still there was a very good line from one of the members of the play's Committee to Choose Wonky Policy (not its actual name) about a particular proposal to make the educational system, specifically admissions to higher education, more equitable and fair. The jaded and cynical well-meaning do-gooder explained to the young and not yet cynical enough do-gooder that the policy proposal would never be implemented in the current political system. Not because it wouldn't work, but because it might.

That's what I hear when I hear arguments against a universal basic income (even honest ones). Maybe there are arguments against it, but the biggest argument of all is, "A simple program that might reduce poverty without enhancing the suffering of the poors? You obviously don't know how these things work."

No policy is perfect, but only the ones that stand a chance of working get held up against the imaginary status quo of perfection. We don't spend that much money on poverty alleviation, and a lot of the money we do spend on it never gets anywhere near the people who actually need it. Maybe there are better ideas. OK, devote your life to making them happen instead of devoting your life to making sure that the poors we shall always have with us. Think less than needy people might get too much of that GIANT SUM OF MONEY? As with everything else, just increase their tax rates. That's how the tax code is supposed to "means test" things. It's suppose to make rich people for it, not take away their right to access public and publicly provided goods.

We do have a Universal Basic Income in this country. For defense contractors. They seem to be pretty happy with it, though admittedly not all who experience their Freedom Bombs are.