Nutrient broth rations are being cut by 35% in order to sustain profit
January 6, 2018 11:54 PM   Subscribe

Massive new data set suggests economic inequality is about to get even worse - "It shows the rich not only get richer, but they've gotten richer faster over the past 150 years. And as the acceleration continues, the working class will never catch up." (via)

Land Is Underrated as a Source of Wealth - "In the long term, housing does about as well as stocks. It's also a major driver of inequality."

Is the elephant graph collapsing? - "The World Inequality Report updates and extends the famous elephant curve, showing slower gains for much of the globe, and even more concentration of economic growth in the top 1 percent." (via)

Effect of automation on the workforce - "Resulting lower prices increases demand, which boosts employment, until productivity can't lower prices any more, at which point it just kills jobs."

What are the consequences for individual workers? - "Those who lose may not go down quietly, causing political turmoil."

What really reduces inequality - "Violent shocks."

Does Universal Basic Income (#UBI) work? - "Well, it depends on the context."

The Market Power Story - "Market power is a big problem in the economy."

A civil society fund - "I think it'd be better to have an explicit delegation, a budget of $X per person or household as a match to household donations, as a paid program not a tax expenditure. That undoes the blurring, which I also dislike, of financing things through the tax codes."

Who cares about preference aggregation models? - "The question is whether a politics functions to align the actions of the polity with the values and interests of its members."

Is Diversity Detrimental? Ethnic Fractionalization, Public Goods Provision, and the Historical Legacies of Stateness - "Some evidence that nation-states are tools for turning diverse peoples into a single people, thus facilitating public goods provision."

Why it is time to change the way we measure the wealth of nations - "GDP is the most widely used measure of economic success — but is it misleading?"
This month, the World Bank will release the most comprehensive attempt yet to crack the problem. The Changing Wealth of Nations 2018 is the fruit of years of work by a dedicated team. It builds on research published in 2006 and 2011. In its latest iteration, the bank produces comprehensive wealth accounts for 141 countries between 1995 and 2014. For each country, there are estimates for “produced” capital, including urban land, machinery and infrastructure. Natural capital includes market values for subsoil assets, such as oil and copper, arable land, forests and conservative estimates for protected areas, which are priced as if they were farmland.

For the first time, the bank makes an explicit attempt to measure human capital. Using a database of 1,500 household surveys, it estimates the present value of the projected lifetime earnings of nearly everyone on the planet. “We’re looking at GDP as a return on wealth,” says Glenn-Marie Lange, co-editor of the report and leader of the bank’s wealth accounting team. “Policymakers need this information to design strategies to ensure that their GDP growth is sustained in the long run.’’
posted by kliuless (124 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
 
ONLY 35%? The economy is looking UP UP UP!
posted by Samizdata at 11:58 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Hopefully not wishful thinking...
The rich get richer and the poor get the picture - Midnight oil.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:33 AM on January 7 [7 favorites]


Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows


-- Leonard Cohen
posted by WalkingAround at 1:36 AM on January 7 [12 favorites]


Great post! That's a lot of links, but they seem worth the time.
posted by zardoz at 3:14 AM on January 7


*Looks at 1789*
*Looks at 1917*

Okay then.
posted by sukeban at 4:00 AM on January 7 [7 favorites]


Democrats absolutely need to make a Universal Basic Income a campaign issue. The slogan is simple, Because a job is no longer enough.
posted by Beholder at 4:07 AM on January 7 [14 favorites]


Mission accomplished.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:33 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Democrats absolutely need to make a Universal Basic Income a campaign issue. The slogan is simple, Because a job is no longer enough.

While I think UBIs will probably have some part to play in long term stability, they're about the 89th thing on the list. There is a desperate need for infrastructure investment in developed Western countries, paid for primarily out of taxation; there is a need for the US to have a functional healthcare system; there's a need for proper worker protections like significant amounts of mandated paid parental leave and protection from unfair dismissal. There are hundreds of significant policy initiatives which are required to attempt to redistribute wealth and power more evenly across society. I suspect that a UBI will be one of these, but it's not the urgent issue and it's not easy to sell to voters. There are lots of things that Democrats need to add to their party platform, but I actually don't think a UBI pledge is one at this point.
posted by howfar at 4:54 AM on January 7 [53 favorites]


massive new data set suggests economic inequality is about to get even worse

it’s a bold strategy cotton. let’s see if it pays off for them
posted by entropicamericana at 5:38 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Democrats absolutely need to make a Universal Basic Income a campaign issue. The slogan is simple, Because a job is no longer enough.

The basic problem with proposing the idea of a UBI to the American populace is that you're swimming upstream against decades of unrelenting messaging from the right about the sanctity and independence of the great American worker vs. those lazy "others" who expect something for nothing.

UBI can, and will be spun as being "welfare for all" or "Liberals making everyone dependent on government handouts" and other such ideas meant to paint UBI with the same toxic brush the right has always painted the social safety net with.

For UBI to succeed in the US (barring a catastrophic cratering of the economy) you will need to engage in serious, long-term messaging and education on a level that is easily understood by the relatively conservative average American, which is not something the Democrats have traditionally been very good at.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on January 7 [29 favorites]


can, and will be spun as being "welfare for all"

That's no good. Short slogans boost sales. The dismissive snort you're looking for there is "you want to put the whole world on welfare".
posted by flabdablet at 5:48 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


There's a lot in this post, but what caught my eye immediately is the claim that housing returns match those of equities. This is way out of line with Robert Shiller's view of things--he's argued that, in the US at least, home prices adjusted for inflation have been basically flat (i.e., the adjusted rate of return is not quite zero but close to it). The new paper claims to find returns on the order of 8% (!) over the same period.

I think the key to this difference is that the new measurement of housing returns includes income from rent. Which, sure, is great if you're a landlord, but most of us aren't. The fact that I could rent out my home and make a great return isn't that helpful. It's also a little strange to treat rental housing as an investment since actually being a landlord is work. I suppose this is why the Bloomberg article tries to spin the take-away message as "ordinary folks should buy REITs!". That's a very convenient point for the finance managers, of course; REITs are actively managed and tend to carry prohibitively high fees. (Management fees, like taxes, aren't factored into the paper's analysis.)

So I don't think that this disproves the general point that Shiller has been making, which is that for most people, who buy a house to live in it (i.e., for whom housing is a consumable good rather than an investment), it's a mistake to count on a fantastic return for your money. But I'm no expert. If anyone has dug into this further or has pointers to good discussions, I'd be interested.
posted by informavore at 5:53 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


the real basic problem with UBI is that it won't just be the 1% or the 10% or the 25% who end up sacrificing for it, it will be at least half - in fact, i wonder if a living wage and universal health insurance are possible without some sacrifice by the middle class

is that a justifiable sacrifice? i think so, but people are going to vote their pocketbooks - and the reason the democrats aren't good at messaging on this is that there's no good way to say "we're raising your taxes for a more equal society" without many saying "hell, no"
posted by pyramid termite at 5:55 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


While I think UBIs will probably have some part to play in long term stability, they're about the 89th thing on the list.

I'm boxed in, because I don't know how to respond without sounding snarky, but there are not 88 things more important than universal basic income, and if we had every American make a to do list, I feel confident that the only group who would place UBI that low is college educated White men over the age of 35.

I hope my response stayed within the lines. My apology is it doesn't.
posted by Beholder at 5:59 AM on January 7 [10 favorites]


it won't just be the 1% or the 10% or the 25% who end up sacrificing for it, it will be at least half

I'd need to see you show your workings before taking that conclusion seriously.
posted by flabdablet at 6:03 AM on January 7 [19 favorites]


the real basic problem with UBI is that it won't just be the 1% or the 10% or the 25% who end up sacrificing for it, it will be at least half - in fact, i wonder if a living wage and universal health insurance are possible without some sacrifice by the middle class

I suspect that restoring pre Reagan tax sanity gets us halfway there and going after the zillions that the super rich have hidden offshore would get us the rest of the way.

The status quo is unacceptable. The idea that Democrats are too afraid of even bringing UBI to the table is baffling. It's essentially saying that we better not try to win or we might lose.
posted by Beholder at 6:05 AM on January 7 [24 favorites]


the real basic problem with UBI is that it won't just be the 1% or the 10% or the 25% who end up sacrificing for it, it will be at least half

Have you seen how much that top x% own/receive now? That's a new feature of the economic landscape.

So, yeah, I'm with flabdablet.
posted by pompomtom at 6:09 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I don't understand the UBI love from anyone but a libertarian. With UBI there is no guarrentee housing or food costs would increase rapidly, devaluing the monthly amount. And people with higher needs (children, disabled, elderly) would not have access to the resources to give them an equitable quality of life. UBI seems a pipe dream of able-bodies 20 year old men that want to stay home and play video games - it is as though they have seen the inequality and decided that instead of agitating for change they would rather accept crumbs and seek soma to avoid the pain.
posted by saucysault at 6:12 AM on January 7 [40 favorites]


(In practical terms, of course, no US political party is going to do anything like UBI because of their funding arrangements. The whole idea is utter fantasy.)
posted by pompomtom at 6:12 AM on January 7 [7 favorites]


I want to live in Iain M Bank's "Culture." A socialist utopia where everyone has time to think and love and work and create and dream. A world where political skulduggery and machiavellian machinations happen because it entertains the participants. A world where no child is ever hungry and every child is loved.

We could do this today. From an energy perspective, it's all there. For centuries, brilliant people have laboured and fought and thought and dreamed and created. We have the resources people need.

Scarcity is a failure of humanity. We have enough space, food, water, air, and shelter for our population. We could house and feed every single human.

What we lack is a distribution mechanism.

Nations that have tried to create reasonable resource distribution systems are doing well. Sweden, The Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Canada (to a very limited extent.)

We need to move away from the "HOW DO I GET MORE?" world, and reach for "We have enough. How do we share it?" world.

This is a political problem, not a practical one. We need better politics.

I want to part of the new politics.
posted by Combat Wombat at 6:14 AM on January 7 [70 favorites]


i wonder if a living wage and universal health insurance are possible without some sacrifice by the middle class

I'm strongly inclined to doubt that they can be achieved without middle class economic sacrifice. The extremely rich have an enormous amount of wealth, but the merely (by historical standards extraordinarily) wealthy also reap an unjustifiable and unsustainable share of societal goods. While I'm very confident that middle class people would, in general, be happier and more secure having less in a more equal society, it's not easy to convince people of this.

are not 88 things more important than universal basic income

I don't know if that's true. I personally don't think it's true in the US, which has desperate needs to address everything from environmental decay to workers rights in order to even bring itself up to the basic minimum standards expected in the rest of the developed world. I'm definitely confident that there are a good 87 things that are more urgent and more feasible, which was the main thrust of my rhetoric.

if we had every American make a to do list, I feel confident that the only group who would place UBI that low is college educated White men over the age of 35.

To be entirely honest nearly everybody I know, or have ever met (including myself), who advocates a minimum income is a white male university graduate, and mostly older than 35 too. It's not the only solution. It's important, but placing it ahead of every other thing that matters seems like a poor strategy. There's plenty to be getting on with that can be more easily achieved.
posted by howfar at 6:17 AM on January 7 [10 favorites]


CombatWombat: Most Americans are going to think that you sound like a Commie.

No, I don't think that there's anything wrong with that...
posted by pompomtom at 6:17 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I'd need to see you show your workings before taking that conclusion seriously.

no, this is a proposal people are making for change, so it's THEIR responsibility to come up with the plan and the numbers - such as how much the UBI is going to be, and how the money is going to be raised for it

you have to make your case and some vague "we need UBI" doesn't cut it
posted by pyramid termite at 6:20 AM on January 7 [10 favorites]


I don't understand the UBI love from anyone but a libertarian. With UBI there is no guarrentee housing or food costs would increase rapidly, devaluing the monthly amount. And people with higher needs (children, disabled, elderly) would not have access to the resources to give them an equitable quality of life.

You could use the same argument to argue against food stamps or minimum wage or any other social program which provides financial assistance to the poor.
posted by Beholder at 6:21 AM on January 7 [15 favorites]


Every time we discuss sensible cultural, political, and economical ideas with Americans in the room, one of the Americans (kind, sweet, thoughtful though they are) starts finding reasons why it can't possibly work.

Universal healthcare? {millions of reasons, principally COMMUNISM HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF THE INSURERS} Universal unemployment benefits? "BUT SOCIALISM." Public transport? "WE LIVE IN THE SUBURBS"

I'm talking to the converted here. But, new rule. Every highschool kid in the US is assigned a penpal in the EU with whom they must exchange 1000 words of comprehensible language about the differences in their lives before they can graduate.
posted by Combat Wombat at 6:26 AM on January 7 [30 favorites]


"I wonder if it won't be possible without a sacrifice by the middle class..."
The middle class just gave 1.5 Trillion dollars to the ultrarich. If they scrabble around the sofa cushions I'm sure they could find some more. (it looks like they actually gave more like 2.4T to the ultrarich, but the CBO is still doing sums)

YES THE MIDDLE CLASS CAN AFFORD THIS THEY CAN TAKE IT FROM THE RICH HAVE YOU NOT READ HISTORY THAT'S HOW IT WORKS..

ahem.
posted by Combat Wombat at 6:37 AM on January 7 [22 favorites]


I always have to chuckle when I read threads like this. You spend the whole time debating which policies will fix income equality, while completely overlooking the system that caused it! UBI, real tax reform, equal rights, and so on will get enacted when the system is changed, because there are so many policies already that the majority of Americans support that will never see the light of day.

Get the money out of politics, fix gerrymandering, and make sure the different branches of government have real oversight and accountability to the public. Once you've got that, you'll get every single policy passed if it has public support in place.

Right now you're getting policies that are favored by the rich, and corporations because they're the ones that actively focus on making sure they've got the power in the system. The policies are secondary, the power is the primary focus. Once the american people figure that out and stop wasting their time tilting at windmills, the sooner it will be accomplished.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:45 AM on January 7 [34 favorites]


the problem is not opposition from the people, because studies/polls repeatedly show they are are more liberal than you give them credit for; the problem is the parasite class that controls the money and keeps disenfranchising people
posted by entropicamericana at 6:45 AM on January 7 [16 favorites]


food stamps or minimum wage or any other social program which provides financial assistance to the poor

Food stamps are a small amount, means-tested, and cost the government comparatively very little. Grocery shops "game" the food stamps system already to maximise their profits (raising prices on basic food items the week food stamps are distributed). UBI, if it is to meet its goal of eliminating poverty, is exhoribitantly expensive and would have a huge impact on housing. I have no doubt that landlords would raise rents to whatever the market can bear, and with UBI that floor has been raised. As people *need* housing they will pay well over 30% of their income to keep a roof over their heads. (I live in Canada where affordable housing is a huge issue as we have seen a complete detachment of housing prices from the local economy).

I don't consider minimum wage to be a social program, it is not funded by the government but by businesses. I prefer social programs that do not simply give over money to the end user but have a greater impact per dollar - subsidised housing, $5/day daycare, provincial pharmacare (negotiating lower prices as well as providing drugs for low cost) etc.
posted by saucysault at 6:50 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


Grocery shops "game" the food stamps system already to maximise their profits (raising prices on basic food items the week food stamps are distributed).

in michigan, it's a bridge card, not food stamps and they are refilled throughout the month in an even distribution
posted by pyramid termite at 7:00 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Back to Henry George...
posted by - at 7:01 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


With UBI there is no guarrentee housing or food costs would increase rapidly, devaluing the monthly amount.

I see this argument made all the time. I don't think it holds water, because it rests on an implicit assumption that supplies of housing, food and so forth are static, and will not increase in response to increased demand.

At present there is a segment of the US population that cannot afford to pay for basic services like food and housing because they have no money. If those people suddenly had money, two things would happen: first, there would be more demand for basic goods and services, which would indeed drive prices up somewhat; second, it would become apparent that there is now more margin to be made on selling those things than there was before, and this would induce an expansion in supply that would not cease until competition had pushed prices back down again. The end state would be more people being supplied with basic services, at about the same price those services sell for at present, from more people making money off selling them. These are both good things.

If a UBI were phased in over time, resulting in a gradual and steady increase in the number of people able to pay for the services they require, then even the temporary price spike could be avoided.

And people with higher needs (children, disabled, elderly) would not have access to the resources to give them an equitable quality of life.

This is only the case if a UBI were treated as a complete substitute for all existing means-tested public benefits, which is a plan only a Republican could love.
posted by flabdablet at 7:06 AM on January 7 [17 favorites]


no, this is a proposal people are making for change, so it's THEIR responsibility to come up with the plan and the numbers - such as how much the UBI is going to be, and how the money is going to be raised for it

Sure I'll have a crack...

I'm not really a UBI exponent, but let's be lazy. I'm thinking about an introductory scenario. Corporate tax receipts in the US (per this) should be about US$418,374,000,000 for 2017. A one percent increase*, divided by a US population of 325M, gives me a distribution of about US$25/week for every person. Now that's bugger-all to a wage earner, so I apologise to all the 'hanging out playing games' fantasists, but I suspect that would save a load of people from dying of cold in their cardboard box.

That extra money is almost all going to be spent (even by housed wage earners), rather than accumulating in a cash-management account, so after the first, essentially painless, year we can start thinking about multiplier effects, including the benefit to tax revenue.

Who knows, maybe it's even possible to actually increase a corporate, or a top-marginal tax rate? Lowering the limit on estates to be taxed, rather than campaigning to enshrine dynasties, could work too.

Yes, obviously this is all fantasy. The US can't fix even its healthcare system, and is even going to export that awfulness because it benefits the ultra-rich.

* That's in terms of receipts, not the rate. Obviously the rate should be increased, but whatever. This increase could probably achieved through enforcing existing law, without a rate change.
posted by pompomtom at 7:22 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Which, sure, is great if you're a landlord, but most of us aren't

Imputed rent has to be included in housing returns for any kind of sensible analysis. Even if you can't feasibly move out and collect that rent, the point is that if you didn't own the unit you would be paying that much in rent. Everyone needs housing. This isn't some kind of trick, imputed rent is part of the return of every owner occupied housing unit.

Get the money out of politics, fix gerrymandering, and make sure the different branches of government have real oversight and accountability to the public. Once you've got that, you'll get every single policy passed if it has public support in place.

Ah yes, the politics of anti-politics. All the solutions are common sense too, I'm sure.

I don't consider minimum wage to be a social program, it is not funded by the government but by businesses.

Uhhhhhhhh. Ok. So what is OSHA? What is workman's comp? What is the FHA? What is the Federal Reserve. Your concept of 'social program' is blinkered to the point of uselessness.

Yes, obviously this is all fantasy. The US can't fix even its healthcare system, and is even going to export that awfulness because it benefits the ultra-rich.

Yeah basically. No policy that will restrict the power of the oligarchs will be allowed through the political process in the usual sense.
posted by PMdixon at 7:37 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


(It's worth having the correct fantasy tho: you fund the UBI by a combination of nationalizing every primary extraction industry and monetization ie inflation.)
posted by PMdixon at 7:44 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


"Nations that have tried to create reasonable resource distribution systems are doing well. Sweden, The Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Canada (to a very limited extent.)"

As controversial as this is going to sound, the aforementioned countries are fairly homogenous and that has a massive influence over the success or failure of most anything. Whenever you hear discussions of the relative success or failure of US school districts, community safety, cohesion, happiness, etc., the conversation inevitably becomes one about haves versus have-nots and the distribution of wealth.

I'm not arguing that money is not important, but I believe that a strong, shared common core of values is equally, if not more, important than is cash - especially if you want these kinds of basic social programs to be successful.
posted by tgrundke at 7:45 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


The rich are essentially hoarders. No matter how much they have they still want more. Their lives are like a small apartment crowded with newspapers, periodicals, empty cartons and plastic cutlery stacked to the ceiling with only a narrow path to navigate amongst them. And no non-hoarder can out-hoard a hoarder. They simply lack the maniacal drive. Given that, a good working definition for wealth is having both what you need and what you desire. Otherwise is poverty. The rich are therefore poor...
posted by jim in austin at 7:47 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


note that the wealthy enjoy a form of basic income secured by ownership and control over the means of production; i think it is worth thinking about how to expand (and sustain!) that franchise to everyone.

also btw, fwiw :P
Short-Term Thinking Distorts Economic Policy
Many citizens seem to have forgotten that the U.S. is a creedal nation, not an ethnic one. Many seem not to believe that American society can overcome real divisions and advance toward a common future with confidence and openness to the world. The populism of 2017 revealed this. But populism isn’t simply a 2017 phenomenon. Decades of slow-burning economic and social change contributed to the U.S.’s current populist moment. After such damage, can a national narrative be restored? Yes, I think it can. But for it to happen, taking the long view of the American story will be necessary.
What Is Nationalism and What Does it Mean for Liberty?
Nationalism is a simple and relativist political ideology that holds tremendous sway with millions of voters and many governments. Nationalism’s adaptability to most local conditions allows it to thrive, especially when supported by a government intent on expanding its own power domestically and internationally. It’s an attractive ideology for political leaders, as it provides a ready-made and widely-believed justification for increased political power in order to Make the Nation Great Again.
posted by kliuless at 7:56 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Given that, a good working definition for wealth is having both what you need and what you desire. Otherwise is poverty. The rich are therefore poor...

I don't care.

I want to be not-poor. I also want everyone else to be not-poor. I don't really want to be rich, and I don't achieve any satisfaction knowing that the (let's call them) currency-rich are actually all upset (logically-poor, per your explanation) because of their hoarding tendencies or whatever.

My life is enriched not by being richer than others, but rather by having those others free from want, which enriches society and thus, in turn, me.
posted by pompomtom at 7:56 AM on January 7 [13 favorites]


UBI seems a pipe dream of able-bodies 20 year old men that want to stay home and play video games

That, plus the libertarian dream of getting rid of government services. I mean, don't get me wrong, just personally I'd love there to have a UBI in place sufficiently generous that I could take a sabbatical or whatever, and more generally for their to be massively more redistribution from the rich to the poor (rather than the current from the poor and middle class to the rich). But I would not be ok with the real-world trade off of jettisoning the entirety of the safety net in exchange for a (likely meager) UBI. There are a lot of services and safety nets that aren't easily replaceable with a UBI, for example.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:57 AM on January 7 [11 favorites]


UBI seems a pipe dream of able-bodies 20 year old men that want to stay home and play video games

...

That, plus the libertarian dream of getting rid of government services.


I don't really understand these comments.

Are the reports of tent-cities in the US, populated by people without regular income, and thus without recourse to healthcare, fibs? I swear I read something horrifying linked from Mefi the other day where a UN rep was touring permanent tent-cities in LA, but I'm buggered if if I can find the link. Have I simply been deceived by communist propaganda or something?
posted by pompomtom at 8:15 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


Fundamentally, Americans love inequality. Really love it, and will do nearly anything to protect it, so any fix is going to have to masquerade as further inequality to succeed.
posted by aramaic at 8:15 AM on January 7 [8 favorites]


There are a lot of services and safety nets that aren't easily replaceable with a UBI, for example.

That's true! But here's the catch: All of those are such because they require scale of some kind, and so should be universal to be most useful. Both ways: No means testing, no opt out. (Yes I did just advocate for the abolition of privately funded healthcare.) If some in-kind benefit can be means-tested without impacting individual level outcome delivery, that almost certainly means that it should be replaced with the cash equivalent, because it means nothing is being added by the aggregation of decision-making: it's just a weird form of forced-savings as compared to giving the recipients the money.
posted by PMdixon at 8:15 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


I want to jump back to the idea that Democrats shouldn't make this an issue, because the public would punish them for it. When did that ever stop Republicans from promoting the most insane policies ever? The GOP brazenly cons the public into supporting all sorts of toxic legislation, because they know how to sell a lie and they are experts at it.

There is no concept too ludicrous for the public to go along with if the sound bites are compelling enough. To say that UBI is radioactive is simply another way of saying that Democrats just aren't shrewd enough to out debate Republicans on the issue. It's fleeing the battlefield before the other side has even gotten their troops out of the tents.

PS, UBI doesn't have to replace existing programs. I can supplement them.
posted by Beholder at 8:35 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


I want to jump back to the idea that Democrats shouldn't make this an issue, because the public would punish them for it.

The Democratic Party won't make this an issue because it would upset their funding. As with most US politics, the demos has fuck-all to do with it.
posted by pompomtom at 8:40 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


You could use the same argument to argue against food stamps or minimum wage or any other social program which provides financial assistance to the poor.
Being against UBI doesn't mean you're against providing financial assistance to the poor. It means you're a realist who sees that the privitization of everything we hold dear (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness) is the end game in American politics barring some kind of total revolution. UBI is no different. "Medicaid? Medicare? Social Security? What do we need those for? Everyone has a paycheck now. They expect more?!

PS, UBI doesn't have to replace existing programs. It can supplement them.
Sure, but it won't.
posted by sockermom at 8:44 AM on January 7 [8 favorites]


Who knows, maybe it's even possible to actually increase a corporate, or a top-marginal tax rate? Lowering the limit on estates to be taxed, rather than campaigning to enshrine dynasties, could work too.

I don't see why we even need to raise taxes. Just raise the debt. Deficits don't matter, especially since Republicans just passed a tax cut without even deciding how it's going to be paid.
posted by FJT at 8:46 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Are the reports of tent-cities in the US, populated by people without regular income, and thus without recourse to healthcare, fibs?

Those exist a few blocks from where I am. A meager UBI won’t make it possible for them to rent housing here. No way. Even a minimum wage job won’t pay for housing here. (There’s a lady here who works at Staples. She lives with her daughter at a bus stop.)

The government needs to supply housing and healthcare. Count me in the camp of ‚UBI is a red herring‘.
posted by The Toad at 8:53 AM on January 7 [10 favorites]


The Democratic Party won't make this an issue because it would upset their funding. As with most US politics, the demos has fuck-all to do with it.

This, BTW, is why Trump is under no real threat of impeachment. It's a pipe dream. The biggest donors to the Democratic Party just got two huge gifts from Trump, tax cuts and abolishing net neutrality.
posted by Beholder at 9:02 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


A meager UBI won’t make it possible for them to rent housing here. No way. Even a minimum wage job won’t pay for housing here. (There’s a lady here who works at Staples. She lives with her daughter at a bus stop.)

The cost of housing is not just a consequence of people having too little; it's a consequence of other people having too much. A UBI, as has been pointed out, would be very expensive and require significant taxes on the wealthy and upper-middle-class whose current spending power is driving gentrification; reduce their resources and you reduce gentrification. So in a UBI world, a minimum job is a lot more likely to cover the cost of an apartment.
posted by enn at 9:06 AM on January 7 [7 favorites]


Corporate tax receipts in the US (per this) should be about US$418,374,000,000 for 2017. A one percent increase*, divided by a US population of 325M, gives me a distribution of about US$25/week for every person.

that's rather inadequate for a UBI - in fact 10 times as much, 250 a week, would be inadequate

it would also be more than our current federal budget

now means-testing on some kind of sliding scale would bring that down a lot, but we are talking about a radical change in our government spending and taxes will have to go up significantly to do it
posted by pyramid termite at 9:10 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


pompomtom: I want to be not-poor. I also want everyone else to be not-poor. I don't really want to be rich, and I don't achieve any satisfaction knowing that the (let's call them) currency-rich are actually all upset (logically-poor, per your explanation) because of their hoarding tendencies or whatever.

My life is enriched not by being richer than others, but rather by having those others free from want, which enriches society and thus, in turn, me.


I fully agree. I can only offer anecdotal evidence of my own position. My wife and I are retired and living on fixed incomes. By no known measure in the first world could we be deemed "rich". And yet (for now) we want for nothing, so I consider us to be essentially "wealthy". And yes, I would wish this for everyone but have no practical idea how to achieve it on a broad basis...
posted by jim in austin at 9:11 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I think UBI just seems easier from 50,000ft because you’re wiping the board clean and starting with new rules, and a matching new belief in good faith within government. What I can really see happening is a calculation of what the poverty line is would be done in the most breathtakingly megre way, no internet, no tv, no phone— oh, Alice on UBI bought an organic chicken, hells no, ratchet it down further down. Always updated lagging inflation, and always demonizing about the one person who frugally saved and bought an iPhone, and reducing the UBI payment accordingly.

Fred can’t afford rental in Houston on UBI? You should just move to X then Fred, let those scraping by huddle together in shanty cities, with stores selling UBI targeted rations.

America can’t agree what an MRI costs— its pie in the sky thinking that a single leap can be made to UBI. Work on the ten thousand steps between.

Point towards Europe and ask ‘why can’t we at least have that?’
posted by Static Vagabond at 9:17 AM on January 7 [13 favorites]


UBI seems a pipe dream of able-bodies 20 year old men that want to stay home and play video games

* PHYSICAL * HEALTH * IS * NOT * THE * ONLY * HEALTH *

Mentally-healthy young men (or any other gendered people) who want to do nothing but stay home and play video games and have no desire for anything else do not exist. Video games are great--they aren't that great. Yes, there are a lot of people who still fit that description, and that's because depression and anxiety exist. These are often not people who aspire to the jobs they actually have access to--no, they really don't want to go out and be cashiers or work food service. But tons of people even who currently "stay home and play video games" simultaneously aspire to make video games, or be reviewers, or to write fiction, or create art, or to stream with entertaining commentary. Even when they have to go out and do scutwork all day, lots of those people go home at night and work for no money producing things like that. Or volunteering to moderate stream chat. Or creating fanart or fanfic.

Even most people with depression want to Do Something. The fact that you don't consider those Somethings to fall into the category of "productive work" but you do consider stuff like retail cashiering and food delivery to be productive work, both things that will probably be automated away within my lifetime, is precisely the problem. Society is no longer being seriously benefited by all those "able bodies", and forcing all of those able bodies attached to slightly-misfiring brains out into the world to do menial labor is quickly approaching the point where it loses us more than it gains us.
posted by Sequence at 9:17 AM on January 7 [26 favorites]


If not UBI, then perhaps "a formal government job guarantee program, where the government promises to act as employer of last resort, employing all comers."

Ownership has made it basically impossible to live as a hunter-gatherer in any kind of well-developed country, but the "law of the jungle" that we have created with human economies seems crueler that the one it supersedes. The private sector alone seems a careless way to take care of one's citizens.

We've used governments to regulate the early rapacity of private business (12 hour days, less than subsistence wages, company scrip, post-employment starvation). We've used governments to provide jobs during the Depression. We've used government to build up our manufacturing capability (for World War II). Why not use it to fill the gap in employment between the needs of the private sector and the needs of citizens?
posted by the Real Dan at 9:22 AM on January 7 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I'm very keen on the idea of a job guarantee, not least because it's a politically feasible way of wresting massive amounts of power away from capital. People can actually be convinced of its virtues, because it takes advantage of the narrative that "having a job is a moral good", which capitalism has been so careful to inculcate. If you want a major radical project to throw your weight behind right now, I'd argue that a job guarantee is a better bet than an income guarantee. I think we quite possibly need both, but I'd like to see less focus on UBIs and more on guaranteed employment.
posted by howfar at 9:29 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


This discussion about UBI feels exactly like the discussions about Single-Payer Health Care. It's a great idea, Single-Payer is definitely the way to go, and we can't get it through the legislature. ACA is imperfect, but a massive improvement, and Congress just fired a poisoned arrow through it. Attempts at universal health insurance/ care in the US have been shot down over and over.

I'm in favor of increasing the minimum wage and tying it to the cost of living. The US Minimum Wage is 7.25. Congress increases its own wages and benefits and ignores the needs of ordinary individuals to simply survive. Maine just raised the minimum wage to 10/hour, and it hasn't reduced hiring. Unemployment here is lower than the rest of the country.

Where I live in Southern Maine, housing is just not affordable. Partly because Portland has gotten attention as a livable small city, but also because housing gets bought up by investors and rents go to their maximum market rates. At every level of the economy, investors look to maximize every drop of profit because rich people seldom accrete money and let it sit there, they want it to continue growing. That's why health care in the US is absurdly expensive, why wages are low. Food is grown around the world, try to raise your prices too much, and there's competition, same with clothing. But housing is local, and land is finite.

The effects of money on US politics and the Republican's successful efforts to gerrymander and suppress voting constitute corruption. I look at it as the new feudalism.
posted by theora55 at 9:45 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


One thing I really noticed in the article is the working class will never catch up. There's no possibility of the working class catching up, it's not even close to possible at this point. The working class are struggling to survive, and the middle class are clinging to their class status with all their effort.
posted by theora55 at 9:48 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


When I saw the title of this post, I thought it was going to be about the fact that the UN is about to cut the amount of food they give refugees. There are growing numbers of refugees; the existing situations aren't going away; the UN has limited resources. It's caused by political inequalities, not income inequalities, but the two are linked. Somebody should do a post about the refugee situation, but I'm still too gutted by it to do it..
posted by acrasis at 9:49 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


What is the time series in the first figure, exactly? Some kind of return on wealth products weighted by... what? Total size? CAPM?
posted by Coventry at 9:59 AM on January 7


If not UBI, then perhaps "a formal government job guarantee program, where the government promises to act as employer of last resort, employing all comers.

I've suggested that in other threads and it too was shot down as being unreasonable. I also suggested in yet another discussion that we need laws protecting jobs from being replaced by robots and - you guessed it - someone posted that my suggestion was unreasonable.

So UBI, job protection, and job guarantees are all unreasonable, but tax cuts for the super rich and ending net neutrality and wasting trillions on military programs that never pan out, well, all of those things just slide through.

The problem is that the definition of unreasonable is decided by lobbyist and not the working class. Reverse the last 38 years of tax cuts, tax junk food, go after offshore accounts, politely tell the defense industry to get ready for a diet, and all of a sudden the money is there is pay for all the unreasonable programs that the poor are being unreasonably deprived of.

The alternative is staring us in the face. What free trade didn't finish off, robots will. A UBI will eventually be necessary or get ready for the United States of Third World Shanty Towns.
posted by Beholder at 10:05 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


I think I'm finally just a hardcore Keynesian: the purpose of income tax, even going back to the earliest free market theorists like Adam Smith was never about wealth transfer as we concieve it now after years of dishonest, partisan economic sophistry spun out by useful clever idiots working in conservative economic think tanks. Income tax was about the problem of surplus wealth and regulating monetary supply to keep as large a share of money in circulation providing economic value broadly for the U.S. commonwealth.

The way we understand our own income taxation system now--as being a solution to the problem of generating state revenue--is ahistorical and just flat wrongheaded.

I want to live in Iain M Bank's "Culture." A socialist utopia where everyone has time to think and love and work and create and dream.A world where political skulduggery and machiavellian machinations happen because it entertains the participants. A world where no child is ever hungry and every child is loved.

Well, I've been mostly onboard with the thrust of your comments, but that highlighted part creeps me out and I don't see how anyone could think playing politics as a sport or game could possibly avoid hurtful outcomes for the public. Letting people who enjoy playing power games call the shots is how we got here, in my opinion. Their sociopathic/psychopathic impulses to play games to amuse themselves and settle personal scores are what makes our political class so dysfunctional: it's always at least partly personal and about playing and winning "clever" dominance games in American politics. We may not have the rest of the socialist utopia you're envisioning, but we very much already have a situation where our political system functions as a game played for the personal gratification and amusement of the powerful.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:19 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


(I mean, at least that's my impression having worked for many years now around state-level government systems in the U.S.)
posted by saulgoodman at 10:23 AM on January 7


I've suggested that in other threads and it too was shot down as being unreasonable. I also suggested in yet another discussion that we need laws protecting jobs from being replaced by robots and - you guessed it - someone posted that my suggestion was unreasonable.

I mean, they're more reasonable than letting people starve or be homeless, I'll go for that. But on it's face, stuff like that is so silly. It all hinges on this fundamental idea that jobs are good. Why are jobs good? Why do we want them? I want my job because I like writing code, but I say that and even there, I'm not writing the kind of code I want to write with the people I want to write code with. How the hell do we keep saying that about cashiers? That it's really necessary to keep people standing in checkout lanes indefinitely, so that they can "earn" their own right to have groceries and health care? Robots should be making our lives better. Why aren't they? Well, they're giving more to rich people but we're still expecting the same amount of labor from poor people. Protecting the requirement that poor people keep putting 1/4 of their lives into that system in order to deserve not starving is potentially something that could work in the short term, but it's also about the most regressive way you can possibly solve that problem.
posted by Sequence at 10:27 AM on January 7 [24 favorites]


UBI fixes the shitttiness that the minimum wage causes. But UBI itself is at a point were it means any magic bullet its proponent wants it to mean. I have yet to see a scheme that shows how UBI can be implemented without the absurdly unrealistic "tax the rich into oblivion" path. If you can't provide an alternatively realistic way to fund UBI, then your plan is simply yet another completely stupid and nonproductive venting we see here all the time.

I'm waiting for the shoe to drop: where the left ends up advocating the anti-Trump-Trump politics of protectionism, job subsidy, anti immigration side of activism. The tipping point is not quite there, but I see it bubbling up. All for the sake of keeping Americans employed... somehow. At the cost to all Americans who have to support obsolete and unneeded work, and non Americans who want to increase their lot in life by mating their labor more efficiently to a economic system. Which is unfair, somehow, to people who were fortunate enough to be born (or their parents born) over the correct patch of dirt.

I know, I know, the difference is that the left that advocates this path isn't actually racist/xenophobic like Trump and his supporters. Which doesn't make a dime's worth of difference when the end result is the same: American business supported to resist technological competitiveness, creating a technologically hobbled labor market reserved for Real Americans. Because of good intentions, of course.
posted by 2N2222 at 10:31 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I know, I know, the difference is that the left that advocates this path isn't actually racist/xenophobic like Trump and his supporters. Which doesn't make a dime's worth of difference when the end result is the same: American business supported to resist technological competitiveness, creating a technologically hobbled labor market reserved for Real Americans. Because of good intentions, of course.

I'm not rich enough to place the interest of a Bangladeshi worker over my own. Come to think of it, supporting free trade is the ultimate privilege.

As for Trump's position on trade, it's more or less the same as Sanders' position, the same position most Democrats held until money corrupted them.
posted by Beholder at 10:39 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


One appeal of simpler social welfare schemes, be it UBI or a negative income tax or what have you, is the potential to separate the mechanics from the specific multipliers.

Right now, changing the tax and safety net system is like deciding your living room is too cold and ripping the wiring out of the third bedroom to put bigger pipes into your seventh furnace. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all agree that the heating system worked and just fight over the thermostat setting? Instead of having twelve different HVAC systems with complex interactions, what if we had one or two that were simple enough to comprehend?

If we could all agree (ha) on the implementation of a safety net system, we could lock that system behind a high political bar while still leaving the specific numerical options open to simple-majority or even automatic changes without worrying about creeping whateverism. There's also the idea that we have all these separate state governments, why not let them experiment. Set the federal system to just write checks and let the feds make simple-but-universal changes to rates and multipliers and let the states do what's appropriate for their individual populations.

Of course, none of this will happen while the GOP exists so whatever.
posted by Skorgu at 10:43 AM on January 7


> I have yet to see a scheme that shows how UBI can be implemented without the absurdly unrealistic "tax the rich into oblivion" path.

You say tax the rich into oblivion as if it's a bad thing.
posted by theora55 at 10:46 AM on January 7 [18 favorites]


Point towards Europe and ask ‘why can’t we at least have that?’

Yup. I just want to note that even on the left side of the political spectrum in Germany - which skews much more socialist than US democrats - UBI is kind if a hard sell. And that‘s not just because it‘s ‚pie in the sky‘ - more that it brings the danger of more comprehensive programs being dismantled under the guise of ‚oh, but they‘re already on UBI, who needs public schools/transport/healthcare‘.
What the UBI debate can do is galvanize our shared position that we need more redistribution and we shouldn‘t shy away from demanding it.
posted by The Toad at 10:58 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


it won't just be the 1% or the 10% or the 25% who end up sacrificing for it, it will be at least half

>I'd need to see you show your workings before taking that conclusion seriously.


Okay, I would question the word "sacrificing" and replace it with "sharing" but the statement is correct.

Here are some numbers from Sweden. In order to provide its generous social welfare benefits Sweden has very high tax rates, but also relatively flat tax rates. That means raising taxes a lot and that includes the middle class.

In Sweden the top marginal rate is 57% and that applies to all income over 1.5 times the average. In the U.S. that would mean all income over $80,000. The tax rate is 50% for those around the median income, which would be about $55,000 in the U.S. And it is 30% for everyone else right down to nearly zero income.

So if you want Swedish socialism, you need to have Swedish tax rates and those high taxes apply to everyone including lower class and middle class.

But in exchange you get a guaranteed retirement pension, free healthcare, paid parental leave, free childcare from birth, free pre-school, free college, 80% of salary unemployment insurance, subsidized housing.

The important thing to realize is that when you have a very generous social system, your take home pay after taxes becomes less important. The government is already providing nearly half of your needs regardless of income.

If you want all this nice stuff, you need big tax increases and not just on the 1%.
posted by JackFlash at 11:05 AM on January 7 [25 favorites]


UBI seems a pipe dream of able-bodies 20 year old men that want to stay home and play video games

...

That, plus the libertarian dream of getting rid of government services.


From what I've seen, the criticism that it's a dream of people who don't really plan to live on it - or people for whom UBI is the hand-wave solution to their own participation in trying to put, say, truck drivers out of a job - is way more on point that the criticism that it's a dream of a certain kind of person who wants to live on it. There are a lot of services I don't really think it would be a good idea to get rid of in the process.

At the same time I buy the underlying political argument for more universal (not means-tested) programs 100 percent - it's really easy to take things away from a marginalized minority of voters. Health care seems like the obvious place to start here, though.
posted by atoxyl at 11:13 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


There is always endless debate over social welfare and public spending programs like this, such that all the bickering kills anything being done. Meanwhile we can increase military spending by dozens of billions next year without batting an eye.

Why not just try it? See if it works? Spend a few billion building some public transit as a trial balloon and measure the impact?

The biggest problem I see is that no politician cares about the facts or data. If we look at the data for universal healthcare all lights turn green saying it's better than what we have now. But data is tossed out the window so we can debate with merely anecdotes or resort to decades-old dog whistles and talking points so neither side wins.
posted by hexaflexagon at 1:46 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


There's a lot in this post, but what caught my eye immediately is the claim that housing returns match those of equities. This is way out of line with Robert Shiller's view of things--he's argued that, in the US at least, home prices adjusted for inflation have been basically flat (i.e., the adjusted rate of return is not quite zero but close to it). The new paper claims to find returns on the order of 8% (!) over the same period.

This is way out of line of the view of most economists.

First and foremost, land and real estate is weird. It generally rises inline with inflation, except in places like Japan, where it does not rise much, if at all.

Second, even if we look at only the US, much smarter people than I have determined that the only places in the country where real estate prices have outpaced equities are those where land is constrained. San Francisco? Manhattan? Hawaii? Boston? Seattle? All islands (or effectively islands given the number of bodies of water you need to cross or tunnel through). Portland is also held up as an example, but because it's one of the view places in the country with really strict zoning (so, man-made constraints).

Texas? Vegas? Arizona? Most of the Mid-West? There's really nothing stopping you from building further and further out except for peoples' tolerance for long commutes.

Note that there's more than one way to make money in real estate. Simple appreciation is one way (and there's a boatload of tax and exchange games to be played, there). There's also making margin on rent. Very few properties will pay you both ways. Having lots of capital for a land grab gives you an advantage in fast appreciating places, but you need to sit around and wait. If there's no appreciation in your market, then you'll typically see rent plays. There's also people who play with leverage, which involves putting in a tiny amount of money relative to the asset's value, and trying to reap the benefits of that full value - this is basically the game of musical chairs that almost destroyed the economy back in '08 or so.

Mention all this because all three of these models (profit, rent, leverage) are basically being used against all assets nowadays, not just real estate. Rent-seeking contributes to inequity, sure - but leverage will fuck you and everyone else involved (and often not involved) in the asset, where asset could be your apartment building, your company, your country, etc. The only thing that's really saving us is the parasites (the people holding the notes) don't want the patient to die (the people trying to make bank being over-leveraged), because if the patient dies, they get nothing. China/US, Banks/Trump, etc.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 2:27 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


I want to live in Iain M Bank's "Culture." A socialist utopia where everyone has time to think and love and work and create and dream.A world where political skulduggery and machiavellian machinations happen because it entertains the participants. A world where no child is ever hungry and every child is loved.

Is worth noting that the Culture books take place in a setting where humans are the pets of hyperintelligent AIs that completely controll the artificial environments and routinely violate the laws of physics. The model for the Culture novels isn't Bellamy's "Looking Backward", but "Lassie".

See this is why the UBI discussions get so annoying; people use a ridiculous science fiction over as. A basis for something in the real world. It's like saying we should ask the Vulcans to fix our transportation infrastructure.

So if we are going to actually discuss UBI, let's set some real-world ground rules- no magic AI masters, no bullshit token amounts like $100.00 a month. Here's the ground rules.

1. Minimum $20,000.00 per year for adults, $10,000.00 for children under the age of 18.
2. No replacing entitlement programs. No losing Social Security, Medicare, ACA, anything else. Because otherwise UBI is just a "fuck over the poor and old" program.

OK, so I've calculated the expense of the program. I'd like the UBI proponents to do the same, and state exactly where the money will come from, including tax rates.
posted by happyroach at 3:33 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


Incidentally, in round figures I found the expense of the UBI program I listed above to be 5,375,000,000.00 for a minimum "You don't need to work program. I would be interested in seeing what people propose as alternatives.
posted by happyroach at 3:41 PM on January 7


I'm not rich enough to place the interest of a Bangladeshi worker over my own. Come to think of it, supporting free trade is the ultimate privilege.

It’s not racism, it’s economic anxiety?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:06 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Am I misreading the numbers, or wouldn't it be more like $5 trillion, not $5 billion?

But even so, only three or four times the size of the recent tax cut for the ultra rich, so feasible if unlikely.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:06 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Yeah, $5T is right. And that's about the correct standards for a UBI that would matter (although Social Security probably gets rolled up into the payout at least to some extent, and better to think in terms of GDP per capita just to make the accounting easier.)

As to, where does the money come from? Wherever you can get it. The circumstances in which there is sufficient constituency for such a policy that the source of funding is the sticking point are so far removed from the current ones that I don't see any point in trying to speculate. I don't see that as a flaw in my belief that a society in which a UBI like you describe would allow people to change jobs more deliberately and in general make life less risky by an order of magnitude
posted by PMdixon at 4:19 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


It is 5.375 trillion. Per year. By way of comparison, the current US budget is estimated as 3.8 trillion, or about 20% of the US GDP of 18.57 trillion dollars.
posted by happyroach at 4:21 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Or in other words, approximately 1/3 of the entire US GDP would have to go into a meaningful UBI.
posted by happyroach at 4:23 PM on January 7


And again, I'm agreeing with you in that conclusion. Much of that would have to come from current wage labor compensation, ultimately.
posted by PMdixon at 4:36 PM on January 7


There's a lot in this post, but what caught my eye immediately is the claim that housing returns match those of equities. This is way out of line with Robert Shiller's view of things--he's argued that, in the US at least, home prices adjusted for inflation have been basically flat (i.e., the adjusted rate of return is not quite zero but close to it).

That's what I saw as well. It's pretty weird that that Jorda et al. find room to namedrop Piketty and Marx, but don't cite Case or Schiller, instead citing two of one of the author's unpublished articles on rental income.

It's also a little strange to treat rental housing as an investment since actually being a landlord is work.

On page 23 they claim their data source already adjusts for expenses like "property management costs, ground rent and other unrecoverable costs." I'm not sure if the use of 'ground rent' is a European foible, or if the data set intends to isolate the value of owning land from improving it (ie building apartments).
posted by pwnguin at 4:44 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


>Am I misreading the numbers, or wouldn't it be more like $5 trillion, not $5 billion?

>But even so, only three or four times the size of the recent tax cut for the ultra rich


The cost of the tax cut is over 10 years, so $5 trillion annually would be more than 30 times the size of the tax cut.
posted by JackFlash at 4:45 PM on January 7


To provide some context, the OECD computes the total tax burden of countries including personal income tax, corporate tax, state and local taxes, sales taxes and VAT.

The US is near the bottom among OECD countries with about 25% of GDP collected as taxes. Sweden is near the top with about 46% of GDP. Only Denmark is higher at 49% of GDP.

If the US increased its taxes to Sweden's level, it would produce about $3.9 trillion annually in additional revenue. Great things are possible, but good luck with that.

And the military budget is about $0.6 trillion, so even if cut in half it doesn't move the needle that much.
posted by JackFlash at 4:53 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


What is the time series in the first figure, exactly? Some kind of return on wealth products weighted by... what? Total size? CAPM?

I think this is based on Fig. 15, p 46 of the paper, which says "The within-country weights correspond to the shares of the respective asset in each country’s wealth portfolio."
posted by Coventry at 4:56 PM on January 7


The cost of the tax cut is over 10 years, so $5 trillion annually would be more than 30 times the size of the tax cut.

An obvious point that I thought of only long after making my comment. Thank you for the correction.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:27 PM on January 7


None of the hypothetical numbers about UBI matter right now because there is no path forward to raising taxes on the rich. Or we would have done it. Even if we flip the House & Senate this year, Trump wouldn't sign anything. Even if Dems get all 3 branches in 2020, there is no way they're going to be far enough to the left to raise taxes as high as they need to be to institute a meaningful UBI.

Instead of "show your work" on the math, show your work on exactly how such a tax hike gets passed, given that most politicians are bought and paid for.

And don't say "kill the rich" or "bring out the guillotines" unless you personally are willing to put your life on the line to do so. I hate this empty rhetoric, because it's generally those with the least to lose that take the biggest risks, and in this country that is poor people of color. Which is never ever the people I see advocating violence.
posted by AFABulous at 5:33 PM on January 7 [5 favorites]


You haven’t seen Democrats more busy on taxes than they are in Albany and Sacramento right now, and it’s in service of radically restructuring the taxes of rich Democrats to restore their federal deductibility, out of (justified) fear rich Democrats will start to demand (and get) state and local tax cuts if that doesn’t happen.

It really makes you wonder what the corporations, and their bankers and lawyers, who so ardently backed Clinton in 2016, would do in 2020 if a Bernie Sanders-type were nominated for President.
posted by MattD at 6:49 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I want to live in Iain M Bank's "Culture." A socialist utopia where everyone has time to think and love and work and create and dream. A world where political skulduggery and machiavellian machinations happen because it entertains the participants. A world where no child is ever hungry and every child is loved.

To make this work Banks needs to postulate total post-scarcity via direct conversion of matter to energy and ubiquitous, infinitely benevolent AI.

It's actually a surprisingly strong critique of communism, for all it wasn't intended as one.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:09 PM on January 7


You haven’t seen Democrats more busy on taxes than they are in Albany and Sacramento right now, and it’s in service of radically restructuring the taxes of rich Democrats to restore their federal deductibility,

Please spare us your disingenuous hand wringing about tax deductions for the rich. You know very well that this provision is a Republican attack directly on the governments of blue states.

If you want to reform deductions, let's reform all of them, not selectively for blatant political vindictiveness.
posted by JackFlash at 7:11 PM on January 7


JackFlash be that as it may — the point stands that Democrats are working harder and faster to cut taxes for their rich supporters than they’ve worked on any tax issue in a long time ... and that’s the subset of Democrats who face no serious Republican opposition. The idea that there’s political appetite for serious tax increases is very problematic.
posted by MattD at 7:25 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Instead of "show your work" on the math, show your work on exactly how such a tax hike gets passed, given that most politicians are bought and paid for.

Why do we always have to show our work? Trump and the Republicans didn't show any of their work for their tax cuts. Which proves that deficits only matter when Republicans want to use it to attack something they don't like.
posted by FJT at 8:31 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Here in Canada, the largest province of Ontario has just boosted the minimum wage to $14 per hour, up from $11.40 in 2017 (n.b. -- these figures are roughly $11.30 and $9.20 in USD) and plans to boost it again to $15 in 2019. There is a fair bit of uproar, mostly focused on ubiquitous coffee chain Tim Hortons[sic], which has had several memos to its employees team members leak out detailing the cutbacks they will now work under.

The flashpoint is two franchises in Cobourg, ON, where owners Jeri-Lyn Horton-Joyce and Ron Joyce Jr. told the nonplussed employees team members that they would now be on the hook for a portion of their medical and dental benefits, as well as declaring that breaks were henceforth unpaid.

There is considerable polarization in the letters pages and the comments sections: defenders of the franchise owners point out that the corporate owners of TH and Burger King is the notoriously parsimonious 3G Capital, which will not allow franchisees to raise prices to offset the new payroll costs. Even before this, the franchisees were in the midst of a class action lawsuit against 3G for its "bullying and intimidation" of the franchisees. Relations are at best fraught.

Even so, the optics of the Cobourg situation is dismal: you may have noted the striking coincidence of franchisee Jeri-Lyn Horton-Joyce having the same surname as the restaurant itself. In fact, she is the daughter of the late co-founder, Tim Horton, while her husband is the son of the other co-founder, Ron Joyce. Tim Horton himself died in 1974, and while I cannot speak for how strapped the younger couple is, they are at the very least the son and daughter-in-law of a man worth $1.6 billion; as well, every news story on the Cobourg memo mentions that the couple could not be reached for comment as they are on vacation at one of their winter homes in Florida.

Add that to the fact that the elder Joyce is facing a trial for sexual assault charges and that the premier of the province, Kathleen Wynne, is telling Joyce Jr. to pick a fight with her, not his minimum wage employees, and you have a sort of perfect storm of 2018 public relations.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:16 PM on January 7 [5 favorites]


Why do we always have to show our work?

This line of thought always seems weirdly petulant, to me.

Why do we always have to work on voter engagement when they're the only ones allowed to suppress voters?
Why do we have to drive out sexual assaulters on our side? Hastert was in power for decades.
Why don't we have a Fox News of our own? Why are they the only ones allowed to distort the truth like they do?

It's all effectively the same, with the same response: Because we're at least trying to act like there's more of a difference in what we're standing for than just naked tribalism, and if if we get into a sufficient position to be able to talk about actually implementing the policies we're promoting here, we have to be able to engage with reality rather than merely taking our turn into the Hypernormalization chamber.

Why should we have to behave better? Because we want to actually be better.
posted by CrystalDave at 9:31 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


Democrats absolutely need to make a Universal Basic Income a campaign issue.

Democrats have worked over the last few decades to curtail tuition reform and minimum wage increases, calling improvements or adjustments "unrealistic". Wealth redistribution will have to come from another political entity that is not constrained by obligations to wealthy donors and corporations, which benefit by maintaining income inequality.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:47 PM on January 7


-Mark Blyth's State of the Union
-The Real Future of Work
-Global Rentier Capitalism
-Thread for econ critics
-How inequality persists
-Towards a Political Economy of Inalienable Property Rights
What distinguishes the left’s “end vision” from Neoliberalism is we want to gradually end the alienability of certain property claims and expand the amount of inalienable property rights enjoyed equally by every individual. The end goal of course is a comprehensive suite of inalienable rights to health care, housing, self-expression, freedom of movement, participation in production, material subsistence, procedural and substantive justice, et cetera. It is extremely doubtful we can get close to such an array of inalienable rights under capitalism but we have no alternative than to try and get as close as we can.
oh and, fwiw...
LVT = wealth tax - "The total land value of just the major cities in the US is $25 trillion. A 10% LVT would raise 2.5 trillion per year."
posted by kliuless at 9:56 PM on January 7 [6 favorites]


the point stands that Democrats are working harder and faster to cut taxes for their rich supporters than they’ve worked on any tax issue in a long time

Democrats, led by Governor Jerry Brown worked to pass Proposition 30 in California, the so-called Millionaire's Tax. This balanced the budget for the first time fixing the damage of Arnold's disastrous administration.

You can spare us the "both sides" sanctimony as well.
posted by JackFlash at 10:44 PM on January 7 [5 favorites]


The problem with the ultra-rich is that they don't *want* enough. They *can't*. There's not enough of them, all their wildest dreams are satisfied by too few number of people.

It gets a bit messier when you realize, well, they want this for their entire lives, they want this for their kids entire lives, etc.

Eventually, though, there's not *enough* ultra-rich mouths to feed, and everyone else needs things to do to get their own mouths fed.

I want to believe more in UBI, but where I've seen it (the Middle East) everyone seems to import a new class of non-citizen to actually do any work. I'd be positively thrilled to have someone explain how UBI doesn't cause that (and there's lots of ways of manufacturing that state, don't get me started).

Seriously. Thrilled. Help someone who could be convinced out?
posted by effugas at 10:45 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


It really makes you wonder what the corporations, and their bankers and lawyers, who so ardently backed Clinton in 2016, would do in 2020 if a Bernie Sanders-type were nominated for President.

Why settle for a Bernie Sander's type when we can have the real thing? If he's healthy, I hope he runs. At the very least, he should receive serious consideration for VP.
posted by Beholder at 11:32 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


He’ll be 78, that’s why. Aim higher, find someone who isn’t old enough to collect Social Security.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:56 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


He’ll be 78, that’s why. Aim higher, find someone who isn’t old enough to collect Social Security.

VP

: )
posted by Beholder at 3:24 AM on January 8


this fundamental idea that jobs are good. Why are jobs good? Why do we want them?

Work is good! We must work, lest we find ourselves unable to pay for all our labor-saving devices.
posted by flabdablet at 4:53 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


everyone seems to import a new class of non-citizen to actually do any work.

Have you, uh, been to the US?
posted by PMdixon at 5:18 AM on January 8


America should tackle its monopoly pricing problems before worrying about redistribution schemes, with healthcare easily landing the top priority spot, but the whole economy really. How many poor people spend 50-100 USD per month for phone or internet at home in the US? A basic mobile phone with limited data or internet at home cost like 2 or 20 EURs per month in France, respectively. Verizon alone eats enough to dent your basic income targets. In healthcare of course, rent seeking has layers and feed back loops, so the savings are astronomical even if $20 health insurance remains unrealistic.

I found the "violent shocks" link the most interesting so far. All "four horsemen" involve a significant reduction in the population, so an important question is: How do you reduce the population without injustice? Educating women helps of course, but only so much and it's largely tapped out here. Any real answer would necessarily involve taxing parents for children beyond the first one or two.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:29 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


How do you reduce the population without injustice? Educating women helps of course, but only so much and it's largely tapped out here.

Which is, of course, why population growth in every developed nation is primarily dependent on continued immigration.

Overpopulation is a global problem and only a global problem. Every rich country already commands resources well in excess of those required to solve the relatively minor problems caused by local crowding.

And educating and empowering women is not anywhere even close to being tapped out globally. For anybody genuinely and honestly concerned about being overwhelmed by hordes from beyond the border, it's a far better investment than propping up the border controls could ever be.

What the rich countries need to be doing in the twenty-first century is turning themselves into economic laboratories for experiments in economic structures that do not rely on endless growth in order to remain functional, so that by the time the net inflow across their borders actually ceases, it's not because they're worse places to live than their neighbors.
posted by flabdablet at 7:10 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, consider the people who are actually worried about how many nutrients are in their broth: "Nearly 1.1 billion people have moved out of extreme poverty since 1990. In 2013, 767 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day, down from 1.85 billion in 1990."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:24 AM on January 8


It's false that overpopulation is only a global problem:

First, western overpopulation causes catastrophic environmental problems because westerners consume vastly more. Immigrants to western countries necessarily consume like native westerners.

Second, we've only ever reduced economic inequality in connection or response to a population decline, according to the "violent shocks" article. I'm doubtful the west could reduce inequality locally without reducing population locally too. If you try, you might wind up in a violent revolution after all, but fascists tend to win those.

I agree completely that western countries need to end classical economic growth but this seemingly requires placing their populations into slight decline, even after accounting for immigration.

As a related practical matter, we could perhaps redirect these baser xenophobic drives exploited by the far-right into simply social pressures against large families that paralleled whatever tax penalties imposed on them, thereby decreasing support for xenophobic parties in the process.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:01 AM on January 8


It's false that overpopulation is only a global problem:

First, western overpopulation causes catastrophic environmental problems because westerners consume vastly more.


And those catastrophic environmental problems affect the whole globe, not only the Western nations where the consumption is happening. It's a global problem.

If every person in every Western nation were to be guillotined tomorrow it would take maybe a century for global population to return to present levels, by which time the concentration of wealth inherent in trade would have recreated a subpopulation somewhere consuming resources at a rate sufficient to cause catastrophic worldwide environmental problems to resume at their present levels as well. It's a global problem.

I agree completely that western countries need to end classical economic growth

Further, we need to do that in such a way that the resulting economy remains as attractive a model for the rest of the world to emulate as our present growth-structured economies currently do. So it can't be done by making living conditions for the vast majority of Westerners worse.

I suspect it can be done by removing the architectural constraint that the entire edifice be devoted to the hoovering up of absolutely everything by an 0.1% that the edifice itself constructs.

And note that the world is full of examples of people living in conditions that would satisfy anybody healthy and sane, at far lower levels of resource consumption than the West currently requires to maintain present levels of depression and anxiety.
posted by flabdablet at 8:48 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


Why do we always have to show our work?

Okay, well let's just make shit up then whether it's realistic or not. I think every Republican will come around and vote for universal healthcare tomorrow, January 9th. By next Monday we will have flying cars.

UBI is not going to happen with the political structure we have now so it's useless to argue about how much it should be a year and where that money is going to come from.
posted by AFABulous at 9:30 AM on January 8 [5 favorites]


Okay, well let's just make shit up then whether it's realistic or not.

I'm simply saying that the fixation on "balanced budgets" is mostly a bludgeon that Republicans use against policy they don't like. The priority should be having good programs that work, and a little less on figuring out how to pay for every dime. Because as seen with programs like Obamacare, the public seems to fight harder when you want to take away a concrete program versus wanting to get a more abstract piece of legislation passed.

And then there are things like climate change where I would be completely fine running a deficit on, because the issue is as monumentally important as winning a world war.
posted by FJT at 10:29 AM on January 8


I'm simply saying that the fixation on "balanced budgets" is mostly a bludgeon that Republicans use against policy they don't like

And everyone else is saying "yes and this fact helps you advance your legislative program how?" Either it's a useful bludgeon in which case they'll keep using it or else it's irrelevant to their political capabilities in which case somehow taking it from them doesn't do anything.
posted by PMdixon at 10:33 AM on January 8


I'm simply saying that the fixation on "balanced budgets" is mostly a bludgeon that Republicans use against policy they don't like.

I'm 100% fine with running a deficit to pull people out of poverty, work on climate change, institute universal healthcare, and give unicorns to children.

How do we realistically get there when we cannot raise any more money, or slash defense funds, with the congress we have? We couldn't even do it when all three branches were Democrat-controlled (under Obama). No one ever answers this question when I pose it.
posted by AFABulous at 10:54 AM on January 8 [2 favorites]


We don't do a thing with the congress we have because they don't work for us. If some power doesn't get wrested, the only possible plans consist of: things continue to get worse.
posted by The Gaffer at 11:12 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


I had a shower thought type realization recently, something I'm sure is far from new: economic inequality is more akin to late-stage capitalism than Republicans would ever admit. The few are taking value from the many, but instead of attempting some even distribution, they're keeping it for themselves, and ensuring that they can take more. I can't fathom any way that a CEO can justify making more than 300 times the average worker, and let's not talk about comparing CEOs pay to that of the janitors who work at the same company. Yes, there are macro-management skills that CEOs have that most janitors do not, but do those skills actually add that much to the tiers of workers below them? Increased pay for the upper echelon of society is self-assessed, so of course they'll say "I'm worth more and add more than anyone else." And this HBR consideration of why we should stop obsessing over CEO pay ratios is dumb - you don't not regulate something because people will find work-arounds, you regulate the system including the work-arounds. And the justification for a six-fold increase in CEO pay since 1980 can be explained by the sixfold increase in firm size, which just means the company's pyramid scheme got that much taller, with those at the top taking that much more value from those below them. A CEO is nothing without a company to carry them. /rant

Fun fact: last year, High Pay Centre marked “Fat Cat Wednesday” (January 4, 2017) as the day by when a CEO has already earned more than an average worker earns in the entire year.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:12 AM on January 8 [3 favorites]


It enrages me when people (hi dad) say that people deserve higher pay because they work harder. OK, that's true for an ER doctor vs. me, but there's no way the CEO of my (former) company worked 155 times harder than I did.
posted by AFABulous at 11:37 AM on January 8 [10 favorites]


Also, think about how much of that CEO's current income is now passively derived from investments rather than from any work they're currently doing.

If it's unacceptable for welfare recipients to get paid a pittance for sitting on their asses, why are we so eager to support the sizeable fortunes paid to the super-rich and their descendants for exactly the same activity?
posted by flabdablet at 8:39 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


There's a serious proposal to give babies born in the United States $20,000 (or more)

also btw...
-tax reform "Repeal and Replace"
-SMBC on the 'Golden Age' of capitalism [1,2]

oh and re: 'limits to (classical economic) growth', we could always redefine "growth" (with creative accounting!)*

---
*"translate short-term costs into future benefits, an essential element that helps department heads and segment chiefs record and report accurate financial statements" :P
posted by kliuless at 10:27 PM on January 8 [2 favorites]


more on economic growth limits...
Georgescu-Roegen vs. Henry George vs. Wakefield vs. Solow - "Unless you stress how not all gdp is created equal, the costs of bad environmental outcomes won't show up as very high, not relative to total wealth. It will appear as if you always can substitute away from bearing those costs full on, even though perhaps you cannot. My own view is that the ultimate scarcity in today's system comes from what the political economy of our societies and polities can bear..."
posted by kliuless at 9:46 PM on January 9


aforementioned countries are fairly homogenous

This comment was from way up thread, but it is still important to point out that this translates to "are white people". It is also bullshit -- as if the only diversity another country could have is skin color! Sure, Ireland is "fairly homogenous" but it seems like they have had some significant differences of opinion in the past.
posted by benzenedream at 10:54 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]


-Intangible assets are changing investment
-Capitalism without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy
-What Does it Mean to Be Human?
In this world only we humans have knowledge, by which I mean externalized recordings such as books or music or art. I can read a book today or see a piece of art created by another human hundreds or even thousands of years ago and in a totally different part of the world. We share lots of things with other species, such as emotions, some form of speech and consciousness, whatever exactly that turn out to be. But knowledge is distinctly human. No other species has it.

Knowledge comes from the knowledge loop. We learn something, we use that to create something new and we share that with the world. That loop has been active for thousands of years. We each get to participate in this loop. And we get to do so freely. That turns out to be the crucial feature of what it means to be human: we reap the collective benefit of the knowledge loop but we participate in it freely as individuals. That is the big difference between us and the Borg. And that is also what we need to keep in mind when working on augmentation. We must be careful to assure that it increases, rather than limits, our freedom to participate in the knowledge loop.
posted by kliuless at 11:47 PM on January 9


>>it won't just be the 1% or the 10% or the 25% who end up sacrificing for it, it will be at least half

>I'd need to see you show your workings before taking that conclusion seriously.

Okay, I would question the word "sacrificing" and replace it with "sharing" but the statement is correct.


No, it really isn't.

As things stand at present in every capitalist society, not just in the US, income distribution is skewed in a way that puts mean income well over median income.

Therefore, even if all privately earned income were to be taxed at 100% in order to fund a universal income - that is, if the State were just to seize everything everybody earned and redistribute it, so that every citizen ended up with the mean income - then more than half would see their income increase.

Not even the craziest most starry-eyed unrealistic radical income-tax-funded UBI scenario possible involves "at least half" making any kind of "sacrifice" or being forced to "share".
posted by flabdablet at 10:42 PM on January 10 [4 favorites]


> It is 5.375 trillion. Per year. By way of comparison, the current US budget is estimated as 3.8 trillion, or about 20% of the US GDP

> If the US increased its taxes to Sweden's level, it would produce about $3.9 trillion annually in additional revenue. Great things are possible, but good luck with that.


So just to summarize our back-of-the-envelope calculations, 75% of a UBI could be paid for merely by raising our tax levels to those of Sweden, which everyone agrees are relatively high for the middle-classes, but which are also quite a bit lower for the upper classes than the US had even as recently as the 70s. So a Swedish tax rate of 60% for almost everyone plus a US-boomer-era rate of 70-80% on the rich should about cover it, right? Yeah, it's not likely to happen, but it seems not at all physically or economically impossible.

Nor is it even that ridiculous politically -- it's not like it would take a constitutional amendment or even massive supermajorities. Just win the House, Senate and Presidency in 2020 (which is quite doable), abolish the filibuster (which can be done with 51 Senators and would take literally five minutes), and pass a big but fairly simple tax and cash transfer program. Again -- unlikely to realistically happen, but it seems like there are no insuperable mathematical, economic, or institutional barriers to prevent it if we actually had >50% of the country and all Democrats in favor of it.
posted by chortly at 11:43 PM on January 11 [1 favorite]


Again -- unlikely to realistically happen, but it seems like there are no insuperable mathematical, economic, or institutional barriers to prevent it if we actually had >50% of the country and all Democrats in favor of it.

One of the things that pulls me inexorably toward the pit of despair is seeing how the US civic religion holds the institutions designed to maintain slave power as the sacred fundament of democracy - and how quickly it absorbs new ones as such, like the new de facto requirement that every bill pass or evade a filibuster.

States can serve as rotten boroughs too. I expect to seem them nakedly used as such in my lifetime.
posted by PMdixon at 12:01 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]




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