There is much being written and discussed about poverty these days. Not surprisingly when the economy tanks the poor suffer even more than the rest of us. While corporations are sitting on record levels of assets, food banks struggle to keep up with an ever increasing demand. Governments seem to have abandoned their role in promoting a greater social good, leaving it to the free market economy to create jobs to look after people. But having a job, even a full-time job is no guarantee of living free from poverty.
The free market, without proper oversight, has resulted in a polarized society: the haves and the have-nots. How did we allow this to happen? Why do we sit idly by and allow it to continue? Do we see the poor as different from the rest of us?
Conservative Senator Hugh Segal is encouraging us to look at poverty in a different light. Maybe poverty is not the outcome of poor health, criminal activity and low educational attainment. There is mounting evidence that poverty is the cause of these social ills and it is costing us dearly.
If we continue to do business as usual our social safety nets will become increasingly unaffordable. Our health care system, courts and jails, and special education programs will not be able to keep up.
Senator Segal urges our governments to consider a basic income floor below which no Canadian would be allowed to fall. A basic income program could be administered very efficiently through the income tax system, similar to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) for seniors.
You can read more about Senator Segal’s thoughts on a guaranteed annual income on his website.
Or check out TVO’s The Agenda Episode Nov. 15, 2012 Politics and Poverty Reduction.
Teresa McKeeman, President