Sunday, May 12

Washington P***: "Universal basic income" would end poverty

A few months ago I wrote a satirical post along the lines of "Hey, wanna end poverty overnight?  It's easy:  we just need to have the federal gummint write everyone a check every year for, say, $100,000."

As noted, the post was satire.

Well you'll never guess what's happened:  the Washington P*** has published a blog column by a so-called "progressive" who's offered this exact suggestion, apparently seriously:  He wants to have the federal gummint give every person in the U.S. a "universal basic income."
what are some advantages of providing a universal basic income?  [It] would create greater equality by ending poverty and providing a minimum living standard. It would also increase bargaining power for workers, who could demand better working conditions with a safety cushion.   
Did you catch that?  The author not only claims this would end poverty, but would also increase bargaining power for workers, since they could demand better conditions--and presumably would have an easier time calling a strike if the employer didn't cave to their demands--because the workers would have the taxpayer-funded "basic income" to live on during the strike.

Wow, sign me up!  The author goes on to claim that this will actually "eliminate unpleasant work"!  You may wonder how that would occur.  The author explains:
Such bargaining power “will generate an incentive structure for employers to seek technical and organizational innovations that eliminate unpleasant work,” which would “have not just a labor-saving bias, but a labor-humanizing bias.” 
If that strikes you as a bit of a reach, hey, the author is just getting started!
The fact that it is universal is crucial. This eliminates income traps that can cause severe work disincentives. A UBI answers the Foucauldian critique about the welfare state being a way for the state to stigmatize and control marginalized populations. There are no state officials determining whether or not a single mom “deserves” help or drug tests and other invasive, humiliating requirements.
Oh, absolutely.  Those "income traps" are absolutely *vicious.*  And we wouldn't want anyone seeking taxpayer-funded money to have to actually, y'know, show they were eligible to receive it or anything.  And the very idea of denying benefits to drug users is...well it's just a ghastly plot by the GOP to "stigmatize and control marginalized populations."

Oh, and lest you think this idea is just being pushed by this one goofy, nutty Leftist, the author wants you to know that those on the Right also support it:
The right likes basic income because it would allow for the removal of many overlapping and piecemeal government programs, such as food stamps and unemployment insurance, as well as programs the government directly runs. 
What??  He says "the right" actually likes this idea?  Oh, I'm sure.  And as to his alleged reasoning:  I'm totally certain that if only Republicans would agree to write everyone a check for nothing, the Left would absolutely *promise* to remove "many" of the overlapping and piecemeal programs that distribute tax dollars as welfare.  He specifically mentions that we could pay for the "universal basic income" by ending "Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, virtually all transfer programs and certain tax breaks." 

I guess this is supposed to show he's ever so fiscally responsible, and not just trying to take more money from taxpayers.  Cuz' everyone knows that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are the biggest items in the federal budget.  And if we'd just do as he asks, the Left would agree to scrub them??  So by implication the "universal basic income" won't cost taxpayers a dime?  Oh yeah, I'm totally believing that.

Sure, just like they promised you Obamacare would both cut your health insurance costs and save the government money.

Just.  Like.  Obamacare.

Gosh, with an idea this great there must be a catch.  And sure enough, the author finds one:
Eliminating poverty is an essential part of any egalitarian project, and a universal basic income could finish that in one move. But the question then becomes: What projects would still animate the left?
Ah yes:  With poverty eliminated, what projects would remain to "animate" the Left?  Read on:
One project would be to make sure merit goods are sufficiently provided to everyone who needs them. There are certain goods that we owe to each other — education, health care, a secure retirement  — and it isn’t clear that the private market is capable of providing a basic minimum across society. In addition, the government that allow it to provide these goods more efficiently. [sic]  Medicare is able to hold down costs better than private insurance, and Social Security is significantly better than 401(k)s or private pensions in providing income security in old age. These programs work very well....
Notice the author's phrasing:  It's not "you taxpayers owe people X" but rather We owe these goods to each other.  A far more pleasant phrasing, eh?   Just how everyone is supposed to do this for each other is of no concern to the author.  But don't worry, citizen: it'll all work out fine.

The author claims certain "goods" should be provided by government, but not through "market logic."
the goal... is to...remove markets from the way people interface with certain goods, such as education or health care. As the welfare-state theorist Gøsta Esping-Andersen argued, "de-commodification" is defined as a situation in which “a service is rendered as a matter of right, [so] a person can maintain a livelihood without reliance on the market.” 
That's so wonderful!  I want to be able to "maintain a livlihood" without having to "rely on the market."  In case that strikes you as too vague, the author explains that "A UBI would de-link survival and subsistence from the labor market, advancing this goal."

Still too vague?  Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was the author's intent.  "De-linking" subsistence from the labor market means having the government give people money, period.  No need to be anxious about the drudgery of work, or even to pretend to look for a job--government will give you a check regardless.

Hey, count me in!  Why should I have to work to live?  Why can't I relax and get stoned all day, and have you pay my expenses?  As far as I'm concerned, my survival--at your expense--is my basic right as a human.  It necessarily follows from this that it's your obligation as a taxpayer to give me anything I claim I need to survive.

If you cave to that, my next demand for "de-linking" will be that you give me anything I want.

Still have doubts about this benefits of universal basic income?  There's more!
Another project is to expand the say workers have in their workplaces. This includes not only unionization, but also a more general project of democracy that doesn’t end once you walk through your employer’s door.
Yes, businesses must be democratic.  Because businesses aren't really private enterprises, started by entrepreneurs who are willing to bet their entire assets that they can succeed.  Rather, all businesses are properly owned by their employees--just like Barack acknowleged when he gave controlling interest in General Motors to his union supporters.  So each employee should have an equal voice in decisions affecting the company.  Makes perfect sense.

If you're a conservative you might well be worried that universal guaranteed income might give too much power to workers.  Well don't worry, citizen!  As the author explains,
a universal basic income would help workers by giving them more bargaining power.  [It would also] force innovations and productivity gains by industry to balance out workers’ new power.
Got that?  Forcing innovations and productivity gains would actually balance out workers' new power.  In fact, the author concludes by noting that a "universal basic income" would actually show a "general commitment to democracy."  And to freedom, and individual rights, and self-determination, and any other buzz-phrase the Left thinks might resonate with low-information voters. You can't make this stuff up.


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