UBI in NYT
January 11, 2016 1:48 PM   Subscribe

It's Payback Time for Women - "Society is getting a free ride on our unrewarded contributions to the perpetuation of the human race." (via)

also btw...
  • Perspectives on a Universal Basic Income - "A universal basic income would be an exceptionally useful addition to the conventional social-democratic state policy mix, from a variety of different perspectives." (srw)
  • The Argument for Universal Basic Income - "What stands in its way?" (via)
  • Basic Income: How do we get there? - "Brian Eno, David Graeber and Frances Coppola lead a discussion." (via)
  • Model your own basic income - "Would a basic income work? Does it add up? How large could it be?" (via)
  • Finland is introducing experimentation to politics on both national and city level - "This is why Finland is able to implement the basic income experiment. Instead of speculating on the impact of proposed policies such as basic income and environmental taxes, Finland will now experiment, measure and scale." (via)
  • Over half of the Finnish population supports basic income scheme - "The clear majority, 68 percent, believe that a basic income from the government would make it easier to start a business, and would also mitigate the financial difficulties after the fact, if the business failed to succeed. Support for the idea came from all segments of the population, but the most backing came from entrepreneurs, the unemployed and students." (via)
  • Why Do Americans Work So Much? - "The prosperity Keynes predicted is here. After all, the economy as a whole has grown even more brilliantly than he expected. But for most Americans, that prosperity is nowhere to be seen—and, as a result, neither are those shorter workweeks." (via)
  • Less Work, More Leisure - "The best path to ensure that workers can secure a share of the gains in economic growth is a full-employment economy, like the one we saw in the late 1990s. Shortening work time is not just good, family-friendly policy—it might be the quickest path to full employment." (via)
  • Our final job may be ourselves - "If we can maintain a democracy, in spite of the efforts of many plutocrats, then large-scale redistribution will probably be inevitable. But of course, there will be an aversion to just giving people money without it being earned. But there, a solution I see is allowing people to earn it by working to become better people, and citizens. The redistribution can be money paid for the job of being a student; getting a college degree, a graduate degree, passing expertise exams,... Or, money paid for hours spent on a physical fitness program, or studying chess and improving your intellect and game, or Tai Chi, Yoga, psychological study, or therapy..." (via)
  • How and Why to Expand the Nonprofit Sector as a Partial Alternative to Government - "A public contribution program requires donations to charity in place of higher taxes–or if what needed to be done were less expensive–allowed tax reductions accompanied by required donations. The basic logic is that, in areas where it is possible, public goods should be provided by the nonprofit sector rather than government, with government’s role in those areas being pared back to making sure that people direct enough resources toward that provision of public goods by the nonprofit sector." (via)
  • Externalities and Public Goods: Theory OR Society? - "How people act is a question of their understanding of themselves and not merely of their instrumental reasoning regarding incentives: the standard theory of externalities and public goods is in this perspective a particular if very important case. The extent to which public goods are provided depends on who we see as part of 'ourselves' and what we see as 'ours.' " (via)
  • A Fundamentally American Idea - "In the form of a citizen's dividend, it goes back to Thomas Paine through his recognition of the significance of the loss of the Commons to the average person. The founders understood the value of land and having (equal) access to it, and they realized it was upon land that economies and lives were built. The early government lacked an income tax for the reason the federal government was able to gain so much money from the sale and taxation of land. Paine's insight was that financial gain from public resources, especially when given away and privatized, should be shared to some minimal degree with the citizens that the government constitutionally represents. Later American thinkers such as the 19th century Henry George had related ideas." (via)
  • Guaranteed income's moment in the sun - "In August 1969, in the eighth month of his presidency, Richard Nixon delivered a speech proposing the replacement of AFDC [Aid to Families with Dependent Children] with a program that would benefit 'the working poor, as well as the nonworking; to families with dependent children headed by a father, as well as those headed by a mother'. In case the point was missed, he continued: 'What I am proposing is that the Federal Government build a foundation under the income of every American family with dependent children that cannot care for itself — and wherever in America that family may live'. Guaranteed annual income had arrived. From the margins of economic thought just a generation earlier, the GAI was now at the heart of President Nixon's domestic policy agenda in the form of the 'Family Assistance Plan' (FAP)." (via)
posted by kliuless (79 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
 
The main links assume that all families are based on a man and a woman, and that it's always a woman who stays home with the kids. The benefits of UBI are equally applicable to stay at home dads coupled with people of any gender, or indeed single dads.
posted by w0mbat at 2:15 PM on January 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


Sort of tangential, but this carries over to paid work as well. I don't know if people realize but nurses are often expected to show up early, work late, work through breaks, work extra shifts, and work often unpaid overtime. We are often in a situation where we have far too much work to do during a given shift, so you wind up doing these things because if you don't either your patient will suffer or you'll get in trouble or both. But if you stick to your guns and apply for a missed meal break then you're often told it's because of your poor time management (every nurse is told this, it doesn't matter how efficient you are), and it's implied that perhaps you don't care about your patients. I'm lucky to work in a place currently that's protected from this BS but I'm very fortunate and realize my working situation is necessarily representative.

Our union calculated that if our employers had to actually pay us for that time it would be in the nature of millions of dollars per year. This is money that our employers are saving off our unpaid labor, and I don't find it surprising given that nursing is still a predominately female profession.

I guess what I'm saying is that even in professions where you perform paid emotional labor you still will be expected to constantly provide unpaid emotional labor. :/
posted by supercrayon at 2:23 PM on January 11, 2016 [65 favorites]


Nonprofit sector provision of public goods tends to be cheaper since wages in the nonprofit sector tend to be lower than in the private for-profit sector, while government wages tend to be higher than in the private for-profit sector.

Quite. This is why Britain's experiment in contracting-out fundamental public service provision to charities hasn't really lead to a socialist utopia. I think that public goods should be provided by bodies that are actually accountable to the public, both as service providers and as employers. I absolutely prefer systematic government programmes, accountable through the courts and legislature, to some random-charity-chosen-by-tax-avoiders approach to public service provision. I don't fully understand what this model has to do with a universal basic income, but I'm not a fan either way.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:24 PM on January 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


Ha btw I loved the EL thread so much I'm seriously considering trying to work that topic into my masters thesis on public health in some way.
posted by supercrayon at 2:24 PM on January 11, 2016 [12 favorites]


A universal base income would result in the government giving me money that I don't need. It would go 100% into my investment accounts. It would be a useless tax expenditure for me and I would be offended if I ever received one. A useful UBI would have to trade implicit tax subsidies that only benefit parts of the population (most prominently, the mortgage tax deduction) in order to benefit all the population - and this, most prominently, is why I see no hope for a UBI in the USA.
posted by saeculorum at 2:25 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Remember when Republicans flipped their shit because someone said Ann Romney "had never worked a day in her life"? Then they launched a bipartisan initiative to amend the TANF rules to classify childcare or elder care as "employment" for the purposes of benefits testing? And expanded EITC to include domestic labor? And started meriting Social Security wage credits to stay-at-home parents?

Looking back... I guess just the first part happened. Odd.
posted by 0xFCAF at 2:26 PM on January 11, 2016 [53 favorites]


Saeculorum, even if you make a lot of income, or possess a lot of wealth, you should still receive your share of UBI. The idea is to give people cash with no strings attached, fairly. We already go to great lengths to ascertain how much people should pay, in the form of taxes, but if you create another bureaucracy which does the same thing in reverse, it would be really inefficient.

Implementing the UBI might mean getting rid of popular tax handouts like the mortgage interest deduction, but it might also mean killing unpopular existing welfare programs. E.g. replacing food stamps, EITC, maybe even medicare, medicaid, or social security. By dropping all conditions, the program is a lot cheaper to administrate. You don't need to pay doctors to figure out if someone is really injured, you don't need courts and police to punish fraud, you don't need forensic accountants to figure out if someone is cheating by earning income when they are supposed to be disabled. All that savings can be passed on to ... all of us.
posted by rustcrumb at 2:52 PM on January 11, 2016 [24 favorites]


A universal base income would result in the government giving me money that I don't need. It would go 100% into my investment accounts. It would be a useless tax expenditure for me and I would be offended if I ever received one.
So? It's not about you.

Sorry, that's harsh. But you are saying free money would not be your cup of tea for what I assume are ostensibly charitable reasons but without expanding on those reasons. There's the implication that it is a zero sum game where 1%ers getting a bit of folding means poor people lose out on a few extra cents.

Any population wide initiative is inefficient; but who cares if it is better than what we have now?
posted by fullerine at 2:55 PM on January 11, 2016 [34 favorites]


Why would a UBI eliminate the costs of determining welfare benefits? Some welfare benefits need to be calibrated to need - as in the case, for example, of the severely disabled who may need expensive carers, and in the case of people who need help with housing or other costs that vary with time and location - and we could hardly remove those benefits from the people who need them or set the UBI at such a high level that everyone gets the same as the guy who needs 24/hr live-in care. There may be benefits to the UBI idea on top of a functioning need-sensitive welfare state, but I can't see it as a substitute.
posted by Aravis76 at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


The real question is whether a UBI would be immediately consumed by rentiers and leave everyone is the same state as they're in now.
posted by GuyZero at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2016 [27 favorites]


It could be administered as a tax credit, like the EITC, only without a requirement for earned income.

I suppose that would make things hard for some of the folks who need it most, though, since it would be a big check once a year rather than a small check every week like a paycheck. The payday lenders and tax prep scammers could rake in the bucks by advancing it for a huge fee. Personally I would find that scandalous but I suppose that a sop to the rentiers, in that form, might get some of them on board.
posted by elizilla at 3:03 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yes, a truly universal income as a flat handout to all people makes no sense. The negative income tax is reasonable - people earning from zero up to a given threshold receive payments to get them to the threshold. People who earn more than the threshold pay income tax as usual.
posted by um at 3:14 PM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


The real question is whether a UBI would be immediately consumed by rentiers and leave everyone is the same state as they're in now.

How is that even in any doubt?
posted by entropicamericana at 3:16 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


The US has UBI for elderly people; we call it Social Security. It works fine.

I think it's a good idea, and politically doomed, because the only way to do it is as a government program, and half the country doesn't believe in paying for government.

Basically, the 10% is taking all the wealth generated by increases in productivity. They think this is "their money". Their top political priority for 40 years has been reducing taxes on "their money". What is supposed to make them change their minds in order to fund a larger program?

(Also, FWIW, health care costs are not like rent or food; they are not predictable and nicely uniform across the population. Routine health care may cost $0 for one person and $2000 a month for another... and this can change at any moment. You can't just send money to people; you have to have health coverage or health insurance which evens out rates, which doesn't deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, which makes people who currently have $0 health costs pay for health care anyway.)
posted by zompist at 3:21 PM on January 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


An interesting possible consequence of a Universal Basic Income might be nobody wanting to do those crappy unskilled labor jobs, meaning the pay for those jobs might increase significantly.

It'd certainly be interesting having an economy where the janitor was taking home significantly more than the entry level workers at XYZ corp.

If it did play out like that, there could be a whole host of repercussions, beyond just the labor market. For example, the calculus for entering college might shift significantly, or at least the *purpose* of going to college might shift. I don't know, I'm not an economist, just thinking back when I was poor what jobs I'd have taken if I had a UBI alternative.
posted by forforf at 3:26 PM on January 11, 2016 [16 favorites]


Silvia Federici, "Wages Against Housework" (1975):
By denying housework a wage and transforming it into an act of love, capital has killed many birds with one stone. First of all, it has got a hell of a lot of work almost for free, and it has made sure that women, far from struggling against it, would seek that work as the best thing in life (the magic words: “Yes, darling, you are a real woman”). At the same time, it has disciplined the male worker also, by making his woman dependent on his work and his wage, and trapped him in this discipline by giving him a servant after he himself has done so much serving at the factory or the office. In fact, our role as women is to be the unwaged but happy, and most of all loving, servants of the ‘working class’, i.e. those strata of the proletariat to which capital was forced to grant more social power. In the same way as god created Eve to give pleasure to Adam, so did capital create the housewife to service the male worker physically, emotionally and sexually – to raise his children, mend his socks, patch up his ego when it is crushed by the work and the social relations (which are relations of loneliness) that capital has reserved for him. It is precisely this peculiar combination of physical, emotional and sexual services that are involved in the role women must perform for capital that creates the specific character of that servant which is the housewife, that makes her work so burdensome and at the same time invisible. . . .

. . . the demand for a wage makes our work visible, which is the most indispensable condition to begin to struggle against it, both in its immediate aspect as housework and its more insidious character as femininity. . . .
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:35 PM on January 11, 2016 [37 favorites]


It'd certainly be interesting having an economy where the janitor was taking home significantly more than the entry level workers at XYZ corp.

Surely you'd have undocumented immigrants (or whoever else gets excluded from the UBI) taking those jobs?
posted by straight at 3:51 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Health care costs and UBI aren't even in the same catagory and social security falls short at 733 a month of if you don't have a work history.

I want to make it clear that people disabled from birth or have no work history get 733 a month. If there is nursing home, group home or assisted living involved the person gets 30 dollars, 30 dollars and 90 dollars of their income respectively for everything in their lives outside of food, shelter and medical care. So a 24 year developmental delayed women in a group home gets 30 dollars in a month to meet basic needs like tampons, shampoo, clothing, and quality of life stuff like snacks, tv, phone, Internet ect.

Yes, they take the income away to pay for their care. It is cruel.

Same is for SSDI and medicare nursing homes, so if you are in that boat, be prepared.

Basic income I believe would solve lots of problems. It would allow for a more educated workforce, it allows mothers to stay home with children longer. It allows people to develop savings (have you seen what the average American has in their bank accounts? ). It would cut costs with nothaving to administer all kinds of programs, and children would generate income that would allow parents to buy things like books, educational supplies, proper daycare ect. Food stamps could be elements and so could TANF. If basic income if set high enough, you could eliminate things like housing subsidies because people would be able to pay rent! It allows for more movement of labor, which could possibly lower abuse in the workplace, because you can leave.

I
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:26 PM on January 11, 2016 [16 favorites]


Health care costs and UBI aren't even in the same catagory

Most of the funding proposals I've seen assume Medicaid (and maybe Medicare?) is eliminated. Without that the math makes it so politically infeasible it's not even worth discussing.
posted by jpe at 4:35 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


When a hospital stay can easily run more than a years salary without insurance, how would you eliminate that?
posted by AlexiaSky at 4:39 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I suppose I should clarify that I am assuming that if you got rid of means-tested health "insurance", we would do so in order to replace it with a free national health system. Essentially the same idea of UBI, that it is cheaper to provide care if you don't need a vicious bureaucracy to judge who is worthy to live and die.

Sorry if that caused a derail.
posted by rustcrumb at 4:41 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Anyone who is interested in the history of how housework became "Women's Work" might enjoy reading the book "More Work For Mother." It gives a 300 year history of how certain tasks got shifted off of men and onto women as paid work slowly became the norm.

I am skeptical that the UBI would do the things people think it would.
posted by Michele in California at 4:48 PM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


When a hospital stay can easily run more than a years salary without insurance, how would you eliminate that?

UBI without single-payer insurance is probably not as helpful for anyone with medical expenses.

free national health system.

Note there are no free national health care systems. The NHS and Canadian Medicare programs (OHIP, etc) are single-payer systems where money changes hands whenever someone visits a doctor. There is, AFAIK, very little free healthcare anywhere in the world outside of charity clinics or MSF tents.

Most of the funding proposals I've seen assume Medicaid (and maybe Medicare?) is eliminated.

I'm not sure that this ends up being a net positive if the entirety of a UBI goes into health insurance costs. If you mean that the US adopts UBI and a national single-payer health insurance system at the same time, sure, it's just a pretty big pill to swallow.

It would cut costs with nothaving to administer all kinds of programs

This is a hugely important part of why UBI works but ironically is an impediment to actually implementing a UBI program because bureaucracies like to exist. One big impediment to implementing single-payer healthcare in the US (well, aside from the ideological opposition to essentially nationalizing the health insurance industry) is that it would put thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of insurance company employees out of work. Which is a temporary issue at best, but it doesn't play well. But perhaps eventually people will understand that simply giving people money doesn't result in instant moral corruption.

If you're interested in paying mothers to do in-home work as opposed to working outside the house, you could simply bring back baby bonus programs. Unfortunately this also incents people to have children, which is not something that's necessarily universally desirable. Unless you live in Japan or Singapore.
posted by GuyZero at 4:54 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry if that caused a derail.

Since the funding is the primary roadblock, it couldn't be a derail.

IIRC, the single payer proposals assume, for funding purposes, that Medicaid and Medicare spending is eliminated.

So either the UBI or the SP will be hella expensive by the sum of gvt health spending.
posted by jpe at 4:57 PM on January 11, 2016


The NHS is cheaper than many other healthcare models, but it still requires a lot of bureaucracy to function and part of that bureaucracy, unfortunately, has to be focused on determining who can get what care, based on what the NHS as a whole can afford.

I'm doubtful about ideas that claim to make things better by reducing the amount of government involved in delivering public goods to the public. Bureaucracies shouldn't be badly-run, or bound by vicious rules, but there is such a thing as good and effective bureaucracy. I don't want massive swathes of the welfare state to be eliminated in favour of the state just handing out cash to everyone and then stepping back. I think the state should be involved in redistributing wealth and making sure that people's actual needs are met, whether or not it also can afford to hand out a cash income to everyone on top of that.
posted by Aravis76 at 5:01 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Guy Zero, The US replacement rate is actually around 1.9 which is below target. However immigration causes the population growth in the US.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:05 PM on January 11, 2016


it might also mean killing unpopular existing welfare programs. E.g. replacing food stamps, EITC, maybe even medicare, medicaid, or social security.

and

The US has UBI for elderly people; we call it Social Security. It works fine.

Social Security is not welfare. Social Security is a pension. You get out of it what you pay into it. It is actuarially neutral. If you are working, you are probably paying into it right now. Unless you are a state employee or other exempt class of worker, in which case you get squat from SS.
posted by indubitable at 5:26 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


SSI is a welfare program and every citizen qualifies if disabled regardless of work history. The current rate is 733. SSDI is insurance if you become disabled . Your earnings are based of of what you pay in. If it is less than the amount of SSI, you get SSI and SSDI in the amount of 733 + 20 dollars.
posted by AlexiaSky at 5:31 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Social Security is not welfare. Social Security is a pension. You get out of it what you pay into it.

Um, no. It is set up to produce the illusion that it is a pension. How do you think that it started paying money, back in the Depression, when no one paid into it? It was a tax on current workers to pay retired workers. It still is.
posted by zompist at 5:33 PM on January 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


Shluevitz points out (and I have noticed) that people on the right are surprisingly open-minded to UBI. This article in the Atlantic makes that case.

I'm personally very skeptical that increases in the minimum wage can significantly reduce poverty. Economists are split on whether $15/hour would substantially reduce employment. This article contrasts UBI with increased minimum wage. After reading it, my current thinking is that once federal minimum wage gets hiked modestly (as economists seem to feel better about), future political efforts are better directed at UBI.

One thing I really like about UBI is that instead of trying to fix the labor market, it recognizes that markets aren't the right tool for every socioeconomic objective. Organized labor and the minimum wage force the ruling classes to pay out a greater share, but they still rely on them to pay out in order for anyone to get anything. We aren't going to smash capitalism (I personally wouldn't want to), but we can and should enshrine in policy the idea that capitalism isn't to be counted on.
posted by andrewpcone at 5:41 PM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Social Security will pay a woman a portion of what her husband would be due, even if she never earned a dollar. So, no, it isn't just based on what you put into it.
posted by Michele in California at 5:46 PM on January 11, 2016


Social Security is not welfare. Social Security is a pension. You get out of it what you pay into it.


It's not just a pension. It's also a means of income redistribution. See this article from the CBO. tl;dr: Social Security disproportionately benefits lower income people, especially if you consider SSI and SSDI payments.
posted by andrewpcone at 5:47 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


> The real question is whether a UBI would be immediately consumed by rentiers and leave everyone is the same state as they're in now.
posted by GuyZero at 3:00 PM on January 11 [5 favorites +] [!]

This is why the UBI needs to be indexed to inflation — specifically, to the cost of the package of goods required to support one worker in a relatively decent lifestyle. The rentiers will steal, as they've always had, but the UBI will dynamically expand to catch up.

But wait, you say, if the UBI is indexed to inflation, won't that result in a demand-side hyperinflationary spiral that wipes out debts and fortunes alike and radically levels the income distribution, instituting a system wherein the goods of society produced by society are distributed to each member of society by their need, rather than by their ability to muster effective demand?

And I say: yup! That's why I'm for it! However, it's also why a legitimate, robust UBI will likely take, at the very least, extreme pressure from below to implement. This is also why the relatively wealthy libertarian alleged-fellow-travelers who see the UBI as a means to more "efficiently" replace welfare measures are at best useful idiots, not to be trusted beyond the point where they can be controlled.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:04 PM on January 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


I am skeptical that the UBI would do the things people think it would.

Every time this comes up I post the same links to the same studies where UBI have been actually field tested out in the real world, and here's the thing: they do exactly the things people think. Look up the MINCOME experiment done in Manitoba; workforce participation only dropped for those for whom it's a good idea to not be working--high school students and young parents (mothers, in that case; it was the 70s). Doctor and emergency room visits dropped. Mental health interventions dropped. Public health went up--sick people were much more comfortable taking a day off work to recuperate instead of spreading germs to others. General happiness and quality of life? Up.

And yes, an actual UBI can eliminate a bunch of stuff in the (non-disability) welfare system: welfare itself, food stamps, un/employment insurance, etc. Make it for life and you also poof, replace national pension plans.

UBI or Basic Minimum Income or whatever you call it is an unabashed good thing for everyone. saeculorum's objection is particularly ridiculous, nobody in the universe is going to be 'offended' by their ability to eat and be sheltered be guaranteed no matter what happens. And implementing as a negative income tax is utterly simple--file taxes the year you turn 18, and cheques start arriving after.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:18 PM on January 11, 2016 [34 favorites]


People in SSI and SSDI are by definition low income. The max you can get in SSDI is 30,000 a year and you have to be making over 100000 a year before you become to qualify for that.*

I really think UBI would solve many problems and give oppertunitues to many people. Also the fight to get SSI or SSDI can be long, but varies by state. In Illinois the process takes about three years, and many people end up homeless, go through all their retirement, savings ect and medicare does not kick in for 24 months after approval!

I want an economy where people have food, shelter and the basic things they need. And I think the idea that people don't want to work is silly, lots of people want to work because the workplace does allow for socializing, purpose, development, and oppertunitues for a better lifestyle. I dont think there will be a mass exodus from employment.

Besides as millennial it would all go to my student loan debt anyway.
* the 100000 number is just a guess. It is higher than 60,000 (1500 or so in benefits) but I dont know the formulas.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:21 PM on January 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


saeculorum, one argument for the "universal" part of a UBI is that there is a greater expense in means testing and determining who does and doesn't need it and so on than there is in just cutting a check to everyone.

Also, of course, the argument that once limits were placed on who got it, then those limits would contract due to conservative pressure and make it useless. Make it universal, no questions, no arguments, and the it's harder to nickle and dime to death.
posted by sotonohito at 6:52 PM on January 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


alternately, make it universal, no questions, no arguments, and also maintain a welfare state separate from it and alongside it. Just because we've got a UBI doesn't mean we don't also need Social Security, TANF, and SNAP.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:44 PM on January 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Er, a UBI pretty specifically means that none of those things are needed, as UBI is predicated on being enough money per month to put actual food on the table and roofs over heads.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:54 PM on January 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


saeculorum's objection is particularly ridiculous

Two options exist for me:

1) The UBI is more than I pay in taxes to support the UBI for other people - in this case, I am being subsidized by the state for no reason. My lifestyle will not change. My purchasing power will not change. I will simply be getting money that I put in my investment account. I already make enough money - why would I want other people to pay more money just so that my investment account can get bigger?
2) The UBI is less than or equal to what I pay in taxes to support the UBI for other people - in this case, the UBI is pointless and might as well just be eliminated and have my taxes correspondingly reduced. The UBI goal seems to be simplicity - it's not simple to pay for something that has negative value to me.

A minimum income guarantee that is progressively reduced as a function of income sounds great and seems to fulfill all of the desires of the UBI crowd. A UBI is a subsidy to me, which I find especially strange for the Mefi crowd to support ("more money to the rich!").
posted by saeculorum at 8:17 PM on January 11, 2016


I want to make it clear that people disabled from birth or have no work history get 733 a month.

I thought people with no work history got 0 a month? Don't you need 40 credits for any benefits at all?
posted by Justinian at 8:20 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Saeculorum, I believe the reason is twofold- fairness and reducing administration costs. The people that "don't need it" will be few, so means testing is a waste of money.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:44 PM on January 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I want echo the comments by AlexiaSky in respect to people on SSI and SSDI.

My girlfriend is bipolar and was on SSI and she was scraping by on the $733 a month, living in a crappy housing authority apartment with reduced rent in a crappy part of town with neighbors who terrorize her. She was so excited because she got on SSDI, because her father, a 35-year state employee, had finally passed after his 13 year battle with cancer, and he had set up survivorship SSDI for her and her autistic, developmentally disabled brother. She was so excited until... they canceled her food stamps and medicaid. She was lucky that the increase in money was substantial (but obviously far below the max you can get in SSDI), and she was also lucky that her mother decided to keep the insurance her father had through his work, and kept her on it, so that she has had that to turn to instead of medicaid. Next, her mother can actually only insure her until she is 26, which is in 10 months. To handle her bipolar and be stable, she takes some very, very expensive medications that will be completely and utterly unaffordable come the day she turns 26. She is currently trying to find out whether or not she can get medicaid re-instated after she turns 26, but the prospects look unlikely, because she will still be technically making too much in SSDI. On top of all this, with both SSI and SSDI she is completely disallowed from saving any money. Savings means she has money, and thus has to be cut from the program. They fuck you coming and going and they won't even allow you to spend your money wisely. They force you to burn through all of it, even if you have any left, every month, so there's no long-term planning allowed.

Income based requirements on these programs are traps. As much as the Republican answer to these programs sicken me, the idea that they "trap" you, is absolutely fucking true. It's a trap because they punish you for trying to increase your quality of life by taking away the little support you have.

I'm not sure if a UBI is a perfect answer, but I can certainly see it supplementing Universal Healthcare (which would make my girlfriends absolutely needed to be functional medications just provided for her, free of charge), disability welfare programs (realizing that the cost of living for the disabled is often higher than most, due to specialized needs), an expanded food stamp program, and the like. It would allow someone like my girlfriend to actually save money and allow her actually make long-term decisions. It would allow her to not stress out every day worrying about how she's going to afford to stay stable, worrying she might end up screwing up, losing it all, end up in the streets like so many. In many ways, in my mind, doing this to the mentally ill is tantamount to a death sentence for them, either in losing ability to care for themselves properly, or in unstable run ins with cops that end up deadly.

Are there any perfect solutions? No. To (misquote) quote Douglas Adams:

[The Universe] is also very like a piece of badly put up wallpaper. Push down a bubble somewhere, another one pops up somewhere else.

All solutions will lead to new and different problems. I'm just of the mind that we shouldn't be asking humans who never asked to be born to prove that they are "worth" something to deserve to have a home, food, medical care, and the like, instead of being ignored by society and left to die in the streets. Call me a bleeding heart, but I don't think anybody deserves that.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:51 PM on January 11, 2016 [37 favorites]


Holy shit, I had no idea disability was so fucked up there. In Ontario, a single person gets $1100/month. If you are able to work at all (some of us with disabilities can find they wax and wane, e.g., or one may be on disability for a while and transition off), they ignore the first $200 you make in a month, and after that they claw back 50% of what you make from your next month's cheque. Although in my experience it seems they only claw back from the 'support' portion of the cheque and not from the 'shelter' portion.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:02 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I know it goes without saying, but don't read the comments in the first article. I am once again astonished with how much people hate women.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:05 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


As long as the US collects taxes, it will have the IRS. As long as the US has the IRS it has a whole lot of people who can do means testing for basic income levels for marginal extra costs on top of doing tax returns.

Rolling all the special purpose plans into a single UBI is a good idea IMO but simply giving everyone $30K isn't.
posted by GuyZero at 9:19 PM on January 11, 2016


GuyZero, of course it isn't a good idea to just hand someone $30k. I remember that woman who was arrested for leaving her kids in a hot car to go to a job interview, and the outpouring of support and how she totally blew all the cash on a stupid venture by her boyfriend. There will always be people who wildly misspend the money. Even if we ramp up financial education (which the financial education we give at the high school level is fucking abysmal.), the likelihood of stopping people making horrendous financial decisions is extremely low. It's part of why I think a UBI is worthwhile, but while I think it only addresses some of the problems. I mean, the real issues are an economic system that demands endless, exponential growth in a system of finite resources and that humans by every measure are almost always irrational actors (every single one of us.). The former is a problem that might be surmountable, the latter I am not so sure about. Is that a good reason to give up and leave certain people without a future? I don't think so.
posted by deadaluspark at 9:23 PM on January 11, 2016


The studies disagree, GZ. Manitoba, Seattle, Denver, can't remember where else, they've all had the same results and those have been overwhelmingly positive. In the case of MINCOME, unless I misread/am misremembering, the total costs came out as a wash or a slight net gain due to lower government spending on healthcare.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:23 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


The myth of the self-made man is a huge hurdle.

All wealth is dependent upon our collective infrastructure: rule of law; currency itself; knowledge and educational lineages going back centuries.

Every day, due to productivity gains, there is more wealth created yet less work needed to get it.

We aren't in a post-scarcity world. But we're closer to it than to the myth of the self-made.

At some point, individual wealth becomes hoarding.

We see what happens when the world has no use for so many people. They become radicalized by ideological fundamentalism. Or get funneled into gang violence. It is an arrogantly prosperous world that can afford to waste so many lives.

Wealth is not individually created; it is a social construction. Every single one of us deserves to share.
posted by yesster at 9:32 PM on January 11, 2016 [16 favorites]


Or we could debase the ever living shit out of the currency by paying for a UBI frequently (quarterly? weekly?) adjusted for inflation, which would result in a tendency toward a flat distribution that would happen slowly enough to avoid very severe economic shocks (or at least, very severe economic shocks that didn't redound to our benefit), but quickly enough to free us from the tyranny of work and the inherently abusive employer/employee, creditor/debtor, and customer/employee relationships.

It is frankly insulting to even consider testing whether or not a person needs money. If we tax the money of the 0.1% heavily — through conventional means or through hyperinflation — and distribute the money evenly to literally everyone, we tend to benefit everyone. That's all we need to know.

Man though, okay, taking off my "I issue unreasonable demands in florid language!" hat for a second, I would rather like to read any — what's the word I'm looking for? — speculative economics? about how commonly accepted economic models respond to unusual shocks like the gradual introduction of huge amounts of money spread evenly across the population — but although I can cite Marx (and Harvey on Marx) backwards and forwards, and explain in detail about how Piketty's r > g is implicit in Marx's M - C- M', I am basically completely ignorant of bourgeois economics, outside of having like read Galbraith's The Great Crash a long while back.

I really would love to see thinking on how economic models cope with unusual (or, um, revolutionary) redistributive shocks, though.

it strikes me that kliuless might have already posted exactly what I'm looking for, and that I should follow their links more often.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:34 PM on January 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


it's not a question of stopping people from making bad decisions - that's not going to happen. But if it's a _minimum_ income, then the idea is that some, probably most, people are going to making more than that and I'm not sure why they need more money. The only needs testing is income, which is pretty simple to figure out vs disability, injury, old age, etc.

I really would love to see thinking on how economic models cope with unusual (or, um, revolutionary) redistributive shocks, though.

ho-kay. I'm pretty sure we have empirical evidence here and it's not all that great. And I think most people don't really mean full-on communism when they discuss UBI.

And ffm, from Wikipedia on MINCOME:

Participants who worked had their mincome supplement reduced by 50 cents for every dollar they earned by working.

So if you had a job, it got clawed back, presumably pretty quickly to zero. Which makes sense to me.
posted by GuyZero at 9:52 PM on January 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


A universal base income would result in the government giving me money that I don't need. It would go 100% into my investment accounts. It would be a useless tax expenditure for me and I would be offended if I ever received one.

If that's your situation, then the reality would be more like 75% goes into a savings account to pay your taxes that will eventually be due end of the year. Don't spend the rest all in one place.

Which just goes to show how great an idea the UBI is. Not only does it eliminate the incredibly wasteful and stupid bureaucracy surrounding the means-testing of all our current social programs. It also shifts the burden of administrating this redistribution on to people like you: the educated, financially secure, wealthy individual who is smart enough to be able to throw extra money at an IRA. Those are the people who have to figure out how to fill out the forms correctly and give the government their money back.

I'm with you, a UBI wouldn't matter much to me. And I don't care about filling out one more tax form, I already hire an accountant to do it for me.

The myth of the self-made man is a huge hurdle.

I own a small business. If there was a minimum income, lots of others could try too. I'm all for it.
posted by bradbane at 10:43 PM on January 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


I own a small business. If there was a minimum income, lots of others could try too. I'm all for it.

That's probably the biggest real reason it doesn't happen.

So much of modern corporate survival is dependent upon invisible chains and collars willingly worn by the aspirational class.
posted by yesster at 11:00 PM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


Reduction of coercion is UBI's biggest threat.
posted by yesster at 11:35 PM on January 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


> ho-kay. I'm pretty sure we have empirical evidence here and it's not all that great. And I think most people don't really mean full-on communism when they discuss UBI.

The examples of hyperinflation you're thinking of, are any of them demand-side driven? Zimbabwe and Weimar were both driven by shocks other than rapidly rising wages, correct? resulting in wages chasing prices rather than the other way around? On a micro level, prices rising to meet rapidly rising wages (rather than the other way around) seems at first glance pleasant for everyone but creditors.

But I don't trust first glance. I wanna know what happens on a macro level in wage-driven hyperinflation (or UBI-driven hyperinflation, since the institution of a UBI indexed to inflation would drive up wages). Unfortunately, real economic experiments to the left tend to get shut down by armed men backed by the United States, so if we want insight into how this type of speculative economics might work, we are, I think, stuck feeding real weird numbers into extant models and seeing what they suggest, rather than just being able to appeal to empirical evidence that doesn't exist.

As for the matter of "geez dude the UBI isn't full communism slow your roll," my argument is that a widespread implementation of a legitimate basic income at large enough scale to have a real economic impact1 would result in either a tendency toward seizure of that income by the rentier class (if the inflation adjustment was set too low) or a meaningful shift toward a flat wealth distribution. It's either socialism by other means or a joke — either a great leveling on one hand or something like the EITC on the other. The EITC is nice, but it cannot ever support an individual without supplemental income from work.

This is, incidentally, why I have no time for libertarians who think they support a basic income; they'll support a basic income up until the second it's implemented, at which point they'll immediately demand that inflation adjustments not be made, or be made too small, allowing the UBI to get eroded into relative meaninglessness.

1: and as much as I love MINCOME, it wasn't a basic income and it wasn't implemented across anything like a broad enough territory with a large enough population for it to indicate the effects of a genuine economy-wide minimum income.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:25 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you want to do an end run around decades worth of right wing propaganda, this is one possible strategy. Make not having a job illegal. That's right, a crime to be jobless, but with a few caveats. The first would be a small list of exceptions, students, the sick, the homeless, stay at home parents, etc. The second would be that anyone who cannot find work will be provided a job by the government and paid a living wage. That's a guaranteed living income in all but name, and would undermine every right wing talking point against it.
posted by Beholder at 2:55 AM on January 12, 2016


Is it right-wing to believe that people have autonomy and the state can't coerce people into working? Call me Robert Nozick, I guess, but I have zero desire to see the government "create jobs" and then imprison people who refuse to work those jobs - that sounds a bit labour camp to me.
posted by Aravis76 at 3:48 AM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


A bit? Good Lord; it's the most totalitarian proposal I've seen on Metafilter – and that's saying something.

Privileged people would be unaffected; they'll have pretend jobs where they "employ" each other while they continue to live off their capital. Poor people would have government make-work jobs that pay enough to live in government barracks and eat in government cafeterias. They may or may not have the chance to rise in the ranks - they're not going to be the ones who decide if they can be a "student", or what they can study. They'd be a permanent underclass with the happy proviso that right now they simply starve; under Beholder's proposal they would be thrown in jail.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:11 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


that sounds a bit labour camp to me


I understand your point, but I also know that a guaranteed basic income has zero chance of happening unless progressives get more creative. The whole reward laziness mantra has been repeated by right wing media for so long that it's next to impossible to have rational political debate about American poverty.

And less labor camp and more like this.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_Progress_Administration
posted by Beholder at 4:13 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think progressive creativity should be limited by fundamental human rights, though. The right not to be compelled to perform forced labour is pretty basic and systems that have abandoned it - eg North Korea - have not actually succeeded in solving poverty, though they sometimes claim they have.
posted by Aravis76 at 4:18 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think you had to apply for a job under the WPA, no? It was not criminal to refuse to participate, and there was no criminal penalty for staying home and not building roads. It's the "criminal" part of your proposal I object to, not the government job creation concept.
posted by Aravis76 at 4:21 AM on January 12, 2016


Whenever I hear about a universal basic income I always wonder what the breakeven number is? So if the minimum basic income to everyone was $12000 at what earning level would you end up paying 12k in taxes. I think that it would be farily high but how high would it actually be? Would I need to earn 30k to pay 12k in taxes or more like 50k or even 100k? Would it immediately be given to everyone over the age of 18? or would it be more like 21?

I doubt that it would ever pass anywhere though, except maybe Sweden.
posted by koolkat at 5:36 AM on January 12, 2016


I'd go out on a limb and say that, excepting disabled and chronically ill people, everyone--students, parents of young children, caregivers, elderly--has a desire to work. The question is where and under what circumstances. Someone doesn't want to be on their feet pleasing tyrannical restaurant customers, or puttering around a cubicle with spreadsheets for 8 hours every day? Who can blame them?!

As has been mentioned upthread and all over Metafilter before, domestic work is work. Caregiving is work. Volunteering is work. Studying is work. Hobbies are work! Everyone wants to be occupied with something. No human on earth wants to be bored all the time. The right-wing fallacy of the "lazy" welfare recipient is so absurd this barely needs to be mentioned. Nobody, given the circumstances of their choosing, is truly lazy. So the pie-in-the-sky vision of the UBI freeing everyone up to do what they really want to do would be a boon to everyone everywhere.
posted by witchen at 7:41 AM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Whenever I hear about a universal basic income I always wonder what the breakeven number is?

Well, per You Can't Tip a Buick, we can just tax the 0.1%. So, fuck the rich. Have the 0.1% pay 100% of their income towards the basic income of $12K for adults and $4K for kids.

Some back of the envelope calculations:

The top 0.12% of households in the US earn average $1.6M. There are about 123M households in the US. So, those households earn about $237B. There are 319M people in the United States, of which 23.1% are kids. Hence, the cost of basic income is about $3.24T (yes, trillion).

Well, crap, we can't just fob this off to "the rich". Unfortunately, we haven't yet even included the cost of the government - just the UBI so far.

Let's include the 1% - fuck the dentists of the world. Tax them at 100% as well. Just for the UBI.

The 1% income is $428K. The marginal 0.88% of households that are in the 1% but not the 0.12% have about $464.8B in income - great, we're up to $701B! Wait, that means we have $2.5T (yes, trillion) to go.

Let's take this a bit further - let's take everyone who makes incomes in the top 25% (that is, greater than $75K in the US) and tax them at 100%. Just for the UBI. That'll do it, right? There are about 29.6M such households in the US, so that distributes the base pretty well, right? With 29.6M such households, you end up with $2.22T to tax - and you still have $319.5B to go - just to pay for the UBI.

This is the cost of giving money to people don't need it. Yep, it has to come from somewhere.
posted by saeculorum at 8:03 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is the cost of giving money to people don't need it. Yep, it has to come from somewhere.

To be fair, YCTAB didn't say that raising taxes on the top 0.1 or even 1% would be sufficient, just that "we tend to benefit everyone" by doing so. Your analysis seems to be seizing on a comment that wasn't saying what you think it was for the purposes of a "gotcha."

Your point seems to be that some of the revenue would have to come from outside the uber-wealthy, and that's true. The thing is, because everyone would be getting the income, much of what the non-rich are paying in is going right back to them, and the lower your income goes, the lower your personal ratio of the cost of paying in versus the benefits you pay out gets. So yeah, maybe a worker who was paying a marginal rate of 28% now is paying 40% or more as some analyses suggest (depending on what the basic income level is, how progressive the tax code is at the top, what other programs are scaled back in response to the establishment of the UBI, etc.) but the net increase would be a lot less than that when counting what they get back from the basic income.

So, no, I don't see anything specifically about making everyone eligible for the program that makes it harder to pay for. We can increase the progressivity of the tax code to take more from the wealthy while still capturing a lot of the revenue from the upper-middle and even middle class, especially if the UBI begins to take the place of some of the programs that are currently hitting the middle class a lot harder via regressive payroll taxes.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:44 AM on January 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


much of what the non-rich are paying in is going right back to them

Let's be clear here - for a UBI to work, at least 25% of the population (the number depends on the progressivity of the system; if you don't want 100% tax rates, it will have to be much more than 25% of the population) will have to pay in taxes more than they get in the UBI. This doesn't even require much math to realize - since most of the population doesn't pay much taxes, some of the population needs to pay for much more than their share of the UBI to account for most of the population.

Your response is all correct, but with all the caveats it gives, from my perspective, the UBI becomes effectively the same as our current tax system, just stated differently (instead of tax deductions, you get a refundable tax credit). So, what's so special then? I will admit my previous comment was specifically oriented towards the 0.1% comment (which I still find absurd), but I am now asking as an interested observer. From my perspective, it seems that the UBI is just an attempt at making a more progressive tax system along with a more cash-oriented welfare system sound more palatable. That's useful, but not really as revolutionary as desribed.
posted by saeculorum at 9:11 AM on January 12, 2016


since most of the population doesn't pay much taxes

This statement is meaningless as written, because it depends on what you mean by "most" and "much", and whether you're talking about gross taxation or net taxes when accounting for transfers. It also gets messy because there are a lot of programs and tax laws that function as a transfer but aren't counted in cash transfers the way food stamps, TNAF, etc. are.

(which I still find absurd)

And which you're still pretending is saying something other than what the words on the screen actually say.

but with all the caveats it gives, from my perspective, the UBI becomes effectively the same as our current tax system, just stated differently (instead of tax deductions, you get a refundable tax credit). So, what's so special then?

Only everything the FPP links and the comments have mentioned about the political stability of a program that everyone draws the benefits from, the increased efficiency that can come from the de-Rube-Goldberg-ification of the transfer programs that currently substitute for a UBI, and the increased transparency of knowing who's getting how much in benefits. No more worrying about "welfare cheats", "waste, fraud, and abuse", and all of the other watchwords that conservatives have come up with to demonize transfers. Now everyone pays in, and everyone gets out, but it's simpler.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:37 AM on January 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've been laid off a few times in my career. When you get laid off in the USA, suddenly you have no income, and no health insurance. You can apply for unemployment, and you may be able to get COBRA insurance, but you have to sign up for both. Actually collecting your unemployment often means that you need to attend classes on how to get a job, prove that you are looking for work, etc, which is a hassle and sorta humiliating. Yes, it would be a little bit silly to have the government sending me money every month while simultaneously withholding a greater amount from my paycheck. However, I would be happy to endure that silliness if I knew that I was effectively doing the best thing to help fight poverty (no-strings cash transfers are some of the most effective ways to lift people out of poverty), and also that I would have a totally no-hassle income stream to fall back on if the economy took a nosedive like it did in 2008, or if my employer's business plan went off the rails like Zynga's did in 2012.
posted by rustcrumb at 10:18 AM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


since most of the population doesn't pay much taxes

When you consider all taxes - federal income, state income, payroll, excise, sales, estate, property, etc. - "total tax obligations are, on average, fairly proportional to income." [pdf]

The top 1% of income earners pay approx 29% of their income in taxes, the bottom 99% pay approx 27.5% in taxes.
posted by melissasaurus at 10:43 AM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


so! a quick economics lesson in inflation (and rentierism ;) one thing that happens when 'software eats the world' -- i.e. when marginal costs approach zero,* e.g. the last time you bought a CD -- is that the stuff it eats disappears from the 'consumer basket'. what is the consumer basket? right now, as measured by CPI (altho the fed likes PCE better, and there are various other measures; take your pick) it's about 42% housing/shelter, 17% transportation, 15% food, and then about 6% each for medical care, education and recreation, with the rest made up by apparel, tobacco and 'other'.

how has this changed over time? an increasingly relevant example is the price of lighting and illumination: "A middle-class urban American household in 1800 would have spent perhaps 4 percent of its income on illumination: candles, lamps, oil, and matches. A middle-class urban American household today spends perhaps 1/2 of 1 percent of its income on illumination, and receives vastly more artificial light than did its predecessor of two centuries ago."

the point being viz. nordhaus' 'Do Real-Output and Real-Wage Measures Capture Reality? The History of Lighting Suggests Not', cf. technological deflation -- or as marx & engels would say, 'all that is solid melts into air' (and all that is holy is profaned...) -- which means that what's measured in terms of economic 'importance' is actually stuff that is leftover and can command a greater share of currency/market transactions.

what can we say about this leftover stuff? if you take baumol's cost disease you could, "Note that consumer costs rising most quickly (education, health care) have least tech innovation and least market competition." or you could say they're just 'naturally' inefficient and not amenable to productivity improvements (for certain values of 'improvement' along putnam's fact-value spectrum). but you could also say that they're products of artificial scarcity, protected by cartels, political lobbying and inconvenience design run amok. a basic income isn't a panacea.

what then to do about it? there's always nothing, but i take robert reich's admonition that cynicism is a progressive's biggest threat; it's what 'they' -- the 1%, the elite, 'supermanagers' -- want you to think, that there's nothing you can do about it so don't bother trying. i guess you could also join them (well, trump or cruz or whoever) if you're white, really and get on board the patrimonial capitalism train if you can... hmmmm, so that's 'loyalty'; i might as well tick off hirschman's other two axes, 'exit' and 'voice' :P

for exit, i'd draw your attention to other places around the world where institutional experiments and improvements are occurring, and while finland may be a stretch for most (maybe not to syrians?) and altho for USians it's become kind of a joke to move to canada if someone not of your political persuasion attains political office, if 'peace, order, and good government' (+fresh water) becomes a thing, then the land of opportunity might start losing more of its shine. like altho institutional evolution can be glacial, or perhaps tectonic, the rest of the world is not standing still and slowly, slowly, then all at once you could see the US lose its influence.

that leaves voice. beyond complaining loudly, maybe a bit more constructively, there's voting (when not rigged, restricted, gerrymandered all to hell and/or swayed by money) but also clearly articulating policy alternatives to properly frame the overton window. so, for example, what about making gov't work better (for the many, who after all have the votes, not the few)? and what if that means 'plain vanilla' public options for all? not just medicare for all, but college for all, early childhood education for all, municipal broadband and API keys for all, public/postal banking, not to mention an UBI that would not be 'immediately consumed by rentiers'!

anyway, i'm still struck by this paragraph on the prospects for political extremism: "We are under no illusion about how easily or quickly our lopsided politics can be righted. But put yourself in the shoes of an early 1970s conservative and ask how likely the great right migration seemed then, when Richard Nixon was proposing a guaranteed income and national health insurance and backing environmental regulations and the largest expansion of Social Security in its history. Reversals of powerfully rooted trends that threaten our democracy take time, effort, and persistence. Yet above all they require a clear recognition of what has gone wrong."

so take heart and recall:
Imagine this headline: “House of Representatives approves proposal for guaranteed annual income by wide margin.” The passage of that kind of social welfare measure sounds wholly implausible today, but, in fact, the House did pass such a bill in April of 1970 by a vote of 243 to 155. The measure, The New York Times reported, “establishes for the first time the principle that the Government should guarantee every family a minimum annual income.”

The story did not ultimately have a happy ending for advocates of guaranteed annual income (“GAI”) — the bill died in the Senate. But the fact that it received serious support and consideration in mainstream political circles is a testament to how radically the bounds of political debate have shifted since that time, and raises several crucial questions:

What allowed for GAI to be considered seriously by both Republicans and Democrats in the late-1960s and early 1970s? Why would the chances for a GAI proposal be so bleak today? And why are the answers to those questions critical to the outcome of virtually every other domestic public policy issue that exists today? ... Remapping Debate found that GAI proposals were given room to breathe in a social and political environment that took seriously the values of citizenship and mutual obligation, and that accepted the fact that social problems could be — indeed, should be — solved by governments.
just a couple other asides, first re: 'speculative economics' on radical (p)redistribution, one good recent example i think was the payroll tax cut extensions -- a 'stealth stimulus' -- which on top of the $800bn ARRA -- 'the largest economic recovery program in history' (aside from WWII?) that nonetheless was still too small -- did little to raise interest rates or inflation. so now that has someone like larry summers (of all people!) pushing a people's QE of sorts (if not yet an entrepreneurial state).

second, re: $15 minimum wages, speaking of 'real economic experiments', as they start to take effect these could be the US equivalent to europe's tentative basic income trials and, if the initial results are promising, let me reiterate cathy o'neill's take where she proposes a modified minimum wage with a cost of living adjustment -- indexed to inflation -- per locality to make it a living wage: "I say, figure out what a living wage is, and raise the minimum wage to that level. I actually don't know what the magic number should be, exactly. Is 15 big enough? Maybe it is, in some places, but maybe in others it's actually smaller. It doesn't have to be the same throughout the country. But for as long as we live in a country where the model is that a job is supposed to support you, we should make sure it actually does."

also btw, check out max sawicky's reservations about UBI -- um, it looks like you'll need snapshots from archive.org for now tho: 1,2,3,4 -- oh and just for reference, if you took net wealth for the entire US of around $77.5tn in 2014 and divided it by the US population then of ~319 million, you'd have around $243,000 per person... oh and what's the fed's b/s at again? just under $4.5tn; time for an ATM at the fed? :)
posted by kliuless at 11:11 AM on January 12, 2016 [13 favorites]


Basic Income Politics Are Not "Beyond Left and Right":
[I]t is crucial to be clear on this point: Either basic income secures the democratizing scene of consent from which to bargain in private or demand redress in public, or basic income becomes the pretext for the anti-democratizing dismantlement of the provisions of general welfare and public investment. In the first case basic income is a left wing campaign for equity-in-diversity, in the second a right wing deception for incumbent elites. Far from being beyond "left and right," basic income from the left is emancipatory and basic income from the right is reactionary.

A Neoliberalization of Basic Income Discourse?
Ask right-wing advocates of basic income whether a person who has already spent their basic income but who suddenly confronts the prohibitive costs of a medical emergency or the need for legal representation has a right to that healthcare or that lawyer even if they cannot afford the expense? If the answer is yes, then we're back to the mainstream legible social democratic discourse in which basic income supplements rather than replaces general welfare; and if the answer is no, we're inevitably back to the war of all against all in which the unworthy poor pay for their misfortunes with their lives or their freedom. Free To Lose, er, Choose, amirite?

Right-wing forms of "basic" income advocacy reduce all too readily to visions of bare life without the rights, standards, and supports to ensure an actually legible scene of consent to the terms of everyday relations for the majority of the people. Game the minimum "sufficient" basic income into a state of near-precarity without recourse to any other pillars of equity-in-diversity and you've peddled feudalism as a universally emancipatory scheme -- in the drearily predictable right-wing manner.
Money and Speech Under Plutocracy:
Whenever the profits of plutocrats are purchased by the precarity of the people, money is always speech and speech is always moneyed. Securing a basic income guarantee would create conditions under which for the first time it would be possible for money NOT to be speech.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:38 AM on January 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


"In 1797, Thomas Paine declared that nations should give every 21-year-old a lump sum because those who inherit land have an unfair advantage over those who don’t."

HEAR, HEAR. Let's double down and make the UBI contingent upon voting. ;)

Agrarian Justice. (written in '95, published in '97)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:46 PM on January 12, 2016


UBI definitely has some bipartisan support - Milton Friedman, whom no one would accuse of being a communist, famously supported it. The tax system is a highly efficient means of delivering benefits.

Part of the challenge of acceptance of such a system is getting over the moralizing and paternalistic tendency (seen on both right and left) to decide how people should spend this money. But the whole point is that it's their money - they are responsible for it.
posted by theorique at 2:54 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


saeculorum, there's something wrong with your math.

Total personal income in the US for 2013 was about $14.2 trillion.

The income share of the top 10% in 2013 was 30.2%— that is, they got $4.3 trillion.

US adult population was 243 million— handing everyone $1000 a month would cost $2.9 trillion.

(By comparison, total government spending— federal, state, and local— was $6 trillion.)
posted by zompist at 5:19 AM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


saeculorum, there's something wrong with your math

You are right.

Right when I was sourcing this all out, I realized that my source for income quartiles (and smaller ranges like the 0.1% and 1%) specified income thresholds for quartiles, not median income (ie, $1.6M gets you into the 0.1%, but the average 0.1% household earns more than that - closer to $5M, so far as I can tell).

Hence, my calculations for income were low, as most people earn more than the lower boundary for their income quartile.

Thank you for checking this.
posted by saeculorum at 7:56 AM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


moralizing and paternalistic tendency (seen on both right and left)

If by "right and left" you mean "Republicans and Democrats", then this is at least a half-truth, but the money for these programs comes from tax revenues, so the mere existence of these redistributive programs is counter to contemporary conservatism. The days of Milton Friedman's relevance within conservatism are long gone, and the impulse to means-test every program comes mostly from Republicans who would much rather get rid of the programs and Democrats trying to appeal to voters. It certainly doesn't come from the "left".
posted by tonycpsu at 8:21 AM on January 13, 2016




the money for these programs comes from tax revenues

So this isn't the point you were making, but I want to jump off it to relate to some parts earlier in the thread. The money comes from the federal government, which can create as much money as needed for whatever purpose it decides. The question is how much of the money put into circulation by the government should be offset by money removed from circulation in the form of taxes, which is a question of inflation targets best addressed by professional economists, but the answer is almost never "all of it". That's the whole benefit of having your own currency. It's why various "balanced budget" amendments are completely wrongheaded, and why too much fussing in this thread over "how do we pay for it" isn't really helpful.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:31 PM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


"Holy shit, I had no idea disability was so fucked up there."

It's not. deadaluspark is confused about his girlfriend's situation. SSDI restricts work income -- naturally, because it's a disability program. But it absolutely, positively doesn't restrict assets, including savings (but there certainly are a number of other benefits which are means tested). And if you're on SSDI, you're on Medicare. Or, if you're covered by someone else's insurance, you're not allowed to be on Medicare. I'm not really sure what he means when he says that her father set up a "survivorship SSDI" for her. There's a lot of weird intersections between SSI (supplemental support income, which is basically a very small amount of welfare for very, very poor people), Medicaid (health insurance for poor people), SSDI (social security disability insurance), and Medicare (which you are eligible for if you are on social security or on social security disability). So some of what he describes might make sense, but I know that some of it doesn't. It can be very complex.

"People in SSI and SSDI are by definition low income. The max you can get in SSDI is 30,000 a year and you have to be making over 100000 a year before you become to qualify for that.*"

That's not gross or taxable income, that's whatever the upper-limit for the payroll tax is. Your benefit is calculated based upon those amounts, not your taxable income. If you're like me and became disabled in the early 00s when the payroll tax maxxed out at only $45,000, then the years which you made much more than that will only include that $45,000. In both 2000 and 2001, my taxable income was in the mid six-figures. I was only 40 when I became disabled and a good portion of my prior working life was at much lower income -- below 45K. So my benefit is not very high, even though when I stopped working my income was well into the highest marginal bracket (and, as it happens, my average tax rate both those years -- not my highest marginal rate, but my actual average rate -- was about 30% because the upper marginal rate was much higher and I didn't have any deductions). My SSDI benefit places me below the federal poverty threshold.

It should be noted that at that level, and as a disabled person, I qualify for a variety of additional benefits, including section 8 housing support, a number of state and local home utilities (heating and cooling) support, no copays for my Part D prescription drugs, no Part A premium withholding, probably a few other things. Note that my food stamps benefit, were I to bother, would be less than fifty dollars a month, so that's not very helpful. Also, it is an enormous amount of work to know about all these various benefits and to do the paperwork for them and that serves as a hurdle that a great many poor and disabled people do not clear. It's especially ironic for disabled people.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:11 PM on January 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


money comes from the federal government, which can create as much money as needed for whatever

also see, MMT!

Where MMT Gets Its Accounting Wrong — And Right, viz. Translating “net financial assets”, cf. United States’ Net Wealth

which brings me to this intriguing comment by smegko in r/BasicIncome, re: 'on point' radio's program about it:
I would challenge her basic assumptions on cost. I would note the world capital total of around $1 quadrillion, growing at $30 trillion a year according to Bain & Company in their reports. There is capital superabundance, enabled by the Fed. Tap the Fed to fund a world-wide basic income on its balance sheet at zero cost to taxpayers. The Fed's balance sheet would still be shrinking relative to privately-created capital growth, which the Fed eagerly converts to greenbacks on demand.

Indexation solves inflation. Direct the Fed to maintain purchasing power by raising all incomes in lockstep with prices, should they rise unexpectedly...

Modigliani-Miller implies that good ideas succeed irrespective of how they are funded: the capital structure irrelevance principle. If we can agree that basic income is a good idea, then it does not matter how we fund it.
i could quibble with the proper purview of monetary vs. fiscal policy in aggregate demand management -- shaping a cycle vs. establishing a baseline -- and what 'tools' work best -- say negative interest rates vs. negative income taxes -- before getting into the nuances of measuring 'purchasing power', relative price changes and their degree of (in)commensurability/fungibility, BUT the idea of looking more closely at sectoral 'stocks' (balance sheet levels) on a national/global level, how it feeds into money creation (who it goes to) and mechanisms to solve "how we can accommodate private sector entities' need for some degree of insurance by redistributing existing net financial assets rather than creating new ones," as SRW says in Translating “net financial assets” above, would be a fruitful exercise; like i think there are some limits to B/S expansion :P

also btw...
-Basic Income Update
-A Loophole Allows Banks – But Not Other Companies – to Create Money Out of Thin Air
-Obama Just Proposed Giving Middle-Class Workers Wage Insurance. He Should Have Called for Giving Everyone Free Money.
-Samuel Bowles: The New Economics of Inequality and Redistribution - "If I had to do a bumper sticker for the new economics of inequality it would be: INEQUALITY: IT DOESN'T WORK AND PEOPLE DON'T LIKE IT"
posted by kliuless at 10:26 AM on January 18, 2016


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