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News & Politics News & Politics

The Swiss now have a guaranteed income

Posted by on Oct. 12, 2013 at 7:12 PM
  • 2 Replies

Swiss residents will soon vote on an initiative that would guarantee a basic monthly income of 2,500 Swiss franks ($2,800) for all working adults in the country to combat income inequality across the nation. The initiative collected the 100,000 signatures needed for a referendum on the proposal, and to mark this historic initiative, a truck in the city of Bern unloaded 8 million five-cent coins, on Friday to represent Switzerland's 8 million citizens. The parliamentary vote has not yet been scheduled, but it could take place before the end of the year.

A basic income has long been a liberal pipe dream, but few countries have implemented pilot projects to test how it might work. In America, Democrats have long hoped for a minimum income, but it would be years before such a measure could be subject of a serious discussion. If the referendum passes in Switzerland and proves successful, it could spur Democrats to push for a similar policy in America.

So, how does a 2,500-franc monthly income in Switzerland compare to incomes in the United States? Let's take a look:

Median incomes in every state across the U.S. are much greater than the amount proposed in Switzerland. A person earning 2,500 francs per month would earn 33,600 francs per year, which is significantly less than the 2012 U.S. median household income of $51,413, but much greater than the 2012 poverty line of $11,170.

However, these are all median incomes, not minimum wages. The initiative in Switzerland proposes to give all working adults a basic income, not a basic median income. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average adult worker in Switzerland works 136 hours per month. An average Swiss worker would take home a minimum wage equivalent to $20.59 per hour ($2,800/136) if the referendum passes. Here's how that compares to minimum wage laws in the United States:

The effective minimum wage Switzerland's proposal would entail is twice the minimum wage of any state in the U.S. The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour while California this year passed the first minimum wage bill in the United States at $10 per hour. In other words, Switzerland's initiative is much better than anything currently existing in the United States, and unfortunately, no such improvements are happening soon within the U.S.

by on Oct. 12, 2013 at 7:12 PM
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Replies (1-2):
KatLee42513
by on Oct. 12, 2013 at 7:16 PM
I wonder if a minimum income wouldn't push ppl to do better. If your guarrnteed something without doing much then what would be the point of trying Harder & pushing oneself.
SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Oct. 12, 2013 at 10:04 PM

Swiss look to go all in on socialism, assure income to everyone even without working


POSTED AT 9:31 AM ON OCTOBER 6, 2013 BY JAZZ SHAW

If it happens, this story should certainly prove to be interesting and one to watch in both the short and long term future. The Swiss have a rather populist vision of government in place which will look oddly similar to California in at least one important way. The citizens are able to move pretty much any law they like forward in the process, even absent starting support of the legislative body, providing they gather enough support to put a referendum on the ballot and pass it. And since they clearly watch a lot of American television (okay… I’m just guessing about that part) they’ve come up with a doozy of an answer to the issue of “income inequality.”

A grassroots committee is calling for all adults in Switzerland to receive an unconditional income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,800) per month from the state, with the aim of providing a financial safety net for the population.

Organizers submitted more than the 100,000 signatures needed to call a referendum on Friday and tipped a truckload of 8 million five-rappen coins outside the parliament building in Berne, one for each person living in Switzerland.

Apparently this wasn’t the first “solution” to these pressing problems they’ve come up with either. A common response I see to worries about expanding social safety nets is the (correct) assertion that there will always be Alpha and Beta individuals in every society, and if others are lounging, there will always be some who charge hard to make big gains. Unless, of course, you pass measures to remove any incentive to succeed.

In March, Swiss voters backed some of the world’s strictest controls on executive pay, forcing public companies to give shareholders a binding vote on compensation.

A separate proposal to limit monthly executive pay to no more than what the company’s lowest-paid staff earn in a year, the so-called 1:12 initiative, faces a popular vote on November 24.

As I said at the top, this could be the ultimate Petri dish for some of the questions we’ve been wrestling with here at home. What happens if you just lay out the welcome mat and say that everyone, regardless of whether you are able bodied or disabled, has the choice of just staying home and making a survivable, though certainly not extravagant, income, absolutely guaranteed by the government, no questions asked. For the rest of your life. How many people would still work? How much would it cost those who were working to pay this income to the rest, and how long would they continue to pay it? On a related note, how would they control a potential flood of suddenly interested “immigrants” who show up a the door?

I realize that Switzerland has one of the most powerful economies in the world, with a per capita income and GDP that most countries would drool over, but it’s economy is still largely private in nature. They could take a pretty sizable hit and keep on going, but you can’t keep the cart moving forever if everyone gets in and nobody pushes. But maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe the vast majority would just keep working, defying all logic.

As crazy as this may sound to me, I wondered if there were any on the Left here in the United States who would be cheering them on. Sure enough, it didn’t take long to find somebody.

The idea of guaranteed income has been gaining popularity elsewhere in the world, as well. Jacob Hacker received a warm reception in the UK with his proposal for “predistribution”, and just last week the President of Cyprus announced a basic minimum income program also.

It’s on the far edge of public policy right now, but it won’t be for long. Globalization and mechanization of labor are creating a world for which the traditional answers of the last century or so on both the right and the left will be inadequate. In a world where just a few people can exponentially increase productivity, profits and personal wealth while firing workers and cutting wages, traditional Keynesian stimulus and taxation schemes are increasingly moot. Executive-to-worker pay ratios and minimum incomes will eventually be necessary.

If you go read the rest of that, the hilarious part of this logic is that they refer to countries who don’t go along with a guaranteed income scheme as “free rider” countries. Somebody is crazy here, and I just hope it’s not me who had some magic mushrooms slipped into their pizza.

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