“... we might all of us be willing to contribute to the relief of poverty, provided everyone else did. We might not be willing to contribute the same amount without such assurance….. Suppose one accepts, as I do, this line of reasoning as justifying governmental action to alleviate poverty; to set, as it were, a floor under the standard of life of every person in the community”. Milton Friedman - See Poverty Quotes Page.
“I am now convinced that the simplest solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income." Dr. Martin Luther King - See Poverty Quotes Page.
The nomenclature today is a “living wage” – a standard of income that an individual or family can comfortably live on. As the term implies it is a wage earned and therefore is generated through work. We want everyone in America to earn a living wage, but what happens if they don’t or can’t? That is the instance whereby both Mr. Friedman and Dr. King say the federal government could step in with, let’s use Dr. King’s term, a guaranteed income. It would have as its target the elimination of poverty.
But today we have the worst of both worlds – high cost for welfare and yet no guaranteed income. That is because our vast and expensive welfare system distributes in-kind benefits and very little cash. In-kind benefits include housing, food, day care, pre-school, school lunches, heating, and more (see Safety Net Page).
Mr. Friedman was right when he said of the negative income tax “it gives help in the form most useful to the recipient, namely, cash.” Cash is indeed the missing element of welfare and yet is the most beneficial and cost effective way to solve poverty. We should rollup the multitude of programs in our federal welfare system and instead payout cash. We could structure it so that it doesn’t discourage work, avoids a marriage penalty and we get something for it. We could lower the federal deficit and get more help to the poor. We could fix welfare and solve poverty - see more specifics on the Welfare Reform Page.
Mr. Friedman and Dr. King agree on cash and that ought to be right and left enough for us all.