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Tuesday, June 9th 2009

Crime, justice, and income security

Crime, Justice, and Income Security

(Sorry that I have not posted in about a week.)

Sonia Sotomayor’s life story has a lot to say about the benefits we can expect with income security for all.

The headline from a front page piece in today’s Washington Post is:

Gritty First Job Shaped Nominee

Years as N.Y. Prosecutor Gave Sotomayor Firsthand Look at Crime and Punishment

Here are two key paragraphs:

Over time, Sotomayor saw that both the victims and the defendants in her cases were coming from poor neighborhoods.

“I had more problems during my first year in the office with the low-grade crimes — the shoplifting, the prostitution, the minor assault cases,” she told a writer for the New York Times in 1983. “In large measure, in those cases you were dealing with socioeconomic crimes, crimes that could be the product of the environment and of poverty. Once I started doing felonies, it became less hard. No matter how liberal I am, I’m still outraged by crimes of violence.”

The complete story is here.

“Low-grade crimes” will decline significantly when everyone has a secure basic income. Every would-be perpetrator will have some income, enough for food and shelter at least. That’s clearly not true today. Indeed, it’s less true today that ten or twenty years ago. People can no longer depend on welfare or unemployment insurance, and many no doubt see shoplifting, prostitution, and such as their only option.

Today, too, there’s no practical way to collect fines, penalties, or victim compensation from perpetrators of such crimes. Such collections will be easy when everyone is getting Citizen Dividends.

When everyone is receiving Citizen Dividends, moreover, the parents, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances of would-be perpetrators will be more secure financially, and therefore perhaps more able to persuade the would-be perps to forego the criminal opportunity.

A reduction in such low-grade crimes will also allow police, prosecutors, and the justice system generally to focus their resources on the felonies, which are also likely to be far fewer.

That’s one way we can afford Citizen Dividends - by the savings we can anticipate in other government programs.

These are just some of the many reasons for ordinary Americans - especially, perhaps, those in poor neighborhoods, who are most affected by crime - to endorse and campaign for Citizen Dividends. These reasons also illustrate the broad appeal of this idea to conservatives, moderates, liberals, progressives, radicals, and those who describe ourselves as “none-of-the-above.”

Earlier versions of guaranteed income were mainstream ideas in the 1960s, supported by moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans, Martin Luther King Jr., and more than 1,200 economists from across the political spectrum. Ideas for income security go back to Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine.

The complete proposal, the benefits, and the plan to make it happen is in my book, Peaceful, Positive Revolution,.

A lot of additional information is on this web site, IncomeSecurityForAll.org.

Please explore the web site, read the book, and help spread the word.

This will happen when enough of us demand it, when We the People demand it.

Steven Shafarman

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