Whatever happened to Economy B?

by Karen Christine Patrick

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We are in such a time in the economy that a big light is shed on our the values of society. Decades of materialism in the United States has taken its toll on our values about basic human rights and needs. I happen to be in the position of a family caregiver of disabled and ill family members so I have a certain perspective. Right now, we have "jobs for pay" and "work for life" and both are being devalued as the economic situation spirals downward. From my perspective, I don't see this situation as a "recession" but a Greater Depression. I don't see a "recovery" just by what is going on in my life and that of my friends, neighbors and loved ones. Not at all.

In my past, when I was a stay-at-home mom, there was talk of something called "Economy B." I am a pretty good researcher and I now cannot find out where or who coined this term. Basically, the idea was that there is an Economy A which is global commerce, the economies of countries, industry, trade and JOBS for PAY. Economy B was the idea of the underlying human work that was not for pay such as raising a family, taking care of homes and property, volunteer work, taking care of the disabled and elderly, civic involvement, advocacy, etc. Basically, humans getting up in the morning and "doing stuff." As long as the economy A was humming along and people could get by, then Economy B could be resourced to do human work not for pay.

The situation has changed quite a bit. Minimum wage workers have to rely on benefit programs as the "working poor", the middle class is shrinking, people rarely have full time work or rely on benefit programs that are overrun with the needy, people have downsized almost down to nothing, think Tiny Homes are a good idea, are in fear of homelessness, are unable to support family members, etc. most regular folk know this or are experiencing this.

When you find yourself lost, it's wise to retrace your steps and see where the wrong turn was. For America, that wrong turn was to bail out the top and hope it trickled down instead of resourcing the bottom and raising everybody up to a workable level of trade and interaction. We have three waves of changes that were not accounted for affecting human Economy A work. One was the first Great Depression which had the aspect that innovation in farming and the industrial age inventions reduced the amount of human work needed to create goods and services. In the era when that was happening, some analysts of the situation at the time were already suggesting some kind of basic income to keep the poor as consumers so as to help them stay connected to the economy while the ones that are able to could upgrade their skills. The second big wave is technology and the computer age which has drastically changed clerical busy work ... newspapers are dying, management of commerce is becoming more and more automated. And the third big wave is upon us, the age of robotics.

All of this innovation is really great, when it's considered how it's relieved dangerous and tedious work BUT the people have not benefited from the innovation, corporations have. The B.I.G. idea re-balances the system so that everybody can be involved in trading again. That is the idea to get Economy A going again.

I know it freaks some people out that people would get "free money" and they quickly think of addicts and lazy people, and other negative stereotypes. Those situations of addiction and learned helplessness exist already so what we are seeking is human empowerment for those who get up and "do stuff." Economy B is still there, just now it is being squashed by economic pressure. An example is things like volunteers are quitting because they don't have the gas money to get to the food bank or hospital where they volunteer, or have had to take more part-time work to survive so cut back on volunteering. OR the charity they helped has folded due to lack of funds. I worked in a volunteer center and heard these stories and it was heart breaking because people wanted to help. I am so amazed at the generosity and energy of everyday people but these times are crushing to the spirit.

In the caregiving realm, family caregivers are now sometimes are having multiple loved ones to care for, sandwiched between children and parents, caring for a spouse, being called on because they are "available" and others are scrambling for work. Also, the medical system already has found out it can improve the bottom line by cutting short hospital stays and teaching family caregivers to do higher skilled nursing care at home. We have a broken medical system that is trying to function with less physical human hands to do the work in the medical profession so family caregivers are trying to take up the slack and that is taking it's toll.

The Basic Income Guarantee could financially support critical work that is currently unfunded and likely to continue to degrade due to lack of support. It's time that our country and humanity recognize human work that uplifts all of our families and the humane condition by creating a floor to stand on financially for individuals and families.