From Greens to Conservatives, it seems everyone has a version of guaranteed basic income (BI) that they can support. There is confusion, however, over the objectives of BI, and very different views on what is feasible.
The debate on BI has advanced with the recent publication of a study commissioned by the British Columbia government, and by tworeports from the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO).
The B.C. report rejects BI on the grounds that it would be cheaper to achieve poverty reduction in the province through targeted measures. The PBO report suggests that the national poverty rate can be halved at no net cost, assuming the elimination of some tax credits and social assistance programs. Who is right?
Both are, but advocates and opponents of BI would be wrong to use either report as validation. That the PBO simulation was able to “force” revenue neutrality is simply a matter of accounting. While it is impressive that this scenario reduced poverty significantly, the authors of the B.C. report would surely counter that they could get as much poverty reduction using targeted measures, at lower cost. To the extent that the policy objective is poverty reduction, the B.C. report is solid.
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