America needs a basic income because the United States is becoming a nation of caregivers.
“America has become a nation of caregivers,” Jason Resendez, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving, told Yahoo Finance. Frighteningly, caregiving is often a path to poverty in America.
“More than 40% of family caregivers report negative financial impacts due to their caregiving responsibilities — they leave work, stop saving for retirement, and go into debt,” Resendez observes.
How Caregiving leads to Poverty
This poverty hurts America because there are 38 million caregivers in the United States, the American Association of Retired People (AARP) estimates.
To elaborate, a caregiver is any person who helps or supports a family, friend, spouse, lover, neighbor, partner, or loved one. For example, a person caring for an elderly parent or a parent caring for a young child. Caregiving can range from full-time care to performing a few chores at an elderly friends’ house.
Caregiving leads to poverty because many caregivers take time off from work to provide care. Many people have to quit jobs to provide care. Others cannot work full time, which means they can miss out on promotions and salary increases while making less money.
Many people have no choice about caregiving. Many communities have no services or homes for senior citizens. Or worse, the homes and services are too expensive or are hellholes.
The employment rate doesn’t matter to caregivers because many of them cannot take time off to work. Caregivers often have to stay home to watch a person with dementia, an injured person, a sick person, or a child.
Anybody can become a caregiver at anytime even if you have no elderly parents. For example, an accident that causes brain damage can instantly turn a spouse into a full-time caregiver who cannot work outside the home. If you have a spouse, a lover, a partner, children, siblings, parents, or a friend, you can be one accident or stroke away from full-time caregiving.
Caring for older adults leads to poverty because unlike children, the elderly do not grow up and start taking care of themselves. Instead, the elderly deteriorate and require more care as they age. Yet the caregivers often have less money and resources because they are out of the workforce.
This creates a cycle of poverty, as many people in their forties, fifties, and sixties drop out of the workforce to care for elderly relatives. These people often find themselves broke at retirement age because they have not been working full time for years or decades.
Caregiving poverty hurts the entire nation because many caregivers are not spending money and paying taxes. This generates less wealth, creates fewer jobs, and lowers the tax base. For example, a caregiver who shuts down a profitable business to care for an elderly parent could put several employees out of work.
How America punishes Responsibility and Rewards Irresponsibility
Frighteningly, America’s economy and welfare system reward irresponsibility and punish responsibility in caregiving.
To demonstrate, we will imagine two women: Irresponsible Bitch and Responsible Lady. Both women have elderly parents who need care.
Irresponsible Bitch dumps her elderly dad in the cheapest and crappiest nursing home she can find. Her dad ends up suffering in a hellhole being abused by ex-cons and other cheap employees the nursing home hires.
Consequently, Irresponsible Bitch can work full-time, make piles of cash, save, and retire with a large IRA, a pension, and lots of Social Security. Irresponsible Bitch ends up enjoying the good life in a comfortable retirement.
Meanwhile, Responsible Lady quits her job to care for her elderly mother. She ends up living in a crumbling house with only her mothers’ modest Social Security payment to support two people. Disgustingly, Responsible Lady ends up broke at age 64 with no savings, no pension, and the prospect of minimal Social Security.
Responsible Lady has to reenter the workforce in her 60s with no recent experience on her resume. She ends up running a cash register at Walmart even though she has a college degree.
This story shows America’s current caregiving regime is immoral. Our system punishes responsibility and rewards irresponsibility. Fortunately, most people are not irresponsible, which makes the system worse. America rewards an irresponsible minority while punishing the responsible majority. That is not how capitalism is supposed to work.
How a Basic Income Can Help Caregivers
A basic income is a regular cash payment the government gives to everybody in the nation or the community. For example, Andrew Yang’s Freedom Dividend is a payment of $1,000 a month or $12,000 a year for every American.
The difference between basic income and welfare or Social Security is that there are no strings attached to a basic income. Everybody gets the payment regardless of age, income, employment status, and other government benefits.
An advantage to basic income is that there is no means testing or bureaucracy required. Instead, an automated system just sends money to everybody. The criteria for basic income is so simple, modest payments platform can distribute the money.
A basic income can help caregivers because it provides a cash payment to both the caregiver and the person they are caring for. For example, under the Freedom Dividend, Responsible Lady will receive $1,000 a month and have another $1,000 her mother receives a month.
Hence, a basic income can give caregivers some money. Caregivers will not get rich but they can afford groceries and the occasional six-pack.
Basic Income is Freedom
Tens of millions of Americans will not have to face the horrendous choice of work or dump father or mother in a shithole home. Plus, tens of millions of Americans can stay home and care for their young children.
Instead of forcing women to put children in daycare or forcing women to stay home. Women (and men) can make the choice to stay home or work themselves like free citizens of a free country. Thus, basic income is freedom.
America is supposedly a free country. Yet tens of millions of Americans are working like slaves with little or no income because they are doing the responsible thing. Caregivers are slaves because they perform enormous amounts of labor for little or no money.
To elaborate, a person caring for an elderly parent has to cook, clean, shop for groceries, drive their charge to doctors’ appointments, pay the bills, balance the checkbook, deal with government bureaucracies, handle insurance, maintain the house, garden, do yard-work, shovel snow, and fix the car.
Hence, a caregiver is an unpaid chauffeur, housekeeper, gardener, cook, and handyperson. She can also be a mechanic, plumber, roofer, carpenter, and nurse’s aide.
With a basic income. Citizens can make the choice to care for their elderly relatives or their kids themselves. A basic income can pay for nursing homes, eldercare, and daycare for children for those who want to keep working.
Nobody has to make the horrible choice of abandoning his parents to give his kids a future. Currently, millions of Americans make that choice each day. These people are not irresponsible or bad. Instead, society forces them to choose the lesser of two evils.
America needs a basic income because the United States is a nation of caregivers. Americans need to break the cycle of caregiving poverty before it impoverishes the entire nation.