There’s been a lot of talk about raising the minimum wage here in the US, recently. I was on the side of raising it, and then I read some arguments and now I’m not so sure that it’s the solution. Many people claim that it’d cause inflation and we’d be right back where we started. I’m no economist so I’m not sure how true that is, but I could see it at least being somewhat of a problem. You also can’t just raise it up from $8 to $15 or whatever all at once. And what about the people who make above minimum? Will their wages rise too?
Another problem is, how do you determine what a living wage is? You can’t really decide this federally, because cost of living varies widely between states. $20k a year in Montana is livable (not very comfortable mind you, but still livable) whereas $20k in New York is probably not livable.
Then there’s the argument that an employer is not responsible and should not be responsible for your well being. Now, with the current situation, I’m of the opinion that the only reason to have a job (a paying job, not a fulfilling hobby or something) is to survive. You go to work so you can make money to live. If you’re not making enough money to live, there is no reason to have a job. I’m also of the opinion that if you as a business owner cannot pay your employees a living wage, you probably don’t deserve to be in business. Therefore, with those two opinions, I believe that employers should have to pay their employees a living wage.
Some would argue that minimum wage causes unemployment. Their argument is that if employers were allowed to pay what they deemed a job worthy, they’d hire more people because they could afford to pay less. More people would have jobs, and people could compete for jobs that they want. I have several arguments against this.
1. Workers don’t really have any power in the current market. They NEED the job, so they can’t really shop around for one. Employers have complete control in this situation. If employers are not forced to pay a minimum wage, it will be a race to the bottom for people desperate enough to work for very little.
2. In the current economic climate, you get a job to live. If your job pays less than it costs you to live, you’re at a disadvantage by working it because it takes up time you could be spending on a better paying job or learning new skills.
3. Why would businesses hire people for jobs that don’t need filling just because they can now pay people less? Short answer, they wouldn’t. Most businesses employ the bare minimum number of employees. That number is not going to increase because labor suddenly became cheaper.
So, what’s my solution to all this? Universal Basic Income, of course! From the Wiki, universal basic income is “a proposed system of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.” So in other words, whether you’re working or not, the government gives you a certain amount of money every month until you die no matter what. The money comes from taxes from the people who are working.
There are many benefits to this. Employers can now pay people whatever they want because people don’t need jobs to survive. Workers can shop around for employers and don’t have to stay with a horrible job they hate because they no longer need that job. Workers gain a lot of power in this situation. This could potentially improve working conditions as well. Because no one has to work the shitty jobs, employers will be forced to improve their working conditions, hours, pay, etc in order to compete in the market.
Some people might argue that basic income takes away incentive to work. For some people, it might. But those people are in the minority and many of them already probably don’t work. They survive off of food stamps and other assistance programs. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that. As long as they’re in the minority, they’re really not something to worry about.
I believe most people would still work. People like to have nice things, people like to live above poverty, and people like to feel useful. Basic income could potentially increase innovation, because people would have time to work on projects they’re passionate about rather than spending all their time trying to earn enough money to survive. It could also increase productivity, because happy people are productive people. Really, I think that the people who are afraid of people not working are a. too concerned with other people’s business, b. have no faith in humanity and believe that all humans are lazy unless they’re starving to death, and c. believe that money is the only motivating factor in existence, which is simply not true.
The simple fact of the matter is, society exists and functions based on people helping each other. It’s not wrong for the government to support people. Basic income is the most efficient way to do this. Basic income would replace all or most of the current social safety nets, including food stamps, TANF, and housing assistance programs. Ideally, we’d also have socialized medicine which would replace Medicare/Medicaid, but that’s another topic. It’d be more efficient because we wouldn’t need to staff people to review cases and determine eligibility. There’d be no requirements other than being a citizen and maybe being a certain age. Not having to staff these people (who would also receive the basic income!) would save a lot of money.
Where would all the money come from? It’d come from taxes from the people working. Ideally, most of the country would be working, and taxes would probably be higher. Because people would no longer need their money, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal that taxes are higher.
How much would you give everyone? I think it’d have to be determined by the states, since cost of living varies widely from each one. People would need enough money to buy food, clothes, housing, and health care (unless we have socialized medicine).
You’ll probably never convince people that believe socialism is evil that this is a good program. I don’t even know what to say to those people, other than that socialism all by itself is probably a bad thing, but when it’s sprinkled in with capitalism like with universal basic income, it can be extremely helpful. The poor can easily survive, the rich don’t have to pay the poor more than they want to, and everyone supports everyone else while also earning nicer things for themselves.
There are very few cons I can think of for this. There’s the “no one will work and we won’t have enough taxes to pay for this program” (not gonna happen), “socialism is evil and will destroy society” (that’s just stupid), and “lazy bums will live off of the government without contributing to society” (so what?).
The only problems I can find that are legitimate are: how do you determine how much is enough? I guess you’d probably have to make it a state thing rather than a federal thing. I’m not really sure how to combat that problem. And what if people have too many kids? Do you scale the income based on how many kids you have? I’m torn on this. On one hand, children should not have to starve because their parents were too dumb to wait to have them until they had more money. On the other hand, we shouldn’t incentivize people to pop out babies that they can’t afford. So I’m not sure how to combat that problem either.
Other than those two problems, I think this system is perfect, or at least nearly so. It would solve so many problems including eliminating or at least severely reducing poverty, potentially improving the labor market, and overall making people happier. After all, if you don’t have to work a job that you hate just to put food on the table, you’re probably going to be a lot happier. If you have the mobility to look for a job you actually enjoy, you’ll probably be a lot happier. Happier people are more productive people.
If you have any problems with this system (other than “omg socialism bad”) feel free to share it in the comments.