Good times for the basic income

Calls for an unconditional basic income to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic are growing louder. Spain's government says it is already planning the introduction of a lifelong basic income for all. Commentators discuss whether the measure makes sense and how it can be financed.

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Politiken (DK) /

More solidarity needed

After the corona crisis is over the realisation that many people who keep society up and running receive too little pay must be acted on, Politiken demands:

“Structural inequality must be eliminated. For decades things have gone the wrong way and large sections of the population have had to watch helplessly as salaries for those at the highest levels of society rose far faster than those for the rest. ... Corona is an opportunity for change; an opportunity to create a society with greater solidarity in which profits are distributed more evenly. To think differently on a large scale. Even conservative economists are now talking about something like citizens' salaries, wealth tax and even pay rises. What this will look like in concrete terms can still be discussed. But there must be fundamental changes.”

Libération (FR) /

Raise taxes for the wealthy

Economist Jean-Eric Hyafil explains in Libération how a basic income can be most efficiently put in place:

“The universal basic income could be financed primarily by increasing social insurance contributions by about 20 percent. Some of the funding could also come from raising taxes for higher tax brackets or on capital, so as to achieve a stronger redistributive effect. It should be noted that while well-off households would be taxed more, they would also receive the universal income, which would partially offset the tax increase. The individualisation of universal income (in contrast to the welfare benefit, which is paid as a family benefit) makes the measure more expensive than the current welfare benefit, but it also makes it simpler.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Not the time to finance self-realisation

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is not in favour of the idea of a universal basic income:

“Those in favour of it stress that it would mean that no one would have to work if they don't want to: freed from the pressure for their work to be 'marketable', people could do what they really want to do, or so the argument goes. But what they don't say is that the fact that work is subject to market pressure is a very useful economic principle. You only earn money if you do something for others - and not just anything, but something that's also worth something to others. ... There are too many fashion designers and artists who want a universal basic income so they have more freedom to pursue unprofitable projects. They should ask themselves whether their fellow human beings should be forced to finance their self-realisation.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Russians lack a culture of austerity

The basic income is a nice idea but completely incompatible with Russia, concludes Radio Kommersant FM:

“It would be wrong to simply give our people money like this. Because here not everyone, but many of us, have no clue about how to manage money: economising, putting money aside for a rainy day and not living beyond your means. For one thing because many people simply have nothing to put aside. So they prefer to spend it all right away - that way at least you have something. The Russians were never inoculated with austerity culture. ... Hence one-off payments won't change a thing. There's even a risk that the opposite could happen and people will say 'Why so little? This is nothing, you can't buy a thing with it! Those on high have no doubt taken much more for themselves!'”