USBIG NEWSLETTER VOL. 13, NO. 14, FEBRUARY-MARCH, 2002
This is the Newsletter of USBIG, (http://www.usbig.net) a network promoting the basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States. If you'd like to be added to or removed from this list please email: Karl@Widerquist.com.
1. FIRST USBIG CONGRESS BEGINS this FRIDAY (March 8)
2. INTERVIEW WITH BRAZILIAN SENATOR EDUARDO SUPLICY
3. SOUTH AFRICAN ACTIVISTS CALL FOR BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE
4. THE BIG NETWORK IN THE NETHERLANDS HAS A NEW COORDINATOR
5. NEW LINKS
6. LINKS AND OTHER INFO
1. FIRST USBIG CONGRESS BEGINS THIS FRIDAY
The First Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network: Fundamental Insecurity or Basic Income Guarantee? will take place this Friday and Saturday (March 8-9, 2002) at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, at 34th Street in New York City. The conference will include 50 participants, several panels, sessions, an organizational meeting for USBIG, a reception, and a screening of the documentary film, “A Day’s Work, A Day’s Pay.” The program, session papers, abstracts, the list of participants, and registration information are available on the USBIG website (http://www.usbig.net).
REGISTRATION IS NOW POSSIBLE BY PHONE; call the Continuing Education and Public Programs, the CUNY Graduate Center, 212-817-8215: $25 ($15 for students, the unemployed, and anyone on public assistance). Registration will also be available on site, but space is limited, please book ahead.
DAY 1, FRIDAY MARCH 8
8:00 Coffee and Registration
9:15 Opening Speaker, Guy Standing, \
10:00 Plenary Session (1): Fundamental Insecurity or Basic Income Guarantee?
Stanley Aronowtiz, Frank Kirkland, and Lynn Chancer
11:45 Concurrent Sessions 1
1a: History Of Big, Part I
1b: The Ethics Of Big, Part I
1c: Big Funding Options
2:30 Concurrent Sessions 2
2a: History Of Big, Part II
2b: The Political Economy Of Big, Part I
2c: Empirical Issues Of Poverty
4:30 Plenary Session (2): Looking Back at the Guaranteed Income Experiments
Harold Watts, Robinson Hollister, Robert Levine,
Alice O’Connor, and Walter Williams
8:00 Film, “A Day’s Work, a Day’s Pay”
DAY 2, SATURDAY MARCH 9
8:00 Coffee and Registration
9:00 Concurrent Sessions 3
3a: History Of Big, Part III
3b: The Ethics Of Big, Part II
3c: Big And The Alternatives, Part I
11:00 Plenary Session (3): BIG Through the Lens of Gender
Mimi Abramowitz, Ruth Brandwein, and Barbara Bergmann
12:00 Keynote address, Senator Eduardo Suplicy
1:00 Lunch Break / Organizational Meeting for USBIG (reservation required)
2:15 Concurrent Sessions 4
4a: Activists Round Table
4b: The Political Economy Of Big, Part II
4c: Big And The Alternatives, Part II
4:15 Plenary Session (4): What Is the Next Step?
Anne Alstott, Joel Blau, Sumner Rosen, and Jeff Manza,
2. INTEVIEW WITH BRAZILIAN SENATOR EDUARDO SUPLICY
Senator Suplicy may be the highest-ranking political figure in the world to dedicate himself to promoting the basic income guarantee. A U.S.-trained economist, he was elected to the Brazilian Senate in 1990, and he has been promoting the basic income guarantee at the national level ever since. He will be the keynote speaker at the First Congress of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network. Last month, I asked him a few questions about his quest to introduce BIG in Brazil. –Karl Widerquist
YOU DID YOUR TRAINING AS AN ECONOMIST AT A TIME WHEN THE NEGATIVE INCOME TAX WAS EXPERIENCING A VOGUE WITHIN OUR PROFESSION. WERE ECONOMISTS SUCH AS JAMES TOBIN, JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, MILTON FREEDMAN, AND HERBERT SIMON INFLUENTIAL IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR IDEAS ON THE BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE? WERE YOU INFLUENCED BY THE EARLIER WRITERS SUCH BERTRAND RUSSELL, THOMAS PAINE, COURNOT, AND OTHERS?
After completing my bachelor's degree (1964) in Business Administration, at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas, in São Paulo, Brazil, and after working with my father for a year or more, I decided to become a Professor of Economics at that same institution were I had studied, and so I decided to work on my Master's (1966-68) and on my Ph.D in Economics (1970-73) at Michigan State University, with a period of 15 months (1971-1972) of graduate studies at Stanford University. It was my main purpose to understand the mechanisms of the economic system and why were we having so much inequalities and poverty in Brazil. Since I lived in a family with deep sense of fraternity and Christian values, I wanted to know why were there so many conflicts and injustices beyond the walls of my house. I wanted to know the characteristics of the socialism and the capitalism system, and if it would be possible to build a system were we could at the same time eradicate poverty, promote more equality, efficiency and freedom. I had learn from the history of the main scientists such as Galileo Galilei, Nicolau Copernico and Albert Einstein that one should always search for the truth, because willing to know the truth is part of the human nature. The first time I remember to be presented to the negative income tax concept was in my Economic Theory course about the Price System, with Doctor John Moroney, using as a reference the text Microeconomics by Charles Fergunson. I also became acquainted with Capitalism and Freedom (1962) by Milton Friedman and the articles by James Tobin on the topic. Abba Lerner was also teaching at Michigan State University, and I remember José David Langier, a Brazilian Ph.D. student at MSU during the late sixties that was very found of him. After all, Lerner was one of the first to propose a negative income tax in a lump some tax form, that is, a fixed sum to all, in The Economics of Control (1944). I also started to read the books and conferences of John Kenneth Galbraith that once gave a lecture at MSU. During the late sixties and early seventies I also followed with much interest the Civil Rights movement, the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers, Angela Davis, the presidential candidates such as Eugene J. McCarty, Robert F. Kennedy, George Mc Govern, Richard Nixon, and others. I remember that in my preliminary exam in Economic Theory I developed a model were we would have all the conditions of efficiency in the economy but that at the same time people would be persuaded to offer conditions of survival with dignity to everyone in the society. At that time I was not acquainted with the writings of Thomas Paine, Bertrand Russell, August Cournot and so many others about whom I refer in my book Renda de Cidadania. A Saída é pela Porta. Cortez Editora e Editora Fundação Perseu Abramo, 2002, São Paulo, or Citizen's Income. The Exit is Through the Door. During the seventies I interacted with some Brazilian economists that had an interest on the negative income tax concept such as Antonio Maria da Silveira, Edmar Lisboa Bacha and Roberto Mangabeira Unger. When I was elected a Federal Representative of the Worker's Party, during the eighties, with Paul Singer and others economists, we started to say that it would be important that we defend the concept of a guaranteed income to all Brazilians. It was only when I was elected a Senator in 1990, that I decided to present a legislative proposal to institute a Guaranteed Minimum Income Program through a Negative Income Tax to all adults with 25 years or more with monthly income below US$ 150. They would have the right to receive a complement of income that would be 30% or up to 50% of the difference between that some and his or her level of income. On December 16, 1991, after a long debate, all parties decided to approve that proposal, including the PSDB lead by the present President of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. During that day, Senator Cardoso said that the proposal was a realistic utopia. The initiative went to the Chamber of Deputies, where it received a favorable report in the Finance Committee. It is waiting for its approval until today. Some important developments occurred since there were economists such as José Márcio Camargo and Cristovam Buarque, Governor of the Federal District, as well as Mayor José Roberto Magalhães of Campinas, that started to defend the idea of a guaranteed income to poor families as long as they have children in school age that are really going to school. Programs along these lines developed all over the country and are now object of the efforts of the Federal, State and Municipal governments. By the end of 2002, almost all municipalities of Brazil, with the support of the Federal Government will have implemented a guaranteed minimum income program related to educational opportunities, named also as Bolsa-Escola program. The monetary values for families with monthly income below R$90 (US$37.2) or half the minimum wage per capita, however, R$15 (US$6.2), R$30 (US$12.4) or R$45 (US$18.6) if the family has one, two, three or more children up to 14 years of age going to school, are very modest.
THE NAME OF THE BIG NETWORK IN BRAZIL, THE BASIC INCOME EARTH NETWORK-BRAZIL (BIEN-BRAZIL), IS CLEARLY BASED ON THE BASIC INCOME EUROPEAN NETWORK (BIEN). WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH BIEN AND HOW HAS YOUR THINKING BEEN INFLUENCED BY CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN BIG SUPPORTERS SUCH AS CLAUS OFFE, PHILIPPE VAN PARIJS, GUY STANDING, TONY ATKINSON, SEAN HEALY, AND OTHERS?
It was in 1992 that I became acquainted with the concept of an unconditional basic income, talking with some economists that recommended Arguing for a Basic Income: Ethical Foundations for a Radical Reform (London, Verso, 1992), edited by Philippe Van Parijs. My first reaction was that we should first be guaranteeing a minimum income to those who have little or nothing. More and more, since then, I started to interact with the members of BIEN, the Basic Income European Network. I decided to participate in theirs International Congress in London (1994), Vien (1996) and Berlin (2000). Although I had planned to be there, I was not able to go to the Amsterdam Congress (1998) because I had to be campaigning for my reelection to the Senate. I was reelected Senator for the 1999-2006 term. It is true that I was much influenced by Philippe Van Parijs, Claus Offe, Guy Standing, Tony Atkinson, Sean Healy, Walter Van Trier and so many others that have participated in those congresses and seminars over the subject. Today I am also convinced that the basic income is a common sense solution. Accordingly I presented a new legislative initiative in the Brazilian Senate, on December 4, 2001, saying that from 2005 on, a citizen's income will be instituted to all Brazilians that live in Brazil as well to all foreigners who are living for at least five years in this country, no matter his or her socioeconomic condition. The citizen's income will be equal to all, paid in monetary terms. Its value will be determined by the Federal Government taking into account the vital needs of each one, the level of economic development and the budget capacity of the nation. If the initiative is approved by the National Congress, in the October elections of 2004 a popular referendum will be called to confirm the approval of the proposal.
WHEN YOU ASKED MILTON FREEDMAN TO EVALUATE BASIC INCOME (BI) AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE NEGATIVE INCOME TAX (NIT), HE REPLIED IT “IS NOT AN ALTERNATIVE TO A NEGATIVE INCOME TAX. IT IS SIMPLY ANOTHER WAY TO INTRODUCE A NEGATIVE INCOME TAX.” WITHIN THOSE WHO FAVOR SOME KIND OF BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE, NIT SUPPORTERS TEND TO BELIEVE BI AND NIT HAVE THE SAME EFFECTS AND THAT NIT SHOULD BE FAVORED BECAUSE OF ITS SIMPLICITY, BUT BASIC INCOME SUPPORTERS TEND TO BELIEVE THE TWO HAVE DIFFERENT EFFECTS, AND THAT BI SHOULD BE FAVORED BECAUSE IT CAN DELIVER MORE SECURITY. WHICH OF THE TWO DO YOU BELIEVE IS BETTER AND WHY?
I can understand that the basic income is another way to introduce a negative income tax, as Milton Friedman has replied. But I believe that we would have some advantages if we may have the determination and courage to cut some steps and move forward as soon as possible to the basic income. I can visualize that more and more people will know about their right that will be really universal without a complex bureaucracy that would otherwise be asking all the details about how much each person has gained in the formal as well in the informal market. To have a basic income will be regarded as a right similar to the one that any Brazilian has to walk, play and swim in any of the beaches of our country. Of course the Internal Revenue Service would still have to collect taxes from those with reasonably high incomes to help finance the citizen's income. Its existence and its fairness, in my view, will help the creation of an attitude of good will from the contributors in favor of a more just and civilized society.
YOU HAVE MADE EFFORTS TO MAKE THE BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE AN ISSUE IN THIS YEAR’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN BRAZIL. WHAT STRATEGIES HAVE YOU TRIED AND HOW HAS BIG AFFECTED THE POLITICAL DIALOGUE?
On the 17 of March, 2002, for the first time in the Brazilian History, a political party, the Worker's Party, will provide the opportunity to all its affiliates, more than 800 thousand in our case, to choose among two different alternatives, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, our Honour President and myself, who is going to be the presidential candidate. It is already defined in our Outlines for a Government Plan, approved by the National Encounter of the Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT, held in Recife last December 2002, and that is common for both candidates, the following text:
"It is relevant, in this picture, the institution of a minimum income, related to education, such as in the Bolsa Escola programs, all over the national territory, as an ingredient of complementing the family income. The Bolsa Escola national program of Fernando Henrique Cardoso Government - in spite of the increase of the resources that previously were allocated, in which the PT had important role - is still too timid with respect to the size of the benefits and is based on a limited, incomplete and stagnated vision of the social exclusion problem. The minimum income that we propose, articulated with the social inclusion program, should be viewed as a step towards the implementation - when the social conditions are existent - of a citizen's basic income as a right of all the Brazilian population."
It was in the meetings of the economists of the PT along 2001 that I have made efforts for them to include the vision that we should be in favor of a basic citizen's income as soon as possible. As you may see, the idea was accepted. During the Recife Encounter before 560 delegates I have used the word for 20 minutes to explain this evolution. Right now, with the publication of my book, I am traveling to many cities in several regions of Brazil saying that if I am the chosen candidate I will give high priority to this point.
Let me explain that Lula is a very strong candidate who has been our presidential candidate in 1989, 1994 and 1998, when he got very good results as the second most elected. For more than a year he is leading the polls with 26 to 34% of the national preference. It won't be easy for me to win, although I do not discard the possibility of a surprise. But I have been telling my friend Lula, for whom I have much respect, and the party, that more important than I becoming the president is that the one who does will really put in practice the ideas that I have been defending.
WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS FOR A NATIONAL REFERENDUM ON BIG IN BRAZIL?
The Brazilian Constitution says in its Article 14, that the popular sovereignty will be exercised by universal election as well by plebiscite, referendum and popular initiative. Article 49 says that the National Congress may authorize the referendum. That is why the legislative initiative that I presented last December proposes a referendum to be held in October 2004. I believe that the citizen's basic income will be much more accepted if discussed in depth by the whole population.
WILL BRAZIL BE THE FIRST COUNTRY TO INTRODUCE A FULL-SIZED BIG?
Brazil was one of the last nations to abolish slavery in 1888. It will be proper if Brazil becomes one of the first nations to introduce a basic income.
ONE COULD ARGUE THAT IT IS EASIER TO INTRODUCE BIG IN DEVELOPING NATIONS, LIKE BRAZIL, BECAUSE THE STANDARD OF LIVING IS LOW, AND ONLY A SMALL AMOUNT OF REDISTRIBUTION WOULD GREATLY INCREASE ECONOMIC SECURITY. ON THE OTHER HAND, ONE COULD ARGUE THAT IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO ADOPT BIG IN DEVELOPING NATIONS BECAUSE THEY HAVE GREATER NEED FOR INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS AND OTHER PROJECTS THAT COMPETE FOR EXTREMELY SCARCE GOVERNMENT REVENUES. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ARE THE RELATIVE PROSPECTS FOR THE TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY OF BIG IN DEVELOPED AND DEVELOPING NATIONS?
It will be a very difficult task to persuade people both in developed as well in developing nations to introduce a basic income. Every time that I have had the opportunity to explain the concept and its fundamentals in my lectures all over Brazil, in general the proposal is accepted by most people as a good solution. It is important to have the support of institutions such as the labor unions, religious associations, entrepreneurial entities, civil organizations and so on. It is very encouraging the movement in favor of a basic income that has been developing in South Africa with the support of the Alliance for Children's Entitlement to Social Security, Black Sasc, Child Health Policy Institute, Congress of South African Trade Unions, Development Resources Centre, ESST, Gender Advocacy Programme, Community Law Centre (UWC), Southern African Catholic Bishop's Conference, South African Council of Churches, South African NGO Coalition and Treatment Action Campaign. South Africa and Brazil are both developing industrialized nations that with respect to income distribution are among the most unequal in the World. Therefore, it is important that the theme is being debated with much interest in both nations.
BY SOME ACCOUNTS, BRAZIL HAS THE HIGHEST ECONOMIC INEQUALITY IN THE WORLD. CLEARLY, THIS POINTS TO THE NEED FOR A BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE; HOW DOES IT AFFECT THE POLITICAL FEASIBILITY OF BIG?
According to the 2001 Report about the Human Development Index of the United Nations only Swaziland (60.9 in 1994), Nicarágua and South Africa present Inequality Gini Coefficients higher than those of Brazil (59.1 in 1997). According to the 2000/2001 World Bank Development Report, Brazil is third among the nations with most unequal distribution of income, with a Gini Coefficient of 60.0, in 1996, coming after Sierra Lioa (62.9 in 1989) and Central African Republic (61.3 in 1993). In 1999, the one percent richest got 13.9% of the National Income, a higher proportion than the 13.5% obtained by the 50% poorest of the Brazilian population. Under these circumstances, to guarantee a basic income to the whole population becomes most relevant.
WHAT POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES TOWARD THE IMPLEMENTATION OF BIG DOES BRAZIL HAVE RELATIVE TO OTHER SOUTH AMERICAN COUNTRIES?
The integration of the South American countries must be seen mainly from the point of view of the human being, that differs from the point of view of the owners of capital. The more the social and economic rights of people in countries of the same region are similar the better are the chances of a healthy integration. It was very difficult for Argentina to maintain a fixed parity exchange rate system for a long time whereas Brazil, since 1999, had started a more flexible exchange system. Since February 2002 a more homogeneous form of dealing with the exchange system will help the integration of the economies. If Brazil implements a basic income as a citizen's right it is most likely that Argentina and other South American countries will start studying how to apply it in their nations. It is interesting to know that a growing number of economists, social scientists and members of the parliaments in several Latin American countries are debating the issue, mainly in Argentina, Colombia and Brazil. See, for example Vuolo, Rubén Lo (org.) (1995). Contra la exclusión. La propuesta del ingresso ciudadano. Buenos Aires, CIEPPP/Mino y Dávila. It will be important to study the effects in the labor market of each nation of the introduction of the basic income. It is my view that it will make the economies consistently more efficiently and competitive, at the same time that will be presenting a higher degree of equity. In Latin America, we should be aware that when in the United States the government introduced in 1975 the EITC, that was significantly expanded in 1993, the Earned Income Tax Credit, a partial negative income tax, has made the American economy relatively more competitive than without that instrument. The American Society had decided to pay an additional amount to all workers receiving less than certain level, making their firms more competitive than in the absence of that instrument of economic policy.
FROM THE U.S. PERSPECTIVE, SOUTH AMERICAN COUNTRIES SEEM TO EXPERIENCE REGULAR CURRENCY CRISES, SUCH AS THE CURRENT ONE IN ARGENTINA. IS THERE A CONTINUING FEAR OF A SIMILAR CRISIS IN BRAZIL, AND HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE FEASIBILITY OF BIG IN BRAZIL? MORE GENERALLY, DO YOU BELIEVE THAT DEVELOPING NATIONS CAN IMPLEMENT BIG GIVEN THE CURRENT INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM OR WILL THEY REQUIRE SOME CHANGE IN POLICY FROM DEVELOPED NATIONS SUCH AS DEBT FORGIVENESS OR CURRENCY SUPPORT IN THE EVENT OF CRISIS?
It is true that the South American economies are having to dedicate a large portion of their resources to pay for the services of their debt. The Brazilian public sector, for example, including the municipalities, the states and the Union, paid respectively, in 1999 and 2000, R$86billions (US$35.5 billion) and R$70 billions (US$ 28.9 billion) of interest on internal and external debt. Suppose we were to pay a quite modest basic income to start with of R$40 (US$16.5) per month or R$480 (US$198.3) per year to all 170 million Brazilians. This would sum up to R$80.6 billions (US$33 billions). Since our 2002 Gross Domestic Product will be around R$1.3 trillion (US$537.1 billions) and our Federal Annual Revenue around R$350 billions (US$144.6 billions), to use R$80.6 billions (US$33 billions) to pay a modest citizen's income to all Brazilians is a huge sum considering that there are so many other urgent needs. When we compare, however, that the Brazilians are also paying an equivalent amount of interest to the owners of titles of the public internal and external debt, it is reasonable to think that a dialogue with them should take into account the principles of justice and equity. When priorities are defined in very clear and transparent terms, greater respect among all parts, including creditors, tend to prevail.
BRAZIL RECENTLY INTRODUCED A SMALL CONDITIONAL INCOME GUARANTEE FOR FAMILIES WITH SCHOOL-AGE CHILDREN WHO REMAIN IN SCHOOL. HOW SUCCESSFUL HAS THIS EFFORT BEEN (COMBINED WITH PREEXISTING POLICIES) IN RELIEVING POVERTY IN BRAZIL? …IS IT A MAJOR STEP TOWARD AN UNCONDITIONAL BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE?
The small conditional guarantee for families with school-age children who remain in school has been spreading to reach around 6 million families or 11 million children in this first semester of 2002. In some municipalities such as São Paulo, the benefit is more substantial, due to a more generous municipal law: the families with monthly income below R$90 (US$37.2) or half the minimum wage per capita with children up to 14 years of age going to school have the right to receive a complement of income that is a proportion (2/3) of the difference between R$90 (US$37.2) x number of members of the family and the family income. There are also other designs. In general the results have been considered positive, although there are strong recommendations to improve the value of that modest benefit. I believe that those programs are an important step towards the implementation of a basic income.
BRAZIL IS ONE OF THE FEW NATIONS IN THE WORLD THAT STILL HAS HUNTER-GATHERER COMMUNITIES. WOULD A BIG DISRUPT THE TRADITIONAL WAY OF LIFE IN THESE COMMUNITIES? AND IF SO, SHOULD THEY BE EXCLUDED—PERHAPS IN EXCHANGE FOR LAND RIGHTS?
The idea of a citizen's basic income has much to do with the values of solidarity that have characterized the Indian communities since their origin. It also has to do with the values of the black communities in their struggle against slavery. All communities in Brazil, no matter how far from the cities, need some money for their defense, health assistance, education, housing improvement and so many things. Their members will have the same citizen right as any other Brazilian. They will be able to choose whether to use their respective basic income in a more individual or in a more communal way.
POLITICALLY, DO YOU BELIEVE IT IS BETTER TO START WITH A PARTIAL INCOME GUARANTEE, SUCH AS THE ALASKA DIVIDEND, WHICH GUARANTEES A LEVEL OF INCOME BUT NOT ENOUGH TO COVER AN INDIVIDUAL’S BASIC NEEDS, OR IS IT BETTER TO PROMOTE A FULL BIG WHICH COULD IN ONE STROKE REPLACE ALMOST EVERY PROGRAM IN THE WELFARE STATE?
I spent seven days in Alaska in 1995 asking the people all over the places about the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend system. I was quite impressed that although in 1976 the result of the referendum was 76.000 yes to 38.000 no, or almost 2 to 1, nowadays almost everyone is quite enthusiastic about the system. A few with very high income told me that the dividend did not make great difference to them. But they did not oppose the idea. I believe that the Alaska example is nice because it has permitted that people is accompanying the pros and cons of the system, allowing the annual dividend to gradually reach the point of being equal to the survival needs of a person in Alaska. It would be very difficult to start in Brazil with a full BIG.
I believe that we may start with a modest amount such as R$40 (US$16.5) per month per capita, on R$480 (US$198.3) per year. In a family of six, this would mean R$240 (US$99.2) per month. If the husband and wife knows that for the next 12 months they will be able to count for sure with that amount, that in the following years this amount will increase with the nation’s economic growth, this will make a tremendous difference for their condition of life, freedom and dignity. In a few years the monthly amount per capita will more than double as it happen in Alaska.
BRAZIL, LIKE ALASKA, IS HAS RELATIVELY ABUNDANT NATURAL RESOURCES. DO YOU BELIEVE A BIG FINANCED BY NATURAL RESOURCE TAXES WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL IN BRAZIL? I MUST CONFESS THAT WHEN I HEARD OF PRESIDENT BUSH’S PLAN TO EXPAND OIL DRILLING ON ALASKA’S NORTH COST, MY SECOND THOUGHT WAS THAT IT WOULD AT LEAST BE GOOD FOR THE ALASKA DIVIDEND. DOES AN ECO-TAX-FINANCED BIG RISK CREATING GREATER POPULAR SUPPORT FURTHER DESTRUCTION OF NATURAL RESOURCES?
A basic income in Brazil may be financed by a combination of both national resource taxes as well as taxes on all kinds of wealth that are created in society, taking also into account a principle of progressivity, that is, that those that have greater wealth and income should contribute relativity more.
MORE GENERALLY, WHAT METHOD OF FINANCING BIG WOULD BE MOST DESIRABLE FOR BRAZIL, AND HOW WOULD THAT DIFFER FROM FINANCING ONE IN THE UNITED STATES?
In 1999 I presented in the Senate a legislative initiative proposing the creation of Citizen’s Brazilian Fund that would have the purpose of financing a citizen’s guaranteed minimum income. The main sources of this fund would be:
I. Resources consigned in the General Budget of the Country.
II. 50% of the resources received in cash, bonds and credits including the ones, which are originated from specific agreements in the scope of the National Program of Privatization.
III. 50% of the resources originated from the concession of public services and public works, as well as from permit or authorization of public services.
IV. 50% of the resources originated from activities foreseen by the 1st paragraph of art. 176 of the federal constitution *
V. 50% of the resources originated from the contracts states or private enterprises, the development of the activities foreseen by the items I to VI of the art. 177 of the federal constitution**
VI. 50% of the resources originated from real estate that belongs to the country assets.
VII. Other properties, rights and assets of the country as well as credits and transferring operations, which are awarded to them.
VIII, Income of any nature issued as payment resulted from application of assets that belong to the citizenship program.
IX. Donations in cash, values, real state and other properties received by them.
Sole paragraph: The balances checked at the end of each fiscal year will be obligatorily transferred to citizenship program of the following year.
* These resources are originated from the exploitation of mines and the potential of hydraulic energy.
** These resources are originated from the research, exploitation, importation, and transportation of the petroleum and natural gas
This legislative initiative has been approved in February 2000 by the Justice Commission of the Senate.
I believe that we should always take into account that the nation’s natural resources should not be used only for the maximum benefit of the present generation, but with a balanced view of befitting future generations and always taking care for not allowing the predatory depletion of the nation’s natural resources.
IN THE UNITED STATES, THE BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE MOST COMMONLY RUNS INTO OPPOSITION FROM THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT EVERY INDIVIDUAL HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY TO WORK—MEANING IN THE PAID LABOR MARKET. IS THIS A STRONG FEELING IN BRAZIL AND HOW DO YOU BELIEVE THE MOVEMENT FOR BIG CAN OVERCOME THIS KIND OF OPPOSITION?
This is a question that is always present in the discussions about the basic income. It’s important to distinguish the basic income guaranteed form the income that someone gets from his on her work effort. The basic income, as so well explained by Thomas Paine in Agrarian Justice (1795) must be seen as a right, that every individual has to participate in the wealth of a nation.
The Brazilian Constitution, as well as that of other nations, recognizes the right of private property. It recognizes that the proprietors of farms, factories, banks, real state, bonds and stocks may receive their income in the form of profits, rents or interest. Without the obligation of doing any work
If we guarantee the right of capital owner’s to receive their income without any labor effort, why should we not extend the same right to receive a modest income sufficient for his or her basic needs to everyone, rich and poor? When I explain this argument, that we may find in Bertrand Russell’s Proposed Roads to Freedom: (1918) normally all audiences agree that the citizen’s on basic income makes much sense.
3. SOUTH AFRICAN ACTIVISTS CALL FOR BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE
The SABC News made the following report on February 15, 2002. (It can be found at http://www.sabcnews.co.za/economy/labour/0,1009,28446,00.html):
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) together with the Coalition for a Basic Income Grant, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), are pushing for a monthly basic income grant of R100 for all South Africans. The group, which is pressuring government in the lead-up to next Wednesday's budget speech, says this will help to lift 22 million people out of poverty.
The daily battle against poverty is something the coalition believes government should act on. They say the R100 a month should be over and above the pension, child support and disability grants government already hands out. Neil Coleman, from Cosatu, says: "We are saying there should be a universal grant that goes to everyone from the cradle to the grave as a constitutional right which will lift the 22 million people out of the dire poverty they are experiencing." The NGOs say taxpayers should subsidise the poor. "Is it more important to cut taxes or use the over-collections to eradicate poverty," asks Mike Samson, from the Economic Policy Research Institute.
The idea, however, may not go down well with many taxpayers and government could be reluctant about releasing what the coalition says would be 8% of the revenue it raises, but the coalition says it will continue to drive its message home for the sake of the poor.
4. THE BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK IN THE NETHERLANDS (Vereniging Basisinkomen) HAS A NEW COORDINATOR, GRIETJE LOF. They will soon begin work on an English version of their website (http://www.basisinkomen.nl).
Their new contact address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elisabeth Wolffstraat 96b
1053 TX Amsterdam
5. NEW LINKS
SEPARATING SURVIVAL FROM WORK: THE QUEST FOR A GUARANTEED INCOME by Jim Smith.
Is posted on the L.A. Labor News website (www.lalabor.org). The story is a left-leaning history of the Guaranteed Income Movement. For a direct link to the story go to: http://www.lalabor.org/GAI.html.
MARTIN LUTHER KING’S ENDORSEMENT OF THE BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE can be found on the web at: http://www.progress.org/dividend/cdking.html.
THE SPANISH BASIC INCOME NETWORK’S WEBSITE IS NOW AVAILABLE IN ENGLISH, as well as three languages native to Spain: http://www.redrentabasica.org
6. LINKS AND OTHER INFO
THE BASIC INCOME EUROPEAN NETWORK (BIEN) maintains a website, publishes a newsletter, and organizes conferences promoting basic income in Europe and around the world. The Coordinator is Philippe Van Parijs and the Conference Coordinator is Guy Standing. The BIEN website can be found at either:
BASIC INCOME/CANADA (BI/Canada) maintains a web site and an email discussion group. Their Coordinator is Sally Lerner. To be included on the BI/Canada email list to receive periodic newsletters email (email@example.com). BI/Canada’s website (maintained by Tim Rourke) features essays and commentary on basic income in a Canadian context. It can be found at: http://www.ourlives.ca/bitrunk.html
Also affiliated with BI/Canada is FUTUREWORK: an international e-mail forum for discussion of how to deal with the new realities created by economic globalization and technological change. It can be found on the web at: http://www.fes.uwaterloo.ca/Research/FW
The Citizens' Income TRUST maintains a website WITH news on citizen's income (the British version of BIG) from the United Kingdom and around the world: http://www.citizensincome.org
OASIS (ORGANISATION ADVOCATING SUPPORT INCOME STUDIES IN AUSTRALIA), The Australian Basic Income group, publishes an email newsletter and maintains a website with literature about basic income in Australia and around the world. Anyone interested in receiving a copy of their newsletter should contact: Allan McDonald at: firstname.lastname@example.org or see their website: http://www.satcom.net.au/supportincome
UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME NEW ZEALAND (UBINZ) promotes basic income in New Zealand. Their coordinator is Ian Ritchie. They can be found on the web at: http://www.geocities.com/~ubinz/
Or reached by email at: email@example.com
THE SOUTH AFRICAN NEW ECONOMICS FOUNDATION (SANE) promotes BIG in South Africa and Worldwide. It can be found at: http://sane.org.za
VERENIGING BASINKOMEN promotes in Basic Income Guarantee in the Netherlands. Coordinator: Emiel Schäfer
Or found on the web at: http://www.vobs.at/asav/pax1.htm
ASSOCIATION POUR L'INSTAURATION D'UN REVENU D'EXISTENCE (AIRE) Promotes BIG in France. Their Chair is Yoland Bresson (Yoland.Bresson@wanadoo.fr)
BIEN IRELAND promotes the Basic Income Guarantee in Ireland. Their coordinator is John Baker. They can be reached by email at: John.Baker@ucd.ie
BIEN BRASIL (BASIC INCOME EARTH NETWORK) promotes the basic income guarantee in Brazil. The Coordinator, Eduardo Suplicy, is a member of the Brazilian Senate. He can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE SPANISH NETWORK ON THE BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE is known by three names in three languages: Red Renta Básica (in Castilian), Xarxa Renda Bàsica (in Catalan) and Oinarrizko Errenta Sarea (in Basque). It can be found on the web, with English content) at:
Secretary: David Casassas (email@example.com)
President: Daniel Raventós (firstname.lastname@example.org)
SPANISH EMAIL LIST ON BASIC INCOME is coordinated by Rafael Pinilla Palleja, and it can be found at a http://www.rediris.es/list/info/rentabasica.html
THE SWEDEN BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK, Folkrorelsen for medborgarlon, is coordinated by Kicki Bobacka, who can be reached by email at: email@example.com.
THE GERMAN BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK is Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Sozialhilfeinitiativen (BAG-SHI).
Contact: Wolfram Otto
THE BOSTON REVIEW included seventeen articles on the basic income guarantee by Philippe Van Parijs and others in its October-November 2000 issue. These articles have been jointly published as a book entitled, “What’s Wrong with a Free Lunch?” The full text of the articles can be found on line at: http://bostonreview.mit.edu/
the Center for the Study of Democratic Societies (CSDS) has been talking about some form of BIG for 30 years. More information can be found at: www.centersds.com
VIVANT is a movement (mainly Belgian, but with some activity in France and Switzerland) that promotes Basic Income by participating in elections. It can be found on the web at http://www.Vivant.org
THE INSTITUTE FOR SOCIOECONOMIC STUDIES (ISES) is a private foundation that examines issues relating to economic development, poverty, health care reform, and the quality of life. ISES promotes a version of BIG known as the National Tax Rebate. It can be found on the web at:
MATS HOGLUND’s maintains two BIG web sites with information in English and Swedish:
The Geonomy Society, which promotes using land taxes to support a universal basic income guarantee, can be reached at: http://www.progress.org/geonomy
MANFRED FUELLSACK maintains a BIG bibliography on line at: http://mailbox.univie.ac.at/~fuellsm9/bibliobi.html
SOCIAL AGENDA sponsors a Caregivers Tax Credit Campaign. Although it isn't a universal basic income guarantee, it will distribute income to anyone caring for (directly or indirectly) another human in need. Their website is: http://www.caregivercredit.org
THE ALASKA PERMANENT FUND pays a partial Basic Income Guarantee to all Alaska residents funded from oil revenue. For information see: http://www.apfc.org/
HEALING POLITICS: CITIZEN POLICIES AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS,
Steve Shafarman’s book on the Citizens’ Dividend can be ordered on line at: http://www.Xlibris.com/HealingPolitics.html
THE HALF BAKERY DISCUSSES THE BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE:
The “Half Bakery” is a website that specializes in informal discussions of political and social issues. It has opened up a discussion of basic income at:
CLAWS (CREATING LIVABLE ALTERNATIVES TO WAGE SLAVERY) actively promotes alternatives to the wage slavery mindset and what they call "The Cult of the Job" which equates a job with "making a living". The website includes essays, book excerpts and articles by Bob Black, Robert Anton Wilson, Bertrand Russell, Buckminster Fuller, Jean Liedloff and others who are critical of the cult of the job. CLAWS can be found on the web at: http://www.whywork.org/
THE JOAN BARDINA STUDIES CENTER WEB SITE contains political and economic proposals against poverty and corruption, using a system called “basic revenue.” The website contains articles and books in seven languages including Catalan, Castilian Spanish, English, French, Italian, German and Esperanto. It can be found at: http://bardina.org/
JASPER’S BOX presents a plan for a basic income guarantee financed by a steady increase in the money supply, and a downloadable novel about the basic income guarantee: http://www.jaspersbox.com/
LETTER FROM CSDS. Robley George, director of the Center for the Study of Democratic societies sends his regrets and encouragement for the USBIG conference. It can be found at http://www.widerquist.com/usbig/CSDS.html.
FINALLY, THE U.S. BASIC INCOME GUARANTEE NETWORK (USBIG), which publishes this newsletter, is dedicated to promoting the discussion basic income guarantee (BIG) in the United States. BIG is a generic name for any proposal create a minimum income level below which no citizen’s income can fall. Information on BIG and USBIG can be found on the web at: http://www.usbig.net. If you know any BIG news; if you have any comments on the newsletter or the web site; if you know anyone who would like to be added to this list; or if you would like to be removed from this list; please send me an email.
-Karl Widerquist, coordinator, USBIG.