The central person in this book is you. Your dreams and goals are core concerns: what you want for yourself, your family, your community, and your country. And what you want from our government and for it as a citizen.
This plan is bold. More than bold, actually, it’s radical; it goes to the roots, and that’s the literal meaning of radical. Some people will object without saying why. When ideas are unfamiliar, unproved, risky, or radical, we sometimes react emotionally and swiftly say “no.”
Bold and radical, though with many precedents. Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine proposed related ideas, and so did Abraham Lincoln, Milton Friedman, and Martin Luther King Jr. In 1970, moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans supported a prior version, the Family Assistance Plan. Most Americans favored it, opinion polls showed, and the House of Representatives passed it, twice, with majorities of two-to-one. In the Senate, however, extremes of both parties voted together, for different reasons, and outvoted the moderate supporters.
The first part of this plan is like the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, which has been operating since 1982. It’s hugely popular. Ask any Alaskan. They love it.
[Footnote: A history of related ideas, proposals, advocates, and efforts – from the Bible, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, to the Family Assistance Plan and Permanent Fund Dividend and through to today – is in Appendix 1. Current supporters include prominent authors and Silicon Valley billionaires. International activities are in Appendix 3.]
· Set an amount, say $500 or $750 or $1,000, and have government provide that each month to every adult citizen. The same amount for everyone: homeless veterans, recent graduates, working parents, retired grandparents, and the rest of us. Universal and unconditional, added to and independent of what we earn. Direct payments or factored into our taxes. A basic income, guaranteed. Citizen Dividends.
[Footnote: Other names are UBI, Universal or Unconditional Basic Income; BIG, Basic Income Grant or Guarantee; Citizen’s Income; Common Heritage Dividend; and Social Security for All. Proponents also use older terms, including guaranteed income, negative income tax, and Demogrants.]
· Cut or eliminate programs that basic income makes superfluous: welfare, corporate welfare, and everything else that goes to a special interest or segment of the population. Many programs operate through the tax code, as credits, deductions, or exemptions, so taxes will instantly be fairer and simpler.
· Adjust the amount occasionally to relieve or prevent recessions, inflation, or other troubles, and to produce smart economic growth.
· Let state and local governments supplement it using local revenues.
Citizen Dividends will guarantee that everyone has the means to participate in markets and in politics.
All of us will be on the playing field. The field will be more level, the games more fair, the outcomes more satisfying.
Basic income is the key to unlocking our political system and repairing our broken government. It opens the doors to the back rooms where special interests and political operatives hide in the shadows. When the doors are open, we can turn on the lights to see what’s really going on, and why. It’s also the key to restarting the engines of citizenship, reclaiming our sovereignty, and moving forward on the issues that matter to us.
Every American will have meaningful incentives to work together, We the People renewed.
Should it be $1,000 a month? More? Perhaps $750? Less? Only $500 a month?
· Agree to have every adult citizen get the same amount. Everyone — unless a court redirects funds for some purpose, such as to pay a fine or child support.
· Tell your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and other folks about this plan. Ask them to join you in attracting and educating more supporters.
· Demand that politicians make this their top priority, and that they compromise on the basic income amount, program cuts, tax reforms, and other details.
Steven Shafarman is a Life Member of the Basic Income Earth Network, BIEN; on the coordinating committee of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network, USBIG; and a co-founder of Basic Income Action. He is the author of four prior books about basic income.
We're building a movement to win a basic income for every American. You can play a key role.