International Workers Conference Against Neo-liberalism and Globalism, Aug. 7 - 9, Havana, Cuba
Presentation to the Commission on actions directed against the policy of privatization and cutbacks in social security and the deterioration of health and educational services and on workers' actions against the unfair distribution of wealth.
The need for an income guarantee in the minimum program
by Jim Smith
I would like to concretely address Item #20 of the draft document and urge the strengthening of the language on incomes. I urge that the final document include a demand that an adequate income be a guaranteed right for every worker and every family.
The right to a guaranteed adequate income is made necessary by two trends in the world today.
The first is the income shift from poor to rich caused by neo-liberalism. In the U.S., the top 20 percent of the population receive approximately one-half of the nation's total income and their share is increasing. The share of total income going to the top 20 percent has increased by nearly half in the past 20 years.
This income shift is due in part to the abolition of job security and the growth of part-time employment, temporary employment and the emergence of so-called independent contractors who are workers that are more or less 'rented' by corporations.
At the same time there is a trend of accelerating development of the scientific and technological revolution, particularly in computerization and automation. The rate of development is phenomenal. For instance, since 1980, the computing power that can be contained in a single computer chip has doubled every 18 months.
But with neo-liberalism in charge, this kind of technological development has meant the loss of millions of jobs. For example, in the banking industry in the U.S., bank tellers went from having secure full-time jobs to being part-time and temporary workers and then they were mostly replaced by machines that dispense cash.
While it is important to fight for the right to a job and for shorter work hours, it is not enough under the new conditions created by neo-liberalism. If a worker is deprived of employment by neo-liberal policies, his or her survival should still be guaranteed by society.
Because of these trends, there has been renewed interest in the U.S. in the concept of a guaranteed annual income.
This concept is based on the belief that workers create all wealth and that they are entitled to a share of the fruits of their labor and that of their ancestors.
Part of the dream of the great African-American civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was for a guaranteed annual income for all. As he understood, an income guarantee, coupled with a progressive income tax policy, could eliminate poverty, homelessness and the most harmful economic effects of racism.
Today, it is clear that neoliberals intend to use the scientific and technological revolution to enrich themselves at the expense of the vast majority of the world's population.
Instead of liberating workers from jobs of drudgery and allowing them to engage in productive pursuits, automation and computerization become a weapon in the hands of the neoliberals. Scientific and technological development becomes a weapon that robs workers of their jobs and threatens their very survival.
We must strongly defend ourselves against every neo-liberal assault on our jobs, benefits and living standards. But we should also take the offensive with new demands such as a universal income guarantee. We should take the offensive in order to give people hope for a better future. Without hope for a better life, we will be unable to build the massive movement needed to defeat neo-liberal globalism.
Let us recognize the right of all people to survival with an adequate standard of living, including a guaranteed annual income.