[P2P-F] Fwd: [CommonGood] interesting article on BIG

Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Thu Jan 5 06:42:23 CET 2017

dear Stacco,

I would suggest republishing this case study,


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: tina ebro <cgebro at gmail.com>
Date: Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 10:19 AM
Subject: [CommonGood] interesting article on BIG
To: Common Good Newsgroup <commongood at listi.jpberlin.de>

apologies if cross-posting

*​From HUFF POST, 4 JANUARY 2017​*

A Canadian City Once Eliminated Poverty And Nearly Everyone Forgot About It
Posted: 12/23/2014 9:38 am EST Updated: 01/03/2017 5:00 pm EST

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[image: Print]
*An aerial view of the city of Dauphin, Man. Forty years ago, a
groundbreaking experiment provided cheques to Dauphin’s poorest to raise
their incomes to a liveable wage. (Photo: Dauphin Economic

On a December afternoon, Frances Amy Richardson took a break from her
quilting class to reflect on a groundbreaking experiment she took part in
40 years earlier.

“Well, that was quite a few years ago,” she said. “There was a lot of
people that really benefitted from it.”

Between 1974 and 1979, residents of a small Manitoba city were selected to
be subjects in a project that ensured basic annual incomes for everyone.
For five years, monthly cheques were delivered to the poorest residents of
Dauphin, Man. – no strings attached.

And for five years, poverty was completely eliminated.

The program was dubbed “Mincome” – a neologism of “minimum income” – and it
was the first of its kind in North America. It stood out from similar
American projects at the time because it didn’t shut out seniors and the
disabled from qualification.

The project’s original intent was to evaluate if giving cheques to the
working poor, enough to top-up their incomes to a living wage, would kill
people’s motivation to work. It didn’t.

But the Conservative government that took power provincially in 1977 – and
federally in 1979 – had no interest in implementing the project more
widely. Researchers were told to pack up the project’s records into 1,800
boxes and place them in storage.

A final report was never released.

*Read more about the minimum income: $10,000 For Everybody? Why A
Guaranteed Income Just Might Work

Richardson is now 87 and still lives in Dauphin. She says only three or
four of the city’s original Mincome recipients remain among the prairie
community’s 8,251 residents

During the program’s heyday in the mid-1970s, Richardson was a mother of
six – three of her children lived at home.

To earn money, she ran a small salon out of her home called Fifth Avenue
Beauty Chalet. Whatever cash she could make styling hair contributed one
stream of the family’s income; her husband Gordon provided the other with
his job at the local telephone company.

Her ailing mother also lived in the house at the time. She remembers
Mincome researchers visiting the home regularly to calculate how much money
the family was qualified for.

“We kept track of everything and somebody would come once a month,” she
explained. “I kept track of what I made and they would pay the difference
to what they figured that cost many people to live.”
*A postcard shows “Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival Choir” in Dauphin,
Man. During the 1970s, the prairie community was home to one of the
country's largest Ukrainian populations. (Photo: The Printing House)*

Mincome provided the Richardsons with financial predictability and a sense
of stability. There was always food on the table. The bills were paid. The
kids stayed in school.

And when Gordon’s health took a turn for the worse mid-way through the
pilot project, the family still made ends meet.

“It was a lot of good, but see, the Manitoba government and the federal
government both went out of power that year and they ran out of money – so
it was just dropped,” Richardson said.

“It was done.”

*An extraordinary program for ordinary people*

In five years, Mincome helped one thousand Dauphin families who fell below
the poverty line earn a livable income. When the project ended, locals
didn’t make a fuss because they knew the cheques were temporary anyway.

“Some people thought it was like charity,” Richardson said about Mincome.
“It wasn’t really charity, it was need.”

So in 1979, it was business as usual again. After Mincome folded, people
tapped into their prairie work ethic and looked to make do however they
could. The Richardson family went back to scraping by, the same way they
had before the project began. The kids found jobs: one sold gas at the
local garage, another landed entry-level work in insurance.

Richardson continued to bake bread and can her own preserves at home. It’s
a cash-saving skill born out of hard times some food bank-dependent
families have lost today, she suggested.

“I think if we had a Mincome where they were helped a little,” she added.
“That might be better.”

* * *

Why Dauphin? How did a farming community play host to such a landmark
social assistance program?

Good political timing didn’t hurt.

In 1969, the left-leaning provincial NDP led by Edward Schreyer swept into
power for the first time. The transition injected new rural sensitivities
and democratic socialist influences into politics.

On the federal level, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was prime minister. The two
men worked swiftly to set up conditions for a basic income experiment.

In 1973, Manitoba and the federal government signed a cost-sharing agreement
75 per cent of the $17-million budget would be paid for by the feds; the
rest by the province.

The project rolled out the next year.

All Dauphinites were automatically considered for benefits. One-third of
residents qualified for Mincome cheques.

*How Mincome cheques were calculated*:

*1. Everyone was given the same base amount*: 60 per cent of Statistics
Canada’s low-income cut-off. The cut-off varied, depending on family size
and where they lived. But in 1975, a single Canadian who was considered
low-income earned $3,386 on average

   *1975* *2014 dollars*
   Individual $3,386 $16,094
   Family of two $4,907 $20,443

*2. Base amount was modified*: 50 cents was subtracted from every dollar
earned from other income sources

“It was sort of something new and utopian. It was completely different,”
said Dauphin’s current mayor Eric Irwin. “It was an attempt to define
social services in a different way.”

*A ‘gap in the system’ ignored*

Dr. Evelyn Forget is the researcher at University of Manitoba credited for
tracking down those 1,800 dusty boxes of Mincome raw data that sat
forgotten for 30 years.

She first heard about the project in an undergraduate economics class at
the University of Toronto in the ‘70s. Mincome cheques were still being
delivered when her professors praised the experiment as “really important,”
saying it was going to “revolutionize” the delivery of social programs. It
stuck with her.

In 2005, she began looking for the Mincome data. After a strenuous search,
she located the records at the provincial archives in Winnipeg. She was the
first to look at them since they were packed up in 1979.

“[Archivists] were in the process of wondering whether, in fact, they could
throw them out because they took up a lot of space and nobody seemed
interested in it,” said Forget.

It didn’t take her long to realize the plethora of files could never be
funneled into any sort of statistical analysis. There were questionnaires
with circled answers. And data on one family could be scattered between
countless boxes.

It also didn’t help that there were no labels or index.

Because of an ethics board policy, Forget couldn’t directly contact the
people whose data she was now in possession of – the participants had
consented to speak to the original researchers only. Instead, she used a
guest spot on a local radio station to invite Mincome recipients to call
*Looking south on Main St. North in Dauphin, Man. around 1973.
(Photo: Dennis Popeniuk/Facebook

One woman called to say she remembered the Mincome project. In the early
1970s, she was a single mother raising two girls on welfare – then
called Mothers’
Allowance <http://www.canadiansocialresearch.net/capjack.htm>. She said she
had always been treated respectfully, but there was one thing case workers
said that bothered her.

“She said she wanted to get some job training. They told her to go home and
take care of her kids and they would take care of her,” explained Forget.

When the opportunity to transfer from Mothers’ Allowance to Mincome came
along, the woman took it. With no restrictions on how she could spend the
money she was given, she signed up for training and got a part-time job at
the local library which eventually became a full-time career.

“So when I talked to her, she was incredibly proud of having modelled a
different kind of life for her daughters,” Forget said. The retired
librarian invited Forget to visit her home. Inside, she was shown pictures
from her two girls’ graduations, mother beaming with pride.

In 2011, Forget released a paper distilling how Mincome affected people’s
health using census data. She found overall hospitalization rates (for
accidents, injuries, and mental health diagnoses) dropped in the group who
received basic income supplements.
*Film footage of a 1976 parade in Dauphin, Man. recorded on Super8 film.
(Video: YouTube/Leo Bunyak

By giving a community’s poorest residents enough to lift their incomes
above the poverty line, there was a measurable impact on the health care
system. It’s this kind of logic that Forget hopes will propel the idea of
basic income forward, four decades later.

“I’m enough of an optimist to believe that eventually we’re going to end up
there. I think we already have part of the program in place,” said Forget,
referring to existing supplements including the Guaranteed Income
Supplement for seniors and the National Child Benefit.

“The one gap in the system right now is the working poor: people working in
insecure and precarious jobs.”

* * *

*A ‘classic Ottawa initiative’*

Two years before the Harper government shut down its operations
the National Council of Welfare released a damning report
how welfare rules are trapping people in poverty.

“Canada’s welfare system is a box with a tight lid. Those in need must
essentially first become destitute before they qualify for temporary
assistance,” said TD Bank’s former chief economist Don Drummond
the social agency’s report was released in 2010.

“But the record shows once you become destitute you tend to stay in that
state. You have no means to absorb setbacks in income or unexpected costs.
You can’t afford to move to where jobs might be or upgrade your skills.”

Former Conservative senator Hugh Segal is a longtime proponent of a
guaranteed annual income policy. He believes the program could save
provinces millions in social assistance spending on programs like welfare.

Instead of being forced through the welfare system, people’s eligibility
would be assessed and reassessed with every income tax filing. Those who
don’t make above the low-income cut-off in their area would be
automatically topped up, similar to Mincome in Dauphin.

*How guaranteed annual income could work today:*

• Distributed as a federal Negative Income Tax
• Top-ups are calculated automatically and delivered after income tax
• Top-ups would render people ineligible for provincial welfare
• Provincial welfare money gets reallocated to other priorities (i.e. elder
care, expanded early childcare programs)

But the idea never took off in Canada. The lessons of Mincome never spread.
Simply put: The Mincome experiment discontinued because the governments

Segal says what happened in Dauphin was a “classic Ottawa initiative,” with
a lot of money spent putting a program in place, but without adequate
investment to evaluate if it was effective or not.

*Basic income not a ‘silver bullet’*

Renewed energy in European campaigns for basic income have attracted more
reporters and researchers to Dauphin. This summer, a Netherlands TV crew
some excitement to town while on location to film a documentary about

“This started about a year ago with the press fooling around, starting to
ask questions,” Irwin said.
*Grain silos and trains in Dauphin, Man. (Photo: Getty Images)*

While the idea of basic income has gained traction in countries including
Scotland, Switzerland, Namibia, Uganda, and India, others are skeptical.

“I’m not convinced it’s a silver bullet,” explains Leilani Farha, executive
director of Canada Without Poverty and acting United Nations special
rapporteur on adequate housing. “It’s not just about money. It’s about so
many other things.”

“Poverty is also about stigmatization and discrimination. You know, basic
income is not going to address that. No single policy is going to address
that,” she said, criticizing the existing social assistance system as one
that hands out “paltry, paltry amounts of money.”

“The problem is that nothing is going on,” said Farha referring to
government momentum. “There’s no leadership on these issues.”

*Currents changing in Canada*

During his nine years in the Senate, Segal advocated strongly for basic
income for Canadians. But in his time as a member of the Conservative
caucus, he “didn’t see the tiniest indication of interest on the part of
the government” in another test site or implementation.

That’s because the current government shares the Mulroney administration
view that “the best social policy is a job,” he said.

The one exception was late finance minister Jim Flaherty who established
the working income tax benefit
<http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/bnfts/wtb/menu-eng.html> to aid working Canadians
living in poverty. He was the only one to engage constructively, Segal says.

Segal said he doesn’t expect the concept to gain traction again among the
Harper Conservatives.

“I would think it’s fair to say ideologically, the present government would
eye the notion that this is some ‘kooky left-wing scheme’ without
addressing the fact that really strong social and economic conservatives
like Milton Friedman argued in favour of a negative income tax,” he said.

In Canada, the idea of an universal basic income was first presented at a
Progressive Conservative policy convention in October of 1969. Then-leader
Robert Stanfield argued the idea would consolidate overlapping security
programs and reduce bureaucracy.

But in the last two elections, Segal says poverty did not come up in
television debates between party leaders once. It’s something he doesn’t
want to see repeated.

“I think it’s an abomination that we wouldn’t discuss it when we have close
to 10 per cent of the population living beneath the poverty line.”

Yet he remains more optimistic in this decade than the last because of
signs of interest from the federal Liberal and Green parties.
“One begins to sense, not that the ice is breaking, but the currents
underneath the ice are beginning to move more quickly,” he said.​

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