Compassion Reporting on poverty fighting and criminal justice

Income minus work

Compassion | Campaign season brings back a flawed idea for fighting poverty
by Charissa Koh
Posted 9/11/19, 05:10 pm

The midsize city of Stockton, Calif., grants some residents an extra special perk: $500 a month in additional income. The money, part of a privately funded poverty-fighting experiment, allows 31-year-old Jovan Bravo to take off from his construction job every other Saturday.

“It’s made a huge difference,” Bravo said. “Just being able to spend more time with the wife and kids, it brings us closer together.”

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs formed a partnership with a local nonprofit group to provide a “universal basic income” to selected families who live below the area’s median income. Researchers are observing the recipients for changes in their happiness.

The concept of universal basic income has earned the favor of Democratic presidential candidates Andrew Yang and Kamala Harris, a U.S. senator from California. Yang’s proposed “Freedom Dividend” would guarantee $1,000 per month to Americans 18 and older. Proponents say the income provides a safety net for innovators to take risks without fear of going without necessities, but critics say the proposal just discourages people from working. Other versions of the idea involve giving a basic income only to working families or those below the poverty line or the national median income.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg has advocated funding universal basic income through the sale of a natural resource, similar to the annual oil dividend paid to Alaska residents. Yang wants to implement a nationwide value-added tax of 10 percent, following the lead of many European countries. Harris would fund her income proposal largely by repealing the 2017 Republican tax cut.

Past experiments with the idea suffered from pitfalls: In the 1960s and ’70s, the Nixon administration tried a “guaranteed minimum income” program in New Jersey. Some unsuccessful cases included a woman who used the money only to buy alcohol and a man who bought expensive furniture and went into debt.

Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, wrote in 2016 that a government-funded minimum income would “redefine the relationship between individuals, families, communities, and the state by giving government the role of provider. It would make work optional and render self-reliance moot.”

Hugh Whelchel, executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, told me Christians should reject universal basic income for theological reasons: God gave Adam work in the Garden of Eden before the fall. Work is a gift from God that gives purpose and dignity.

“People that have the ability to work but just don’t want to work, that’s not the way God intended it to be,” he said, describing a Biblical safety net that distinguishes between those unable and unwilling to work and helps those who are unable to get on a path to self-sufficiency.

Facebook/Arkansas SNAP-Ed at UAEX Facebook/Arkansas SNAP-Ed at UAEX Children in a SNAP education program

SNAP nutrition education lacks results

Nutrition education efforts by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are designed to encourage healthy food choices and lower childhood obesity among low-income families. But a recent report by the Government Accountability Office found overlap and lack of communication among similar programs. Angela Rachidi at the American Enterprise Institute said the government should consolidate the programs into one federal agency like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The House of Representatives’ version of the 2018 Farm Bill proposed combining the Department of Agriculture’s nutrition education programs, but the Senate version removed that change. —C.K.

Associated Press/Photo by Eric Kayne Associated Press/Photo by Eric Kayne A scoop of Justice ReMix’d at a Ben and Jerry’s event in Washington last week

The scoop on criminal justice

Ice cream maker Ben and Jerry’s announced a new flavor last week: Justice ReMix’d. According to the company’s website, proceeds from the cinnamon and chocolate ice cream will go to the Advancement Project, a liberal nonprofit organization that advocates for racial justice. “Our criminal justice system has a serious justice problem,” the company said in the announcement. “As in there’s way too little of it. It’s racist. It’s broken. We have to do better. And together, we will.”

It’s not Ben and Jerry’s first foray into politics. Earlier this year, it released a limited-time flavor supporting Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. “We will scoop as many scoops as we possibly can because Bernie’s the guy who’s going to solve a lot of problems in our country,” co-founder Ben Cohen told Fox News. —C.K.

More funds for opioid fight

Last week, the White House announced it was awarding $1.8 billion to address the opioid crisis. More than $900 million will fund states’ prevention and treatment efforts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received $900 million to collect drug-related data. The CDC said last Wednesday it is giving $301 million so states can track overdoses and get “a better understanding of why, and among whom, overdoses and deaths are taking place.” —C.K.

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Charissa Koh

Charissa is WORLD's compassion reporter and a part of WORLD's investigative unit, the Caleb Team. Charissa resides with her husband, Josh, in Austin, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @CharissaKoh.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Thu, 09/12/2019 05:11 pm

    Making it possible for able-bodied people to live without working...  Food stamps/SNAP cards...  Free cell phones...  Free internet access...  Free healthcare...  Now a check every month...

    And with the trend towards legalizing pot, pot will be seen as an entitlement and the libs will want to offer free pot to those already on the other freebies.

    I’m not seeing much in all that to Make America Great Again.  

    But apparently that is another of the left/lib goals: NOT-MAGA.  


  •  SuperAndy's picture
    Posted: Fri, 09/13/2019 11:41 am

    Old Mike, I'm not much for pot, but how about vacation? It may not be long before universal basic vacation joins universal basic income, healthcare, cell phones, cable. Shoot, I deserve a vacation, doesn't everybody?

  • OldMike
    Posted: Sun, 09/15/2019 02:37 am

    Sure, SuperAndy!  About anywhere you work, you get vacation, usually starting after one year of employment. And if you’re NOT employed, you’re already ON vacation!

    But maybe you’re not talking about just time off. You mean a government benefit that pays for the trip somewhere?  The plane tickets, nice resort, meals (and certainly not fast food), admissions, etc.?

    Hmmm...  maybe not a bad idea. There’s a lot of places I would like to see; my travel has actually been rather limited. Except, well, the govt DID give me an all-expenses-paid trip to Southeast Asia once. Met interesting people, had exciting experiences, lots of outdoor excursions/hiking etc. But food and accommodations weren’t anything great. Heheh.