Way back, in May 1971 when I moved to BC as a young fairly-new struggling reporter, I had a young neighbour who seemed like an ordinary “Joe”, but was indeed very fortunate: no ordinary Joe!
While I was up at 6 a.m. five days a week … sometimes six , off to work, just like most of you, getting home sometimes at 6 p.m. or later, Joe” slept in at his leisure and then spent his day all summer at the beach or lounging with friends.
He had a GREAT tan by September and was certainly well-rested; I was a wreck, after pushing myself as a new inexperienced reporter at The Vancouver Sun, working the phones in my “spare” time to come up with story ideas etc. … many unpaid hours … nervously struggling to pass The Sun’s six-month “probation” period.
I did … but have to admit, “Joe” seemed much less stressed and even more financially flushed than I was.
Then the rainy season came … and I was surprised: my neighbour found a job!
And he quite proudly explained to me his modus operandi: he worked enough hours each Fall and Winter and early Spring to qualify for Unemployment Insurance again … and then he made sure he got laid off and enjoyed the Summer on “UI” … which paid much better than welfare.
Sleeping in, sunning himself, enjoying lunch and I surmise more than a few beers with friends. While I … and you … worked and contributed to support him.
The only regular “work” he did over the Summer was to fill out and mail in his UI cards: something along the lines of “Yes”, “Yes”, “No”, “Yes”. If he did ANY other work at all during the Summer … maybe for a few days … it was for cash, under the table, to protect his Guaranteed Income scheme … I mean “UI” standing.
And THAT is what a Guaranteed Minimum Income could do … year round! Pay people NOT to work … or if they want to maintain their eligibility, work only a bit.
Because it would be higher that Welfare … it would actually REWARD people without higher education, marketable skills … or drive … NOT to work …. not just for the Summer, but YEAR ROUND!!
The BC NDP government has appointed a three-member panel of university types to study a possible pilot project under which some people … possibly one entire town … would be GUARANTEED a basic income, without having to do anything … or, heaven forbid, even look for work.
It’s part of the payoff the NDP agreed to in return for support from the Greens last summer that allowed them to take power.
(By the way, this is a perfect example of the “blackmail” by any number of smaller parties I warned about, in another blog piece just weeks ago, if BC ever adopts the proportional representation system.)
And with only academics … one economist and two public policy types … on the study committee … not a single business or union rep or even a psychologist, sociologist or psychiatrist on the panel … I’m not too impressed.
But I’d bet “Joe” would be rubbing his hands with glee.
With BC’s minimum wage of $12.65, and many jobs offering less than 32 hours a week (so the employer can avoid paying full benefits); and then you had to pay taxes, transit fares, travel for an hour or more … each way, not to mention face higher clothing and cleaning bills yo go to work, also prepare and pack a daily lunch and then put up with a crappy job or boss all day … wouldn’t YOU opt for a Guaranteed Minimum Income … if it came anywhere close to what you NETTED each week????
And let’s keep it real: if a Guaranteed Minimum Income is to truly be an improvement over Welfare and allow people to live at a decent standard, it will indeed have to pay MORE than welfare and approach what people who DO work for Minimum Wage are left with NET after they pay all the costs I’ve outlined before.
The basic Welfare system is not overly generous, so most people who CAN work do try to seek employment; under a decent Guaranteed Income scheme, fewer would feel the pressure to do so.
To the contrary, more would instead be encouraged to sleep in, relax and become full-time “Joes”.
While the rest of us get up early, pack a lunch, pay higher transit fees, then work all day and probably pay even higher taxes to support them all year round.