By Sheila Regehr
In his article in Inroads entitled “A dubious antipoverty strategy: Guaranteeing incomes for the poor is politically unfeasible and financially unsustainable” (Winter/Spring 2014, pp. 33-43) http://inroadsjournal.ca/a-dubious-antipoverty-strategy/ , Jonathan Rhys Kesselman argues not only against fairly generous forms of a basic income but also concludes that no further direct cash support should be provided to working-age Canadians, with the exception of adults who are severely disabled. His proposals to address poverty focus on services and inkind support.
There certainly are challenges in turning the basic income idea into workable policy, and there is much in the article that I can agree with to some extent, but I find it greatly exaggerates the problems he sees with a basic income, such as the effect of marginal tax rates, and it minimizes, or fails to address, the severity of the problems with the current social assistance model. More critically I think, its perspective is too narrowly economic and both morally and practically problematic in its view of Canadians who find themselves facing hardship and poverty, whom he describes as ‘the poor”.
The matter of basic income is not just about economics but also about democracy and governance. In the reality of ever more precarious work, technological unemployment, and discord and violence that can accompany massive income, wealth and opportunity gaps, the matter of how a society treats its citizens and distributes its resources is of utmost importance to our future.
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