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Rethinking Government Assistance: Why Universal Basic Income is Conservative and Liberal

Mar 29, 2021
John W. Kennedy
Economies
Spirituality

I don't consider myself to be very extreme on either side of the political ledger but, if I were to categorize myself, it would probably be slightly to the conservative side. I uphold as good the classical liberal values of tolerance, compassion, forgiveness, freedom of speech (even unpopular speech) and equality of opportunity.

With that off my chest, a major issue I have rethought and tend to disagree with most of my conservative friends on is the idea of Universal Basic Income.

They mostly see it as just another leftist attempt to buy votes and foster dependency on government. I do agree that that's a danger but, if implemented with a mindset of citizen empowerment it could serve as a vehicle to assist in the "pursuit of Happiness" enshrined in the Declaration as a right endowed to us not just by our government but by our Creator.

Not being boxed in by orthodoxy (or perhaps thinking outside that box), here are 12 points I envision Universal Basic Income working and some of its potential positive side benefits.

  1. Create an Agency for Citizen Empowerment (ACE) that would deposit an annual amount of $20,000 (tax free) into the ACE account of every adult American citizen (aged 18 and above) on the person's birthday. This would, it seems, to me save a bundle on monthly administrative costs and help ensure a nice birthday present for the recipients. More than that though, $1000 a month simply isn't enough of a social safety net. Americans should know that even if everything in their lives goes south they won't end up homeless. It really is time to end homelessness in America. Though obviously an expensive proposition, it could be paid for by transferring the current costs of major programs like Social Security, Medicare and Unemployment under its umbrella, as well as by eliminating all tax deductions (a source of so much government lobbying and corruption) and replacing it with a graduated flat tax that ensures the rich pay a greater percentage of their income to the federal government than the middle class and poor. Add to that some sort of affirmative taxation on information traded over the internet and you could be looking at an affordable program that directly helps more people, reduces government corruption and simplifies both the tax code and government bureaucracy.

  1. Only those who are not receiving government subsidies for health insurance, housing or food and who aren't in bankruptcy would have complete freedom regarding how to spend it. In short, persons in need of government subsidies, would have their ACE checks used to pay for them with leftover amounts subject to government scrutiny. Whereas under current systems, Americans too often lose money if they improve their financial circumstances, the ACE approach would utilize the unambiguous incentive of financial freedom to encourage people to get off the public dole. Beyond creating a true and secure social safety net for Americans, the money should be seen as an investment in the passions and dreams of the country's people. Those dreams could involve things as diverse as job training, education (including paying off college debt), adopting a child or starting a business.

  1. ACE recipients would be entitled to inexpensive financial management and entrepreneurship services. ACE would be paradigm shift away from a goal of helping Americans survive poverty toward one of helping them achieve their dreams. In the end, the entire nation would benefit.

  1. Corporations would pay ACE fees (formerly Social Security taxes) based on the machines and robots they employ, not the human beings hire. It's counterproductive to full employment and wage growth to tax companies for providing jobs to Americans while providing tax incentives to replace them with machines.

  1.  ACE accounts would reduce income inequality and drive up wages because individuals and unions would be in a stronger negotiating position with companies and corporations.

  1. Besides providing recipients the freedom to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams (creating wealth and jobs), it would also give them freedom to pursue their artistic and charitable passions benefiting society in incalculable ways.

  1. Without the constant threat of potential poverty, people will be less stressed and healthier - reducing the nation's medical costs.

  1. ACE payments are present and future focused, unlike backward-looking calls for reparations that divide Americans into groups competing for victimhood status. Arguing over who is entitled to reparations is a bitter recipe for endless fighting and resentment.

  1. ACE payments would total $40,000 a year for a married couple. That sounds pretty pro-family to me. It would allow one spouse the choice to stay home to care for or children or an ailing family member. That would also further drive up worker wages since fewer people competing for jobs would further increase employee bargaining power. At the same time, it would provide a means of escape for spouses trapped in abusive relationships.

  1. ACE payments would only be distributed to American citizens. The program should not be the magnet that brings people to America. Immigrants should, of course, be welcomed to our country but making ACE checks available to non-citizens would greatly reduce both their affordability and political support.

  1. With Medicate being rolled into ACE, a more future-focused Pedicare program could be established. This would provide parents with a $20,000 annual fund to be used exclusively for a child's healthcare (from the womb to 18 years of age) and pre-K through high school education. The fund would be used to purchase healthcare insurance for the child and to pay tuition to accredited public, charter or private schools. This is both pro-choice and pro-life in that it would help ensure that the choice to have an abortion isn't based on financial pressures. It would also allow parents to extricate their kids from failing schools by empowering them with reasonable choices in deciding how and where their children are educated. To make it clear that this plan is pro-child and not anti-teacher, I'd also Pedicare-backed schools should establish a minimum wage for full-time teachers of $60,000 a year (which, I understand, is the current average teacher salary).

  1. Finally, Pedicare-approved schools would be encouraged to innovate while meeting national academic and curriculum requirements. Besides meeting the basic reading, writing and Arithmetic standards, the overall K-12 curriculum would include a healthy focus on the arts, physical and health education, personal empowerment (i.e. courses in basic self-care skills, personal finance, and entrepreneurship), world cultures and languages, respect for others and an honest-but-patriotic presentation of American history and the Constitution. I’d also strongly suggest programs to encourage positive interactions with police that could, hopefully, avoid unnecessary future tragedies.

There you go. I prefer to think of these ideas as more innovative than disruptive since innovation implies building on what is good about America and improving upon it while disruption, in my mind, implies a certain smug and unappealing disdain for what has been created and accomplished by others. In any event, I hope and believe the proposals presented here offer an imaginative yet balanced starting point for discussion.

John W. Kennedy writes Beliefnet’s Faith, Media & Culture blog and is the Founder of The Creative Universe Entertainment



By Contributor:

John W. Kennedy

JOHN W. KENNEDY writes Beliefnet’s Faith, Media & Culture blog and is the founder and Dir. of Development of The Creative Universe Entertainment™, a media consultation and development company focusing on the creation, development and support of high-quality mainstream entertainment that upholds positive timeless values, including trust in God.

He co-wrote the 2019 Philip K. Dick Film Fest Award-winning short film (and potential sci-fi TV series) Photo Finish and has written over 100 children's novels based on episodes of the Cartoon Network series Ben 10, Ben 10: Alien Force, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Ben 10: Omniverse and Generator Rex. 2020-21 projects include producing SiriusXM radio specials featuring The God Couple (Fr. Alonzo Cox of Brooklyn’s African-American Apostolate and renowned author Rabbi Brad Hirschfield), a faith-themed post-Covid rom-com film, an aspirational entrepreneurial reality show and, working with a creative and compassionate homeless advocate, an out-of-the-box solution-focused docuseries. Previously, Kennedy has produced successful news and talk programming for CNN, Fox News and PAX TV. His favorite underrated inspirational movie is John Patrick Shanley’s Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

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