Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Stimmig - Hey Why Not

Today's New York Times ran this interesting article Switzerland's Proposal to Pay People for Being Alive by Annie Lowrey. It's all about that country's plan to provide their citizens with a guaranteed income. It wouldn't matter if you were rich or poor every person would get a fixed sum of money. It is their plan to wipe out poverty and to boost the economy.

Now before you poo-poo the idea think about it. Here in the United States we have a lot of different programs aimed at helping lower income families and each is run by a different department of government. We have food stamps and housing vouchers and Social Security Aid to Dependents and who knows how many other programs.

Imagine if all of these programs were replaced by a guarenteed annual payment of $10,000 to every person over twenty-one years and out of jail. It would be chump-change in the pocket of a millionaire but very possibly they would put it to good use. For the millions that work for minimum wage and can barely survive it would make a nice supplement.

There probably be a few slackers that would abuse the benefit, that sadly is a fact of life but I bet there would be far better outcomes if people know they could count on this.

Excerpt from Annie Lowrey's article:
"The proposal is, in part, the brainchild of a German-born artist named Enno Schmidt, a leader in the basic-income movement. He knows it sounds a bit crazy. He thought the same when someone first described the policy to him, too. “I tell people not to think about it for others, but think about it for themselves,” Schmidt told me. “What would you do if you had that income? What if you were taking care of a child or an elderly person?” Schmidt said that the basic income would provide some dignity and security to the poor, especially Europe’s underemployed and unemployed. It would also, he said, help unleash creativity and entrepreneurialism: Switzerland’s workers would feel empowered to work the way they wanted to, rather than the way they had to just to get by. He even went so far as to compare it to a civil rights movement, like women’s suffrage or ending slavery."
"When we spoke, Schmidt repeatedly described the policy as “stimmig.” Like many German words, it has no English equivalent, but it means something like “coherent and harmonious,” with a dash of “beauty” thrown in. It is an idea whose time has come, he was saying. And basic-income schemes are having something of a moment, even if they are hardly new. (Thomas Paine was an advocate.) But their renewed popularity says something troubling about the state of rich-world economies."
I bet some could take an easy breath and think to themselves that now they could take a few courses at the junior college or maybe enroll a young child in dance classes. Small little things that could end up making a huge difference in someone's life.

I don't know but why don't we give it a try. Bringing dignity to mankind, offering a hand up, these are good things. Things to be proud of. People having to sleep in cardboard boxes under freeway overpasses, not so much.

America's tough guy bravado is as the kids say "so yesterday". We have moved on in so many ways socially, I think this might be the next step to conquer on the roadway to the future.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I never poo-poo'd the idea. I liked it from the get-go. Every country should establish something like this. We can't leave penniless people to suffer in isolation on the streets. That we do this is insane. The America of today is beginning to look a lot like Charles Dickens' London. It's time for change. There should be a universal bill of rights for humans. Shelter, food and medicine should only be the start. A guaranteed income would make a world of difference for the under-privileged. We used to care about such people. We need to do this again.

    Relatedly, I hope Pope Francis' push to help the poor translates into a worldwide phenomenon. Help comes from odd places.