by John Brian Shannon
Empowering the bottom-two economic quintiles via a Guaranteed Basic Income and a 21st century minimum wage will allow low-income people to become ‘part of the solution’ instead of ‘part of the problem’ in Western economies.
We Have a Problem in the West
The top-three economic quintiles are doing just fine thank you very much, and any one of those top-three quintiles contribute more to society… than the bottom-two quintiles combined!
That includes the CO2 emission contributions of any one of the top-three quintiles by the way. And it includes the high level of government spending required for the enhanced infrastructure and security considered de rigueur for those who live near the top of the economic pyramid.
If you don’t believe that the top-three economic quintiles cost the government more, just take a drive around some of the ‘tony’ neighbourhoods in your city. Look at the streets (nice, broad thoroughfares and sidestreets that are always well paved, etc.) look at the decorative streetlights, the curbing, the sidewalks. Also don’t miss the world-class schools and recreational facilities. And of course, visit an international airport to see how many of the travelers boarding planes to sunny locales hail from the top-three economic quintiles. That would be most of the travellers in the airport.
While the top-three economic quintiles are driving their Land Rovers and taking exotic vacations and sending their kids to university (and yes, they do work hard for their money — nobody is saying any different) the bottom-two quintiles can’t.
While the top quintiles cost society much, they also contribute much. And why shouldn’t they contribute much? They’re the prime beneficiaries of that society.
At the end of it all we may conclude that (apart from their astonishing CO2 footprint and the astronomical security costs to ensure almost total security in their neighbourhoods) the top-three quintiles aren’t the problem when we’re talking about the economy.
Through no fault of their own the problem lies with the bottom-two economic quintiles and we can thank (some) economists and (some) politicians for this miserable state of affairs.
Shall We Toss the Bottom-Two Economic Quintiles into the Ocean?
Or should we allow them to become ‘part of the solution’ on the path to dramatically increasing national GDP growth?
If we did toss them in the ocean, just for argument’s sake; Who will pour your latte at your favorite coffee joint? For that matter, who will pick up your trash, man the gas station counter, feed the ducks in the city park, or cut your lawns and clean your swimming pool?
Wouldn’t you rather be earning your $100 per hour or whatever you earn, instead of spending your free time sweeping the sidewalks and changing burned-out streetlamps? Wouldn’t you rather be racing your personal watercraft with friends at your lakefront cottage? You work hard, you play hard. Great!
Now let the other people contribute too.
Maybe Those Bottom-Two Economic Quintile Types Aren’t So Bad!
As it stands now however, the bottom-two quintiles are a drag on the economy. There’s no hiding that fact.
Some are homeless and may engage in property crimes or other offenses. Others may find themselves often unemployed or in a permanent state of underemployment as 34% of all manufacturing jobs have left Western nations for Asia since 1975. (Not the fault of the bottom-two economic quintiles by the way)
And still others just can’t find their niche, nor do they have the education, nor the financial clout to engage in the type of business where they could succeed in personal terms, but also contribute to the overall economy.
They want to contribute(!!!) to their country but can’t find a way forward. And they’re not up for moving to Asia to reclaim their former manufacturing job. Nor should we expect them to.
Changing a Negative Into a Positive!
Many people have experienced the kind of drag induced by leaving your car’s emergency brake in the ‘on’ position as you travel down the highway. As soon as you realized your mistake and moved the e-brake to the ‘off’ position the car appeared to have 100 more horsepower.
But of course it didn’t. The motor had the same horsepower it always had, it’s just that by accidentally leaving the e-brake ‘on’ it took extra power to move the car.
So it is with the economy and the bottom-two quintiles.
Prior to all those manufacturing jobs leaving for Asia, the bottom-two economic quintiles contributed much to the economy. We used to call them ‘the middle class’ or ‘blue collar workers’ or ‘the rank and file’ and other descriptors.
But there just aren’t the jobs to employ them now. So many people (millions) have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits and have given up looking for a job, any job, that they’re no longer listed as officially ‘unemployed’. The corporate world, and governments too, appreciate that those are rarely reported stats. It makes them look bad and feel bad, but they don’t know why, or how, this has happened. In any case, it’s better for them that it’s rarely reported.
Yet, there is no need to leave two-fifths of the population in a permanent state of poverty and thereby not able to move ahead with their lives — let alone contribute to GDP.
A two-track plan could accomplish a number of good things for the overall economy.
Allowing the Bottom-Two Economic Quintiles to Become Part of the Solution, Instead of Part of the Problem
Working people always contribute more to the economy than non-working people. But what’s the use of getting a job if you can’t afford the monthly bus fare to get back and forth to work? It’s a very common thing nowadays.
Make your choice now; Eat for the month, or use your grocery money for subway fare. Pay the electricity bill, or buy a monthly bus pass to get back and forth to work. Buy some decent clothes for a job interview, got the job! now you can’t afford the bus fare to get you back and forth. Ugh!
These are the very real concerns of the McJobs era. It’s even multi-generational. Older workers may work as low-paid greeters at WalMart, while younger, low-paid workers at fast-food restaurants experience similar life choices.
Two-fifths of the working age population are a drag on the economy — but only because of poorly thought-out policies and on account of the race for corporate profits which were (and are still) improved by outsourcing jobs to developing nations. Bad!
Therefore, because the situation is so tragic ANY solution is better than allowing the status quo to continue!
Two Ways to Solve Gross Inequality and Increase GDP:
- Legislate a standardized $15/hr wage right across the country. In this way, people who would rather work will be able to afford to eat for the month AND pay their electricity bill AND have enough money for bus fare to travel back and forth to a job. Perhaps Mom and Pop can front them the money to buy some decent ‘job interview appropriate’ clothing and help in other ways such as babysitting young children, etc. However, we can’t expect Mom and Pop to pay for all of those things, as their time and resources are limited too.
- A guaranteed basic income (GBI) of $1088/month per adult (a generally recognized amount, accepted by researchers and governments)
In some cases, this would effectively ‘top-up’ the monthly income of welfare recipients and Old Age Security recipients to $1088/month from all sources. It would likewise replace all other low-income schemes, grants, etc. So much duplication of services exist that entire government departments could be down-sized (by attrition) thereby saving some government departments up to 5% in their annual budgets. Especially police and court budgets. And the multi-billion dollar SNAP programme and Food Banks could be eventually discontinued, for example.
With 21st century policies in place, the bottom-two quintiles could then afford(!) to look for a job, afford(!) to move to a different jurisdiction to accept a job offer, afford(!) to return to vocational school or attend night school to brush-up on job-skills, or afford(!) to move to a safer neighbourhood where they aren’t afraid to take the bus to a night shift job they’ve been offered.
As soon as they report on their annual tax return that they’re earning any amount over the poverty line, then their GBI payments would be discontinued. Success!
“Paying good wages is not charity at all — it is the best kind of business.” — Henry Ford
And, in case you’re wondering what kind of chips Henry has in this game? Henry single-handedly created the middle class in America. Yes, it’s true!
Henry Ford created the Middle Class and the modern economy by simply paying workers $5 an hour, twice as much as the national average at the time. People flocked to get a job at his factory. Other companies followed suit realizing that great, qualified employees were lining up at Ford’s doors. This unprecedented gamble by Ford paid off and America was on its way to becoming an economic giant. Henry Ford was behind the success of the American Middle class, and he did not do it by lowering wages.
In fact, he is quoted as saying:
“Low wages are the most costly any employer can pay. It is like using low-grade material — the waste makes it very expensive in the end. There is no economy in cheap labor or cheap material. The hardest thing I ever had to do was to reduce wages.” — Henry Ford
Excerpt from Raising the Minimum Wage: The Birth of the American Middle Class by The Daily Kos
If policymakers want the present situation to continue to deteriorate; Just keep on doing what you’ve been doing, and you’ll keep on getting what you’ve been getting
But if we want the bottom-two quintiles to contribute to the economy like they did in past decades, policymakers must set payscales at rates that are relevant to 21st century cost of living standards (they’re not now!) and they must institute a GBI that replaces all low-income schemes and empowers people to either; move to a job, retrain for a job, afford transportation to and from a new job, and in the meantime, maintain their home / electricity connection / phone connection / internet connection / job interview and other employment-related clothing needs / childcare / normal caloric intake / buy medicine, and afford other necessities in our modern world until they get back to work.
How can you get a job nowadays if you can’t afford an internet connection? Do you know? (I don’t know. Can that still be done in the year 2017? Probably not)
The time for navel-gazing is over. It’s time to get brave and release the brakes from the economy and allow the bottom-two quintiles to again contribute to the economy by passing legislation that’s designed to make people part of the solution, instead of part of the problem!