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Journalist Eric Walberg writes two articles about Basic Income

Eric Walberg is a Canadian journalist who specializes in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia, and has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

Last May, he published two articles related to basic income, which are available on his website:

1. “Basic Income: Helicopter money“* (May 26)

This article makes an argument for a guaranteed annual income (GAI) in Canada as a way of abolishing poverty. Referencing Evelyn Forget, he suggests a GAI of $18,000: if a Canadian has no other money, the state will issue them a GAI of $18,000 in full; however, the amout of the supplement would taper off with additional earned income, with a “break even” point around $30,000.

Basic Income – International experience (Brazil, Namibia, Canada, India)” (May 31)

This article reviews the results of basic income trials in Canada (1974-9), Namibia (2008), and India (2011) (and, briefly, Brazil’s cash-transfer program, Bolsa Familia) — noting, for instance, that the trials provide strong counter-evidence to the common concern that, with a basic income, people will stop working or spend their money unwisely.

* While Walberg’s argument for GAI is well worth reading, it’s important to point out that the title of the article is misleading, as is a sentence in the first paragraph.

Two points of clarification:

• The term ‘basic income’ usually refers to unconditional or universal basic income (UBI), which is not the same as GAI. A UBI is not means-tested; for example, the $18,000 subsidy would go to all Canadians, regardless of other income, if it were a UBI.

When Walberg cites a cost of $12 billion, this is the cost of “topping up” the incomes of Canadians to a level high enough to get the unemployed and low-earners out of poverty — not the cost of providing every Canadian with $18,000 per annum.

• Neither ‘basic income’ nor ‘guaranteed annual income’ should be used synonymously with ‘helicopter money’. Helicopter money — the printing of new money to be distributed directly to individuals or households — is one possible way to finance a basic income. It has been supported recently by American investor Bill Gross and the European group Quantitative Easing for the People, among others. However, many supporters of a basic income (of GAI) do not favor the printing of new money; more commonly, in fact, their proposals rest on the redistribution of existing income.

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

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