In a clear victory for rhetoric over substance in the age of post-truth, the Ontario Liberal government has announced that it will run a pilot project to test the so called 'universal basic income” idea. However, from the policy documents that have been released, it is quite obvious the Liberals intend to implement a more regressive version of this deeply flawed policy program. The Liberal-supporting media is tying itself in knots in attempts to support the program. First, a plea decrying Ontario's 'meagre and rule-bound social assistance program' that the provincial government has purposefully manipulated in order to limit access to supports. Then, without a sense of irony, the media say that cash to buy private services is the only way to fix the problems previous Liberal and Conservative governments created through privatization and austerity.
'The idea of a basic income has gained much popularity recently and not just among leftists but also with right-wing pro-capital proponents. Basic income boils down to making a monthly payment by a government to every citizen of an amount that meets ‘basic necessities' whether that person is unemployed or not or whatever the circumstance. As Daniel Raventós, defines it in his recent book: “Basic Income is an income paid by the state to each full member or accredited resident of a society, regardless of whether or not he or she wishes to engage in paid employment, or is rich or poor or, in other words, independently of any other sources of income that person might have, and irrespective of cohabitation arrangements in the domestic sphere” (Basic Income: The Material Conditions of Freedom).'
We need reality-based solutions for facilitating and funding a Just Transition for workers. It will require the government to invest in publicly owned productive capacity that will generate the revenue needed to fund the hiring and drive the economic transition in the correct direction. This is not a new idea, but it is one that is proven to work.
The response to the rise in the visibility of income and social inequality has meant that the general population is starting to pay attention to this shift and the struggles of precarious workers. However, like any political struggle, the solutions to these struggles differ depending on ones politics and position within the economy.
The idea being promoted by the Liberal government through its “Basic Income Guarantee” is that we should be moving towards a system where the government redistributes wealth by giving individuals money directly. As wealth redistribution goes, this is an inherently right-wing approach. It depends on the private sector to provide services that those on the Guarantee can afford, it does nothing to improve the employment prospects for those on the Guarantee, and in the end likely only increases inequality. Instead, the government should be investing this money in public services that are provided at no cost to everyone, an initiative that will create more jobs in the process.