Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pay to Stay


Switzerland is paying every citizen a salary of 2500 francs per month regardless of whether they work or not. The reasoning: if people don't have to work so hard to survive, then they will take the time to pursue in the important things in life.  Art, reading, science, blogging, sky's the limit.

Here is my modest proposal.  Do the same thing here.  Not for everyone, but for parents.

My reasoning:   Almost every issue can really be boiled down to an issue of time, that is, there is not enough of it.  Why do we have so little time, well for the most part its because we have to work so much just to meet the bottom line.  Sure some people work because they enjoy their jobs, but I suspect that a lot of people work because they need the money.  Putting aside the cons for now, here is a small list of things I think may be helped by paying parents a salary.

1. Terrible diet. 


Most people eat terribly.  In Michael Pollen's latest book he quotes an analyst in the food industry about the definition of a home cooked meal.  He found that the number of families that actually cooked meals from scratch on a regular basis had become so low that it was statistically irrelevant, so they revised the definition of a home cooked meal to a meal cooked by opening two different packages.  That's right, a home cooked meal is adding a can of tuna fish to the Kraft mac and cheese.

Why are families not cooking as much?  I suspect because they don't have the time, and they don't have the energy.  The work day is getting more and more stressful as employees are asked to do more with less for less pay.  Wages are stagnate and so are getting smaller every year in relation to buying power.  Something has to give, and more and more we are out sourcing our meals.  The further away from the home the food is prepared, the more processed it is.  The more processed food you eat, the less healthy you become. Processed food is also cheaper.  Higher quality food either costs more or takes more time to prepare.  Paying parents would give them some breathing room.  Maybe they could work a little less and find the time to make home cooking a priority again.

2. High Costs of Child Care.


The cost of child care is ridiculous.  For a typical two income household, most of the second income is taken up by child care costs.  Quality care for one child in Denver, where I live, can cost anywhere from $1000 a month to $2500 a month.  Two children, probably double.   If you wanted to instantly boost the economy, give parents enough to cover these costs.  Parents will spend this extra money.  Parents will put some of it into college funds.  Parents will add more to their investment accounts.  Parents will improve their houses.  If I had the extra cash, I would put the kid in daycare for a while and remodel the kitchen.  This is money that would benefit everyone not just parents.

There is a story going around the internet right now about that mom who was arrested for letting her Daughter go to the park while she worked at McDonald's.  If that mom had the extra money to put that girl in daycare, or enroll her in a day camp at the zoo, etc, she wouldn't have had to make the terrible choice between letting her daughter sit all day around a McDonald's or hang out relatively unsupervised at a park. This would be a huge boon for the working poor, especially single parent households.  Even cheap child care is too expensive for someone working for minimum wage.

3. High Unemployment.


If more parents started working part-time, or became stay at home parents, there would be more work for those seeking jobs.  There would be more money in the economy because parents would be spending more, so there would be more work to be done, and therefore more jobs.  Also, maybe the extra cash would allow parents to get more education to help them find more productive jobs.  I've looked into the continuing education around here.  It isn't cheap

4. Poor work/life balance 


Work should be something you love, but for a lot of people its about paying the rent.  Imagine if your mortgage payment wasn't an issue any more.  Would you be willing to take a job that paid less if it let you have more time with your family?  Would you consider working part-time if you could afford to do it?  Extra income for parents could make a decision like this easier.  Parents with more time could volunteer at schools more often.  One of the best indicators of the quality of a school is parental participation.

I'm a stay at home dad and think this is an awesome idea.  Staying at home with the kids is work, hard work, so why not pay people to do it.  Raising the next generation of minds should be important enough to subsidize.

Now I know that there are a lot of reasons why this would never work in the US.  People have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of government hand outs.  People will ask where would we get the money.  If we were serious about helping people we could find the money.  We spend insane amounts of money on failed fighter jets; why can't we pay money to keep families from failing. There is a lot of evidence that giving money directly to the poor does more to lift them and their kids out of poverty than any other type of help.  This idea would do more than that, it could lift America out of mediocrity.

Please like and comment on this.  Share it if you agree, Share it if you don't agree.  Let's start a conversation.

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