Would Switzerland's "Income for All" Proposal Work in the United States?

With the troubled state of American entitlements, could the solution be to abolish them and replace it with a monthly stipend from the government for every citizen? It’s a question examined by Annie Lowrey in The New York Times in an essay about how a new Swiss proposal to pay each citizen a monthly income regardless of their age or level of income might be applied in America. Lowrey says that these incomes “are whispered about in the United States, where certain wonks on the libertarian right and liberal left have come to a strange convergence around the idea – some prefer an unconditional ‘basic’ income that would go out to everyone, no strings attached.”

Lowrey also highlights the downsides of this proposal, which include the cost of the incomes and that it would be “a massive disincentive to work” for many. However some, like John Rawls—a political philosopher that might be labeled as liberal, although he assuredly sees himself as more middle-of-the-road—have raised the “reciprocity” argument, suggesting that there will be a moral objection to giving people money with no guarantee that they will actually contribute to the economy in a meaningful way.

Lowrey’s article also cites the work of Evelyn Forget of the University of Manitoba whom she calls a “health economist.” Forget’s research has shown that while poverty was reduced, “[h]igh-school completion rates went up; hospitalization rates went down.” Her argument being that basic community values would be positively affected by a social program like this.

It is undeniable that over the past few decades wages have been stagnant and the income gap between the wealthiest Americans and the middle-class has been widening with no signs of stoppage. This proposal might address that problem, but the claims have yet to be vetted by a number-crunching group like the Congressional Budget Office. 


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