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Just Plain Free Money


Some would say Carbondale’s losing its favorite bracelet, one charm at a time, to monied newcomers eager to show us the latest trends. It’s a slippery slope, reaching for that carat. One minute we’re standing on a hill overlooking our town, and the next thing we know we’re taking a downvalley bus home because we can’t afford to live here anymore…

Letting the money take over is the worst-case-scenario because money doesn’t have imagination. Money only cares about more money. And in order to maintain a vibrant anything (town, economy, circus) one must make room for variety, especially when it comes to money.

Wealth does not reflect a man’s character; it reflects his bank account. –Rutger Bregman*

If we don’t manage a way for people of all walks to live comfortably in Carbondale, they won’t. We’ll get EVS (Empty Village Syndrome) and it isn’t just the young people we should focus on keeping. If I was retired and I could sell my house for enough to buy another house and still have a big pile of money, I would seriously consider leaving Carbondale. In order for our community to continue to thrive we need to convince people of all ages and affiliations to stay here.

On a national level, it’s much worse. People in Detroit can’t sell out, and even though they go to work every day they can barely survive, much less thrive. The only reason the American Dream lasted for this long is because people could afford to buy a house and take a summer vacation. The system won’t continue to work if the average worker keeps taking it in the teeth from every side. (And if you’re one of the privileged 1% you should be even more worried. Remember, the French aristocrats didn’t see it coming either.)

Luckily, there is a simple-yet-outrageous-sounding solution. It’s not my idea originally (however, I did ponder it in college; why can’t we marry socialism with capitalism? What if we made sure every citizen had their basic needs met, and then continued to foster an open market based economy? Even as a sophomore at a state college I could see the potential.) Thomas Paine thought of it way back in the founding days of our country: the Citizen Stipend. Or as I like to call it: Just Plain Free Money.

Here’s how it works: every single person collects a check from the government each month. A check that is enough to cover the basics: food & water, clothing, shelter, health care and education. (Unfortunately the cost of those electric icicles that hang off the roof and look terrible during the day, but lovely at night are not included. I mean, we have to draw the line somewhere.)

"Boom!" As my friend Taryne likes to say. That’s it. It’s not welfare because it goes to everyone, even cute little billionaires who don’t need it (although if they are as wealthy in character they’ll donate theirs… my opinion.) People will still go to work because humans like to be productive and useful, and because we still have to buy Christmas lights. It will eliminate homelessness and school lunchmeat. A huge lot of our problems solved with one little act; problems like crime, domestic violence and child hunger. Not to mention the increase in artists, acrobats and tinkers because people won’t have to take a middle-management-soul-killing job unless they want to. The creativity level would soar. And instead of teaching our children how to sit still for eight hours at a time, we could encourage them to find and follow their dreams. Oh- and I almost forgot, corporations do not receive the stipend. No matter what. “That’s it. It’s in the books.” -UB

Where does all the money come from, you ask? Easy, it comes from us; between our taxes and our spending (through corporations’ taxes) there’s more than enough to go around. We just need to cut into the enormous pie that is the defense budget. Yep, I said it. We have to stop a few Greedy Guts who are currently gorging themselves at the Mad Hatter’s table of American government.

Locally, we could get started on a smaller scale… maybe in the form of free trash/recycling removal, or an open tab at the Pour House on Last Saturdays. Whaddya say Carbondale Trustees: how about an incentive program for regular folks to remain in Carbondale? Because, let’s face it, they’re why this town was so flippin charming in the first place.


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