Friday, February 27, 2009

A Bailout for the People

There's a lot for progressives to be happy about after the first month of the Obama Administration. His stimulus plan provides funding for much-needed infrastructure repairs and green collar jobs. His budget provides a down payment towards health care for all and boosts spending on education. He has restated his commitment to the Employee Free Choice Act, which will allow millions of workers to unite and negotiate for better wages and benefits.

But at a time when banks and big corporations are getting massive bailouts with no end in sight and our economy continues to contract at breakneck speed, how is it that working people will be getting less than $500 each?

President Obama's next step should be a bailout for the people: a $10,000 refundable tax credit that provides income security for all.

This bold step would provide every adult with about $800 a month to spend, which would truly stimulate the economy, bringing customers to struggling businesses, creating countless jobs, and restoring consumer confidence. It would also greatly reduce poverty and increase economic equality, as advocates for the guaranteed annual income—such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.—have argued over the years.

The cost of providing this basic income to adults 18-65 would be $1.8 trillion. The U.S. has committed to funding a host of economic stimulus programs over the past year that adds up to about $9.7 trillion, according to Bloomberg. More than $3 trillion of those commitments has already been spent thus far, but there is no end in sight to the ever-deepening recession. Spending $1.8 trillion to deliver much-needed income directly to the American people is a small price to pay for turning our economy around.

The election of President Obama brought the era of trickle down economics to an end. Now we need an explicit policy of Rise Up Economics.

The basic income tax credit should be a permanent part of our economic infrastructure. We should acknowledge that the economic system that we all depend on for our livelihoods is inherently risky and susceptible to wild swings. It is now time to ensure a basic level of income security for all in a way that is independent of the ever-changing nature of our economic system, through a basic income.

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