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Waiting in line


On December 28, 2020, a panel of experts delivered its final report on Basic Income: Covering all the Basics: Reforms for a More Just Society to the Government of British Columbia.


While the report supports the principles of a Basic Income, it is in favour of rejecting the idea. We will not soon see another comprehensive study of this depth. Evelyn Forget provides a thorough critique.


I am just speculating about the ideas that go through the mind of someone who is standing in line.


So here I am in line. I'm not sure which one it is. Maybe they announced it. I didn't pay attention. As they say, "Hungry belly has no ears." It can't be the food bank, I went there last week and you can't go two weeks in a row even if the food only lasts 10 days.


It's the line for the final solution to poverty, I think. At the front of the line is the civil servant who has just finished reading a 529-page report on Basic Income. Two and a half years in the making. voluminous documentation. Expert analysis. The conclusion: Basic Income is not the solution. It's a good idea - except not the best idea at this moment.


So the civil servant is sitting on a big pile of money ready to be distributed. It is not the regular budget. That one has disappeared: one third to the beneficiaries and two thirds to the administration, including the comfortable salaries of the civil servant and his colleagues.


The civil servant is thinking about how to distribute the money without harming me.

I forget if I have told him how much money I have left once I have paid my bills: rent, heating, electricity, telephone, food, bus card. It doesn't matter. I never have enough to buy everything every month anyway. He knows this because my benefits are set at half the poverty level. It's a function, not a bug, as they say.


I don't talk to him about it. It just makes him uncomfortable.


I can't imagine what harm it would do to have enough money to live with dignity? I would be willing to endure the inconvenience. Giving money directly is apparently more ineffective than improving one of the 192 different programs for the disadvantaged. They are more cost-effective and better targeted than cash.


One wonders why, if these programs are so great, the needle has not moved in 40 years. Anyway...


I know what worries the agent who handles my file (nice guy, like a father to me) . He's afraid that the flame of incitement to work that burns in me will be extinguished. That light is worth more than life itself - at least more than mine. It is a privilege to preserve this inner flame, like a lantern. I cannot imagine what I have done to deserve this honor. It seems to be reserved for people on welfare or working in precarious odd jobs. Wealthy people don't need it or wouldn't know what to do with it, it seems. It's a real shame for them.


I went looking for a job the other day. The shopkeeper told me:


-You have no experience then?


-Make no mistake, sir, poverty doesn't merely teach us to heard cats! Survival is a full-time job.


-I see you're on welfare. How do I know you're not going to steal from me because you're desperately poor?


-I'm honest, sir. And what's more, the flame of work incentive is burning inside me!


-The what? I've never heard of that. Is this a joke, son? Anyway, I'd rather hire a young ambitious guy than an old loser, no offense.


The line's not moving. It hasn't moved all day. In fact, the line hasn't moved in years. I'll be back tomorrow. He'll still be thinking. He is afraid, his colleagues in the ministry too, and his superiors in the government, afraid of making an unpopular decision, afraid of creating a scandal by correcting an injustice, afraid of the poor looking like they are abusing the charity of respectable people.


Nevertheless, we have made great progress today. We have learned that current solutions don't work (I could have told them that) and we have discovered that new solutions, such as Basic Income, will not work, or shouldn't work if they do.


The way forward is obvious, isn't it?


Pierre Madden: cell: 514 238-0044

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