A few weeks ago I had a rant about an utterly attrocious story in the Toronto Star reporting wholly uncritically upon a Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives study which purported to show (but, in fact didn’t) that low-wage employment had increased in Ontario. I had thought it was something of a low point for critical journalism, until I read Mark Sarner’s op-ed piece on ending poverty in Saturday’s Star. Good Lord, if this is the public face of progressive policy, progressives are doomed.
The gist of Mark Sarner’s piece is that we can end poverty with a guaranteed annual income for all. OK, that’s a fair a point, but he goes disastrously off track from there. He proceeds to make the unsupported claim that it would only cost $16 billion to implement such a proposal – less, he claims, than Canadian governments currently spend on social assistance and EI:
The assumption is that we can’t afford to. Are we sure? What would it cost exactly? Answer: about $16 billion a year in today’s dollars. Big money. Yet nowhere near as much as it is costing us now to keep it going.
In total, governments spent $13 billion in welfare payments in 2009, the last year for which numbers are available. Say $15 billion in today’s dollars. Those on EI who are classified as poor account for another $3 billion a year or so. Now add the costs of administration — about $4 billion. All to keep the wheels of the system turning. And turn they do, without end, and without ending poverty.
In other words, we could reduce the societal cost of poverty by $6 billion per year by replacing the existing anti-poverty programs with a guaranteed annual income for all