There’s an election campaign going on in Hungary. The elections are expected to be held in April. Since the president of republic hasn’t announced the date of the general elections yet, the campaign hasn’t started officially but the political parties are getting in full swing.
In the atmosphere of this non-campaigning election campaigning, a “group of independent experts” called LÉT (“Existence”) published their idea about introducing the so-called “basic income” in Hungary last Saturday. The names are Zsuzsa Ferge, who is a sociologist closely associated with the now defunct “left liberal” Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) and who is an expert on poverty these days for multibillionaire ex-Socialist prime minister Bajnai, and György Surányi who is a rich banker, an ex-president of the Hungarian National Bank …. and he is closely associated with the now defunct “left liberal” Alliance of Free Democrats and the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP)… and he also nearly bankrupted a big bank as its chairman. He was among the possible prime minister candidates both in 2009, after the fall of Gyurcsány, and now when the “left-wing” is still unable to decide who their prime minister candidate should be.
The audience sported the usual “left-wing” (postcommunist) suspects such as László Lengyel, a journalist and politologist… closely associated with… You know the rest.
So the big idea is that everybody resident in Hungary would be entitled to a “basic income” automatically. Children would get 25,000 Forints (88 EUR/115 USD/70 GBP) per month, adults would get 50,000 HUF, pregnant women would get 75,000 HUF. They’d abolish all benefits smaller than 50,000 HUF, family tax break, they’d introduce a progressive income tax and a new “contribution tax” (for those who actually work). And those who work would pay the basic income of the unemployed, the elderly and the children, too.
The grandiose plan would cost 6,400 billion Forints, that is 40 percents of Hungary’s budget. The reader must know that the so-called left-wing in Hungary, especially the ones associated with the now defunct left liberal Alliance of Free Democrats, has been a vehement proponent of “the smaller the state the better”, that is the “nightwatchman idea”… at least in theory (since that was the best way to justify their selling state assets to themselves and to leech on the state in general).
Oh, yes, no doubt there is some logic to this idea indeed. The useless must be fed or they’d start rioting and stealing. This may even work out in rich countries such as in Switzerland or in Scandinavia: you simply give out some money, such as 1000 euros, and there’s no more trouble about complicated benefit systems or trying to make the useless and lazy work. And even the distributed money is not lost: it’ll increase the GDP, the useless also contribute to consumerism. The catch is how to prevent that all the useless of the world would flood that country… Saudi Arabia can prevent that from happening but a European country hardly could, especially not within the EU. Obviously this side of the story doesn’t apply in Hungary though, with the proposed 50,000 Forints, that is 176 euros.
Anyway, now the Hungarian “left-wing” media discusses this lunatic idea at great lengths… mostly attacking it… (though MSZP politicians Tibor Szanyi and Róbert Braun implied they do support the idea, saying “this must be seriously discussed”) Is that confusing perhaps? Well, it won’t be if you know the Hungarian postcommunist Left. The real idea is spreading “whisper propaganda,” aimed at the uneducated, ignorant, poverty-stricken chavs, that is “you’d get 50,000 HUF for doing nothing if you voted for the Left”. Given that you earn 67,000 Forints in the public work scheme the Orbán government introduced to make the long term unemployed work instead of waiting for benefits, this amount doesn’t sound so bad.
In fact what we can witness here is the very same trick as the infamous MSZP campaign was back in 2002 (“Orbán took 19,000 Forints away from each pensioner, we’ll give it back to you”.). Then it did work out for them. And it led to Hungary’s de facto bankruptcy in 2008.