The outpouring of support for Hands Across America shows that Americans want to do more for the homeless and hungry in our nation.
But the $50 million expected to be raised by the event will only feed and house America's hungry for two days. What about the other 363 days? And the years after?
Hunger and poverty in American could be virtually wiped out, a presidential commission told us 17 years ago, if the U.S. government would guarantee every needy American a minimum income--with no strings attached.
The chairmen of IBM, Westinghouse and Rand, former California Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown and 17 others unanimously agreed with economist Milton Friedman that "we should replace the ragbag of welfare programs with a singe, comprehensive program of income supplements in cash--a negative income tax. It would provide an assured minimum t all persons in need, regardless of the reasons for their need."
Most Americans are six months from poverty. Middle-class families who worked all their lives, then lost their jobs and saw their unemployment benefits expire, are now sleeping in parks and under bridges.
America hasn't seen full employment in decades. Even a full-time job at the minimum wage can't lift a family of four from poverty. Many who earn their way out of poverty are taxed back into it. And millions of Americans--children, the aged, the disabled--are unable to work.
A guaranteed income would be like an insurance policy for everyone--you, me, Uncle Charlie, Aunt Jane. It could replace welfare, unemployment insurance and Social Security, and give each of us the assurance that, no matter what happened, we and our families wouldn't starve.
A 10-year, 8,700-family government test of a guaranteed income found that a national program to end poverty would cost less than one-fifth of the defense budget, and that most people would continue to work, even when their incomes were guaranteed.