One Nutter Saves the World: Disarm the Poverty Trap

I’ve been on the underside of the economy and slipped briefly between the cracks. I’ve been in a place where the next meal depended on what we could extract from the couch cushions, that day.

One Nutter Saves the World: Disarm the Poverty Trap

I've been on the underside of the economy and slipped briefly between the cracks. I've been in a place where the next meal depended on what we could extract from the couch cushions, that day. I've lived where you have to pay the bills based on which one is threatening to send goons around to extract the money in pain and anguish if you can't hand it over in cash.

To use an extreme understatement, it's not a nice place to live in.

Rich people have no understanding of how expensive it is to be poor. When you're bouncing between paycheques, it's scratch or die. You pay the bills based on most aggressive collectors first, arrange partial payments, and otherwise live off of the cheapest possible food you can arrange. The cheap food erodes at your health, which leads to more bills, which leads to more scratching, which leads to more going without at one's own detriment.

Also, you can only afford the cheap and nasty knock-offs of otherwise good and reliable things. Clothes, shoes, underwear, tools... the cheap things don't last long, but they last long enough. You get pots that adulterate your food with nasty extras (hitting you in the health bar again), you get clothing that falls apart after a dozen or so washes, forcing you to buy more clothes, and as for shoes...

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.-- Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

Once upon a time, you could get a halfway decent pair of sandshoes for $20Aus. They'd last me two to five years, and I'd need another pair. Fair enough. Except now, sandshoes have become a luxury item, costing $100 for even a cheap pair. The same pair of sandshoes now cost five times as much and last nowhere near as long. There's no such thing as a cheap enough pair of shoes with a halfway decent life expectancy.

Well, not unless you can afford the really decent set of shoes at upwards of two or three hundred dollars. Otherwise, you're stuck with 'unprofessional' cheap shoes like Crocs or thongs [that's 'flipflops' for the Americans in the audience]. You don't turn up to a job interview in those, because people with money judge everyone without HARD. People who can't afford the good things, can't get the good things. Ever.

So what's the solution?

Thing is... there are people out there who could solve every single problem with poverty traps and hardly blink... but they're also being selfish arseholes and would much rather bunk off to space than help anyone lesser than them. The hyper-rich people could take ten percent of their worth and solve literally everyone else in the world's financial troubles in the snap of a finger.

You can see why so many of my stories take shots at the rich, right?

So. Let's get on with this.

Stage 1: Robin Hood Tax

The Robin Hood Tax, as you might guess, takes from the rich and gives to the poor. How? By taking 0.01% of every electronic transfer of funds and putting them straight into governmental coffers. It wouldn't hurt Mary Senior Citizen, who takes her pension out once a week, and Rich Moneybags would barely even notice, not even with the billion-dollar deals he makes by the minute.

It would snowball into government fortunes in a matter of days.

Stage 2: Universal Basic Income

Now that there's plenty in the government coffers, we can afford to give everyone the minimum weekly amount they need to survive. This would have to be regionally adjusted, because it's more expensive to live in Sydney than it is to live in Outer Tullagawupwup. There is still a free market about who gets to live where.

For now.

Experiments have already been done with UBI in certain areas, and amazing things happened. People who were used to struggling stopped struggling. People had the freedom to choose what they did with their days. Parents stayed at home to bond with their babies. People lacking educations sought out learning. People with passion projects devoted themselves to those projects.

There was also a health boost in the populations with UBI because nobody was suffering from stress any more. Stress-related diseases and afflictions plummeted, and those who had a job were no longer having sick days off of it. The office bug stopped being a regular thing.

Plus, the economy in the area had a big boost because poor people could afford nice things.

Stage 3: Homes for the Homeless

Right at this moment, there exists in the United States, two empty houses for every homeless person in the population. The solution is obvious, right?

Give those homes to the homeless!

Sounds simple, but there are complications - like people acting like absolute slobs when given something for free... or the right wing who thinks people have to prove that they deserve to live with dignity.

So I thought - why not interest-free loans?

A house that's vacant and unsold for -say- five years gets seized by the government and the owner recompensed for the cost of land and building the thing. Or whatever the government deems it's worth.

Said empty house is then offered to those in need of a house. For that exact price, paid back without interest by the resident. They get a place to live, with extra dignity, a value in their minds and hearts for the same, and the right-wingers get to shut up for a change.

What about the mentally ill? You might ask...

That's next week: Medical Care For All.