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Government handouts are okay—as long as they don’t go directly to people



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Government handouts are okay—as long as they don’t go directly to people

A couple of months ago I wrote about how now would be the perfect time for Canada to explore a federal universal basic income program that would replace many of the current socialized programs deployed by all levels of government.

“With holes in Canada’s social safety net being exposed as businesses closed in March to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the appetite for a system overhaul has intensified,” I wrote in September.

Similar programs have been tested and almost unanimously showed positive results.

In the Hamilton version from 2018, individual participants received $17,000 for the year, paid monthly; while low-income couples received $24,000. Whatever income participants earned was deducted from their basic income at 50 per cent. In other words, once someone made $34,000, they would no longer receive basic income.

The comments I and my article received were predictable and consistent with most stories that cover basic income:

“You’re going to pay people to do nothing?!”

“So you want communism?!”

“When will you socialists learn, people need to EARN their money! Enough with the handouts.”

Speaking of handouts…

Leon’s, Canada’s largest furniture retailer, recorded $47.2 million in profits for the second quarter of 2020—the second-largest quarterly profit in the company’s 101-year history, according to Amir Barnea, an associate professor of finance at HEC Montréal.

But, wait. Didn’t Leon’s temporarily close its stores in the fall? How can a company make money while suspending in-store operations?

With a government handout, of course.

Barnea says Leon’s collected the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). That alone generated a $29.8 million surplus for the company and its shareholders.

Where is the outrage? Why aren’t the usual exploitative Canadian politicians using this to fire up their easily exploitable base with fears about Justin Trudeau using Stalin-esque methods to buy votes?

Look, I know we need businesses to thrive in order to keep and create jobs and push the economy forward. In fact, Leon’s absolutely did the right thing by collecting CEWS and the government should be creating programs that help save jobs.

The issue isn’t with Leon’s or the Canadian government, it’s with the indoctrinated view of the world where the rich and powerful have earned their privileges while those who are financially struggling should simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get to work. The view is so indoctrinated that tens of thousands of working-class voters enthusiastically and continually vote against their own best interests so that their employer’s shareholders take home a little extra.

The highest-paid CEOs, on average, earn 227 times that of the average worker in Canada. When then-Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her government increased the province’s minimum wage from $11.40 to $14 in 2018, some people were fuming because businesses, like Tim Hortons, increased prices on its products. Those people weren’t mad at Tim Hortons, though, they were mad at the government—for ensuring employees were paid a near-livable wage.

Damn you, minimum wage workers… driving up the cost of a Timbit while the CEO of Tim Hortons’ parent company earned $250-million over the last nine years.

The default assumption by some that a lack of wealth, and even extreme poverty, are byproducts of a lack of effort and motivation is simply wrong. As is the assumption that everyone is afforded an equal opportunity to succeed with equal access to education, entry-level jobs and internships, or their parents’ money.

All indications from prior basic income pilot programs show that not only do recipients want to work, but many were also able to use the money to upgrade their skills to secure higher-paying jobs. Not to mention the overall better health and happiness, as well as higher confidence, that the participants experienced.

Better jobs, better health, less poverty, less crime—and it’s easy for even the most staunch capitalist to see the economic benefit of a basic income.

In fact, even the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its provincial and municipal offspring have joined the call for the exploration of a basic income program.

You can continue to advocate against your own best interests and stomp your feet when you hear about basic income programs, but at least admit that you’re not against government “handouts”—you’re just against certain people getting them.

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