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Northern Reflections: World Of Wonders!

Over the weekend, the Swiss held a referendum in which they rejected a proposal for a guaranteed annual income. Andrew Coyne writes:The model on which the Swiss voted was at the outer limits of what anyone has imagined a basic income could or should e… . . . → Read More: Northern Reflections: World Of Wonders!

Politics and its Discontents: A Bold Experiment Or A Necessary Support?

The concept of a guaranteed annual income just won’t go away. It is regarded by some as an effective way of addressing the increasingly wide disparities afflicting our society, and reviled by others as an affront to individualism and a disincentive to … . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: A Bold Experiment Or A Necessary Support?

Politics and its Discontents: Star Readers On The Guaranteed Annual Income

I write periodically in this blog on the concept of the guaranteed annual income; it seems it would be an effective way of helping to address many of the socio-economic problems we face. As you will see in the first of four letters on the subject from … . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Star Readers On The Guaranteed Annual Income

Politics and its Discontents: More On The Guaranteed Annual Income

Responding to a recent opinion piece advocating for a guaranteed annual income, Star reader David Gladstone of Toronto has this to offer the crucial role it can play in a world of tremendous change and increasingly precarious employment:It seems the wo… . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: More On The Guaranteed Annual Income

Politics and its Discontents: An Idea Gaining Traction

The concept of a guaranteed annual income, a subject I have written about previously on this blog, seems to be gaining traction. A relatively simple way of uplifting countless people from poverty and in the process ultimately saving money through a str… . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: An Idea Gaining Traction

Politics and its Discontents: Thinking Beyond The Conventional

We are regularly told, both by governments and their corporate confederates, that these are tough times, and that only patience and a freer hand for business will bring about eventual relief. To the seasoned observer, such a prescription is utter nonse… . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Thinking Beyond The Conventional

Politics and its Discontents: Where Is Help To Be Found?

Over the past several weeks I have been reading a number of letters to the editor from ‘concerned’ citizens about the arrival of Syrian refugees in Canada. Some offer a racist perspective thinly disguised as concern for our fellow Canadians (Instead of… . . . → Read More: Politics and its Discontents: Where Is Help To Be Found?

Cowichan Conversations: Canadian Government To Look Into Guaranteed Annual Income

Richard Hughes-Political Blogger It has been years since the notion of a guaranteed annual income has been seriously discussed in Canada, but that may well change as the costs of administering the social assistance Read more… . . . → Read More: Cowichan Conversations: Canadian Government To Look Into Guaranteed Annual Income

Political Eh-conomy: Nope, Alberta still needs to raise the minimum wage

Last night, Andrew Coyne published a column in which he champions introducing a minimum income over raising the minimum wage as a radical policy suggestion for Alberta’s new NDP government. Coyne couches the column in his typical pseudo-contrarianism. Here he is supposedly advocating socialism…gasp! In reality, however, Coyne gets it backwards: a minimum income in . . . → Read More: Political Eh-conomy: Nope, Alberta still needs to raise the minimum wage

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

– Paul Mason discusses the effect a guaranteed annual income could have on individuals’ choices about labour and employment: A true, subsistence level basic income would close to double [existing social spending in the UK]. But it is imaginable, in the short to medium term, if you factor in . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Hugh Segal discusses the need for an open and honest conversation about poverty and how to end it. And to better reflect Canadians’ continued desire for a more fair society, Roderick Benns makes the case for a basic income as Canada’s next major social program.

– Matt . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

– Joan Walsh discusses Elizabeth Warren’s work on improving wages and enhancing the strength of workers in the U.S., while Jeremy Nuttall interviews Hassan Yussuff about the labour movement’s work to elect a better government in Canada.

– Bob Hepburn argues that getting rid of the Harper Cons is . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

– Nathan Schneider discusses the wide range of support for a guaranteed income, while noting that the design of any basic income system needs to reflect the needs of the people who receive it rather than the businesses who see it as an opportunity for themselves. And Art Eggleton . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that to start your year.

– Ian Welsh comments on the challenges we face in trying to turn wealth increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few into a better world for everybody: The irony is that we have, again, produced a cornucopia.  We have the potential to create an abundance society, the . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Daniel Tencer nicely surveys how a guaranteed annual income could work in Canada, as well as the obstacles to putting one in place: Imagine the government started handing out $10,000 annually to every adult in the country, or implemented a negative income tax rate so that low earners . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

– Mark Bittman discusses the connection between economic and social ills in the U.S., and offers a message which applies equally to Canada: I have spent a great deal of time talking about the food movement and its potential, because to truly change the food system you really have . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Carter Price offers another look at how inequality damages economic development. And the Broadbent Institute examines the wealth gap in Canada – which is already recognized as a serious problem, but also far larger than most people realize:

– Paul Buchheit discusses how the U.S. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, arguing that while Stephen Poloz is indeed thoroughly out of touch in suggesting that people entering the workforce should take on unpaid internships as matters stand now, we should in fact make sure that unpaid work (or study, or other activity) is a viable option for young workers.

For further reading…– The CP reports . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Following up on yesterday’s column, Michael Harris offers his take on how Stephen Harper refuses to accept anything short of war as an option: Stephen Harper talks as if this is yet another of those good-versus-evil fables he is always passing off to the public as deep analysis . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Don Pittis makes the case for a guaranteed annual income on economic and social grounds: The young would be some of the biggest beneficiaries. Students could use the money to pay for their education, thus eliminating student loan programs. Students from poor families could afford to take courses . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Andrew Jackson examines the effect of a federal minimum wage – and how it would benefit both workers and employers.

– Dylan Matthews offers a primer on a basic income, featuring this on how a secure income has little impact on individuals’ willingness to work: As . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

– Ethan Corey and Jessica Corbett offer five lessons for progressives from Naomi Klein’s forthcoming This Changes Everything.

– Following up on this post, Andrew Jackson fact-checks the Fraser Institute on its hostility toward the CPP. And the Winnipeg Free Press goes further in challenging the motives behind . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Thursday Morning Links

Canadian Political Viewpoints: Why We Need a Guaranteed Annual Income.

It’s been a little while since we last sat down and talked, so I’d like to take the opportunity now to correct that and try to move the conversation forward a little bit. As I mentioned when I posted that we would be re-engaging the blog, there’s a lot of issues going on in . . . → Read More: Canadian Political Viewpoints: Why We Need a Guaranteed Annual Income.

Canadian Political Viewpoints: Why We Need a Guaranteed Annual Income.


It’s been a little while since we last sat down and talked, so I’d like to take the opportunity now to correct that and try to move the conversation forward a little bit. As I mentioned when I posted that we would be re-engaging the blog, there’s a lot of issues going on in our world right now and all of them are worthy of talking about.
 
From the situation in Ukraine, the escalation of conflict between Israel and Gaza, or even latest poll numbers federally here for our own parties, there is certainly no shortage of things to talk about.
 
But, as is my want, I find myself gravitating towards an abstract big picture post rather than the current event one. And so with that in mind, I’d like to talk about an issue that has been creeping up on social media and other areas that hasn’t received a lot of mainstream media coverage. And that is the issue of the guaranteed annual income.
 
There’s been a lot of talk, mostly revolving around the social determinants of health, about the need to establish a guaranteed annual income (GAI). There’s also been references to the 1970s sample trial in Dauphin, Manitoba and the successes that came out of that social experiment.
 
We’ve talked a bit about work before on the blog, and not all of this is going to be new ideas. In fact, some of this may very well be repeating myself. However, I feel that in order to fully expand on this idea we need to recover ground that we may have already tread.
 
I would first like to start by calling attention to the asbestos mines of Quebec. Several summers ago there was mass panic in some Quebec communities over the worry that the federal government was about to sign on to deal that would basically kill off asbestos mining in the province. Naturally, there were photo ops for the Prime Minister and relevant ministers to visit Asbestos and declare their support for the workers in the community.
 
It’s a photo opportunity as old as time: coming out in support of established jobs, condemning (to a degree) the modernization of the trade market and its necessity to put products to bed after a period of time; which is always surprising coming from conservatives, given their attitudes towards free-market competition and the free hand of the marketplace determine what is and is no longer necessary product, but that’s a conversation for another time.
 
You may ask, I thought we were talking about a guaranteed annual income why you ranting about asbestos mines? The purpose of that is to highlight a very real truth about the capitalist marketplace economy: as we move forward both industrially and technologically, established jobs often are lost in the process.
 
So a community, like Asbestos, may go through turbulent changes due to the ever-changing nature of the market economy. No one likes to talk about jobs disappearing; in fact as a politician it’s political suicide to even go to a community and say that 20 years from now the jobs that your fathers and grandfathers had no will longer exist.
 
People like safe, they like familiar. Which is why when the market fluctuates and creates these changes there’s always demand do something about. Communities are always hit hard because despite the world moving forward, many of these places have remained in an economic time bubble. They commit to jobs that are disappearing, and at the same time they’re pushing younger workers to take over these jobs. Sooner or later they find these younger workers are now competing for fewer and fewer jobs as the market shrinks in that industry.
 
Compounding this issue, and making it subsequently worse, is the fact that many of these jobs that are disappearing due to changing economic market circumstances are high-paying, have benefits and will establish a young person’s life. It is not just a job, it is a career and many of these are disappearing.
 
In return, what we’re seeing every time one of these jobs disappear, is that their replacement is not a career but a job. I’m talking part time, I’m talking precarious employment situations, contract work with no guarantee of extension. I’m talking no health benefits, no savings towards retirement. We are pushing an entire generation out of well-paying jobs and into the complete and other mercy of an economic market that has already proven over several decades that it is anything but merciful.
 
And to make matters worse we are pushing them into an unstable service economy. Now, I suppose some of you are asking what is an unstable service economy? Let me provide you with a clear example: I want to think about the last time you went to the grocery store. Now, when you’re standing in line when you reach the end of that line is there a person standing behind the till or are you in line at the self-checkout machines?
 
I’m not attacking self-checkout machines, I actually quite like them as I find that they reduce the wait time in line substantially. What I am doing with this is illustrating a point: our marketplace is changing substantially, even something as simple and as reliable as our service economy is changing the methods in which service is provided to the consumer.
 
Fifteen or twenty years from now, the grocery stores of tomorrow are going to look a lot different. Instead of only three or four self-checkout machines they will be the vast majority with maybe only one or two lanes of actual human cashiers (and even I think that’s optimistic as I believe the number of actual honest-to-goodness human beings will be working in a cashier capacity will be closer to zero). One need only look to markets like Japan where automation and technology are rapidly replacing human beings in the service economy, these are jobs that we are forcing generation to accept and that in the generation’s time will cease to exist.
 
Which brings me to the first argument for guaranteed annual income: the marketplace will always change. There are economists who summarize the market as “it goes up, it goes down and nobody really knows why”. Which means, quite frankly, that we can never truly predict what the market will do. But the one constant we can always bet on is that the world is moving forward; it does not stay stagnant as time marches on and what that means is that our market changes with it which means the jobs that are here today will cease to exist tomorrow.
 
Which ultimately means that we can’t bank on the jobs of today to be here tomorrow. The marketplace is changing and will always change; we can’t say that 20 years from or now 30 years from now, high school students will be working in your local burger joint flipping burgers and working the till. Those jobs may not exist for human beings anymore, as we build machines that flip the burgers machines will take your order.
 
To summarize this point to absolute clarity, there is an idea in the free-market that anyone who wants work can find it. Anyone who wants to be productive has the opportunity to do. It’s the sort of idea that grew out of the 1950s fear of communism; it suggest opportunities are available for anyone who has the courage to seek them and praises those with the ingenuity to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But as the market shrinks, opportunities shrink with it. Ultimately, we are going to reach a point where we aren’t going to have jobs for every able-bodied citizen in our country, in our province, or even in our cities, regardless of how much they may want to work.
So, here’s the truth as we have it thus far: the market changes, and with it, jobs change. We can’t stem this any more than we can command the tides to ebb and flow at will. Which means that our economic policy should focus on creating new jobs, and preparing communities for the day when established market conditions cease to be established. This can be done through direct investment in training for future jobs, or transition programs, or even just pushing for greater diversification of the local market economy.
But, the market is unpredictable. Up until a few years ago, service industry jobs were more or less one of those kinds of jobs that was always going to be there. As noted earlier, these jobs are no more secure than others thanks to technological advancements. Technology is also only moving forward; how long until we have functional, capable robots? In a service economy, in an industry like wait staff, I imagine a robot would be appealing to a busy restaurant owner looking for someone to bus or serve tables. Granted, we may be decades away from this happening, but eventually we will reach a point where it becomes possible and affordable.
Allow me to explain the affordable part. Even if there is a huge forward cost for purchasing one of these robots, the business no longer has wages to pay to an employee. There’s no lost time for illness or training, though there may be the occasional short circuit. Eventually, we will reach a point where these types of specialized machines will be cheaper to purchase and use than an actual employee. Take again, the example of the self-checkout. We are moving towards a massive technological future, which isn’t a bad thing, but we need to start preparing for it now.
Which brings me to the second point I want to discuss, and it’s still a little removed from the overall topic of a GAI but provides another part of the argument in favour of it. And it’s a bit of an examination of the work that we ask people to do today.
In many cases, there is the notion of ‘busy work’. For those unfamiliar, busy work refers to work which is meant to keep a worker busy yet doesn’t overly achieve anything. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say that you’re a secretary in an office building. Your boss is having a slow day, no meetings or trips out of the office, and asks you do some filing.
Before you can file anything, however, you must go through all the boxes of reports and remove perforations from both sides of the paper. It’s well known in the office that once these reports are filed, they are never taken out of records and almost never called upon for review or use again.
It’s not exactly inspiring work. In all reality, the boss is asking you to do it to keep you busy and have the appearance of the staff doing something…You know, just in case their boss should wonder by and see idle staff.
It doesn’t really achieve anything, and will likely make most workers feel like their day was a waste, but it’s designed to keep a worker busy. I could throw in some Marxian line here about busy work, but I’ll leave that alone for now. I think most people are happy to do work that they feel is contributing to their organization, but even the most happy-go-lucky can-do worker is going to spiritually die a little bit when made to do work that exists solely to keep them busy.
And this brings me back to another point, a lot of people are working in a job or career that wasn’t exactly their plan. I don’t know many people who are 12 or 14, decided that they wanted to be a wait staff person or a cashier their entire life. I would like to point out that I’m not attacking those jobs, just in case someone thinks I am, but rather highlighting that most people end up in jobs that weren’t necessarily their first choice.
There’s quite a few phrases about this; primarily, the notion of “Live to work, not work to live.” The problem is, we’ve created an economy where the opposite is true. Most Canadians, I would argue, are working to live and get by. The economic record of the number of part-time jobs being created would seem to support this argument. Jim Carrey, yes the actor, gave a commencement speech about this very issue. He related how his father was uproariously funny, and how he could have been successful as a comedian. Yet, he took a safe path and worked as an accountant; which even though was a safe choice, led to a career where he was eventually laid off and led to tough times for the family.
I mention this to show prove the point; people tend to envision themselves doing some they love to do. Whether that’s as an actor, a veterinarian, a mechanic, or what-have-you; people want to spend their lives doing something they enjoy doing, which is yet another reason why busy work is such an insipid presence in life. Let’s take the wait staff, for a moment. While I don’t know anyone who wanted to spend their life as a wait staff person, I do know people who wanted own their own restaurant. And they approached it through the bottom up mind-set, they worked as waiters and waitresses so that they would have the knowledge of being front-line staff later on.
Whether or not they will succeed in eventually owning their own restaurants, and whether those businesses will be successful, remain to be seen. But there was still ambition. They took a job to make a career out of it by gaining knowledge they thought would be useful in the future. They didn’t expect to be a wait staff member ten years from now. The sad truth is, however, that some of them likely still will be.
As I mentioned when talking about disappearing jobs from the economy, people like familiar. Sometimes it’s easier to put those loftier ambitions aside and stick with what they know. This is hardly a fault, as I think all of us are guilty of doing this at some point in our life, but it certainly locks as person into the ‘work to live’ trap.
Which brings me to the argument that all of this section has been building up to: our current economic model is something of a jobs trap.
I want you to think a bit about the service economy again, and I swear I’m honestly not picking on these jobs. The service economy, for the most part, is set up as an introduction to work. These are jobs in stores, restaurants, and the like. For want of a better word, they exist as experience jobs. These are jobs that are typically filled by people looking to gain experience in the job market. Essentially, these are jobs that seem to be filled by part-time employees; primarily, high school students.
Think about your local grocery store, or fast food place over the last twenty years. When I was younger, these places were more or less staffed by a contingent from the local high schools. They worked there until they graduated, and then they mostly moved on. Supplementing the staff, were senior citizens. Generally, retirees looking to supplement their income a little.
On the face of it, when I was younger and in my mind now, the service economy existed as a stop gap. It was meant to provide youth with experience, and to provide experienced and now retired workers with a supplemental income.
Of course, there have been a lot of changes in recent years. The economic downturn has made the service economy less of a stop gap, and more of a necessity for many. Take again those wait staff people I’m fond of mentioning. Even the ones who were working to gain experience, to eventually open their own restaurant, may find themselves unable to move on thanks to the weaker market. A job which was supposed to have been temporary, now risks becoming permanent.
Add to that the increased pressure from temporary foreign workers (which is a blog post in and of itself, but we’ll talk a little about it here), and you can begin to see how many people may very well feel trapped by their current circumstances. Which, in turn, leads to stress. And stress, as we all know, can lead to a lot of bad things; from medical conditions to that small flash of absent-mindedness that leads to a work place accident.
So, here’s what to take away from the second argument. The service economy has created a class of worker in this country where people are no longer subject to their own ambitions. It’s almost a tad reminiscent of the days of serfdom; in that people aren’t able to really make their own decisions due to excessive limitations. We’ve condemned entire groups of people to take jobs that were meant to be experiencing building and temporary into life-long careers. And to make matters worse, often times these jobs create ‘busy work’ for their employees. It’s bad enough doing a job you don’t want to do, but it’s even worse when the job consistently involves days of not contributing in any meaningful way.
Let’s review both arguments briefly. Firstly, the job market is changing as new technological advances spur it on. Careers that existed for decades are disappearing, and right now most governments seem hell-bent on trying to preserve disappearing jobs rather than focus on retraining and creating new employment opportunities. Secondly, the service economy has moved from being a stepping stone of experience for young workers and instead become a life-support raft for those caught in the stream of a torrential marketplace. Temporary jobs are becoming permanent careers, but as evidenced by the first point, we are going to reach an epoch where these service industry jobs are going to be hard to come by.
The marketplace for so-called ‘unskilled’ workers is shrinking. There’s no denying that. And once businesses have the opportunity to invest in a means of cutting wages and lost time, they will do it. We cannot rely on lower paying service industry jobs as we move towards a technological future. And it is with that in mind that we finally come to the meat and potatoes of this post: the need for a Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI).
As noted earlier, Dauphin tried an experiment in GAI during the 1970s. The program lasted less than a decade, and reports on the project have only been assembled in the last couple of years. The primary source of reference on the successes of the Mincome project, as it’s called, is Dr. Evelyn Forget whose final report was published in 2011. [Source Material]
Dr. Forget’s findings are pretty astonishing, which is why they deserve to be talked about more than they have been.
We’ll start with the reduction in labour. One criticism of GAI is that it provides incentive for people to not seek employment; but firstly, let’s examine that criticism. Is that really a bad thing? We’ve already talked about how we’ve created an economy where people ‘work to live’, instead of ‘live to work’. We have a perception that to be a productive and valued member of society, you must contribute to the economy by working.
But I don’t think that perception is correct. As noted, a lot of jobs employee people to engage in busy work. How does doing something that exists solely to be done contribute to society or the economy? If you must contribute, then clearly only our finest academic minds and those who directly produce goods live up to that standard. And then, that means, a lot of us are already excluded from being productive and valued in today’s economy.
Effectively, as the market changes, we need to change with it. And that means we need to re-examine our perspective and what it means to be a productive member of society. If subscribe to a pure view of capitalism, for example, you’d be productive simply by working and purchasing goods to keep the economy moving. If you subscribed to a pure view of communism, you’d be productive by working and sharing the fruits of that labour with your fellow citizens. There are different definitions and perspectives at play, and I don’t agree for one moment that choosing to work less due to a GAI is an effective criticism of the whole program.
Furthermore, the nature of labour shortages have changed. The temporary foreign worker program is a good present example of this. And as we’ve talked about already, technological advances are going to have a major impact on present jobs and labour shortages in the near future. To pretend otherwise is to more or less reject the current premise of reality, so we need to discuss and prepare for the future that lies ahead of us.
The other place where this criticism fails, is that a well-designed GAI can provide incentive for people to remain in the workplace. For example, if the GAI was $20,000 a year; provide a tax based incentive for people who continue to work and make more than that. Perhaps allow those who are working to receive a reduced tax rate, or completely negate all taxes, on the first $20,000 earned in a fiscal year. A tax free $20,000 (or at least a lower taxed amount), would allow those who did work and earn more in a year to at benefit and give some incentive to work in order to supplement the GAI with no tax penalty.
Furthermore, a GAI is not completely meant to replace employment. At $20,000, a family of two adults would only be making $40,000 a year. A GAI wouldn’t allow someone to lounge about all day and live a life of luxury, it would just provide a basic amount which would ensure that they could afford food, housing and other necessities. If they want three vehicles and a summer cottage at the lake, they’re likely going to need to find employment that would allow them to enhance their GAI to let them do so.
But back to Dr. Forget’s findings. She noted that the two groups that tended to work less with Mincome in place were new mothers and teenagers. Unsurprisingly, new mothers opted to work less in order to spend time with their children; while teenagers to focus on school instead of working to support their family.
The biggest impact of this specific was the fact that more teenagers graduated from high school during the Mincome project. So, there’s the first big piece of information to take from this. Students were able to focus on their studies, not on helping to put food on the table, and it had a correlation with the number of students graduating while the program was in place.
Furthermore, there was a real benefit from people who removed themselves from the marketplace. Right now, though it varies from region to region in our large nation, the average right now is about 3 or 4 job seekers per job opening. So, for every job posting there are 3 or 4 unemployed people to fill that job. But with people able to selectively remove themselves from the job seeking market, that number changes drastically.
Under Mincome, people who did continue to work were given more opportunities to choose the type of work and field they worked in. There’s complaints nowadays from my generation about ‘the Boomers’ who refuse to retire and create career openings for the next generation; even though most Boomers are staying working because after 2009, a lot of retirement plans went right out the window for many. But a GAI would allow these people to retire, comfortably, and ensure that people who wanted to work could find a career in the field they want to be working in, not the field they’re stuck with.
Which brings us to the next point, and the one of importance for those arguing a GAI has a major impact on the social determinates of health. In addition to increasing opportunities for those who wanted to work, Mincome had a profound impact on the health of those in Dauphin. Forget’s findings show that hospital visits dropped 8.5% during the period that Mincome was active. Furthermore, there were fewer incidents of work-related injury, car accidents, domestic abuse, and a reduction in psychiatric hospitalization and mental-illness related doctor’s visits.
Let me highlight some of those a little more.
We’ll start with the work-related injury. As I noted above, someone working in a job they don’t enjoy is more likely to experience stress. Stress is one of those things all of us have experienced, and we all know that when we’re stressed, it’s quite taxing on the body and mind. And its periods of stress that tend to lead to us performing at less than our best, increasing the odds and chances for accidents.
This is especially true in the workplace; even for someone who isn’t working in a regularly dangerous occupation. Whether you work with power tools, or even something as innocuous as a damp floor, the possibility for injury exists everywhere. And when we’re stressed, the odds of getting involved in an injury only increase. So, obviously, the offer of GAI helped to alleviate some of the stress involved with work.
Next car accidents. Commuting is now a way of life for many, regardless of whether they want it to be or not. Current transit problems in Saskatoon only highlight that when you need transportation to get to work, and be cost effective, there aren’t always a lot of options. That’s led to traffic congestion in a lot of our city centres and an increase in rush-hour gridlock in cities across Canada. Patience is a virtue that is often lost when you’ve only traveled a metre in ten minutes.
So, this leads to an increase in aggressive driving. You’ll take a risk you wouldn’t normally take because you’re running late; or, it is just stress rearing its head again. This, in turn, leads to a potential increase in traffic accidents.
Add to this the case of Andy Ferguson, the student intern who worked an unpaid internship for a local radio station. Andy had an hour commute between his internship and home, and after putting in a morning shift and an overnight shift, he was killed in a traffic accident on his way home after his car veered into another lane and struck a gravel truck head on. [Source Material]
I mention this specific example for a few reasons. Firstly, the intern thing is again further proof of how we are pushing people into a ‘work to live’ situation. Ferguson was not paid for his internship, he would instead receive college credit, which left him in a position where he could not object to his working conditions due to putting that credit and his degree at risk.
Secondly, it highlights what the commute has become for those who work. Changes to the EI program are also a good example of this; we are creating an economic system where there is a belief that an hour or more commute each way is no big deal. However, that is adding to the stress related to the market conditions that we are creating. An hour commute, at the best of times barring traffic, is actually going to equal more time than that. If you work at 9am, you’re probably up before 7am to get your day started. If you have a family, especially one that includes school-aged kids, chances are you have a lot to do before you can hit the road for the day. So, maybe, staying in bed until just before 7 is especially optimistic.
The chances for sleep deprivation in this situation is pretty high. Add stress, our famous Canadian winter weather, and a sleepy driver and it is a recipe for disaster. Commuting is now a part of the work experience, whether it’s an hour away or twenty minutes. Unless you live in a very small community, you are likely driving at least ten minutes from home to work, and then back.
More people working means more people commuting, which means more people on the road and the greater a chance of accident. It’s a pretty simple idea. As such, with a GAI that allows people to actively remove themselves from the marketplace, there is a chance of reducing the number of commuters during a given day.
Which brings us to the domestic abuse issue. I’m not an expert on this field at all, and there are a lot of myths and conjecture about the root causes of domestic abuse. There are those who say that stress impacts a person’s decision to become physically or emotionally abusive against a spouse or other family member; at the same time, there are those who reject that domestic abuse can be explained so easily.
After all, there are hundreds of individuals under tremendous stress that do not become abusive to others. Much in the same way that there are individuals with substance abuse problems that also do not engage in domestic abuse. At the same time, studies have been done that show that domestic violence is higher in couples who are experience financial strain and stress. [Source Material] In fact, domestic violence rates in couples experience financial burden is around 9.5%, compared to 2.7% of couples who are financially secure.
But ultimately, it varies from individual to individual. Some people under stress will resort to physical or emotional violence against their families; others will not. As such, I’m not entirely sure what to think of Dr. Forget’s findings with regards to domestic violence. There’s a chance a GAI could decrease domestic violence by easing financial burdens; but I wouldn’t presume to think that it would be a solution to stopping the problem entirely within Canada.
We’ll look at the mental health issues now. Again, it comes back to stress. Depression and anxiety are issues that spiraling in this country, and in the world in general, now. That’s not to say that these conditions didn’t exist decades ago, they did, but we’re becoming more aware of individuals who are suffering through them. Mental health advocacy still has a long way to go, considering there is still a stigma surrounding those who suffer from mental health issues, but it would seem that the GAI had a benefit in this regard.
If you asked people what stressed them out the most, or provided the most anxiety in their life, most of them would answer money. Again, we’re back at working to live. As previously stated, individuals are putting their ambitions on long-term hold in a perilous economy by staying put in service economy jobs that are slowly becoming their careers. People don’t do this because they enjoy the work, some might but the majority likely not so much, they do it because at the end of the day they have to pay the bills. Some people deal with it, and work through it, others have a harder time of it. 
Whether they end up crying themselves to sleep at night, or end up breaking down in the middle of the shift, working in a job where you feel stuck and trapped provides a tremendous amount of mental stress.
Add to that the state of precarious employment; or working on a contract and not knowing whether or not you’ll have a job when that contract is up, and people do have a lot to worry their minds. As such, a GAI removes a lot of that doubt and also allows an individual to make a choice in their career. They don’t have to suffer through a job that they do only to pay the bills, they can take the time to get into a career that they will love to do day in and day out.
That brings me to the educational advantages.
As stated earlier, teenagers during Mincome were more likely to graduate. On top of that, the stay-at home parents had a noticeable impact on their children during this time period. Children who came from families who had parents staying at home were scoring higher on tests and were less likely to drop out prior to graduation. There was also a marked increase in adults seeking continued education during the Mincome experiment.
That means that the educational impact of a GAI was very significant. I’ve always been a proponent of better education; in order to function as democracy, you need an educated citizenry. And in that regard, it would seem that Mincome worked fantastically as a means of allowing people to become better educated. From a view of the social determinants of health, a GAI is a boon that we should be exploring. Everything that’s been explored, by Mincome and by academic review, suggest that this is a social program that could have tremendous social impact. And for the sake of being absolutely clear, I think we need to explore that social impact.
Think of the health care benefits. Forget showed that there was an 8.5% drop in hospital visits during Mincome; imagine what that number could be on a national scale. Our health care system is going to undergo changes in the coming decade, and part of that is going to be figuring out how to decrease the strain on our emergency rooms. From what we’ve seen in Mincome, we have the potential to do that through a GAI.
We can lower the potential for work-place injury. We can lessen the potential for commuter related traffic accidents. We can diminish the mental health issues caused by stress, particularly financial stress. And in the long run, we can have a positive impact on overall health. Preventative health care is becoming more and more important, and guaranteeing an equal access to healthier foods and living conditions only helps us be proactive in preventing health issues rather than reactive.
I think that alone is worth the establishment of a GAI in Canada.
But, now we come to the big part of it all: The cost.
A lot of opponents of a GAI, once they lose the social argument side, always retreat to the safety of the cost argument. As I stated during the criticism of a GAI encouraging people not to work at all, a well-designed GAI can provide a tax-based financial incentive to keep people working. Furthermore, one needs to think of all the programs that are currently administered by the federal and provincial governments within our social safety net.
Things like EI, regional income assistance programs, Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS), Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), and numerous other financial support programs would be shut down and folded into the GAI. That means the dozens of smaller, situational payments would be replaced by a single system that covered all Canadians. And as stated before, this would be a bare minimum pay to ensure that an individual could provide the necessities of life to them and their families.
Will it cost us more than the programs we are running now? It’s possible. At the same time, though, given the positive impacts on health that a GAI would have, it could save us money in other areas and help to offset the entire thing. Ultimately, a GAI has a lot of benefits for both the country and for the people who are living in it.
Every couple of years, Canada reaffirms its commitment to eliminate poverty. We’ve done abysmally on this issue, for a variety of reasons, but we have an option before us that could actually do something about it. We could be the generation that eliminates poverty in Canada and begin to lay the groundwork of establishing a healthier society by eliminating the problems that poverty causes.
We have a chance to do something phenomenal and make Canada a better place for all Canadians. It will not be simple, and I’m sure we’ll have our challenges along the way, but the important things in life are always the ones that take the courage to see through. And to use a quote I probably use too often, from Tommy Douglas: “Courage, my friends; ‘tis not too late to build a better world.” his hallenges along the way, but the important things in life are always the ones that take the conviction to see throu

. . . → Read More: Canadian Political Viewpoints: Why We Need a Guaranteed Annual Income.

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– thwap nicely summarizes how we’ve allowed our economy to rely on (and feed into) the whims of a small group of insiders, rather than being harnessed for any sense of public good: (W)hat’s changed today is that the wealthy clearly have more money than they know what . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links