Running for President on $1000 Per Month

source: hueylong.com

New Orleans      Huey Long, a former Senator and Governor of Louisiana, launched “Share the Wealth” clubs across the country with Gerald L. K. Smith as his acolyte and chief organizer in a populist challenge to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression.   On Wade’s World,  I recently interviewed Andrew Yang, a techster, entrepreneur, and advocate for universal basic income as his key plank, who has thrown his hat into the ring to run for president as well.   If Long’s slogan was “a chicken in every pot,” Yang’s might be, “vote for me and it’s a grand a month for everyone.”

In his book, The War on Normal People, Yang outlines his argument for universal basic income, which is also excerpted in the current issue of Social Policy.  The heart of it is guaranteeing every American $1000 per month.  One of the reasons he argues his plan will work where others have not been as successful is in fact because he is advocating for more money.  Some of the plans getting a lot of publicity in Stockton, California and in Finland are half of that, more in the neighborhood of $500 per month.  Yang’s position is that we need a major step up.

We can all do the math and measure the leap here.  Full-time work at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is only a little over $15,000 per year, and I know I’m repeating myself, but that’s assuming a full 40-hour week for 52 weeks a year, that is becoming harder and harder for many workers to achieve.  $12,000 a year on Yang’s plan almost gets you where minimum wage would.  Add the two together and each worker might be getting $27,000 per year.  Like Yang’s plan or not, we all have to admit the impact of such an increase would make a world of difference on all counts of family income security.

Is it practical?  Yang argues that his Freedom Dividend would be a direct income transfer and unlike welfare programs would not require an elaborate bureaucratic structure to administer.  Everyone just gets a check.  There is some savings as well by consolidating existing programs, but the heart of Yang’s concept is that we can afford to do better, so why aren’t we doing it.  As evidence he cites a small pilot of one-hundred families at $1000 per month funded by tech folks at Y Combinator, so we’ll see soon enough.

Yang also argues that time is running out on our choices here.  Like others in Silicon Valley, he argues that technological change and automation are no longer in the by-and-by, but only months or several years away from reality, for example self-driving trucks which he believes are 98% already here.

Yang’s chances of being president may be on the long-shot spectrum, but the ideas he’s advancing for Universal Basic Income have been around for years from the National Welfare Rights Organization’s fights in the Nixon era to the Alaska oil dividend, so his cry in the wilderness now may be on every street corner soon.

***

Please enjoy Lucas Ciliberti’s American Girls.
Thanks to KABF.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Pay Higher Rent and Get Out of Poverty Quicker

New Orleans      At first this idea may sound really, really stupid.  Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) responsible for financing the public housing and housing subsidy vouchers across the country has announced a plan in his words, “to give poor people a way out of poverty.”  His plan to achieve this is to raise the rent required to live in public housing.  His idea is that being forced to pay more rent will somehow force poor families to get out of poverty by making them work harder.  Somehow in his logic, paying more rent, thereby making a poor family poorer, will somehow make them richer.  So, if at first this idea sounds really, really stupid, once you really think about it for even a minute, it is difficult not to conclude that in fact this idea is in fact, really, really, really stupid.

A report from the DC-based research outfit, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities done for the Associated Press found that in the 100 largest US metropolitan areas, lower income tenants would have to pony up an average of about 20% more for their rent.  This huge bite into lower income and working families’ income would impact four million people and raise revenue for HUD by $3.2 billion once fully implemented.  The Center found that 75% of the increase would be born by working families, the elderly, and the disabled.  I hope your following me closely.  Working families would pay more which would be an obstacle to their security and exiting poverty.  The elderly would pay more with most of them on fixed income facing an increase disproportionate to any inflation adjustment.  You get the picture.  What’s more the Carson Get-Out-of-Poverty-Through-Higher-Rent plan would also eliminate deductions from income calculations that have prevailed in situations where there were high medical bills or child care costs.

Looking at the Center’s state by state chart of families impacted there’s only one thing that one can say about this without any fear of correction:  this is an equal opportunity program since everyone in all states gets screwed.  Let’s just pull a couple out of the pile.  In Arkansas 45,000 families will be affected that include a total of over 89,000 individuals, including children obviously who account for 39,000 of that number, almost half.   13,000 elderly will have to come up with more money and almost 16,000 of the disabled will have to do so as well.  Arkansas isn’t hit as hard as many states.  The average increase will by $670 about $56 per month pushing $30 million collectively.   In Louisiana the average rental increase will be close to $800.  In Mississippi, it will be $830 per year, and on and on it goes.

Can families just save more and work a bit harder as Carson and HUD argue?  The AP reporters note that the increases are “about six times greater than the growth in average hourly earnings, putting poor workers at an increased risk of homelessness because wages haven’t kept pace with housing expenses.”  So, the Carson HUD plan will increase rents in order to increase homelessness.

We now have a HUD and its secretary promoting a pro-poverty plan!  America, what a country!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail