Universal Basic Income will do us a world of good.
Universal Basic Income and Federal Housing Guarantee
I’m John Swoboda, and I’m running for House of Representatives here in district One. Today I’d like to talk about the concept of Universal Basic Income, and a Federal Housing Guarantee.
To begin, I’m going to ask you to imagine what your life would be like if you had an extra 10,000 dollars per year. As if you got a $5 an hour raise at your job just for being American. What would you do with that money? Pay down some debts? Get a better car? Save it up for the downpayment on something bigger, like a house or a business? I think most of us would choose one of those options.
And that’s what the proposal for a universal basic income is: a small, but still significant, bit of extra income for every American paid out by the government. Research has shown in pilot programs around the globe that UBI increases the quality of life for everyone involved. People by and large keep the jobs they already have and simply work to improve their lives in whatever way they need.
Now I’d like to move on to the other half of this thought experiment: a Federal Housing Guarantee. Meaning that if you live here in America, you are guaranteed some kind of housing, even if you can’t afford it. I imagine it would involve expanding and improving the rent voucher programs already in place, but also I like to imagine something a little more direct.
I imagine a building in every good-sized town, built with federal dollars, designed somewhat like a college dorm, with some private one-bed one-bath units for single people, two and three and four or more bed units for families, a maintenance staff, a cafeteria, some social workers and job placement services, the kinds of thing you would need if you found yourself in between a rock and a hard place, life-wise. Here’s the kicker: it’s free to live there. You come in, sign a 6 month or one year contract, and you get to live there rent free. No means testing, no hoops to jump through or red tape to navigate, you just get to live there and get your life on track. If you want to move out at the end of your contract, more power to you.
This would, first of all, take a huge bite out of homelessness, if not solve it outright. Get people off the streets and under a roof, with the resources they need to live the life they deserve.
Now, there’s a whole conservative argument here about how expensive it would be to fund programs like this, and how means-testing would be necessary so people wouldn’t take advantage of the system. I’m ignoring those arguments for two reasons: 1) they’re stupid and I hate them, and 2) I have something much more optimistic to talk about.
You see, if we enact both these systems at once, a UBI and a Housing Guarantee, then we would see a massive cultural shift. People, by and large, are good, and want to improve not only their lives, but the lives of those they care about. So imagine you’re a person with a hobby. Maybe you make art. Or music. Or you participate in a local theater company. What would you do if rent went down and your income went up? I imagine you’d do more of what made you happy in your off time. Instead of picking up a double shift to cover rent, you go out and buy extra supplies so you can sell your wares at the state fair. Instead of picking up a gig-economy job to cover bills, you rely on your UBI and spend more time getting to know your neighbors, or becoming politically active.
Now expand your perspective and realize that not just you and your family and friends are doing these things, but everybody is doing these things. Everyone is making art. Everyone is building their community. Everyone is spending money in their local economies, fostering growth across the board. Charities are suddenly getting many more dollars, and more regularly, so they can do more good in the world. Houses of worship are getting more money, so communities can grow together in their respective faiths.
There would be an explosion of culture in all its forms, from new restaurants selling unique foods, to niche subgenres of music popping up in every state. From painters and sculptors to fashion designers and movie makers.
The constitution of the United States, in Article One, Section 8, says that congress has the ability to lay and collect taxes for 2 reasons: common defense and general welfare. I believe that these two programs, when enacted together, do more for the general welfare of the country than any other program we have ever tried.
It is the duty, the responsibility, of the government to improve the lives of its citizens. These programs would do so much good that I can see no reason why they shouldn’t be implemented.
That does it for me for now. Stick around for my next Blog, where I’ll talk about… well I don’t know yet, it hasn’t been written yet. But it’ll be good!