I have written, more than once, in favour of some sort of guaranteed annual income based on a negative income tax system. I have called it a very conservative idea because it has been advanced by e.g. Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman …
… and while I know that many so-called conservatives oppose the idea on principle I cannot fathom how one can disagree (on economics) with Friedman and/or Hayak and then claim to be either conservative or principled.
But Lorrie Goldstein, who I would argue is both principled and a conservative, argues, correctly, in my opinion, in the Toronto Sun, that what the Trudeau Liberals might propose next week “would, if past experience is any indication, simply layer the GAI on top of these existing income support programs — everything from the Canada Child Benefit to the Guaranteed Income Supplement” … [which is exactly the opposite of what Friedman proposed].
He says they’ll likely do that because “That’s what Trudeau and many provincial governments did with their carbon taxes … Instead of first removing all existing taxes on carbon dioxide emissions, and replacing them with one carbon tax, they layered their carbon tax on top of them.“
The negative income tax approach, which I am 99% certain would work well for Canada is hideously complex in both constitutional and practical political terms because it requires that ALL provinces to align their many and varied social programmes with the national one. Yes, it’s possible, at some extra cost for Québec to issue its own cheques, pretending that it is, in some magical way, a nation rather than being just “une province comme les autres.” ALL social welfare and income support programmes, including Employment Insurance and even the Canada (and Québec) Pension Plan need be totally reconfigured, perhaps even, as Friedman advocated, totally replaced, to account for th negative income tax.
In my opinion a proper, Conservative Guaranteed Annual Income, needs to always, without fail, 100% reward work … even, perhaps especially the lowest paid and most menial work. There must never be a situation in which a healthy, capable individual gets more money as a “handout” than does a similar person who does even some work. A system which rewards idleness is a Liberal plot, not a liberal plan.
The basic idea of a negative income tax is that you work as much as you can … maybe three or four part time jobs and some seasonal work, too. When your wages fall below a determined level you are “topped up” by GAI (guaranteed income programme). Your neighbour, who is able to work but decides to live of the GAI ~ because it does provide a subsistence level of income ~ never, ever makes as much money as you do ~ neither gross nor net. The rules are such that it cannot happen. Even if you work only, say, 10 hours a week ~ cleaning offices after your husband comes home for his minimum wage day job and is able to mind the kids ~ you (and he) make substantially more than the couple who both collect GAI. If that isn’t the basis of the entire system then it is neither principled nor Conservative.
One secondary aim of a properly conceived Guaranteed Annual Income/Universal Basic Income programme might be to reduce employers’ reliance on temporary foreign workers. The national government might decide, for example, to give some jobs a premium ~ those who work for a few weeks in the late summer harvesting crops in South Western Ontario, for example, might earn whatever the famers can afford to pay (the free market determines the monetary value of labour) but the GAI/UBI programme may top that up but a bonus. Consider, for example, how our armed forces are paid: sailors assigned to ships and soldiers in operational units are paid “allowances” to compensate for being away from home and living in the bush and so on. Sailors who serve in submarines and soldiers who deploy by jumping our of airplanes (paratroopers) and a few others like bomb disposal experts are paid even more for risk and hardship:
No one thinks that’s unfair; no one thinks they don’t deserve something extra for the nature of their work. Even when the work is in similar conditions, on an air base in Canada, for example, no one is surprised when to military members with exactly the same rank and seniority are paid differently because one is a truck driver and the other is an avionics technician. Pay for skill and extra p[ay for long hours are already generally accepted; extra pay for hardship, risk and the general unpleasant nature of some jobs ought not to be a big leap for workers or bureaucratic bean-counters:
There’s no iron-clad law of economics that says only poor foreigners can do hard, dirty jobs in Canada while able-bodied Canadians collect welfare. The aim of a negative income tax is NOT to conscript Canadians to do unpleasant jobs; rather it is to make those jobs pay enough to make them more attractive than sitting home collecting the GAI/UBI. The main aim of a GAI/UBI programme must be to redress what Professor Arthur C Brooks calls the “dignity deficit.” We must, as American progressive activist R Sargent Shriver said, invest “in human dignity, not doles.” A GAI/UBI programme based on a negative income tax has a food chance of doing that. The sort of programme that Lonnie Goldstein and I both fear that Justin Trudeau has in mid will be all about buying votes with a dole … the dignity of honest labour never enters the minds of the Laurentian Elites.