Century Marks

Century Marks

Basic pay

What if every adult citizen received a universal basic income—a stipend of $10,000 each year, with a smaller allowance for children? Would people stop working? Would those in poverty use their stipend wisely or foolishly? An experiment along these lines was tried in Manitoba in the 1970s. The quality of life went up, hospitalizations went down, more teens stayed in school, and the rate of work changed very little. Richard Nixon tried to get a universal income bill through Congress. Support for universal income has come from the left and the right. It’s a way to eliminate paternalistic government programs and at the same time reduce poverty and give workers more options and leverage in the marketplace (New Yorker, June 20).

Faith factor

In Britain, both Christian and Muslim communities were divided over whether to remain in the European Union. The Muslims for Britain campaign argued that political independence would open up trade with countries such as Pakistan, Bangla­desh, and India. Roman Catholics tended to promote partnership with the EU, while the majority of Protestants wanted to leave. Alison Milbank, a theology professor and Anglican priest, declared that the EU’s origin is “certainly the work of the [Holy] Spirit.” Unity that empowers individuality along with cooperation among nations, she claimed, resembles the event of Pentecost in the New Testament (RNS).

Tracing a hoax

A purportedly ancient papyrus manuscript fragment that refers to Jesus’ wife is most likely a fake. Karen L. King, professor of early Christianity at Harvard, had argued for the fragment’s authenticity at a conference in Rome in 2012 and in a Harvard Theological Review article in 2014. Ariel Sabar, a journalist, investigated the provenance of the fragment in Coptic, tracing its ownership to Walter Fritz, a dropout student at the Egyptology Institute of Free University, former executive at a bankrupt automotive parts manufacturing company, and a producer of online pornography that features his wife. King acknowledged to Sabar that the fragment is likely a hoax (Atlantic, July/August and June 16 online post).

Close to home

After a lengthy discussion with a sportscaster about the NBA playoffs, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr asked if he could address another issue. Kerr, whose father was killed by a gunman in 1984 at the American University of Beirut, launched into a scathing critique of the federal government’s inability to regulate firearms. “It’s easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver’s license,” Kerr said. “As somebody who’s had a family member shot and killed, it devastates me every time I read about this stuff . . . and then it’s even more devastating to see the government just cowing to the NRA and going to this totally outdated Bill of Rights, right to bear arms” argument. The Orlando nightclub shooting happened the night before game five of the NBA playoffs (USA Today, June 24).

SNAP benefit

A recent study by two economists indicates that a $30 per person monthly increase in Supple­mental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits would not only increase grocery spending in poor households but improve nutrition. The increased benefit would also reduce the amount of fast food consumed and lessen the chance of food insecurity—the inability of a family to afford adequate amounts of food. SNAP benefits can be spent only on groceries, but the additional benefit would free up resources to pay for things like utilities (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 14).