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Income Security


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Tuesday, May 26th 2009

Saving capitalism with income security for all

To save capitalism, income security for all is imperative.

That phrase, “saved capitalism,” is one many historians use to describe Franklin Roosevelt’s actions in response to the Great Depression. We got Social Security; the FDIC, to insure bank deposits; the SEC, to protect investors and restore confidence in financial markets; and other government agencies and programs.

Roosevelt also reconceived government as “the employer of last resort.”

We’re now in the midst of the Great Recession, and Barack Obama is responding by trying to update or resurrect Roosevelt’s legacy. That appears logical, because current conditions are generally attributed to decades of deregulation. One form of deregulation has been the failure - most notably by the SEC, the Federal Reserve, and the Treasury Department - to apply and enforce regulations.

Though Obama’s approach is keeping things from getting too much worse, it’s not enough. It’s only providing aid to people who are losing their jobs, bandaging the failed government programs, and comforting the victims of Wall Street’s excesses and crimes. Aiding, bandaging, and comforting are good, often necessary, but in this case mostly just rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. The deck-chairing can’t go on much longer. The ship really is sinking.

We need more fundamental reform, a peaceful, positive revolution.

It’s time to update an idea millions of Americans supported in the 1930s, an idea that was nearly enacted in the 1960s, an idea that actually has its roots in the founding of our nation. That idea is guaranteed income. We can and must ensure that every citizen has an income independent of any job. Income security for all.

In the 1960s, guaranteed income was a mainstream, moderate idea. Martin Luther King called for it in his last book, and a plan to provide it passed the House of Representatives by two-to-one, but was blocked in the Senate. Proponents including leading economists from the left and the right.

In the 1930s, mass movements for guaranteed income security generated the political will for Social Security, and that history is document on the official web site of the Social Security administration.

As for the Founders: Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine clearly endorsed ideas about income security. Think for a moment about the real meaning and logic of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Life requires food and shelter, and therefore an income to pay for food and shelter. Liberty is denied, at least partly, to people who cannot afford basic necessities. And happiness, though it is clearly more than money, almost always requires some income. If we sincerely believe in the ideals of the Declaration, it makes sense to enact income security for all.

The updated idea is to set some amount, say $1,000 a month, and provide that to every adult citizen. It should be enough for food and shelter, but just enough, so people still have strong incentives to work and earn.

Why don’t we have that? Because we individuals and We the People are not demanding it.

The complete plan, the idea, the benefits, and how we can make it happen, is in Peaceful, Positive Revolution,.

Additional information is on the home page and elsewhere on this web site.

I hope you’ll also comment on this blog. And please help spread the word.

Steven Shafarman

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