Never mind raising the minimum wage or further relaxing the rules whereby Americans qualify for welfare. In fact, scrap them all, says MSNBC’s Krystal Ball, who has a better solution for ending income inequality. No, you ninny, it’s not lighting a fire under those perpetually on the government dole or teaching the virtue self-reliance in schools. It’s making everyone a ward of the state. Well, everyone who’s not in jail.
In the video below, Ball who hosts the show “The Cycle” tells about a referendum before the Swiss parliament that would guarantee every citizen a minimum income, or “mincome.” The segment begins with stock footage of a publicity stunt in October in which a truck dumped eight million gold coins, one for every Swiss citizen, outside the Parliament building in Bern.
In November, the New York Times Magazine had an article about this “audacious social policy,” as economic writer Annie Lowrey termed it, whereby:
Every month, every Swiss person would receive a check from the government, no matter how rich or poor, how hardworking or lazy, how old or young. Poverty would disappear. Economists, needless to say, are sharply divided on what would reappear in its place — and whether such a basic-income scheme might have some appeal for other, less socialist countries too.
Ball thinks the approach would be a perfect fit here in the U.S., where the disparity between rich and poor has grown despite (due to?) efforts by the nation’s first quasi-socialist president. In the video she explains that the plan would give everyone “a chance to benefit from the fruits of our capitalist society.”
The basic concept is simple. Every non-incarcerated adult citizen gets a monthly check from the government. Other safety net programs are jettisoned to pay for the mincome, and poverty is eliminated.
The free government money would not only solve poverty, she claims, but it would not create deincentives to work. Ball never gets around to explaining why she thinks that would be the case or why prison inmates would be denied a piece of the pie. But she does go in a manner that is a breathlessly optimistic as it naïve:
We tend to think of poverty, homelessness, despair as inevitable but mincome makes you realize — in a country as rich as ours — we allow those outcomes as a choice. We could decide to eliminate poverty and it wouldn’t even take a Christmas miracle to do it.
Ball seems blissfully unaware that the idea of mincome is nothing new. In fact, the term was coined in the 1970s, when the Canadian town of Dauphin, Manitoba put the idea into practice. The experiment lasted five years, during which time work hours declined among the population as a whole, most notably among single women and teenagers, who left their jobs outright. Some positives were reported as well, such as a decline in workplace injuries, which is easily explainable, and a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, which is less so. A possible explanation is that working makes people unhappy, but the same is almost certainly true of poverty, which would inevitably increase as more people quit their jobs.