What is the cost of not ending poverty?

Phoenix Congress
4 min readSep 21, 2021


  • The Blueprint for a Better America legislative package creates 300 million American Union jobs; universal basic income (UBI) of $1300/month for adults, and $433 for children, lifting every American up above the poverty line.
  • American Union jobs come with benefits: free digital Treasury accounts, a public option for health insurance, and 18 weeks of paid family leave.

One of the first questions people ask about UBI is, “How do we pay for it?” It’s a reasonable question, but there’s a better place to start: What are the costs of the status quo, millions of Americans without bank accounts and 10% without health insurance? Of 37 million Americans living beneath the poverty line, and 100 million more struggling? What are the costs of being one of the only countries on the planet that doesn’t require paid maternity leave?

Some of the economic costs are straightforward; the direct outlays to those in poverty, on all levels of government, are $459 billion, which excludes $634 billion on Medicare. (For ease of comparison, all figures will be in billions of dollars.)

(Source: Matt Bruenig)

About a third of those living in poverty are children, and the lifetime costs of children born into poverty each year are estimated to be over $1,030 billion. This includes loss of economic productivity, increased health and crime costs, and increased costs as a result of child homelessness and maltreatment.

Since crimes are usually committed when the expected return exceeds the cost, basic economics suggests poor people do better in a cost-benefit analysis. Thus, eliminating poverty will reduce crime; a 2007 basic income experiment found a 42% reduction in reported crime. [PDF]

Annual healthcare spending in the US runs to around $3,500 billion, and poverty is a major driver of healthcare costs. In her book, Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, Linda Tirado puts it this way: “Being healthy and being poor are generally mutually exclusive conditions. We all have physical weaknesses, but a rich person gets these tended to before they get out of control. Poor people don’t have that luxury.”

With a public option for health insurance, more people would be able to get the care that they need. It is estimated that “overall utilization and spending could be as much as 30 percent less” if poverty were addressed, because it exacerbates many underlying health conditions. One result is a 10-year difference in the average lifespans between the top and bottom of the economic ladder.

Other lives that are tragically cut short are those of newborns. In 2018, of the 3.8 million live births, around 22,000 babies died before their first birthday. The US infant mortality rate was 5.6 per 1,000 live births, compared the European Union average of 3.4 per 1,000 live births. While the individual rates vary between the 27 countries of the EU, one thing does not; they all have paid maternity leave, while the US is the only industrialized nation without it. If implementing 18 weeks of paid family leave in the US brings our infant mortality rate down to the EU average, that 40% decrease will save the life of one baby every hour, of every day, of every week, of every month, of the year. Why wouldn’t we want that?

By addressing basic needs with UBI, Americans will be better able to reach their full potential. (Source: Wikipedia)

On the other end of life are the growing numbers of deaths of despair, exacerbated by poverty and economic insecurity. Suicides, drug overdoses, and alcohol related deaths all increase during economic downturns. Researchers found 158,000 deaths of despair in 2017 alone —more than double that of two decades earlier.

This is the status quo in America today, and we can do better when we unionize as voters and demand immediate passage of legislation that addresses these issues and creates a foundation for success.

UBI will establish some financial stability for everyone, ensuring they have enough resources to meet their basic needs. Digital US Treasury accounts will bring all Americans into the banking system, and offer free peer-to-peer transfers that allow businesses to sidestep costly credit card fees. By offering postal banking services, like 93% of the world’s post offices do, we can undercut the $11 billion payday loan and check cashing industry that preys on the economically vulnerable among us.

The American Union is a block of swing voters demanding a better social contract, one that ends poverty, ends mass incarceration, and ends the endless wars. When 3.5% of voters unite, we will have the leverage needed to make Congress act.

If you’re ready to stand up and take democracy back from the broken two-party system, join the American Union today. You can help by:

As Dr. King said, “At the heart of all civilization is community.” Join our community, and bring an end to poverty in yours. The cost of doing nothing is just too high.

Learn more at AnAmericanUnion.com.

Other Articles on Medium:

What if we could ignore partisan politics?: How the American Union is shaking up the midterms.

Congress is broken. Can it be fixed?: How Georgia Can Save America. (It’s Not How You Think.)

A look at our legislation’s impact on the environment: A Blueprint for a Better Planet

A mass movement for a pandemic: Fasting — A Peaceful Protest for All



Phoenix Congress

Challenging the duopoly with crowdsourced legislative solutions since 2019.