Written by Kaylin Kaufman
Americans are concerned with a variety of issues today, both politically and socially. Whether the focus is on the President, government shutdowns, or the recent stock market crash, Americans enjoy debating on current issues and which actions should be taken. However, Americans can occasionally become distracted by smaller issues, instead of focusing on the bigger picture. One large and complex problem Americans are living with, but rarely discussing, is the issue of mass poverty. According to CNN, almost three-quarters of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck, with little to no emergency finances. How can America be the best superpower in the world with so many of its own citizens risking bankruptcy? Housing is too expensive in most cities, wages have fallen, healthcare is incredibly expensive, and more senior citizens have to put off retirement. Finland, Germany, and France, along with many other countries, have taken many measures to prevent large-scale poverty, including the controversial Universal Basic Income (UBI). As Judith Schulevitz argues in her op-ed “It’s Payback Time for Women”, implementing UBI in America would “…reduce the ill effects of poverty and therefore the cost to society of bad public health, crime, and incarceration” (Schulevitz 1). Providing all Americans with a small annual stipend, even just $500, will help America progress. Allowing Americans to add to their savings, pay off a debt, have an extra month’s rent, or even just extra spending cash will help the economy and lessen the stresses of many Americans. The benefits of creating a UBI in America are too great to ignore. Implementing a small annual stipend, perhaps an amount between $500 and $3,000 a year could be paid for through an increase of taxes to the wealthy. However, this idea presents problems. Almost every attempt of increasing taxes for the ultra-wealthy has been fruitless, partially due to lobbying efforts to block legislation. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett do not pay their fair share of taxes, which not only includes their lower income taxes, but also their completely untaxed investment funds. Enacting higher taxes for billionaires could provide poor Americans with a potentially life-saving amount of money, while hardly causing a dent in a billionaire’s bank account. Warren Buffet himself wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece that the rich elite should pay more in taxes, prompting President Obama to include the “Buffett Rule” in his tax proposal, which would have increased taxes on people making more than 1 million dollars a year to 30% (Buffett 1).
Americans need to realize how little a billionaire’s bank account would be affected with a slight increase in taxes for both income and investments. A billionaire losing $20,000 in taxes would make that back in a minute. According to Business Insider, the top six billionaires in 2013 made an average of $22,000 per minute (Business Insider 1). The elite 1% have the means to provide America with a UBI, benefitting the people who need those few hundred dollars the most. Americans should not have to worry about choosing either food or rent money. The addition of a Universal Basic Income will not solve the problem of mass poverty, but it will help.
Shulevitz, Judith. “It’s Payback Time for Women.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Jan. 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/opinion/sunday/payback-time-for-women.html?_r=0.
Buffett, Warren E. “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html.
Roche, Julia La. “Here’s How Much 10 Of The Richest People In The World Made Per Minute In 2013.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 19 Dec. 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/what-warren-buffett-makes-per-hour-2013-12.