People use basic income to improve their quality of life
August 10, 2018 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Universal basic income hasn't made me rich. But my life is more enriching: "The Finnish basic income trial, of which I am part, finishes at the end of the year. Having been interviewed by nearly 70 separate media outlets, from the BBC to Le Figaro, the question I have been asked most often has been: how has the basic income trial changed my life? My answer is simple. In money terms, my life has not changed at all. However, the psychological effects of this human experiment have been transformative. I vastly prefer basic income to a benefits system fraught with complicated forms, mandatory courses and pointless obligations... it gives you security to chase other opportunities. It pushes you to seek fulfilling work – and isn't that what unemployment benefits should do?"

The U.S. needs more home care workers. Is this the solution? - "The key drivers of the shortage, according to gerontologist Clare Luz: 'Low wages...Virtually no benefits, lack of guaranteed hours and lack of respect'... So Ivey has become an activist with the Service Employees International Union to press for higher wages: 'Somewhere, somebody is going to snap and say, you know what? We see the problem here now. It ain't that people don't want to work. It's not that people are not smart enough. We're not paying them enough'... And, says Paul Osterman, if we want there to be more home care workers like Henrietta Ivey around when we need their services, we will have to advocate for them too: 'We're going to need help, and we're going to wonder where it is and why it's not forthcoming. And then we will complain. And there will hopefully be a politician who will see it in his or her interest to make this their issue.'"

On the Politics of Basic Income - "Left UBI advocates like Weeks tend to see basic income as part of a broader set of demands and proposals, rather than a single-shot solution to every social problem... What unites the pro-UBI forces is a willingness to think beyond a society defined by work as wage labor... Arrayed against the post-work vision of Basic Income are those who treat work as something to be realized and celebrated, rather than transcended or dispensed with... Zamora calls instead for reducing the scope of the market through the struggle for decommodification. This perspective is reflected by those like Barbara Bergmann, who emphasize the importance of directly providing 'merit goods' like health care, education, and housing, rather than relying on the private market. This is important, because a Murray-style UBI of marketized social provision would be radically inegalitarian for reasons I've explained elsewhere. Bergmann's prioritization of this substantive service provision is reflected in the advocates of 'Universal Basic Services' as an alternative to Universal Basic Income."

Bullshit jobs and the yoke of managerial feudalism - "It's not exactly that people want to work, it's more that people want to feel they are transforming the world around them in a way that makes some kind a positive difference to other people. In a way, that's what being human is all about. Take it away from them, they start to fall apart."
posted by kliuless (36 comments total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
 
That Frase breakdown of UBI politics is very handy.
(I'm enjoying his recent book now, too)
posted by doctornemo at 6:07 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


I got into a bit of a conversation with my boss yesterday about UBI and healthcare, he's a staunch Republican and supports Trump, I'm British and a supporter of the NHS and fairness. He finally admitted that both would make sense (and would save money) but just didn't want them in the US; he likes the concept that employees are incentivised to stay with the employer because of the fear of losing health insurance. Why not motivate employees to stay because it's a great place to work instead? I've talked before about being happy to pay a higher tax if it benefits society, if I'm lucky enough to do well, why not help out?

Not sure what it's going to take to enact a culture change, but I'm sensing a change is gonna come, something is in the wind.
posted by arcticseal at 6:34 AM on August 10 [28 favorites]


"he likes the concept that employees are incentivised to stay with the employer because of the fear of losing health insurance"

That's literally evil.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:41 AM on August 10 [145 favorites]


Yeah, we differ entirely on outlook on everything. It's a challenge. He transfers back to the US next month, blessed be.
posted by arcticseal at 6:48 AM on August 10 [11 favorites]


Why not motivate employees to stay because it's a great place to work instead?

The same reason the government of Richard II passed laws preventing workers from changing jobs during the labor shortage after the Black Death.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:50 AM on August 10 [13 favorites]


Timely post! I'm currently readingThe Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen, and she touches on stark contrasts between US and Finnish approaches to life.

Finland sure seems to have gotten the best overall societal construct figured out well. I wish I could move there, even with the cold dark long winters.
posted by yoga at 7:00 AM on August 10 [10 favorites]


It's not about whether you win or lose. It's about the other guy losing.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:17 AM on August 10 [22 favorites]


I wish I could move there, even with the cold dark long winters.

I did, after a decade of increasing stress and frustration as a foreign born permanent resident in the US. No regrets, not even at the thought of winter darks.
posted by infini at 7:18 AM on August 10 [16 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Canada: Ford government vows basic income pilot will receive 'lengthy runway' before cancellation, as the new Ontario government breaks its election promise to keep the pilot program running. But hey, they've got buck-a-beer.
posted by nubs at 7:20 AM on August 10 [14 favorites]


Things I've learned from working with poor people for 14 years:

--poor people are working as hard as or harder than the people demonizing them, even if they aren't currently engaged in paid work
--applying for and staying on currently existing benefits programs is work, and very time-consuming
--applying for and staying on currently existing benefits programs ranges from difficult to impossible for people with serious disabilities or age-related impairments
--I have a J.D and sometimes find the rules for various benefit programs incomprehensible
--every means-tested benefit program discourages part-time work and variable incomes (i.e. if you have Section 8 and you get offered a three month part-time job, you are better off turning it down or your rent will go up due to the temporary increase in income and it will take months to get it back down after the job is over)

Basic income seems like a no-brainer to me. Opposition to it strikes me as motivated primarily by racism, the just world fallacy, American myths about self-sufficiency, and prosperity gospel. I really don't care if poor people deserve basic income. The systems we have now are administratively expensive and a huge waste of everyone's time.
posted by Mavri at 8:12 AM on August 10 [116 favorites]


The people who get all worked up about “moochers” getting stuff for “free” rarely if ever get upset about massive giveaways to corporations and/or the already rich.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:15 AM on August 10 [21 favorites]


I'm leaving to get a tattoo of Mavris's comment, back later
posted by thelonius at 8:22 AM on August 10 [14 favorites]


he likes the concept that employees are incentivised to stay with the employer because of the fear of losing health insurance

Boom. There it is. A capitalist finally admitted it. The American health insurance system is not about delivering health care. It's about giving capital leverage over labor.
posted by vibrotronica at 8:56 AM on August 10 [52 favorites]


Why did the Finns scrap it?
posted by Selena777 at 9:04 AM on August 10


"A capitalist finally admitted it"

Except he's not a capitalist. It sounds like he's a middle manager. Self-hating proletarian, thinks of himself as livestock too.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:05 AM on August 10 [13 favorites]


Finland was the first country other than my native United States that I ever lived in.

At the time it seemed like everyone in Finland had the same living standards as middle/upper middle class in the US. Even the down and out drunkard who pissed himself while we spoke had less to be afraid of than I did, and I was probably 12,000 hours into decent career.

I didn't appreciate the amount of fear and anxiety people live with in the states until I met people who didn't.
Never had to worry about paying for school, Never had to worry about health insurance, Never had to worry one minor event would trigger a cascade of tragedy they will never be able to recover from.

I'm surprised and glad the Finns are trying to make it even better. I wish I had been raised there., it's a nice place full of (reserved) nice people.
posted by KBGB at 9:09 AM on August 10 [32 favorites]


Why did the Finns scrap it?

It was a one year pilot program, so it was always due to end now. The interesting thing will be to see whether there's any push for it to be implemented more broadly, and more permanently.
posted by Dysk at 9:10 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


Universalism now, eliminate means testing and tiered systems. All belongs to all.
posted by The Whelk at 9:12 AM on August 10 [14 favorites]


@arcticseal: If I'm lucky enough to do well, why not help out?

For a large number of Americans, that idea is literally and figuratively foreign.
posted by tippiedog at 9:24 AM on August 10 [16 favorites]


SOLIDARITY, NOT CHARITY.

I feel like I have experienced some limited form of ad-hoc UBI over the past two years with the combination of free/work trade for rent, access to a really good food bank, a little ongoing help from a friend who knows who they are and access to full state Medicaid insurance. (And it's still a surprising amount of work.)

What did I do with it all this free time and disengagement with wage slavery and treadmill capitalism in the past few years?

Well, I certainly didn't start drinking more and doing less good things.

I've worked more. I've volunteered. I've helped people clean out their parents homes after they've passed. I've helped and visited with many elderly - which is really more a benefit and learning experience and opportunity for me than charity or a kindness.

I have quit smoking.

I quit drinking entirely for almost a year, and now have a much healthier and moderate relationship with alcohol.

I have now a bit over 45 pounds of unwanted weight by having the free time to bike and exercise and eat well.

I went and got a job that I actually wanted and that I like, and one that is helpful and productive to my community.

I have engaged treatment and therapy for being trans and I have and my treated my mental and physical health very seriously, as a job, so that I could be more functional, useful and productive in society.

If I had been doing this with a higher level of actual UBI instead of the independent support network I've managed to build and ask for, it would just be even more of the above good things.

And they think people want UBI because they're lazy and don't want to work or contribute to society?

I think they're projecting their own issues and character flaws.

RISE UP TOGETHER.
posted by loquacious at 9:37 AM on August 10 [77 favorites]


I remember the day when you were first in need of support and the community appeared beneath you, telling you to jump, gently. iirc May 2010
posted by infini at 9:53 AM on August 10 [1 favorite]


infini: I don't wish to derail the thread further into personal oversharing territory as this isn't the thread for it, but as amazing as that housing and support was - I don't count it as a form of ad hoc or made up UBI and it's useful to illustrate the difference.

I had a lot of different fiscal and health care issues, weird urban food scarcity/costs and other basic needs that weren't being met. I was also making the personal mistake of following everyone else's well intended and perfectly rational and logical advice to take on an issue (and person, myself) too complicated for anything easy or normal.

What I should have done was take that financial support, thrown away most of my stuff, bought some nice camping gear and gone on a long bike tour and spent a year or two healing in the trees. But that wasn't a choice available to me at the time, and on paper and by any normal metrics it's a horrible idea that reeks of magical thinking.

The point is is that I technically have vastly less monthly income here and now, but more of my basic needs are met, I feel more secure and stable and I am definitely a lot more functional.

UBI isn't really about money or a metric or a number.

It's really about the security and breathing room to be able to do something more than think from paycheck to paycheck in longer and more constructive time frames and to be able to actually plan for a future, rather than merely next week.
posted by loquacious at 10:19 AM on August 10 [13 favorites]


My daughter (then aged 13) and I took a trip last summer that involved some days hanging around Amsterdam to visit their epic playground scene. I noticed that without fear of litigation or medical bankruptcy, the playgrounds were free to be... a little less than safe. Risky. Challenging for the kids. You could feel the difference.

I think all the time about what we're losing in America from this poverty of psychological safety.

I had some mouth-breathing hypocrite colleagues in a past office job who loved Fox News and also loved their expensive European SUVs. I got fed up one day at lunch in the office and hollered at them, "All of us are a layoff followed by a medical crisis away from having nothing." The lack of empathy and the stout unwillingness to imagine a different outcome for your life just annoy the shit out of me.
posted by sockshaveholes at 10:38 AM on August 10 [32 favorites]


It doesn't even take a layoff. My roommate had an expensive and necessary surgery - one that saved him from a lifetime of serious disability due to a progressive condition. With the surgery, he's able to work. Without the surgery, he would not be, and he would be incredibly, incredibly sick.

His health insurance turned down the claim. He spent some very tense months, while he was recovering from brain surgery, completely at their whim and worrying he would lose everything. Eventually they approved his appeal, but he had very little control of the outcome.

It's insane and inhuman and I'm staggered that anyone thinks that this system is better than health care for all. I mean, it's not even the just world fallacy anymore - everyone knows stories of people who did everything "right" and screwed over by their insurance. It's literally about putting everyone at risk to preserve this broken, bullshit ideology of "self-sufficiency" and "small government" or whatever.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:32 AM on August 10 [16 favorites]


Self-hating proletarian, thinks of himself as livestock too.

Trying not to thread-sit here. He's a senior Director in oil & gas with multiple expat assignments under his belt. Likely not a 1%, but certainly within 3%. He thinks everyone else is livestock and the poor are lazy. Target demographic for the GOP.
I'm a not as senior manager with multiple expat assignments too, I was just raised under a different system and have a different perspective. I realise I'm lucky and we're all in this together.
posted by arcticseal at 11:37 AM on August 10 [13 favorites]


I realize I'm lucky and we're all in this together.

"Successful" Americans NEVER give credit to even the tiniest iota of luck for their success. Well, most don't.
posted by notreally at 12:11 PM on August 10 [1 favorite]


Somewhere, somebody is going to snap and say, you know what? We see the problem here now. It ain't that people don't want to work. It's not that people are not smart enough. We're not paying them enough'...

Its not just the low pay, also really key is the lack of respect, the assignment of pointless busy work, and the dehumanization. We as a society need to stop glorifying certain types of work and realize that everyone contributes. For f***s sake most of the lower paid labor is so very demanding both mentaly and physically, and yet we still insist on seeing certain people in certain positions as "lazy and ignorant."
posted by WalkerWestridge at 12:15 PM on August 10 [7 favorites]


There’s a lot of good having more worker owned and operated business structures would do.
posted by The Whelk at 12:33 PM on August 10 [6 favorites]


The U.S. needs more home care workers. Is this the solution? - "The key drivers of the shortage

Drivers!! (out of context I know but) when the autonomous trucks furlough vast numbers of long haul truck drivers, what to do with them? Retrain the truck drivers for home health care! That should work. Win Win.
posted by sammyo at 1:08 PM on August 10


Retrain the truck drivers for home health care! That should work.

It would probably be nice if we paid home health even close to what a truck driver makes, instead of minimum wage.
posted by thegears at 4:08 PM on August 10


-applying for and staying on currently existing benefits programs ranges from difficult to impossible for people with serious disabilities or age-related impairments

Jesus. This. It will take me years to get through the disability system and I may be denied after that simply because I'm young. I just got my first denial and they somehow think I can go to an office 8 hours a day. I've been sick for 2 days just because I was at the lawyers consult for 1.5 hours. AND the estimated benefits are LESS than "gainful employment" cutoffs so WHY would I go through all this for less than what I could make at a job?

With basic income it at least goes SOME way to leveling the field and paperwork and mess for all the various needs-based systems. The US system is currently all broken up into different departments, forms, requirements, paperwork, cutoffs. It's a mess. Right now you're left with literally nothing while you wait to go through the system. For many people that amount of money IS life-changing. It's the difference between eating or starving, sharing a room or being on the street, paying for medication or going without.

And in case you were wondering the lawyer said, "The first 4 years of the Obama administration were the golden years for being able to get through disability."
posted by Crystalinne at 4:13 PM on August 10 [7 favorites]


- "he likes the concept that employees are incentivised to stay with the employer because of the fear of losing health insurance"

- That's literally evil.

- Boom. There it is. A capitalist finally admitted it. The American health insurance system is not about delivering health care. It's about giving capital leverage over labor.


Well, as best I've come to understand it, the universally agreed-upon premise of our capitalist society is "everyone is incentivized to work hard or else starve to death." When that is the bedrock foundation of all of civilization, adding a bit more work-or-sicken incentivization on top isn't so much of a leap.
posted by chortly at 9:31 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


I'll be honest, I can no longer do direct action protesting where I put my body on the line, or take the risk because I can't think of the potential bankruptcy that me and my family would undergo should anything happen to me. I've already been hurt once by police brutality and I was lucky that street medics saved me. Police protect property, not people, and I have heard reports of police targeting street medics and keeping them away from protestors to continue to suppress. I think that might be a larger reason why UBI is not gonna work in the US, giving a chance for any part of the proletariat to live happily and have more energy and resources to revolt is not in the rich's favor.
posted by yueliang at 10:15 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


The only way that things are going to change is if the ruling classes are afraid. It doesn't even have to be that they're afraid of violence - they could be afraid of changes that will strip them of their wealth and influence. We have the numbers to do this, even with gerrymandering and vote suppression - but we don't have the political will, especially among younger progressive voters. They've been sold the myth of their own powerlessness.

We need to get more people politically involved. I genuinely believe that we can make massive changes if we do. It's just ... how.

That's where I start to get depressed.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:36 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


@Kutsuwamushi - I completely agree with you and you are totally right. But as someone who was already martyred once for the movement in another circumstance, I've decided that it isn't me, right now. I have other friends that I admire deeply for keeping going, but I worry for them too.

I can barely keep myself going, but I don't even know what you mean by 'politically involved'. That's vague as fuck, and the progressive field has so many things to deal with that knowing where to mobilize first and where to go is really tough. I'm open to any insights, however.
posted by yueliang at 1:14 PM on August 12


Also sorry 'vague as fuck' came off as more aggressive than I mean, it's just that there is so much to do! Other than eating the rich, I'm not super sure what to do. Getting people to vote for progressive platforms is one way, but it seems overwhelming to me to figure out how to get involved in civic duties when the average town meeting is 6 hours long and I do not have the spoons for that.
posted by yueliang at 1:22 PM on August 12


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