Parliament Debates Guaranteed Income

Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Earth -- 20 Mar. 2057:  The official introduction in Parliament this day of Bill S2176 kicked off the government's annual wrangle over Guaranteed Income, a debate that has been brought up on a more and more frequent basis since the founding of the Alliance and is enjoying renewed vigour since the fall from power of the Libertarian-Traditionalist-Corporatist coalition in the last Parliamentary election.

The author of the bill, Socialist elector Manther Albicore of Europa-Finland, is framing the issue in terms of practicality, efficiency and cost reduction -- an argument clearly designed to appeal to the Technocratic party members who lead the present government.  "Right now we have welfare incomes doled out by an alphabet-soup of different agencies," Mre. Albicore stated to the Trapezoid in the preamble to the delivery of the bill.  "We have Social Wage, Compassionate Care Support, Communal Production Subsidy, Employment Assurance, Emergency Needs Assistance, Education and Training Allowance, Disability Compensation, Economic Recession Relief, Negative Income Tax.  For each and every one there is a new branch of the bureaucracy to determine qualification, to means-test, to root out fraud and abuse.  And still people slip through the cracks, and end up without shelter or utilities, adequate food or runtime, deprived of network access, unable to make insurance payments.  Replacing this system with a simple, across-the-board guaranteed income for all Alliance citizens and their dependants would result in an estimated cost saving of 30% and eliminate much of the potential for abuse, while eliminating the indignity and wasted time of people finding it necessary to apply for these services."

Of course, it is no secret that the Socialists see a basic income guarantee as a stepping stone to a planned (or 'participatory') economy in which jobs would be permanently disconnected from wages.  There is a perennial base of support for the guaranteed income from the Anarchist and Naturist parties, but the measure has thus far been kept at bay by implacable opposition from the right wing.  This opposition was on clear display this day in the debate that followed the introduction of the bill, led by a blistering speech by Libertarian elector Caspar de Vries of Saturnine Confederacy-Dione.  "This welfare state already leeches plenty of money off of the most productive, the economic engines and job creators of the system, to give away to indigents and gold-brickers.  The idea that we are just going to say 'it doesn't even matter what you're doing with your life -- here, just have some of the people's money!'  It's absolutely unconscionable."  In an appeal clearly directed toward the right-leaning Communitarian Party, which has often thrown its considerable weight behind the measure, elector de Vries harangued the chamber to "restrore control over our affairs to where it clearly belongs, to the local governments which know the needs of their people, instead of applying a one-fits-all solution dictated by bureaucrats from Baikonur."  The Libertarians were joined in voicing opposition by Traditionalist elector John Morris of Great Plains-Lonestar, who vociferously condemned "this creeping big-government tide which threatens the values this Alliance was founded on: hard work, self-reliance and respect for private property," an assertion which provoked open laughter from some quarters of the Trapezoid.  Bermond Gauss, Corporatist elector for LOCA-Excision Station, went even farther in his attacks, calling the Income Guarantee "class warfare" and a "hate crime against the wealthy" and warning that "furthering this Communist agenda can only lead to the ruin of our glorious society."

To succeed in bringing this long-desired plan to fruition, the Socialists and their allies now face the task of convincing the Tecnocratic members of the merits of their plan.  Auguries were favourable in this round of debate, with several prominent Technocrats speaking in favour of the plan.  "The need for income supports has been rising with the increase of automated labour, the rise in metacognitive productivity enhancement and the continued advance of the self-sufficiency movement," explained Technocratic elector Aleph Infinitesimal of LEO-Ring One.  "Individuals must be freed to pursue their personal projects if innovation and synergy are to keep pace with the structural shifts occurring in our economies."  On the other hand, there remains a strong tendency among Technocrats toward suspicion of large-scale social experiments and of movement away from market economics.  This suspicion was voiced openly by the head of the Technocratic caucus, Larflen Vuzelplath, elector for Luna-Moonbase Alpha.  "The fact is that we already offer a guaranteed minimum income sufficient to meet the needs of the populace," stated Mx. Vuzelplath, "and while it can always be improved it is not so dysfunctional as to merit the sweeping changes proposed by the respected Mre. Albicore.  Furthermore, the prospect of giving up the economic levers we have built in to the social welfare system, as a means of encouraging certain behaviours and discouraging others, should be given its due weight of consideration before ant rash actions are taken."

Political observers believe that this may be the year for the guaranteed income.  "Libertarian platitudes about economic freedom don't sway many hearts in the Trapezoid these days," says political blogger Vaxos Martarian of Trapezoidal Trapeze Act.  "By all accounts the Communitarians are flushing red these days, and the Socialists are busy recruiting them with promises of a renewed focus on infrastructure if they cooperate.  The Technocrats, on the other hand, are well aware that Socialist support is absolutely necessary to the functioning of their coalition, and the Socialists know it too.  If they're denied the income guarantee this time around, the Socialists might just take their ball and go home; we might be looking at a Socialist-led coalition with the Anarchists, the Naturists and the left wing of the Communitarians ruling the roost by this time next year."

No comments: