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Basic Income Strengthens Workers' Negotiating Power

by Katja Kipping Friday, Feb. 02, 2007 at 5:46 AM

Basic income would be an effective instrument against the growing poverty, a kind of democracy package and a good vehicle for self-determined reduced working hours..Some leftists have a hard time because they follow a certain work fetishism


By Katja Kipping

[This January 2007 interview is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, . Kayja Kipping is chairperson of the Left party/PDS and spokesperson of the Basic Income network.]

Ms. Kipping, what are the goals of the unconditional basic income?

Katja Kipping: There are many important goals. The most important is that basic income would be an effective instrument against the growing poverty in Germany. Many persons do not assert their claims from ignorance or shame. Everyone would automatically receive the basic income. Secondly, this income would be a kind of democracy package because more and more people who cannot now afford a daily paper or Internet connection. They are restricted in their possibility of democratic participation. Thirdly, citizen money would be a good vehicle for self-determined reduction of working hours. Whoever is certain of 1000 Euros a month could decide for a sabbatical year or reduce his or her work quota. Fourthly, basic income would strengthen the negotiating position of employees in relation to their bosses. At present employees can be extorted. The businessman can always say: I offer you more than Hartz IV.

Why are the unions so skeptical?

I can’t really explain that. We have unionists in our basic income network who vigorously promote the idea. Among younger persons, I see great open-mindedness perhaps because they know that a straight professional path will hardly work for them like their parents. Some leftists have a hard time with the idea of basic income because they believe in a work fetishism.

What is work fetishism?

Many think only paid work is a valuable contribution. The ideology `whoever doesn’t work should not eat’ is malicious. To me, this is a completely strange understanding of contribution. Persons in the arms industry do social harm through paid work. On the other hand, many activities that are not paid are important for society.

Do you have a problem that millionaires like Josef Ackermann would receive around 12,000 Euros a year from the state?

Generally no, since he would also be covered with a tax rate of 50 percent and thus would contribute to financing the basic income. He and his family and relatives would enjoy a basic protection. Such people could also fall. Redistribution from top to bottom would occur. The lower two-thirds of the population would not have financial losses but would be better off.

What would be other kinds of taxes?

The inheritance tax could be added to the higher income tax. I am against increasing the sales tax. Enormous tax rates of 70 percent and more could arise as Sweden has done for example. Basic income must be introduced gradually over several years.

If only 20 percent of citizen money recipients would be satisfied with 1000 Euros and lead a simple life without work, the value-creating work in Germany would massively decline and thus also the prosperity.

I doubt that. In many occupations, incomes would rise enormously because the people would no longer be ready to do the worst jobs for an apple and an egg as in geriatric care. In addition, our society suffers in that we don’t have sufficient work for everybody. I believe value-creation would increase because people would be more motivated. A society with unconditional basic income would suffer with less existential fears than today.


Basic income activist Ronald Blaschke explains why millionaires should also receive money

By Beate Lammer

[This article published 12/29/2006 on diepresse.com is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.diepresse.com/textversion_article.aspx?id=607979.]

Vienna. Should basic security be only for persons willing to work and the needy? Ronald Blaschke doesn’t think so. The philosopher, sociologist and educator is spokesperson of the “Basic Income Network” in Germany. These days he is in Vienna at the invitation of the Catholic Social Academy. “Millionaires should also be granted a basic income since they help finance it and persons unwilling to work since `compulsory work’ violates human rights, he says.

The Austrian model of “need-oriented minimum security” where every needy person willing to work receives 726 Euros per month pleases the German “from a pure poverty-policy perspective” more than the German Hartz IV model where one only receives 345 Euros plus housing costs.

Such models always involve a dilemma. If one only supports the jobless, one provokes a “laziness debate” because employed persons are annoyed when others receive money for idleness. If low-wage recipients were supported, businesses would exploit this and pay less from the start.

These problems don’t exist with an “unconditional basic income.” According to the model, everyone whether poor or rich, willing to work or not, would receive around 800 Euros per month – in addition to his/her income.

In Austria, the Catholic Social Academy supports an unconditional basic income. Cardinal Christoph Schonborn recently admitted that the model is controversial among Catholics. In Germany, all advocates of an unconditional basic income do not come from the left camp like Blaschke. CDU (centrist German party) prime minister Dieter Althaus from Thuringen and drug store manager Gotz Werner are also prominent advocates. “The greatest resistance comes from the SPD and union bosses,” Blaschke says. “All of them have this work fetishism.”

Opinions are divided on financing. “A one-third tax could be levied on all net incomes,” Blaschke proposes. Those earning more than net 2400 Euros would contribute to the treasury. Wouldn’t that lead to a migration of top management? “Other models exist like financing through the sales tax or an energy tax,” Blaschke recognizes.

That people openly unwilling to work should receive money does not please all supporters of the model. The Catholic Worker movement in Germany only wants to give a basic income to those who can verify a certain number of hours in paid work, family work, civil engagement or retraining. Blaschke has a different view. Employed persons should receive money when they reduce their working hours. Then work would be spread to many people, he is convinced. One would also be free of the envy- and laziness debate: “Even employed persons could get money for idleness.”

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