Guaranteed Minimum Income?
There should be a guaranteed minimum income, indexed for inflation, sent monthly to everyone who is eligible, enough to cover minimum basic needs, so no one is usually penniless. You’d have to be below the poverty level to qualify. Let’s say -– I’m just guessing –- 50 million people living in America would qualify. Let’s say the minimum guarantee is $12,000 a year ($1,000 / month). If you’re making $8,000, you only get $4,000. The cost of this program might average $10,000 per recipient per year –– $500 billion per year.
The above figures may be way off. You’d need to have the Congressional Budget Office analyze it all and plug in the right numbers; then all you’d need is an enlightened Congress to implement it. Because the recipients are, by hypothesis, living hand to mouth –– spending every nickel they get –– virtually all this money is pumped back into the economy directly and indirectly, increasing tax revenues by many tens of billions, maybe hundreds of billions, of dollars (the multiplier effect). The balance can readily be supplied by having a more progressive tax system. (The present one was designed to please plutocrats).
It will be argued in opposition to such a program that it will cause a lot of people to sit on the couch and not look for jobs. Let them sit on a couch. If they are so dull and unambitious, they’re not going to contribute anything to the economy anyway. But this is a baseless worry. The vast majority of eligible people would find it unbearably boring to sit on a couch. They will want to get a job in which they can lift themselves up to a level where they have some disposable income. They’ll be more likely to find that kind of job –– one in which they can contribute to the economy and begin to feel good about life –– if they’re not stressed out from wondering where their next meal is coming from.