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Stuff from the BI election forum

Here is some odds and ends I wrote to present at the forum October 15. It did not get used. It goes in the livingrant archive, but I think most of it is information worth wider disemination. Especially, my notes on the positions of the parties on BI/GAI/GLI

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summary of event October 19

Basically, it was a bust. Only one speaker showed up, and two audience. One thought it was not as he expected and left early.

Our thanks to the Green party and Karthika Gobinath. She almost made it here but came down with the flu. Maybe we can make her acquaintance another day.

John Campey from the NDP appeared.

However, it proved a fairly productive meeting. John Campey's current job is as director of the Ralph Thornton center, where this meeting was almost held. Robyn expressed hope that we can get our meetings held there again, without the fees problem that prevented it this time.

We had a wide ranging discussion of the strategies of promoting a Basic Income. Among the more interesting points on which we seemed to largely agree;

1) It is not good to be talking about "poverty". We need to be referring to BI as a solution for inequality.

2) BI is not an "obvious truth" kind of thing. An income guarantee is the only solution for the problems of the automation age. But there will be many versions of how to implement it; a left, right, and center version. Consensus will break down and there will be a political struggle about the form of an income guarantee.

3) The political contest is part of why the attempt was made to hold this event. But also there is the issue of what political party to ultimately support, especially if, as seems likely, we get proportional representation. If we also get a return of the vote subsidy for political parties, it would be a good idea for BI advocates to form our own political party.

This was a good way to finance a social movement. The precedent of the animal rights movement was cited. But it is more than just a way of funding. A Basic Income party should be trying to gain enough seats to influence government policy.

4) We also talked about the name "Basic Income". "Basic" can have a negative connotation to people. We all want something more than just a "Basic" existence. Cindy L'Hirondelle in Victoria, B.C., has a web site and a small group of people using the name "Livable Income 4 all".

The Green party calls their proposal "Guaranteed Livable Income".

Seen this way, The "Basic Income Guarantee" promoted by Rob Rainer is not good marketing. He has borrowed that title from the American group. A problem is that some people within the Basic Income Canada Network do not get it that the U.S. and Canada are different countries, with different cultures. There was a general agreement about that; and that we are getting more different all the time.

5) There was a need to keep trying to hold events and build up a real movement, not just an internet discussion. Personally, I would like to hold one about every three months, even if I have to cover it mostly out of my own pocket. But what should be the topic of the next one?

I talked about my conversation with Armine Yalnizian and Deena Ladd, and their objection to BI. It becomes an excuse to eliminate social programs which people depend on. I suggested that they should consult more about whether the people served by these programs necessarily find them so empowering. However, they are right that some tendencies of BI supporters think it is mostly a way to eliminate all other social program, which would be disastrous.

When you try to explain this to some BI advocates, they just will not respond to it. They really need to listen and understand this concern, and learn how to reassure people about it. That is why I think it would be a good idea if some of the more "missionary" advocates of BI need to encounter people like Armine and Deena. They need to understand that things are not as simple as they think.

What to learn from holding this meeting?

It is proving very hard to get people out to meetings about BI. I do not think it is because they are not sufficiently advertised. I had this in NOW and RABBLE weeks before hand. I sent a poster out by e-mail attachment to old mail lists I had, from earlier Basic Income endeavors. I had an event web site up. I did not use eventbrite because I do not think that is much use unless you want to charge admission.

Some people thought because it was held in a church, it might put some people off. I worry that the fact it is the same church that OCAP has its headquarters in would scare some people. The rain probably did not help. But probably jus the fact that it was held just before the election worked against. I could not announce representatives form the parties. Every "political" person was working on a party election campaign or some advocacy organization; science for democracy, leadnow, etc.

The room fee was $45, $10 went on juice and cookies, and the jingle jar collected $20. So, $35 in the red. Thats okay.

So, there it is. Attached to this is Robyn's article for her Sayout zine about BI. I will send later my introductory speech notes about the party positions on BI.

Thanks to June at the St.Luke's office and Prince the caretaker, who had everything ready for us with no hassles. They are a prince and princess.

h2>Notes for BI Toronto all party election forum October 15, 2015

From the October 19, 2015 event; I prepared an introduction, as well as summaries of each of the parties positions to fill in the space if they failed to show up. It was more like the crowd did not show up, so I did not read this. But it is worth including the other documents about the event.

Good Evening. It is federal election time again. We are here to examine the positions of the different parties on a Basic Income.

Most of you have some familiarity with the concept of Basic Income. Here is how the main international organization promoting a BI, BIEN defines it;

"A Basic Income is an income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basic, without means test or work requirement."

Many people seem to think this is simple. It is not.

The worst thing is the people who can't understand that the idea of a Basic Income can be a repressive as well as liberating idea. The differences among BI advocates are not miscommunications or different approaches, but utterly conflicting aims. There is BI for human liberation from capitalism, there is BI to subsidize labor for capitalism, and there is BI as an excuse to wipe out all other social programs.

Here is how one theorizer of BI, James Knox-Davies, put it;

The Basic Income 'n' Switch "Some of these plans don't stop at starving the poor. Basic income is such an elastic idea that you can claim you're supporting it while giving tax breaks to the rich. No plan is complete without mentioning how it will reduce administrative costs by ending the "patchwork" (it's like every third article that uses the word "patchwork") of existing programs. That's why we should, they suggest, take the current welfare spending and distribute it equally across all tax brackets. Yeah, it's as regressive as a flat tax, but no more having to pay bureaucrats to do math! Never mind we're running a backwards Robin Hood, we are saving, so sayeth the lobotomized." "The biggest problem "Basic Income" currently faces is the fact that there are as many iterations and understandings of what a Basic Income is as there are people talking about it. Unless someone or some group provides the leadership to step up and propose an actual finished product that can pass the hurdles of wide acceptance and the legislative process, the Basic Income is destined remain just another debating society on the net."

This is what I like to think the Basic Income Toronto group and the Livingrant initiative are about. Drawing together a group which can start developing the beautiful idea into a practical proposal which can draw wide public acceptance, not just among the political classes.

That means a real political debate has to start about the form of BI to be adopted. There is going to be a BI proposal for every band of the political spectrum. But it is certain we are going to have some form of a BI because it is the only way to make the automated age work.

The political party which best articulates to the broad public a BI plan will be the one which finally gets the power to implement it. So, let us get on with this process. For those parties which do not send a representative, I have prepared a summary of their published positions.

Greens

Here I just cut and paste their own work;

The Green Party of Canada believes it is time to re-visit a major policy initiative , the use of a negative income tax, or Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI) for all. The use of a GLI could eliminate poverty and allow social services to concentrate on problems of mental health and addiction. The essential plan is to provide a regular payment to every Canadian without regard to a needs test. The level of the payment will be regionally set at a level above poverty, but at a bare subsistence level to encourage additional income generation. No surveillance or follow-up is required.

Unlike the current provincial welfare and federal Employment Insurance (EI) schemes, additional income is not 'clawed back' at income levels below subsistence. The incentive for illegal, under-the table economies is vastly reduced. Additional income is to be declared until the wage-earner becomes a taxpayer. For higher-income Canadians, the amount of the GLI is merely taxed back in whole.

Through policy coherence, municipally, provincially and federally, significant savings can be realized, while simultaneously reversing the negatives of a shame-based system that perpetuates poverty. To be cost-effective, however, government will require time to negotiate a coherent program with the provinces/territories and other levels of government. Various 'poverty-industry' programs of welfare, disability pensions, seniors benefits, unemployment insurance, would all be collapsed within one simple single payment system, administered through taxes.

The Green Party believes it is time to advance bold ideas such as this. Nevertheless, it will take time for study, reflection, and support from all three levels of government. We are committed to opening dialogue on the idea, while pursuing short-term measures to make progress in the near term.

Green Party MPs will:

Remove taxes from the lowest income categories so that no taxes are paid by those below the poverty line (Canada's Low Income Cut-off measure);

Allow income assistance recipients to keep 100% of the wages they earn up to the Low Income Cut-off level to encourage people to get back into the job market;

Offer people the mobility they need to find work, shelter, and other necessities through free transit passes for those on income assistance;

Extend maternity/paternity leave for new parents outside of EI to two years and one additional year for parents who pay into EI;

Increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors by 25%;

Top up the income support for single parents on welfare during the time they are attending school or job training programs.;

As a first step towards universal GLI, provide dividends to every Canadian from the carbon fee collected on GHG emissions. Through negotiations with each province, this modest income support payment will not be subject to claw-back;

Support the provision of stable, long-term financial support for persons with disabilities by means of a targeted GLI;

Ensure financial assistance for low-income spouses and relatives who provide end-of-life care at home for patients who would otherwise need to be hospitalized or in institutional long-term care;

Augment the government's measurement of 'progress', our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with a Genuine Progress Indicator, such as the Canadian Index of Well-being, that annually measures how well we are doing on quality of life indicators, including eliminating poverty.

Develop a comprehensive plan to improve our social safety network so that it eliminates child poverty, modeling this plan on European countries' programs that have the best track records in eliminating child poverty.

communists

As expected, the communists are long on one sentence demands and short on specifics of implementation. But bear in mind they do not have the large research staff of some other parties.

The three operative statements about BI are;

Expand Universal Social Programs ­ End Poverty Act to combat poverty, especially among Aboriginal peoples, new immigrants, women, youth, seniors and persons with disabilities. Ban "workfare" and introduce a liveable guaranteed, annual income.

NDP

The federal NDP has much not much to say about BI. Probably they are so paranoid about being seen as big tax and spenders. However, provincial wings of parties have some interesting initiatives about BI.

Saskatchewan's New Democrats want the government to pilot and evaluate a guaranteed basic income program and, if the results prove successful, they want the program introduced province-wide, as a key measure to tackle poverty and improve health, social and economic outcomes.

As for the Alberta NDP government, here is a snippet from a news article about their BI plans.

"Old anti-poverty idea ‹ guaranteed minimum income ‹ getting new life in Alberta.

With its economy tethered to oil prices, Alberta is known for unconventional, even experimental economic policy.

Now, with oil prices in the tank and the NDP holding a new majority, a new experiment may be in the works.

A guaranteed minimum income, known as a mincome, has long been a pipe dream of economists across the political spectrum, but especially left-wing anti-poverty activists, people like Joe Ceci, a former Calgary alderman who was a star NDP candidate ‹ and is Alberta's new finance minister.

"I am really, really interested if he will bring that to bear in terms of some really significant changes to the taxation system that would really help us manage poverty in a brand new way," Nenshi said.

Edmonton's mayor, Don Iveson, has likewise indicated that Alberta's two major urban hubs would be willing to host pilot programs to evaluate the consequences of guaranteeing income to adults, whether the social benefits outweigh the possibility of exploitation."

Liberals

The Liberal party brass are cool on the idea, but local organizations are keen. There has been a Basic Income Pilot group within the Liberal party, with a web page. It does not have many specifics.

However, at the last Liberal party convention, resolution 100, introduced form P.E.I. , was passed. It says;

100. Priority Resolution: Creating a Basic Annual Income to be Designed and Implemented for a Fair Economy WHEREAS changes to the seasonal workers benefits under Employment Insurance are no longer assured as provinces find their social assistance funds stretched to the limit as they cope with hunger, housing and security; WHEREAS many children, seniors and individuals with disabilities also face income insecurity across the country; WHEREAS pension security is at risk; WHEREAS the federal government has not kept pace with local needs; WHEREAS many explicit and invisible signs of income insecurity exist in Canadian rural and urban settings, both presenting unique circumstances in the Provinces and Territories; WHEREAS Provinces and Territories require greater flexibility in designing and administering programs which specifically fit their respective jurisdictions; BE IT RESOLVED that a Federal Liberal Government work with the provinces and territories to design and implement a Basic Annual Income in such a way that differences are taken into consideration under the existing Canada Social Transfer System.

libertarians

No information is forthcoming from the Libertarians, who seem a bit disorganized. On their web site, there is one enigmatic line that seems to call for a $4000 annual negative income tax.

"Eliminate all tax credits, and replace them with 4 additional exemptions, valued at $4,000 each (Child, Senior, Disability, Student)"

However, anyone involved in debates about BI know that people of a Libertarian persuasion tend to be prominent, even dominant, in discussions. They call for a guaranteed income as a way of eliminating all other social programs, and somehow connect this idea with a flat rate tax system.

conservatives

Harper Conservatives will not even attend debates and events except what they organize.

However, in Canada, Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield was a booster, as is former Tory Senator Hugh Segal. Many conservative figures have proposed BI. Richard Nixon tried to put one through in US in 1970s but failed.

However, be cautious about conservatives because their proposals are often more about wage subsidy than a true BI. An original promoter was thought to be Milton Freidman, the liassez Faire economist. But he wanted to use that as an excuse to eliminate all other programs.

Red tories are usually sincere. They are for social stability, meaning a rough equality. Hard tories, watch out.

Pirate Party

For Pirates, they have an obsession about detail. They have presented a very detailed proposal for the negative income tax or 'mincome' idea. They summarize pretty well all the arguments for that, so it is fairly useful. It will be up on the livingrant site soon.

Conclusions

Of the official parties, the Greens have the strongest proposal. The Liberals and the NDP all have factions within their parties, especially at the provincial level, who promote a BI. But the party establishments are dubious about it. A really strong push is needed from below.

Red tories are the ones concerned with social stability. But they are much in the minority these days, with the neoliberals in control of the conservative parties at all levels. It seems unlikely we will have a shift back to the middle in the near future.

What a BI should do for now is work to build up a powerful and coherent movement, one such that all political parties feel compelled to listen. And, send people around to speak when we put out the call. WE must avoid supporting any particular party, but on making BI a "third rail" issue that none of them dare speak against.