Fulfill MLK's dream of a guaranteed income

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OPINION Today, Aug. 28, we mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech at the March on Washington. But we are sobered by the fact that 46 million citizens are living in poverty and that we have become two Americas — one for the rich and one for the rest of us.  

Dr. King had a solution to poverty and to the bleak economic conditions faced by many Americans today. "I am now convinced that the simplest solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a new widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income," he wrote in his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? "A host of psychological changes inevitably will result from widespread economic security."  

In 1969, a presidential commission recommended, 22-0, that the United States adopt a guaranteed annual income, with no mandatory work requirements, for all citizens in need. The report was buried and forgotten, even though the National Council of Churches, by a vote of 107-1, agreed. So did the Kerner Commission, the California Democratic Council, the Republican Ripon Society, and the 1972 Democratic Party platform.  

Fast forward 50 years and the concept of a guaranteed income — or Basic Income Guarantee — is not discussed much anymore. But it remains, as even the late economist Milton Friedman always maintained, the most practical and sensible way to end poverty in America and provide economic security to all Americans.  

Today we have more than 14 million Americans unemployed with no evidence to back up the claim that we can create jobs for everyone who wants one. Machines are doing work people used to do. Jobs are not coming back and many families teeter on the brink of poverty.  

Relying on jobs and economic growth does not work. Job creation is a completely wrong approach because the world doesn't need everyone to have a job in order to produce what is needed. We need to rethink the concept of having a job. When we say we need more jobs, what we really mean is we need more money to live on.  

Today there are more than 300 income-tested federal social programs costing more than $400 billion a year. Much of that money goes for administrative expenses, not to the needy.  

Charles Murray, a conservative author whose 1984 book Losing Ground claimed that welfare was doing more harm than good, now agrees with the Rev. King's approach. Murray calls for giving an annual cash grant of $10,000 — with no work requirement — to every adult over age 21.  

"We still have millions of people without comfortable retirements, without adequate health care, and living in poverty. Only a government can spend so much money so ineffectively. The solution is to give the money to the people," Murray writes in his book: In Our Hands.  

Indeed, the state of Alaska has given an annual cash grant to its people for the past 30 years of between $800 and $2,000, with no work requirements, reducing poverty and the inequality of income in Alaska.  

The U.S. is a wealthy nation. Our net worth is $58 trillion. That's an average of $185,000 for each man, woman, and child in the country. A basic income guarantee would establish economic security as a universal right. It will give all of us the assurance that, no matter what happens, we won't go hungry.  

This year, as we celebrate the March on Washington, the adoption of a basic income guarantee would help to fulfill the Rev. King's dream of economic security as a universal right of all Americans.  

Allan Sheahen is the author the new book: Basic Income Guarantee: Your Right to Economic Security. He is a board member of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee (USBIG) Networks (www.basicincomneguarantee.com).

Comments

I was in the US Navy during the the March on Washington.
In 1968 I was working with Dr. King organizing the
Poor People's March on Washington.
Our demand was for JOBS.
Here's what I learned in 50 years.

We need to shift our economy from oil to SOLAR.

The world is shifting from oil to solar, using a FiT.
We need a Feed-in Tariff (FiT) to require PG&E
to pay anyone feeding solar onto the grid
@ $0.53 kwh.

This rate will make installing solar an attractive investment,
repaying the cost of buying solar panels.

We are in a world climate emergency.
We need to mobilize millions of our workers to install
solar panels on every home in America.
A FiT can inspire millions to install solar in one year.

Using a FiT, Germany has created 400,000 new solar jobs,
making the Germany economy the strongest in Europe.

Using a FiT, farmers in Germany make $60,000 a year.*

By 2020 the FiT will create 20 million union jobs in the
69 nations that have a FiT.

If you want to do something useful, to create a million new jobs,
petition for a FiT for your city.
Japan's FiT requires Utilities to pay $0.53 kwh.
I have a dream.

Posted by Paul Kangas on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 4:20 am

Hands off Syria Dr King will be there in spirit
5 pm

Posted by Paulkangas on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

I know what you mean, I have the same opinion!

Posted by Speech on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 12:03 am

Dr. King will be marching Saturday 8-31,
against the US attack on Syria.

Dr. King always opposed the wars.
In fact, black people would tell King,
"Why are you marching against the war?
Your job is to march for civil rights, not against wars.
You are hurting the cause of civil rights
by marching against war."

Dr. King then gave a long speech about how

"it was wrong for
LBJ, to be sending black boys, to fight
along side poor white boys,
who were not even allowed to sit in the same class
rooms, with those same poor white boys."

Posted by Paul Kangas on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

I was in the US Navy during the the March on Washington.
In 1968 I was working with Dr. King organizing the
Poor People's March on Washington.
Our demand was for JOBS.
Here's what I learned in 50 years.

We need to shift our economy from oil to SOLAR.

The world is shifting from oil to solar, using a FiT.
We need a Feed-in Tariff (FiT) to require PG&E
to pay anyone feeding solar onto the grid
@ $0.53 kwh.

This rate will make installing solar an attractive investment,
repaying the cost of buying solar panels.

We are in a world climate emergency.
We need to mobilize millions of our workers to install
solar panels on every home in America.
A FiT can inspire millions to install solar in one year.

Using a FiT, Germany has created 400,000 new solar jobs,
making the Germany economy the strongest in Europe.

Using a FiT, farmers in Germany make $60,000 a year.*

By 2020 the FiT will create 20 million union jobs in the
69 nations that have a FiT.

If you want to do something useful, to create a million new jobs,
petition for a FiT for your city.
Japan's FiT requires Utilities to pay $0.53 kwh.
I have a dream of 22 million jobs.

Posted by Paul Kangas on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 4:22 am
Posted by anon on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 8:15 am

Total mean-tested spending is $1.03 trillion. Give $10k to every adult citizen and eliminate all mean-tested spending. Lay off an army of useless bureaucrats and social workers and balance the budget.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 6:50 am

"reverse income tax" that is unique to that State.

Throw money at people without them having to do anything for it is easily the worst idea I have heard for some time, and with SFBG, that is saying something. Who would bother to go to work if you can collect the same money by sitting on your ass all day?

Not that there isn't a problem with means-testing, and I'd prefer to see a lower level of welfare paid universally. Means testing is invasive and creates moral hazard and the incentive to conceal income and assets.

But welfare also needs to be related to effort, even is for voluntary work. Even Bill Clinton understood that.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 7:20 am

Alaska & Saudi Arabia have a surplus of oil.
So they tax the oil companies who sell the oil
& destroy our atmosphere.

California has an endless surplus of solar.
We could easily pass a Feed-in Tariff requiring
PG&E to pay all home owners who feed solar energy
onto the grid $0.53 kwh, to help home owners
pay for the costs of the solar panels.

This is a Special Case,
because the oil companies are barbecuing the earth,
and we need to raise huge amounts of money fast,
to inspire millions of home owners & farmers to install
billions of solar panels this year.
Now!
Money should not be an issue.

Japan just passed a law requiring all Utilities
to pay $0.53 kwh to all homes with solar.
They are in an emergency.
This is how they created the money & the jobs.

The whole world is burning up from the CO2, from burning oil.

Yes, there are solar deniers, who all say solar is too little,
too late, to stop global warming this year.
Proof they are wrong is Germany shut down 8 nukes
after Fukushima, as their emergency response.

We can shut down every coal fired power plant today, and
install enough solar in 90 days to replace every coal plant.
Yes we can.
Japan is doing it. Japan had no choice.
Germany has done it.
It is time for California to belly up to the bar.
We can power every city, in 90 days with 100% solar,
if we had to. Like Japan had to.

This would create 5 million jobs in 90 days.
Get on the hook. Call the Gov.
Call the Prez.
There is plenty of work to be done.
We can realize Dr. Kings dream of a million jobs in 1 year.

Time to get serious about solar.
Obama is asleep.

Posted by Paul Kangas on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

a year. That's 3,000 billion if you prefer.

That would triple the annual deficit.

Non starter.

Posted by anon on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 7:22 am

Eliminate social security and Medicare while you're at it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 7:38 am

More like insurance - you pay in premia and then later you collect benefits.

Not only would any politician advocating that be voted out of office, but it probably isn't legal or constitutional either.

It's welfare proper where we need to economize, and requiring voluntary work to qualify is a good start,

Posted by anon on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 7:54 am

King never asked for a guaranteed income.

King ask that poor & minority women & men be given
access to education,
because with a good education people
of all colors can learn to read & write,
start their own business, start a career,
hire other people,
buy a home, eat right for their blood type,
send their kids to college.

When I came out of the Navy, I could not
get into any college, because my HS grades
were too low. (D+)
But because I was a Vet, SFSC admitted me.
I was amazed.

So when minority students went on strike,
demanding that SFS admit any minority student
who wanted to go to college, no matter what their grades,
I joined the strike.

I spoke at rallies daily, pointing out that
"I had been admitted with a D+ average,
only because I was a Vet.

So if SFS could admit Vets,
why not admit minority students??"
That was the thrust of my speech daily.

It made sense to most people I spoke to
to give minorities the same chance
to better themselves.

That is mainly what the DREAM was about:
open education.

Because I worked in the civil right movement,
when Hastings Law College
started a special admissions program for minorities, LEOP,
I was asked by the Black Student Union to join them,
a group of 20 Asians, Latios, Blacks, to go to law school.
I was the first poor white in the program.
Thanks to that LEOP program I graduated from Hastings.

I believe it would cost less for society if education was free
all the way thru medical school.
Most books on this question agree.

The way to create 22 million new solar jobs and
build the middle class is to provide
free education.
Abolish all student debt.

The world climate is collapsing due to our greed for oil & money.
We need to train a million solar engineers every year.
We need to train a million economists every year
to figure out how to shift from oil to solar
using a feed in tariff.

I still have a dream....

Posted by Paul Kangas on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

Do we really want to live in a country where some hobo makes the same money as Warren Buffett? Why inhabit a society that rewards failure rather than success.

MLK may have sought equality of opportunity, at least as far as that is ever possible anywhere. I doubt that he ever advocated equality of outcome. We will always be a meritocracy.

Posted by anon on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

If it were to take the place of a number of other programs we have like SSDI, AFDC and others and if it were to include EVERYONE (meaning not a program which operates like welfare - ruling out those with higher incomes) I'd support it. Not $185,000 per year of course but something like $10,000-$13,000 would help alleviate poverty.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

could support a national minimum "wage".

But not otherwise and not unless the recipient puts in voluntary hours for the public good.

Posted by anon on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

better than time-limited welfare and programs like SSDI - which has at this point basically become to "go to" program for those who don't want to work. A guaranteed national income would lift all boats - not enough so those not working would become rich but enough that it could lift a large number of the working poor out of poverty. I've always thought it was a good idea for all states, not just rentier states like Alaska or Qatar, to have something like this.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 2:23 pm

That is welfare.
It makes people lazy & criminal.

Education works better.
China provides free education all the way
thru medical & engineering school.

That is why China now makes the
highest quality solar panels in the world.
At the best price.
Just like Henry Ford made the best cars
at the best price.

California can be run 100% from solar by 2014,
if we each put up 55 solar panels.

Posted by Paul Kangas on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

Because they don't have environmental laws.

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 31, 2013 @ 11:48 am

High school education is free, but the national dropout rate is nearly 25%.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 28, 2013 @ 8:53 pm

Kings dream for equality was not about welfare for hobo's.
It was the idea that, if at some point in your life,
you suddenly wake up and decide you want to go
to college, you should have that opportunity
to start your life over,
by starting your education over.

Yes, kids drop out of high school,
go smoke pot for 20 years, then suddenly,
they get the fire in their belly to live up to their potential.

I just read the book about Steve Jobs. And Herman Scheer.
He never finished college.
But the beauty of his life was he kept coming back to
his dream of freedom created by a personal computer.

Hermann Scheer and Steve Jobs
better represent reality today, than does Dr. King.
Every pimp like Obama
is now claiming they are "the new King".

I prefer to honor those who actually embrace science
and get something done that creates jobs.

Like Hermann Scheer and Steve Jobs have done.

Posted by Paul Kangas on Aug. 30, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

Getting rich is nature's way of telling you that you're better than most.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 31, 2013 @ 11:21 am

to boost your low self-esteem.

I doubt that you are rich, and your comments prove that you are better than few.

Greg, Marcos and even Matlock regularly kick your ass.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 31, 2013 @ 11:39 am

American makes the same money and that never happened even in communist nations.

We live in a meritocracy, and MLK would have been proud to know that.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 31, 2013 @ 11:57 am

he would have no respect for you, and he wouldn't have been allowed to speak at last weekend's rally commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 31, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

Like he's a martyr?

Interesting idea. Could say the same for JFK, perhaps.

Whites love MLK because he wasn't threatening like some of the other blacks of the day. It was progress that whites could accept.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 31, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

...there would be no inherited wealth.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 10:48 am

meritocracy because part of why people like to have wealth is to bestow it on their children and give them a better chance. You are free to do the same.

If you banned inheritances and abolished probate, people would just give the money away while they are still alive.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 11:16 am

But that's not a pure meritocracy since some people would be rich, not through their own efforts, but through others'.

Posted by Hortencia on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 11:55 am

parents and so any success you have could be dismissed as mere good luck. I inherited less industrious and intelligent genes, therefore I have less money than you, and therefore I should have your money!

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

1 Timothy 6:10: "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."

Posted by Hortencia on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

In America, we love money. You don't love money? Then you'd probably be happier some place else.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

Because the current amount of free stuff is not enough.

Posted by Chromefields on Aug. 29, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

spending and more distribution of wealth, the less that person would be responsible for paying for it.

Unless of course they are so wealthy (Buffett, Soros) that it doesn't matter anyway, and they are shrewd enough to give it all to charity or others, to ensure there is no 40% estate tax.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 04, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

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