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Working in Emmet County

October 18, 2017
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

I've dreamed of a Labor Day feature on work since, oh, probably Memorial Day or some other long weekend in which we asked, "What do we want to do for Monday's paper?"

The more we can set up early, the less likely it is that we will have to come in late on Saturday or Sunday.

Maybe someday we'll get it all done as the sun goes down Friday and get away for the whole weekend.

I'm not so sure about that. David and I like to see what's happening up to the minute.

I have a passion for being E'ville Amy, and I'm sticking around Estherville for at least the next four years while the youngest, Bryan, goes to ELC High School, short of some offer so spectacular I want it more than I want him to feel secure and happy with the familiarity of Estherville, his posse of friends, his plans for the next few years.

Here's how I would have answered the survey questions for our Work survey:

1. What is your job role? A: Media/arts

2. What is your income? [well actually I'm not sharing specifics here]

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing a love for your job, how much do you like your job? A: 9.

4. On the same scale of 1 to 10, how important do you feel your job is to the community? A: 9.

5. Does income from your job meet your needs for housing, food, clothing, utilities, transportation, child care, and some recreation? A: [okay, I'm probably not answering this publicly either.]

6. Do you find fulfillment in your work, or live for your days off? A: Work is amazing! I love going in every day! (I actually do love telling the stories of this community, learning every day, improving my photography, being E'ville Amy, and rapidly prototyping new ideas. But I also value my time with my friends and family and pursuing my artistic projects.)

7. [This was the question about a Universal Basic Income not tied to work, measured on a scale of 1 to 50 as to whether the respondent thought it was a good idea] A: 40.

There is more data on a possible shift to a UBI. It would take the place of SNAP and WIC (food assistance), Medicare, Medicaid (though obviously there would have to be single-payer options for health care if we were to meet a goal of getting everyone insured), cash welfare payments, social security and the social security disability programs, Veterans health care and benefits, and federal anti-poverty education and job placement programs. Obviously current veterans and those at or near retirement now receiving social security and Medicare would be grandfathered in.

The elimination of these programs would almost fully fund the UBI.

It would slash payroll taxes for small and large businesses. It would not keep anyone from working.

Five pilot programs are already underway in Oakland, Calif., Ontario, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany and Finland. But a pilot program already happened here in Iowa. In 1970-72, the federal Office of Economic Opportunity, later called the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, conducted an experiment called Welfare in Rural Areas: The North Carolina-Iowa Income Maintenance Experiment (RIME). RIME provided over 800 two-parent families and female-headed households in rural areas with incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line a guaranteed income for the two years.

This nearly 50-year-old study found no evidence that UBI would cause some segment of the population to withdraw from the labor force. The overall reduction in work hours averaged just seven percent.

The researchers found the basic income provided incentive for more people to go into traditionally low-paying work such as working with children and elders, allowed some struggling microbusiness owners to keep going, made it possible for single mothers to work part time while their children were young, and more.

There is probably no absolute right or wrong answer. For those already earning a comfortably high income, who would find no benefit in, say, $40,000 in guaranteed income, they would be free to donate to charity, help fund community initiatives, take a risk in starting a business, set up further security for their children or elders, or in some other way pay it forward to benefit others.

For those who feel the amount of our tax dollars going to so-called welfare programs is unacceptable, it may be that a guaranteed base income for roughly the same amount as we already pay for the constellation of welfare initiatives could better build up the people in our communities.

I think it's great news that most people who responded to the Estherville News survey really like their jobs, believe their jobs are important to the community, and can get by on what they earn.

We hear a lot about how our community must attract new businesses and create new job opportunities if we're going to survive. What if we made it possible for more people to create a sustainable business through entrepreneurial support and somewhat of a safety net for those with the spirit to develop something new?



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