Imagine Lucille, a single parent with nine dependents as a school bus driver. In St. Paul, Minnesota, she earns $32,394 a year. She gets up at 4 am. Daycares don’t start until 6 a.m., so she wakes her two toddlers up and lugs them with her on her route. They good-naturedly sit silently as the bus picks up other people’s children.
If Lucille got a part-time job between her routes, she would have to put her toddlers in daycare which would cost more than she could make at the second job.
Because Lucille has taken on the responsibility of her incarcerated brother’s children, she has ended up with her big family. In 2023, the Federal poverty level was $30,000 for a family of four, so how can Lucille’s family of 10 survive?
A small gift. The city of St. Paul ended up giving her $500 a month in an experimental guaranteed income program. Now, she works during the school bus daily break because she can cover daycare costs for her little ones.
Case after case is presented in “It’s Basic” to show the many situations the working poor can’t earn enough to live on. Beginning with Michael Tubbs, mayor of Stockton (2017-2021), up to at least 100 mayors have now tried the guaranteed income route and found it cut poverty rates in half. People given the extra funds weren’t squandering them but using the gift to go to school, get care for a child so they could work, or afford housing.
But wait. Why should taxpayers be paying the working poor in the first place? What has happened to employers? Shouldn’t the Federal government step in to set minimum wage standards? And also, what has happened to the idea of free federal childcare programs?
Is this giant growing chasm of income inequality a natural outcome of capitalism to be accepted?
We keep getting diverted by daily Trump quips, Congress threatening to shut down the government, and indictments against politicians when the real crisis is the growing number of homeless, the growing number of children in poverty, and the growing number of our brothers and sisters in crisis.
Tubbs was, at 26 years old, a wunderkind mayor of Stockton, Ca. He brought in miracles through his guaranteed income plan. But Republican story-makers blanketed the city with outrageous lies for fur years, eventually getting him ousted. These are the same people who insist on paying people the lowest wages to make the greatest profit possible.
“It’s Basic” shows inspiring scenarios of families able to make good with just $500/month extra. Sumbul Siddiqui, Cambridge’s mayor, has upped it to $1,000/month. These leaders have given up on a mandated universal Federal living wage.
Capitalism and a bungled political system has led the stagecoach over the cliff. We need to look to Finland for how they deal with homeless (another story, but humane accountable housing is provided for all) and Norway with how they support their children (by paying parents to stay home and subsidizing childcare).
The biggest favor “It’s Basic” gives us is the encouraging, heartwarming stories of what happens to the working poor when they receive a small guaranteed monthly income. The shame comes when we realize how so many employers pay their employees so little that homelessness, crime, double and triple job shifts (destroying family cohesion) become the only options.
Director: Marc Levin
Executive Producer: Michael D. Tubbs
Producers: Marc Levin and Daphne Pinkerson
Release: June, 2023 (film festivals)
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