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.
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.