This is really weird, but it turns out that if you give poor people more money, their lives tend to improve. Bewilderingly, when they have the means to afford things like adequate housing, good clothes and decent food, they become healthier, more confident and in some cases, more employable. Like what the hell? Everybody knows that poor people are poor because they want to be and that if you give them welfare they’re just going to live high off of their $600 a month hog.
Participants in Ontario’s prematurely cancelled basic income pilot project were happier, healthier and continued working even though they were receiving money with no-strings attached.
That’s according to a new report titled Southern Ontario’s Basic Income Experience, which was compiled by researchers at McMaster and Ryerson University, in partnership with the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction.
The report shows nearly three-quarters of respondents who were working when the pilot project began kept at it despite receiving basic income.
That finding appears to contradict the criticism some levelled at the project, saying it would sap people’s motivation to stay in the workforce or seek employment.
“They continued working,” Wayne Lewchuk, an economics prof at McMaster University who was part of the research team told As It Happens.
“Many of those who continued working were actually able to move to better jobs, jobs that had a higher hourly wage, that had in general better working conditions, that they felt were more secure.”
The three-year, $150-million program was scrapped by Ontario’s PC government in July. At the time, then-social services minister Lisa MacLeod, said the decision was made because the program was failing to help people become “independent contributors to the economy.”
But what about the ones that didn’t keep working? According to the survey, around half of them decided to use their newfound flexibility to go back to school so that they could qualify for better jobs than the ones they were quitting.
I have no idea why this is so hard to understand. If you improve people’s lives, everybody wins. If people are healthier, they visit doctors and hospitals less. When they visit doctors and hospitals less, the government saves money. When people have more purchasing power, they will use it to buy things they want and need. When they buy things they want and need, business makes money. When business makes money, the economy gets better. When the economy gets better, it creates more jobs and means there is more money to go around. More money going around means more being spent and more being made, which is good for the government on either end because most purchases and any profits not hidden by shadiness and loopholes are taxed. All that healthcare savings and tax money is going to be at least enough to break even on this free money experiment and truthfully, you’re likely going to do a lot better than that.
It really is, as the article says, a tragedy that the basic income project didn’t get a chance to fully play out. This might be a fine time to reverse yourself yet again, Doug.