Helping our neighbours helps us all: The affordability of basic income

By Jon Sanderson  

About 59 percent of Canadians believe basic income is unaffordable, according to a recent Angus Reid poll. It’s not the first time a populace has been dead wrong about the facts.

In the U.S., 42 percent of Americans still think Iraq had weapons of mass destruction in spite of blatant facts to the contrary. If our brothers and sisters to the south can be so wrong about something so apparent, we can certainly be just as wrong about something equally obvious.

Even on the face of it, the claim that basic income is unaffordable collapses.  How is it possible that a country where just over eighty people have as much wealth as the bottom third of the nation can’t afford to feed and shelter the population? Corporate Canada is hoarding over six hundred billion dollars. If we just gave everyone in Canada ten thousand dollars, they’d still have half of that left over. I don’t even need to go into a conversation of savings from other programs, or the savings from eliminating poverty to see that we have the capital to fund this. Why do we still believe that a policy as necessary as basic income is unaffordable?

I can hear the nay-sayers now. “Rich people and corporations don’t just sit on that money. They invest it! That’s how the money trickle’s down!” The trouble with this line is that, if it ever was true, it certainly isn’t now. Offshore holdings, which certainly aren’t an investment in Canada, have ballooned. Even more stunning is the fact that our banks are beginning to sell negative yield bonds, and the wealthy are buying them. Is it any wonder our economy is grinding to a halt?

So the majority of Canadians still believe that we can’t afford what is fundamentally affordable because the small minority hoarding the money would rather lose money on holdings they aren’t using instead of helping the people who enriched them. That’s an astounding position to take. We would rather throw money away then give it to fellow citizens who are in poverty.

It’s not a position any rational person can sustain. Our country is built on principles of solidarity and society. We erected our social security nets, and universal healthcare system because we understand, intrinsically, that to help our neighbors is to help ourselves. Basic income is no different, and just as affordable.