Basic income will cut costs

Posted on April 24, 2017 in Social Security Debates – Opinion/Readers’ Letters – Re: Ontario set to launch basic-income pilot, April 18
April 22, 2017.   Ulla Colgrass / Mike Brown / James RaeRoxanne Wright

I guess we can’t depend on human compassion to motivate us to help the poor, or we would have done it long ago. The new thought of adding “free money” as basic income could seem like an added burden to the public. Yet, we would most likely save vast sums of money and alleviate much suffering by lifting people out of poverty and giving them a decent living by whatever means necessary. Basic income is one way. A minimum wage of $25 an hour is another.

My small native country of Denmark has such a minimum wage and is still on solid financial footing, even without lucrative natural resources. The Danes researched the cost of poverty in association to mental and physical health care, crime and incarceration, underachievement in education and employment and sheer human misery. It far exceeded the cost of paying people a modest living wage or providing the needed assistance to reach a basic income.

Maybe we are reaching the same conclusion here. Toronto has a shamefully high poverty rate.

Ulla Colgrass, Toronto
While admirable as an effort to give the less fortunate a leg up, let’s hope that any basic-income program is not a case of here-we-go-again.

One may recall the days of the Rae-Peterson alliance when welfare rates were hiked significantly. That led to an immediate, unprecedented and non-sustainable rise in recipients, a doubling, with almost 13 per cent of Ontarians receiving social aid. It took almost 15 years to get back to historic levels.

A better solution may be to ask those on assistance to sign up to receive needed skills training.

Mike Brown, Burlington

I don’t mind our government giving free money to those who cannot work due to handicap, illness or live-at-home caregivers. What I do mind is throwing $17,000 annually to someone capable of work but who chooses not to.

Go ahead and pay those individuals, with the caveat that they perform so many hours of documented public service in order to receive the money.

James Rae, Burlington

Re: A guaranteed basic income? Humbug!, Salutin, April 14

While I do agree with some of Rick Salutin’s arguments, he seems fundamentally to misunderstand who will benefit from the freedom of a basic income, and how.

I investigated this topic recently by visiting an organization that helps mothers — some single, some partnered, all living below the low-income cut-off line — to complete their GEDs and move into employment that fulfils their potential. I asked them what a basic income would mean to them and their conclusions could not have been further from Salutin’s.

Salutin seems to believe that people who accept government handouts lack grit or agency, that they fail to be tenacious enough to make it on their own. The women I met could not be further from that stereotype.

They attended class faithfully every morning. Some of their children were only a few months old and most were sole parents to multiple children. All of them were taking on hard work because of their determination to provide a solid future for their families.

For the women I worked with, a basic income meant more agency. It meant the dignity of knowing that they were not getting help because they were the most undeserving of respect, but because everyone deserves to have enough money to meet their basic needs. It meant that they had more freedom because nobody would expect them to stay as poor as possible (no valuable assets) in order to get help if they needed it.

And a boost in that income, even to the general low level of a basic income, meant fewer tough decisions in providing for their families.

It might do Salutin good to look less closely at authors and economists in drawing his conclusions and forming his opinions and start listening to the people who will be impacted the most by the policies he wants to understand.

Roxanne Wright, Toronto

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