The means-tested safety net is mean, universal supports for all

The means-tested safety net is mean, universal supports for all

“Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.” 

― Richard WrightNative Son

The US and its puritanical roots are the basis for many of its problems, including racism. The idea that some people receive $1.00 more than they deserve according to Jesus Christ is enough to make the mainstream United States cut off some people’s noses as an example of what corporate America will do to the rest of our faces.

Our country has means-tested social supports AKA the safety net. You have to qualify by citizenship, income, household members, and other random arbitrary requirements. In this country where the tests are quite stringent, the person applying for these supports (Section 8, Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc.) is typically in a crisis situation. If they do not meet the requirements, then homelessness, bankruptcy, and starvation are possibilities. The qualifying process is a subjective and fierce ordeal and tends to be, more often than not, racist and sexist.

In psychology, the “False Consensus Effect” suggests that someone else experiences the world in a similar fashion.  People with a grifting personality assume that their scams are acceptable because “Everyone is doing it.”  It seems that many people in this country assume that anyone who isn’t self-supportive is a moocher, lazy, and a parasite that needs to take responsibility for their economic well being.

In countries where the population is more monolithic, less attached to the most wrathful interpretation of the [B]ible in the “overdeveloped” world, and don’t allow the wealthy to manipulate with white supremacy, their social services are universal. 

In many places throughout our world, there is a belief that making sure that citizens have a worthwhile society where people aren’t being degraded in crises is a worthwhile goal and achievement.

Returning to our means-tested safety net, it is problematic for many reasons. I’ll use the explanations from the Beveridge Report. Sir William Beveridge wrote it in the 1940s. Its mantra was to “Abolish want.”

According to that report, a means-tested safety net is problematic owing to the following reasons:

  1. It has a stigma. It is for poor people only, so everyone knows you’re poor if you’re using it. In the US being poor is an awful thing to be and is moralized.
  2. It lacks broad political support; since everyone isn’t getting the same amount of help, racists, conservatives, nationalists can use it as a political bargaining chip.
  3. It is tough to access. By the time you get assistance, you’re very far down the economic rabbit hole.
  4. It has high administrative costs.
  5. It is a poverty trap. It’s hard to get and keep. Instead of encouraging those receiving support to produce art, work on hobbies, or look for work, it discourages living or any outward forms of joy. Recipients are essentially trapped in soul-crushing poverty owing to a lack of choices.

Our society has become structured deliberately so we can’t care about what is happening to the person around the corner. Our culture is constructed so that many of us are working to avoid death. This is all on purpose. Policies paid for by corporate America has set up a system that keeps us afraid, isolated, desperate, and disorganized.

Means-tested programs have been very mean to the US.

What we need is a universal support program, which would be an expansion of our entitlement program. Entitlement is a legal term. It is a guaranteed contract between the government and its people. It is an obligation. If you meet the criteria, by law, you have to be let into the program, and the government must cover your needs.

Universal supports are part of a social-democracy. Social democracy is associated with the Keynesianism (neoliberal —a kind of Biden, if we’re lucky), the Nordic ( Bernie Sanders or Barbara Lee), and the social-liberal (pragmatic progressive Maxine Waters) models.

These models are characterized by a commitment to curbing inequality, eliminating oppression of minoritized and historically exploited groups, and eradicating poverty. They also tend to be universal in their welfare provisions. The universal conditions are to maximize community and the idea that everyone is entitled access to health care, housing, education, and happiness. 

Universal supports are often associated with Nordic countries, but there are universal support social-democratic programs worldwide, including in Ghana, Rwanda, The Bahamas, Japan, Costa Rico, and Mexico.

Here is an example of a universal support program that was tried in a single city in Manitoba, Canada.  In the CBC article “1970s’ Manitoba poverty experiment called a success,” it stated that from 1974-1978, 30% of the people in Dauphin, Canada were provided a guaranteed income called a “Mincome.

Evelyn Forget, a health economist at the University of Manitoba, found that school completion rates went up, hospitalization for mental health issues went down significantly, and of course, there was no poverty.

Technology has made the 9-5 job unnecessary. Our society should use technology to improve people’s quality of life, not squeeze every last dime out of our economy for the wealthy.

Our society needs to stop being mean and start being a community.

So universal supports are not about people getting “free stuff.” It also is more inclusive than only healthcare. 

Universal supports is the best faith upholding of the social contract between a country and its citizens. The social contract is the cornerstone of civilized society. It is as old as western philosophy. Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau had the theory that society’s individuals’ moral or political obligations are dependent upon an agreement among them to form the community in which they live. Having policies that work people to death and have people fighting and begging for food and shelter is a bad-faith interpretation of the social contract. 

Universal supports are about art. It is about literature. It is about having time to have a picnic in the park. 

Universal supports are about the idea that our society should give everyone an opportunity regardless of class, race, or gender to be self-realized human beings.

We need family leave, universal childcare for all income levels, a single-payer national health system, a national housing service for all income levels, we need a national theater company, a national publishing company, and free higher education for all.

We, the people, need to take control of the conversation.

The market has shown itself to be a barbarian. The people must civilize our society against the beast of the market.

We all need a break. 

We need a pro-mobility program.

by Teka Lo, Public Intellectuals

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