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  • Writer's pictureMalik Lendell

The Fight For $15 Isn’t Enough: Why We Need a Loyalty Income

Protestors demand a fifteen dollar minimum wage from a McDonald in Fort Lauderdale, Florida | Joe Raedle | Getty Images

“A hungry dog is an obedient dog,” Jon Taffer said on Fox News in response to struggling American workers who needed aid during the coronavirus pandemic. He falsely asserted that if the government refused to aid workers, workers would return to their jobs. However, obedience demanded from abuse is never justifiable.

American society teaches unquestioned obedience to particular authorities (e.g., government officials, police, military, bosses, or even parents), but this contradicts the American notion that “respect is earned.” If those seeking obedience have not earned genuine respect from the people, the people have every right to dismiss that authority.

While authorities may demand obedience for the greater good, this “good” may seem abstract or distant. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, many have even gone so far as to deny the existence of the coronavirus and its impact. Increasingly more Americans distrust the government. While I believe distrust in the government is misplaced in this former instance, the government must nonetheless re-earn it.

After all, the government has also lost trust for many valid reasons. Continued poverty as the already wealthy grew wealthier shows the government’s inaction in ending needless financial struggle. This could be fixed with a loyalty income.

A loyalty income would be a monthly income that (1) ends poverty, (2) increases individual freedoms, and (3) incentivizes government-supported responsibilities.

A loyalty income’s primary purpose should be to end poverty. The guaranteed portion of the loyalty income would act as an investment for all who reside in the US. This would allow residents to add to the cultures and businesses of their local communities. Instead of wasting money to police and surveil the homeless and the poor, we could directly invest in their well-being. This way all of our society flourishes.

If the government fails to protect the citizens’ financial wellbeing, nearly all other rights are meaningless. Money is power, and in a truly democratic society, power belongs to all people. Therefore, ensuring the basic financial security of all people through an income designed to end poverty is necessary to uphold democracy.

A loyalty income’s secondary purpose should be to increase individual freedoms. This too would be covered by the fixed guaranteed portion of the loyalty income.

Poverty inhibits one’s ability to participate in society. For example, internet access, the main medium of our contemporary era, is essential to utilize freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Also, many resources that may otherwise help the poor are online, yet poverty can block one’s internet access.

Also, those experiencing domestic abuse or family abuse may have nowhere else to go due to financial dependence on abusers. With a loyalty income, they would have the financial protections necessary to not be trapped in abusive situations.

For those who fear being disowned by their families or communities due to their secular, LGBTQ+, or other identities, the guaranteed portion of a loyalty income can provide financial protection so that utilizing first amendment freedoms does not lead to poverty.

A loyalty income’s tertiary purpose should be to incentivize government-supported responsibilities. This portion of the income would be conditional, for it would include multiple parameters which would be added to the guaranteed monthly income. These parameters would each be assigned a value of their own reflecting their urgency and priority. These could be used to incentivize vaccination, voting, and more.

Instead of forcing men to sign up for selective service, the government could include signing up for selective service in the military as a parameter for the conditional part of the loyalty income. For every month someone is signed up, a portion of income would be added to the total loyalty income.

The government could incentivize car-pooling, invest in artists beautifying communities, or encourage civic engagement with the conditional portion of this income. After all, the government already provides incentives for large businesses. They should do this for the individuals that make up our country.

Because our society is already riddled with inequities, a loyalty income must be instituted alongside a commitment to eliminate these.

The government could incentivize voting behavior by using it as a parameter. Active voters could be reimbursed for consistent participation in federal elections, but since many states have instituted restrictive voting laws that target Black or native communities as well as the elderly or disabled, this parameter must come alongside increased protections of voting rights to prevent furthering inequities.

If implemented alongside other equity-based and liberty-oriented legislation, a loyalty income can be a tool that ends poverty, increases individual freedoms, and incentivizes government-supported responsibilities to protect democracy across the country using two parts: the guaranteed and conditional incomes. If the government wants to earn the respect of the people, it must first invest in the people.


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