There is a certain elegance to the notion of the basic income payment. Of course, I hate it anyway. The idea is that people who can afford to pay taxes pay taxes and every single person gets a check from the government for basic necessities.
Let’s put it into numbers. Let’s say the governments of this country spend $5 trillion in redistributing wealth.
I consider much of defense spending redistributing wealth from the taxpayer to the corporations. The US spends as much on so-called defense as the rest of the world combined–that is not necessary for defense in “peacetime.” Let’s say a necessary amount would be as much as our ten biggest “enemies” combined. Also, I’m counting everything from public education to social security as wealth redistribution–after all, if you pay into your 401k or send your kids to private school, you’re paying your own way in this stuff and through your taxes you’re paying someone else’s way too.
If you took that roughly five trillion dollars and split it among the three hundred million plus people in this country, every single man, woman and child would get a check for $15,000 every year in round numbers. If every single person got that, presumably they could manage to pay for their own schooling and their own retirement and such. As it is now, the top half who pay the taxes don’t get anything, so the bottom half could actually get $30,000 at current spending levels – surely that’s enough for a child to pay for school or an elderly person to live on?
I always used this math as a way to point out that revenue is not the problem – we have enough tax money to put every single person into the middle class–upper middle class even! Yet we use it so inefficiently that “the poor you will always have with you.”
From a purely pragmatic perspective, all other things equal, redistributing wealth like this instead of through government-provided services, mandates and subsidies, would take all the bureaucratic inefficiency, room for cronyistic abuse, and hyperinflation in targeted industries (like education and healthcare), out of the equation. The basic income is highly efficient as a way to redistribute wealth and maximizes people’s utility by allowing them to make choices on how they spend their money, so maybe it’s understandable that prominent Republicans are lobbying President Trump for a toe in the door for the basic income payment by suggesting a carbon tax that would pay for it.
From the Basic Income Earth Network:
A group of prominent US Republicans has now issued a call for a carbon tax and dividend, which they present as a “free market” solution to climate change.
The Climate Leadership Council (CLC) includes, among others, two former Secretaries of State (James Baker III and George Shultz), a former Secretary of the Treasury (Henry Paulson Jr), and two former Chairmen of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (Martin Feldstein and Greg Mankiw).
The CLC’s proposal, laid out and defended in “The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends” (February 2017), describes its dividend proposal as follows:
“All the proceeds from this carbon tax would be returned to the American people on an equal and quarterly basis via dividend checks, direct deposits or contributions to their individual retirement accounts. In the example above [a carbon tax beginning at $40 per ton and increasing over time], a family of four would receive approximately $2,000 in carbon dividend payments in the first year. This amount would grow over time as the carbon tax rate increases, creating a positive feedback loop: the more the climate is protected, the greater the individual dividend payments to all Americans. The Social Security Administration should administer this program, with eligibility for dividends based on a valid social security number.”
Still, I hate the idea! Not only do I hate the idea of redistributing wealth–an inherently violent action that steals from and if necessary kills or incarcerates otherwise innocent people (Taxation is Theft!), but I also hate the idea that individuals would have to go hat-in-hand to the government for the basic necessities of life.
But this isn’t the first I’ve seen of this (even on the right). It’s been getting an increasing amount of press lately. Here are some examples…
A Guaranteed Income for Every American
Replacing the welfare state with an annual grant is the best way to cope with a radically changing U.S. jobs market—and to revitalize America’s civic culture
By Charles Murray
I think that a UBI is our only hope to deal with a coming labor market unlike any in human history and that it represents our best hope to revitalize American civil society.
Murray brings up a good point – the labor market is increasingly dysfunctional, but in my opinion that has more to do with subsidizing capital over labor with either directly or indirectly government-funded research coupled with labor laws that allow the existence of labor shortages and unemployment (not to mention an inorganic level of immigration) simultaneously. Murray’s suggestion, however, accommodates these injustices and inefficiencies rather than remedies them and serves the hierarchy by creating dependency. But the real kicker is that of course welfare wouldn’t stop there because people make bad decisions and end up in a pitiable state even when they start out with sufficient funds for an austere but adequate life–and those people would have to have their food, shelter and healthcare taken care of just like they are now!
Don’t worry quite yet though. As with all socialist programs, America is unlikely to lead the way. Basic income is getting attention around the world and will likely be tried elsewhere first.
India Considers Fighting Poverty With a Universal Basic Income
Annual economic survey looks at possibility of replacing messy welfare programs with a stipend paid to every Indian
India is looking at a radical idea for reducing poverty: free money for everyone—no strings attached.
France’s Last Socialist Standing
The party seems not to have learned the lesson that humbled François Hollande.
France’s Socialists chose former Education Minister Benoît Hamon as their standard bearer in this spring’s presidential election, and if nothing else they deserve points for consistency. Mr. Hamon is offering a platform similar to the one that wrecked the popularity of failed departing President François Hollande. What’s French for “more cowbell”?
Mr. Hamon, who took nearly 60% of the vote in Sunday’s run-off primary, defeated incumbent Prime Minister Manuel Valls, and the contrast between the two could hardly have been starker. Mr. Valls has been the economic reform champion in Mr. Hollande’s beleaguered administration, pushing through labor-law liberalization and other measures over the objections of Socialists in the National Assembly.
By contrast, Mr. Hamon served up a platform of Socialist shibboleths, including a universal basic income, a 32-hour work week and a tax on robots. Polls suggest Mr. Hamon can’t win a general election and may not even break 10%. But at least he’s authentic.
But maybe not quite yet…
Swiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all.
Final results from Sunday’s referendum showed that nearly 77% opposed the plan, with only 23% backing it.
The proposal had called for adults to be paid an unconditional monthly income, whether they worked or not.
The supporters camp had suggested a monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,755; $2,555) for adults and also SFr625 for each child.
The amounts reflected the high cost of living in Switzerland. It is not clear how the plan would have affected people on higher salaries.
The supporters had also argued that since work was increasingly automated, fewer jobs were available for workers.
Switzerland is the first country to hold such a vote.
If at first you don’t succeed….