What If 2 Broke Girls Took Place In Alaska?
The meme above was inspired by a meme known as Breaking Bad (Canada), which parodied the famous television series about a high school chemistry teacher who made meth in order to secere wealth for his family after he died. The humor in the meme was that had protagonist Walter White lived in Canada, his cancer treatments would have been covered under Canada's single-payer medicare-for-all health insurance program. Thus, he would have not had to worry about his personal bankruptcy and his family's well-being -- as is the case in the United States even with Obamacare -- and perhaps lived. The location change would have made for a quick story and even fewer awards for the fictional series and actors. So it goes.
The meme above takes a similar premise but applies it to a different problem. In the hit television show 2 Broke Girls, the heroines dream of opening up a cupcake shop in Williamsburg, New York. In every episode, they struggle to save the capital needed to make their dreams come true. But had they started their pursuit in Juneau, Alaska, how might the plot of their story change? Of course, the climate would be different from New York; however, they would have benefited from the Alaska Permanent Fund and its annual dividend,. For a good intro to the APF, check out the documentary In Trust For Us: The Story of the Alaska Permanent Fund.
Folks who are sympathetic to the concept of "basic income" are keen on the Alaska Permanent Fund and its dividend. Why? Well, I like the answer given by Prof. Karl Widerquist: "I believe that no person on earth has the right to come between another person and the resources they need to survive." Wilderquist is the author of several papers and books that look into using sovereign wealth funds like Alaska Permanent Fund as a model to give individuals a basic income for being alive with no strings attached. The APF dividend isn't something one person could live the entire year on, but dividends pooled together with others potentially packs a punch. Here is Wilderquist in a short video talking about what basic income means for him:
Piggy-backing on the topic of freedom, Katie Streibel of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter talked in the video below about the possible practical effects basic income could deliever for women. Specifically, she named freedom and autonomy from violence. I imagine that had the budding entrepreneurs from 2 Broke Girls (Max Black and Caroline Channing) lived in Alaska with their yearly dividends, they would have access to a new level of security. However, unless the basic income is distributed equally to all women, including indigenous women, violence could skew to ever worse degrees.
Originally, the meme posted above was going to be "What if 2 Broke Girls took place in Switzerland?" Instead, I got antsy, inspite of the fact that Switzerland and cupcakes have one thing in common: chocolate. On June 5, 2016, Switzerland is going to vote up or down on a referedum about whether to implement basic income to its citizens. I just couldn't wait that long. So I improvised. We shall see whether the Swiss go through with it. Recently, the Swiss town council of Lausanne voted in favor of testing basic income on its citizens, so things look promising.
Since I first thought about constructing this 2 Broke Girls (Alaska) meme, I realized that Alaska's permanent fund dividend program is an American solution. In fact, funding basic income via a sovereign wealth fund would be as American as mom, baseball, and apple pie since Alaska's was developed in Alaska. It's true that if the US had merely expanded Medicare to cover Walter White, his story would have ended just as quick as the meme implies. However, Medicare is a product of Saskatchewan, Canada. Imagine Walter White's face when his basic income check is depositied into his credit union account that month. I imagine he would have gone back to his teaching job after humming the Star-Spangled Banner to himself.