Universal basic income is still a long way off, but it’s growing more plausible thanks to the work of advocacy groups like the Basic Income Earth Network. The group is entirely volunteer-driven, and has a range of positions available for people who would like to offer their time. Check out their volunteer opportunities if you’d like to work to make basic income a reality in your area.
The persistence of poverty in the US suggests that the social safety net isn’t performing as well as one might hope. A new solution which has slowly been gaining acceptance is the idea of a universal basic income — a guaranteed monthly grant to every citizen in the country. FiveThirtyEight offers a useful history of the idea, and some of the major advantages and challenges it would bring.
The economic uncertainty surrounding basic income is huge, and the politics of bringing such a program about on a large scale are daunting. But something makes this radical proposal so exciting that people and governments are increasingly willing to try it. Basic income challenges our notions of the social safety net, the relationship between work and income, and how to adapt to technological change. That makes it one of the most audacious social policy experiments in modern history. It could fail disastrously, or it could change everything for the better.
One problem with estimates of the poverty rate in the US is that the federal poverty line is arguably too low. In 2013, a family of two with an income of $15,511 was officially over the poverty line, even though virtually no one would be able to meet all their basic needs on that amount. Moyers & Company has a good explanation of how the federal poverty line is calculated, and how it hasn’t been updated to account for changes in technology and family structures since the 1960s. As they write,
“In some ways, the poverty measure such as it is today made a lot of sense in 1965, 1966, in the late ’60s. The problem is we haven’t really updated it in a meaningful way,” says Shawn Fremstad, a senior research associate at the Center for Economic Policy Research. “We’ve updated it for inflation, but that just means you’re measuring what it means to be poor today in what are essentially early 1960s terms.”
While the US has (nearly) eradicated extreme poverty, many people still live without enough income to consistently meet their basic needs. Over the next several days, we’ll feature a series of articles about poverty in the US, and the organizations working to develop innovative anti-poverty policies. A good place to start is with WNYC’s series of shows exploring myths about American poverty. They dispel some common assumptions about poverty, including the ideas that poor people are lazy and that the “deserving” poor can easily access social safety nets.
If you think you might end up paying lower taxes under Trump, sign up to take the Trump Relief Pledge. As the pledge’s creators write,
Donald Trump won the presidency in part due to his pledge to cut taxes. To pay for those tax cuts, he plans to reduce funding for environmental protection, education, science, clean energy research, social services, and more. We recognize that taxes are the price we pay to live in a society that protects and provides for all its people. We do not want tax cuts at the cost of progress, opportunity, and basic services. As a result we have written and taken the Trump Relief Pledge. It states:
I pledge to donate the tax breaks I receive from Trump’s policies—including income tax reduction, estate tax reduction, and capital gains tax reduction—to a worthy cause that will continue funding progress in our country.
According to Politifact, Trump’s proposed tax plan would result in an tax increase for 51% of single parents. The plan would reduce childcare deductions, require single parents to file as individuals rather than heads of households, and increase the lowest tax bracket from 10% to 12%. All of this adds up to higher taxes for economically vulnerable families.
A single parent with an income of $75,000 and two school-age children would see his or her taxes increase by $2,440 or by $1,640 if the family had child care costs that could be deducted under Trump’s plan… Similarly, a single parent making $50,000 and who had three children would face an increase of $1,188.