With close to 30 million Americans still unemployed and thousands of businesses facing an uncertain future, calls for a “guaranteed income” are becoming louder.
Guaranteed income is giving cash to people who need it because they’re living in poverty. It should not be confused with a “Universal Basic Income,” which is money given to everyone regardless of employment situation or wealth.
The idea is centuries old but has actually been tried in very few nations. The most recent experiment occurred among 2000 unemployed workers in Finland. And, not surprisingly, it was mostly a failure. There were slight improvements in the feelings of “well-being” among the unemployed, but the two-year program had little effect on the unemployment rate or economic security.
The UBI has garnered support from the right and left alike. Conservatives find it attractive because if everyone had a basic income, almost the entire welfare state should virtually disappear as there would be no need for it. With a guaranteed income, however, all those programs remain and the guaranteed income program is just piled on top of it.
Proponents of guaranteed income aren’t concerned with statistics or whether people living in poverty find a job. For them, it’s all about the Benjamins and social justice.