This is the Newsletter of the USBIG Network (http://www.usbig.net), which promotes the discussion of the basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States--a policy that would unconditionally guarantee a subsistence-level income for everyone. If you would like to be added to or removed from this list please email: Karl@Widerquist.com.
The Fifth Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network will be held in conjunction with the Eastern Economics Association Annual Meeting at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia on February 24-26, 2006. The official announcement and Call for Papers will be out soon. The deadline for presentation proposals will be October 28, 2005. Please mark the dates on your calendar. If you would like to volunteer to help put the conference together, please contact Karl Widerquist.
Several Unions, Churches, and NGOs have founded the Namibian BIG Coalition. They announced the coalition and put forward their proposal at a public event in Windhoek on April 27, 2005. The Council of Churches of Namibia, the National Union of Namibian Workers, the Namibian NGO Forum, the Namibia Network of AIDS Service Organisations, the Legal Assistance Centre, and the Labour Resource and Research Institute all signed a declaration committing themselves to push the government to introduce the Basic Income Grant (as BIG is known there). The new coalition will be similar in structure to the BIG Coalition in South Africa, Namibia’s southern neighbor.
The BIG Coalition proposes a Basic Income Grant equivalent to U.S. $16 per month for all citizens who are not old enough to be eligible for a pension. The amount sounds trivial by developed-world standards, but Namibia is one of the poorest countries in the world with a poverty rate of nearly 76%. Even $16 would be extremely significant to Namibian citizens, and the $200 million per year is a significant amount of funding for the Namibian government.
The coalition has already gained attention at the highest levels. Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula responded sympathetically to the new coalition’s proposal, but voiced concerns about financing, the need to integrate the proposal with existing social programs, and the need to “grow the economy.” The opposition Congress of Democrats (COD) responded more favorably, saying BIG, “is a timely development for the increased destitution of our people.”
The Namibian BIG proposal has roots in the Namibian Tax Consortium, which was asked to review the Namibian tax system in 2002. The consortium recommended paying a cash grant to every Namibian as part of their tax reform proposal. For more information see the website of Claudia & Dirk Haarmann, who have been working tirelessly – and successfully – to bring the coalition to fruition in Namibia: http://www.cdhaarmann.com.
(This report was compiled from reports in Reuters, AllAfrica.com, and the BIEN Newsflash.)
While the Namibian government balks at the difficulty of raising the $200 million it would need to provide its citizens with a minimum income of a little more than 50 cents ($0.50) a day, it is important to put that cost into first-world perspective. At an interest rate of 5%, a permanent Namibian BIG could be financed by a bond with a one-time cost of $4 billion. At that price, according to Forbes Magazine’s rankings, 48 Americans could fund this Namibian BIG single handedly, 35 of whom would still be billionaires afterward. In other words, any one of these 48 people could afford to finance a basic income for 1.7 million Namibians, not just for one year, not just for the rest of our lives, but for all the generations to come forever—or for as long as money makes interest.
If Bill Gates donated half of his fortune to Namibia, he could finance a permanent BIG six times the size that the Namibian BIG coalition thinks its government could afford, and Mr. Gates would still have $24 billion left to support his family. A BIG this size would give every Namibian a minimum income of $3 per day. It doesn’t sound like much until you remember that 3 billion people worldwide live on less than $2 per day. It would free Namibia from the abject poverty that three-fourths of its citizens have known since colonization. That is what only one man could do, how much more could a concerted effort on the part of first-world governments do?
The BIEN Newsflash reports: On Tuesday 17 May, as a result of an important session in the lower chamber of Spanish Parliament, a resolution on "dependence" including interesting items in connection with Basic Income was approved. In the last few months, two parties which are giving parliamentary support to the Spanish Socialist Party Government had presented at the Parliament two bills advocating for the introduction of a Basic Income in Spain. After some contacts with several individuals and organizations, these two parties, together with the Socialist Party, have decided to create a Parliament Commission to study and evaluate the political legitimation and the feasibility of Basic Income in Spain. This Commission will be up and running until the end of the current term of office (in 2008). Here is a part of the text of the "Resolution on Dependence":
"The number of people that are living in conditions of dependence in Spain; the care and attention that are received; the way in which these services are rendered (almost exclusively by their families, especially by women); and the inequalities in terms of access to the resources, justify the need of a Law for the Promotion of Personal Autonomy and attention to the situation of dependence of people, to reinforce social protection of citizens through the assistance and the provision of basic services with the aim to promote social cohesion. [...] The 'Congreso de los Diputados' finds it necessary [and urges the Government] to create a Subcommittee, in the heart of the Commission of Work and Social Affairs, for the preparation of a study on the economic viability of a universal Basic Income. The Government will have to collaborate with this Subcommittee by contributing all the documents and information that will be necessary for the running of its work".
The BIEN Newsflash reports: The new leader of the Dutch Trade Union Federation (FNV) Agnes Jongerius, who was elected at the Union's Congress on May 24-25, 2005, fully supports the idea of a basic income for all. She thinks that Dutch citizens should receive a monthly check of 350 or 400 EUR. "With such a plan, we could get rid of a lot of administrative difficulties", she declared in an interview. Jongerius still believes that people should make their best endeavour to find a paid job, but controls should remain soft and incentive-based. She argues that a well-designed basic income proposal would allow the Union movement to stop being on the defensive about welfare state issues. For more information, see FNV's website
The BIEN Newsflash reports: In the framework of the celebrations of Belgium's Social Security Act’s 60th anniversary, the Socialist trade union FGTB organized a debate on the future of the welfare state, which was held on Labor Day (May Day). Basic income was a prominent topic of discussion. Yannick Vanderborght (University of Louvain) had been asked to present arguments in favor of the proposal to union militants. Vanderborght concluded his presentation by stating that Belgian unions should support such a reform, but Mateo Alaluf, a well-known Professor of Sociology at the University of Brussels, argued that workers’ organizations should in no way endorse basic income. Since a basic income would facilitate part-time work and the creation of low paid-jobs, he said, it would foster the dismantling of the welfare state. At the end of a long debate with the audience, some were enthusiastic about basic income, while most militants remained unconvinced. For further information, please contact the organizer Olivier Starquit.
The BIEN Newsflash reports: The Spanish Basic Income Network (Red Renta Básica) is organizing the Fifth Symposium on Basic Income in Valencia on 20 – 21 October, 2005. The First Symposium was organized by the network in June 2001, and the event has been held annually since then. All specifications and rules for applying to the 12,000-Euro grant offered by Red Renta Básica are available at www.redrentabasica.org and www.uv.es/rentabasica.
Timothy Roscoe Carter, The Free Liberal
In an editorial for a libertarian magazine, the Free Liberal, Timothy Carter addresses Republican desire to eliminate the minimum wage. He argues that their desire is not wholly misplaced. The minimum wage incompletely addresses the imbalance of power between capital and labor, but anyone who would do away with it should realize that the imbalance of power is real. Workers lack “the power to walk away” from employers—the power that every party to every transaction needs to make a free market work. A basic income could give workers the power to walk away, which the minimum wage does not, helping workers and freeing the market. Read the full text of the article here.
George Matafonov, ohmynews.com.
This article uses hypothetical future history to argue that reforming low-wage employers will not solve the problem of low-wage employment the way a basic income would. Read the full text here.
By Matt Miller’s columnist, the New York Times
The author argues that liberals tend to place luck as one of the most important determinants of economic outcomes and conservatives tend to put more emphasis on effort. Both, of course, are important, but neither should be ignored. Independent voters tend to side with liberals on this issue, but luck is, “a theme U.S. politics conspicuously avoids…harness a healthy awe for luck, and you expand the bounds of empathy in ways that make a living wage for poor workers and great schools for poor children national imperatives.” And with reference to Friedman’s version of the guaranteed income, Miller argues that an awareness of luck gives a good case to provide everyone “a minimally decent life, achieved in ways that harness market forces for public purposes.” For the full article go to NYTimes.com.
Gar Alperovitz. Hoboken (NJ): John Wiley & Sons, 2005, 312p.
Now a professor at the University of Maryland after having directed the Washington-based Center for Economic Alternatives, Gar Alperovitz presents in this book a battery of proposals for progressive politics in today's America. Basic Income is proposed in the chapter on liberty: "a publicly guaranteed floor-level amount of income (beyond mere subsistence) is essential if liberty is to have meaning in the modern area." A rationale for it is also offered in the conclusion: "The current technological contributions that produce such huge rewards for the fortunate few, in short, are a mere pebble placed atop a Gibraltar of received science and technology that makes the modern additions possible - and that was often paid for by the public, and that can be traced back through many generations, indeed centuries." In the same vein, Alperovitz quotes from a letter by Nobel laureate Herbert Simon published in a 1998 BIEN newsletter: "at least two thirds [of US per capita income] is due to the happy accident that the income recipient was born in the US", and the corresponding patrimony is therefore up for distribution among all.
The USBIG Discussion Paper Series is an online series of unpublished academic papers on the basic income guarantee or the state of poverty and inequality for the purpose generating discussion of the papers in advance of publication. New papers are listed in the USBIG Newsletter. Links to all papers in the series and the instructions for authors are online at . New papers this month are:
By Patrick Danahey (email@example.com)
ABSTRACT: In order to introduce and entrench the concepts of Universal Income Systems within the people’s consciousness and law so that once implemented it extends beyond the limitations of short-term governments, they must be well integrated within the core educational structure of society’s formal and non-formal curriculum. The International Bill of Human Rights as well as conventions on sustainability provides practical and legal parameters for mainstreaming these concepts fully into society. In New Zealand, we have found these conventions and laws to be invaluable tools towards the gaining of broad public acceptance for the concept of Universal Income Systems. This paper explores key components and practical implementation methods covering legal, educational, and grass roots avenues that we are presently working on nationally and internationally to achieve these ends.
ABSTRACT: This paper aims to discuss the implementation of a Basic Income (BI) Policy to fight against child labour. Which are the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of policy compared to targeted policies? What kind of design should a BI program have in order to cope with the heterogeneity of child labour activities? These are some of the questions that the paper wants to address in order to present alternative social policies which would improve children’s well-being and development.
By Simon Birnbaum (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Rotu Yamamori (email@example.com)
ABSTRACT: In this paper, I try to argue what kind of welfare systems facilitate cultural justice more effectively. I limit my argument mainly to normative deliberation, especially to Nancy Fraser’s work and Amartya Sen’s work. First of all, I outline what the term cultural justice means in this paper, because the term is slightly vague. Secondly, I trace how normative theories have been thought to treat such cultural justice, mainly relying on Nancy Fraser’s framework. Thirdly, I develop her insight for evolutional political economy for recognition and redistribution. Fourthly, Basic Income proposal, it is argued, is one of the welfare systems which facilitate recognition and deconstruction for difference. Fifthly, I resist Fraser’s critique against Sen, and show how Sen’s work about identity is compatible with Fraser’s (and my) framework.
By Maria Núbia Alves Cruz, Maíra C. P. Colares, Michelle dos Santos Diniz, Murillo Marschner A. de Brito, Ada Ávila Assunção (contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
ABSTRACT: This article presents a self-evaluation of a policy of welfare benefits that is linked to the policy of guaranteed access to education. The subject is the School Welfare Program Programa Bolsa Escola (PEBE) implemented in 1997 by the Municipal Secretary of Education as a global maneuver to integrate the educational, political, and social environments with that of the family. PEBE’s objective is to guarantee admission and continued presence in public schools of children and adolescents from 6 to 15 years of age, whose families contend with great material poverty or whose children have been observed in situations of risk.
By Jens-Eberhard Jahn
Twenty-four new members have joined USBIG so far this year. As of June 5th, 2005, the USBIG Network has 78 members from 18 countries and from 20 U.S. states and territories. Membership in the USBIG Network is free and open to anyone who shares its goals. You can become a member by going to the website (http://www.usbig.net), click on membership, and follow the instructions.
The first 78 members of the USBIG Network are (new members in bold):
Karl Widerquist, Cassopolis, MI; Eri Noguchi, New York, NY; Fred Block, Davis, CA; Michael A. Lewis, New York, NY; Steve Shafarman, Washington, DC; Brian Steensland, Bloomington, IN; Al Sheahen, Van Nuys, CA; Robert Harris, Roosevelt Island, NY; Philippe Van Parijs, Brussels, Belgium; Stanley Aronowitz, New York, NY; Carole Pateman, Los Angeles, CA; Frances Fox Piven, New York, NY; Eduardo Suplicy, Sao Paolo, Brazil; J. Philip Wogaman, Washington, DC; Chris LaPlante, Blacksburg, VA; John Marangos, Fort Collins, CO; Fransisco Sales, Carretera Mexico City, DF, Mexico; Manuel Henriques, Lisbon, Portugal; Amelia Baughman, Williams, AZ; Robert F. Clark, Alexandria, VA; Jason Burke Murphy, Saint Louis, MO; Joel Handler, Los Angeles, CA; Glen C. Cain, Madison, WI; Timothy Roscoe Carter, San Fransisco, CA; John Bollman, Bay City, MI; George McGuire, Brooklyn, NY; Adrian Kuziminski, Fly Creek, NY; Hyun-Mook Lim, Seoul, Korea; Kelly D. Pinkham, Kansas City, MO; Michael Murray, Clive, IA; Josep LI. Ortega, Santa Coloma, Andorra; Michael Opielka, Königswinter, Germany; Brenden Miller, Cambridge, MA; Myron J. Frankman, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Frank Thompson, Ann Arbor, MI; Harry F. Dahms, Knoxville, TN; Buford Farris, Bastrop, TX; Roy Morrison, Warner, NH; Robley E. “Rob” George, Manhattan Beach, CA, Almaz Zelleke, Brooklyn, NY; Gonzalo Pou, Montevideo, Uruguay; Elisabetta Pernigotti, Paris, France; Ross Zucker, New York, NY; Sean Owens, La Mirada, CA, Dean Herd, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Hugh Thompson, London, UK; Jan van Knippenberg, Kinrooi, Belgium; Adam Csillag, Berlin, Germany; Steve Gazzo, Pittsburgh, PA; Mike Cottone, Weaverville, CA; Brigitte Sirois, Quebec, Quebec, Canada; Guy Standing, Geneva Switzerland; G. W. Putto, Den Haag, the Netherlands; Anonymous, Berkeley, CA; Pete Farina, Washington, DC; Robert Wirengard, Fair Share, Florida; Urban Boljka, Ljubljana, Slovenia; Ronal Cohen, Bennington, Vermont; H.T.L. Quan, Chicago, Illinois; Lourdes Maria Silva Araujo; Espirito Santo, Brazil; Patrick S. O’Donnell, Santa Barbara, California; Stephen Nathanson, Boston, Massachusetts; Jerey Vogt, Washington, DC; Justine Lam, Arlington, Virginia; Ricardo A. Bunge, San Antonio, Texas; Aziz Akgul, Ankara, Turkey; Judith A. Kaluzny, Fullerton, California; Leonard Butters, Spokane, Washington; Peter Christiansen, San Francisco, California; Kyle Patrick Meredith, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Benjamin Hyink, LaGrange, Illinois; Nancy Folbre, Amherst, Massachusetts; Noaki Yoshihara, Kunitachi, Tokyo; Bernard Mueller, Torrance, California; Zool (Paul Zulkowitz); Woodmare, New York; Amanda Reilly, Wellington, New Zealand; Adam Sacks, Lexington, Massachusetts; Mark Levinson, New York, New York.
For links to dozens of BIG Websites around the world, go to http://www.usbig.net, and click on "links." These links are to any website with information about BIG, but USBIG does not necessarily endorse their content or their agendas.
Editor: Karl Widerquist
Research: Paul Nollen
Copyediting: Mike Murray and the USBIG Committee
Thanks for help with this issue to: Eric Encina, Reynold Nesiba, Edwin Arrison
THE U.S. BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE (USBIG) NETWORK publishes this newsletter. The Network is dedicated to promoting the discussion of the basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States. BIG is a generic name for any proposal to create a minimum income level, below which no citizen's income can fall. Information on BIG and USBIG can be found on the web at: http://www.usbig.net. If you know any BIG news; if you know anyone who would like to be added to this list; or if you would like to be removed from this list; please send me an email.
As always, your comments on this newsletter and the USBIG website are gladly welcomed.
-Karl Widerquist, Coordinator, USBIG. Karl@Widerquist.com