Editor’s note: A June 17 guest column by author Allan Sheahen about his provocative idea of guaranteeing a basic income for American families drew the attention of several readers. On this page and the facing page today, we’re sharing their responses to Sheahen’s proposal of a basic income guarantee (BIG).
‘We will always have poverty in society’
Re “Basic income, not jobs, is the answer,” June 17: As I read Allan Sheahen’s statements, it reminded me of the dwindling intelligence in America. “There is no evidence to back up the claim that we can create jobs for everyone who wants one” is patently false. Everyone can get a job; it just may not be the job they want.
I pulled weeds at a garden center for my first job. White collar? No. But it taught me the important lesson that I didn’t want to pull weeds for the rest of my life for $4 an hour. I currently have a high school kid neighbor who cuts my grass. Does he want to cut grass for the rest of his life? Probably not. But he is earning an honest wage for doing a job that I don’t want to do at a wage we have both deemed to be fair. It is what we call “supply and demand” in economics.
If Sheahen is going to pull small quotes from the late Milton Friedman, he should look at everything he says. While he is correct that the government picking winners and losers is not a good strategy, he is incorrect in his assessment of giving away “free” money to everyone. Sheahen should be made aware of Friedman’s more famous quote, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” I would point out that, as a libertarian, I agree with Sheahen’s notion of eliminating “unemployment insurance, Social Security, Section 8 housing, etc.,” as none of them are called for in the U.S. Constitution.
Sheahen’s last paragraph states: “A basic income guarantee would be like an insurance policy. It would give each of us the assurance that, no matter what happened, we and our families wouldn’t starve.” I haven’t heard of many cases, locally or nationally, of people starving to death (short of neglect of minors/seniors or disabled individuals). …
Sheahen would be better served trying to derive milk and honey from rocks than create his utopian liberal society. I believe California and Illinois are well on their way to creating the type of society Sheahen would be happy to call home. We will always have poverty in our society. No amount of social programs or guaranteed income for every person will ever change that. … WILL BACH, MIAMI TWP.
Income guarantee also part of ‘Fair Tax’
Allan Sheahen correctly notes that his notion of a guaranteed annual income for all American citizens is not new. However, he does not mention that it is also an integral part of the “Fair Tax.” The Fair Tax is a national sales tax of about 30 percent on all services and new merchandise. It would replace all other federal taxes, including corporate taxes, the income tax and FICA (Social Security). But sales taxes are regressive, opponents say, because they fall harder on the poor than the rich.
To counter this argument, the Fair Tax legislative package guarantees payments to all Americans to bring them above the poverty level, as set each year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. MARTIN ARBAGI, KETTERING
BIG idea ‘completely void of any reality’
I could not let the recent article by Allan Sheahen go by without clearly demonstrating why this would not work. Sheahen thinks that we, as a society, should give to every U.S. citizen a stipend called BIG (basic income guarantee) that would be the minimum required to lift them above the poverty level. Then, anyone who would want more would fill the limited available jobs to enhance their income. And we would pay for this by first eliminating all the various “poverty” programs, like welfare and Section 8 housing, and secondly — of course — by making “the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes.”
Oops. Alarms should be sounding now with the magic liberal phrase “fair share.” But like most liberal ideas, it is founded in a utopian purity and completely void of any reality. …
The problem with Sheahen’s logic is that eventually the people with jobs will get tired of working so hard to support both themselves and the ones who are satisfied with the basic income guarantee.
There will always be the poor. We can only help the ones who actually want it. Sheahen’s BIG idea works in the simple world of checkers, but unfortunately we live in the real world of chess. TROY KAPER, KETTERING
‘We need to end welfare as a career’
Allan Sheahen’s “…we need to break the link between work and income” was really interesting, as watching a car crash is interesting, but you wouldn’t want it to happen.
Sheahen would break the link between work and income by replacing unemployment insurance, welfare, Social Security, Section 8 housing, etc., with monetary grants to everyone. Their earned income, if they had a job, would be on top of their grant.
One problem: For a small but significant number of people, the grant money would be gone by the end of the week or end of the month, and thus some folks still could not pay the rent and feed the kids. Subsidized housing and food stamps, or their equivalents, address this behavior.
A second problem would be that fewer people would take entry-level or low-paying jobs. So what would solve that problem? Would we import foreign workers and condemn them to live substandard lives while our citizens don’t work? We shouldn’t. Would we be willing to pay higher prices to get all wage levels high enough to draw the people living off their grants to go to work? That’s a tough sell.
I commend the newspaper for running Sheahen’s article. Actual ideas are better than the usual quotes from politicians. We need, somehow, to end welfare as a career. MARSHALL STEARNS, TROTWOOD
‘Sheahen wants economic slavery’
Allan Sheahen must reside near Lake Woebegone where everyone is above average. He is either a bureaucrat or academic, not a businessman. His idea? Socialism on steroids.
• There will never be enough jobs for those who want one because of technology. Wrong. Did America think that way when locomotives replaced mules or cars and trucks replaced horses or new drugs replaced the medicine man? No, because they raised the standard of life and created more jobs. The primary reason robots are replacing labor is the decline of Americans’ work ethic and the insidious intrusion of bureaucrats into businesses affairs. Think Obamacare.
• His premise states BIG would provide freedom to work less if we wanted to. Brilliant. In the 1980s and 1990s, unemployment was 4.8 percent at best and everyone was trying to hire. Even today, anyone who wants to work can and unemployment is 7.7 percent.
• He states that, to end poverty, we need to break the link between work and income. Unions love that idea. He must mean like Greece, Spain, Italy, Cuba, North Korea, etc. Unfortunately, they are broke. Out of other people’s money.
• He refers to poverty. Americans have no idea what poverty is. Ninety-five percent have cellphones, 85 percent have air-conditioning, 65 percent have cars, fancy hairdos, tattoos and Nike tennis shoes. Has anyone seen an underfed American with their ribs showing?
What Sheahen really wants is economic slavery, which is even more demeaning than slavery as we knew it. Those slaves wanted freedom and a better way of life. Economic slaves lose the will to improve on their own while they’re beholden to bureaucrats like Sheahen. All in the name of “fairness.” That’s another name for buying votes. THOMAS SUBLER, DARKE COUNTY
‘Capitalism may not be perfect but …’
Interesting article and conclusions. First, there are only 12 million unemployed. If we include the underemployed, you are probably correct, stating there are 20 million.
The size of a BIG (basic income guarantee), however, is the question. In the 1930s, my parents were lower middle class with an ice box, scrub board, radio and no car. We lived pretty well and we were happy. Should a BIG include a refrigerator with dispenser, washer/dryer, flat-screen TV, cellphone, etc.? How about a car with GPS? Sounds like socialism to me.
On the matter of not enough jobs, I disagree. In the 1930s, with the Depression, FDR didn’t pay unemployment. People worked for the Works Progress Administration, building the Hoover Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority, etc. The worker could have dignity while working. Instead of paying someone unemployment, let them fix bridges, repair roads, build a high-speed rail system. It will cost the government no more than unemployment. However, unions will not let them work for pay that is equivalent to unemployment only.
If BIG is big enough, many will just enjoy life with that amount. We have many today who find food stamps, Section 8 housing, Medicaid, cellphones, etc., enough. Why work and pay Social Security, local income taxes, day care, expenses of the job, etc.? The Chinese are smart and tried communism for more than 40 years and we have seen the result. Socialism in Europe is failing. Capitalism may not be perfect, but it is better than anything else. HARVEY R. TUCK, HARRISON TWP.
‘There is a need for a guaranteed income’
What Mr. Sheahen says about never enough jobs is something I have said to people for a long time and I’ve been pooh-poohed for the thought. I totally agree. Fourteen million jobs disappeared up to the Great Recession. They will never be replaced by any president or Congress, and technology will only make things worse.
I totally agree with the concept of BIG (basic income guarantee). It is a necessity, especially to displaced older workers with disabilities, many of whom could and would work if they were offered jobs. However, with the job situation what it is, we have what I call “job rationing.” In many cases, the jobs that are there are rationed for the young and healthy.
Many older workers have returned to school or obtained additional training, only to find that they are in debt for schooling and still unable to find jobs to even pay that off.
There is a need for a guaranteed income, which also may reduce health-care demands — as a jobless situation creates stress and depression, which leads to additional health-care complications and costs.
And last of all, no one should go hungry or homeless. That in itself is an atrocity in a nation as large as the United States. JAMES WHITE, KETTERING
A basic income guarantee (BIG) is a good idea, but the rich will not want to pay more taxes for it, but instead will spend untold amounts to politicians like John Boehner and Mitch McConnell to keep it from getting enacted.
Sheahen is on the right track and, if he runs for president, he has my vote. Why can’t others see that simple solution to our economic turmoil?
This sounds like such a good idea, but how is it different from Robin Hood’s plan of robbing the rich to give to the poor? Seems like we have a guaranteed basic income now with what used to be called welfare.