"O CANADA! Give Fire Victims a Basic Income Guarantee"

Sunday, May 8th, 2016 - by Karen Christine Patrick, New Mexico, USA

This is about the "aftermath." Caregivers are very aware of the "aftermath" of an incident and the often long road to recovery. I have been watching the terrible story unfold about the Alberta, Canada fire in Fort McMurray and how this fire has decimated much of the town. By today, as I'm writing this, the fire has doubled in size and is nearing, Saskatchewan. 

I've been an admirer of Canada, watching from here from the States how Canada has been leading the North American countries in proposing a Basic Income Guarantee. NABIG, The 15th Annual "North American Basic Income Guarantee" Congress is meeting this month in Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada (Thursday, May 12th to Sunday, May 15th, 2016). Canada, with it's new government under Justin Trudeau, may be poised to showcase a Basic Income Guarantee proposal first in the North American arena. Canadian B.I.G. advocates and interested officials have been in serious political discourse about testing a basic income guarantee in a city or town in one of it's provinces. 

I'm thinking that with 100,000 evacuees from the Alberta fires, many of them now homeless and jobless, it would seem a great way both to test the basic income guarantee and help the victims of a terrible disaster by issuing basic income cash cards, replenished once per month for at least one year, to the victims whose lives have been affected. It would be important and would speed up the process by waiving "means testing" and go in the spirit of an "unconditional" basic income to issue cards to citizens in the affected areas no matter what their income is at the moment. It would be useless to hold a person's income against them for the last few years when their home, job, business and city infrastructure is obliterated, structurally damaged, or environmentally contaminated. 

I would urge Canada not to let these people join the "precariat" class, which is growing every day as Global Austerity continues to tighten it's relentless and pitiless grip. The precariat class was identified by economist Guy Standing in his book "The Precariat: A New and Dangerous Class" which is defined as a growing class of people who's lives have been made unstable or precarious by changes in society and the economy. Living a precarious life means that what used to be a temporary setback in the past, loss of a job, loss of health, or family troubles, now becomes the path to "down and out" on a semi-permanent basis.

Having been a member of the USofA precariat class, having experienced some devastating setbacks, including loss of our home last year due to storm damage and degradation of the infrastructure in our neighborhood, I have found that the long-haul climb to a recovery is really difficult with financial disenfranchisement as part of the scenario. We "precariati" talk with each other and share our struggles with other precariati in solidarity, realizing systemic failure is at work with an insightful clarity born of hard experience.

We precariati see the stark reality of basic survival, not faulty assumptions that sounds plausible to the relatively "well-off" who tend to blame and shame those who are beset by financial struggles. This "blame and shame" strategy seems part of a program that demands there to be an underclass that "can't say no," that has to take any job offered. Now with a "jobless recovery" there might not be any job offered to say "yes" to. Another consideration is what many "awake and aware" in the tech sector have realized, that the "technological unemployment age" is upon us. Some of the very ones "tsk tsking" others are unaware that their jobs are at risk in the coming "Robot Revolution." Just recently, a convoy of driver-less trucks drove across Europe as proof-of-concept that robotized trucks can out perform humans, driving 24/7 instead of with mandatory safety breaks as for humans. The job of a trucker, a fairly well-paid job, is facing robotization.

Before this particular fire disaster, the social system safety net these families are falling into, likely already had "holes" in it. On my mind is the aftermath of these fires, how will help arrive to the victims? Here is true human need in a very raw form, right at the cusp of loss. A basic income program for fire victims would be the best course of action rather than "trickle-down charity." No doubt, these people will have to experience social services "means testing" which run's at a snail's pace, generally. They will be subject to agencies deciding what they need instead of allowing each family to decide how to go about their own recovery process.

Having been plunged into loss, falling from "normal" quite suddenly myself, it's a mystery to me the attitude of society. People that have been functional and independent before a disaster are deemed by society to be incapable of handling their own affairs after. Just because of a setback, albeit a devastating one, suddenly society deems it that they can't manage their own lives without an army of "deciders" in the system dictating the terms. A "decider" is a slang term for "A person who decides what is best."

It has been my argument, in talking about collapsing the bulk of benefits programs into a basic income, that advocates are at odds with an entrenched "decider class" that benefits by their being a dependency class. This class needs the poor to stay poor for its own reasons, for sustenance, paying themselves first before distributing funds to their client populations. Therefore, this distribution machine is motivated to create "learned helplessness" in the client population by haranguing, abusing, and creating ever-more-complex paperwork labyrinths to traverse in order to receive benefits.

The entrenched organizations that are the most agregious employ a strategy I've identified as "case stacking." Case stacking occurs when organizations intake a large number of cases to justify to their funding sources how overwhelming "the need" is. After the organization gets the funding and pays out salaries and expenses, they create a stringent strategy to mete out provision only to the most "deserving" and often in a time frame prolonged to the point where either that organization or it's financial institution benefits by gaining interest in their bank accounts by holding the funds for so long.

The priority of some organizations appears that they must show that they are "needed" for the sake of getting funded, either as part of a governmental benefits program or as a charitable organization using their client population as "poster children." When the pennies-on-the-dollar return is low for the clients, it begs the question, "Who actually benefits?"

The biggest problem with this decider "means testing" machine is how agonizingly slow it is while people remain in crisis mode. It is traumatic to be on this treadmill, taking a number, waiting in waiting rooms, filling out piles of paperwork, talking to burned-out social workers in a system that runs as at glacier speed. Energy and time wasted by the system could be better spent in real recovery activities, quickly finding housing, finding a new job, and or retraining, trying to make a stable household and community again.

Back to the "crisis du jour" in Canada. This is what I was reading today...

From the article "Fort McMurray fire: What we know"

"More than 1,200 escorted vehicles had made it out of town on Highway 63, headed for safety to the south. And, officials said, there was no evidence of looting by those who haven't yet been evacuated.

But Mother Nature may throw a big curve ball.

'There is a high potential that this fire could double in size by the end of the day tomorrow,' said Chad Morrison, a senior fire official in Alberta.

Alberta officials have declared a state of emergency as they scramble to relocate thousands of evacuees."

We can take some lessons in "housing first" homelessness programs that show that the faster folks get housing, the quicker it is to recover. They advise "rapid re-housing," after the incident which created the homelessness, quickly re-house the family first, then everything else is easier to fix after that. Having experienced several cycles of living in "crisis mode" I was advised by a friend, for the sake of myself and my kids, to try and return to a sense of "normal" as quickly and best as you can, even if it's a "new normal."  Quickly finding one's footing makes it easier to rebuild to another level of stability. 

I argue that a basic income guarantee is the first step in rapid re-housing and is the fastest way to recover in times of disaster. How many victims of natural disasters in the past, or those who've been affected by the disaster "global austerity" would agree with me?

For all the families in the Alberta fires I wish the best for the future. I hope that no one has been hurt or killed. I pray that the first responders who are dealing with an historic, horrific disaster be kept safe, and that the fire gets under control. I am hoping the leaders of Canada will jump ahead of the plan for testing a basic income guarantee under staid, "normal" conditions and go right to an implementation for a basic income for the victims of the Alberta fires at this time of monumental disaster.

Addendum 5-9-16: After thinking about it, whatever city the refugees of the Alberta fires are relocated to, perhaps the citizens of that city should have a Basic Income card also to help with housing also... if the housing market is anything like in the US, that large influx of people creating a demand for housing will drive up the average prices for housing which will impact everybody, but particularly hurt the poor, disabled and seniors the most. 

Karen Christine Patrick was a family caregiver for 20+ years including for her grown disabled daughter with multiple disabilities. She is an internet radio show host, a researcher into the paranormal, and advocate for the Basic Income Guarantee. She lives in New Mexico with her family and two hound dogs. Her favorite quote comes from H.W. Longfellow:

"Thine was the prophets vision, thine
The exultation, the divine
Insanity of noble minds,
That never falters nor abates,
But labors and endures and waits,
Till all that it foresees it finds,
Or what it cannot find creates!