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The Case Against a Universal Basic Income ( 1145

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: A prominent think tank founder argues that a Universal Basic Income is more likely to increase poverty than decrease it. Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, estimates just in the U.S. the cost would reach $3 trillion a year, "close to 100 percent of all tax revenue the federal government collects... A UBI that's financed primarily by tax increases would require the American people to accept a level of taxation that vastly exceeds anything in U.S. history..."

In a long interview with Vox, he warns that "If you have big, very expensive, and therefore highly politically unrealistic proposals, then I worry that people will look at them and say, 'Okay, we can do one or two pieces,' and too often the pieces that get selected out are pieces where a lot of the money goes to the middle or upper middle class... even UBI's staunchest supporters say we can get there in 15 to 20 years. I am totally not comfortable with any policy prescription that says we wait 15 to 20 years to deal with very deep poverty." He suggests instead focussing on the neediest people first, possibly by subsidizing jobs programs and making housing more affordable.

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The Case Against a Universal Basic Income

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  • Soros? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 17, 2016 @07:39PM (#52529999)

    Follow the money. Soros is a big contributor with CBPP. Should raise some eyebrows already.

    • Re:Soros? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by guises ( 2423402 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @08:14PM (#52530149)
      And Soros hates Universal Basic Income, so this guy is acting as Soros' shill? Is that what you're saying? I don't know squat about what George Soros thinks, so that's a legitimate question.

      I do know a little bit about Robert Greenstein though, just a little, and he's run the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities since well before Soros did the thing with the currency trading. He's been around for a while, and he can think for himself.
      • Re:Soros? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @08:56PM (#52530353) Homepage

        I don't know anything about Robert Greenstein. But I do know a straw man when I see one. So when someone writes:

        There are over 300 million Americans today. Suppose UBI provided everyone with $10,000 a year. That would cost more than $3 trillion a year...

        ... and makes that a backbone of their argument, then it better represent what proponents of UBI actually want. Since when is UBI about "Let's change nothing else about the system except for adding a $10k per person per year payout on top of everything else"? UBI is supposed to replace all of our current, haphazard, inefficient patchwork welfare systems:

          * Government pensions / social security
          * Extra medical support
          * Welfare
          * Food support
          * Assisted housing
          * Unemployment insurance
          * Minimum wages (just basic income in a disguise, hoisted on the back of companies)

        And on and on. And all of the overhead associated with all of those programs - both overhead on governments and corporations. We, as societies in many different countries, have already more or less come to the conclusion that we don't want people starving in the streets. So we have these patchworks of programs designed to roughly approximate the effects of UBI in this regard. And they're a waste and have gaps for people to fall through. Let's call a spade a spade, accept what we're already trying to accomplish and call it for what it is, and then replace it with a much simpler version.

        After that point we can argue over how much money defines a basic standard of life that we don't want anyone to have to live below, wherein conservatives will argue for a lower figure and liberals for a higher one.

        • Money the Fantasy (Score:5, Insightful)

          by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @10:53PM (#52531019) Homepage

          The lie inherent right from the get go, money is a resource, it is not, capital is an illusion, an imaginary parking spot for the resource access it represents. We either have the resources to sustain the population or we do not. No amount of imaginary capital can create resources or distribute them, capital is simply the currently chosen means to distribute access to the available resources, however it is broken, because it purely aligns with greed, rather than need ie some have millions of times as much a they need, whilst others not only have nothing but due to capital debt, less than nothing.

          Basically what they are really saying, is their needs, their psychopathic ego, demands poor people (a capital fabrication) they can exploit to feed the insatiable ego of psychopaths. The demand to have more, they must have more, the demand to be able to order other people about, not just some but as many as possible, in fact they fight amongst themselves for total control and absolute power over everyone else.

          The resources are there, an administrative means of allocating and distributing those resources just needs to be found. However rewards come into play, extra for those who contribute more (not just take the credit for the contribution of many others or manipulate capital to no advantage of anyone except themselves). So having more than others by being wealthy but wealth is only fun if it is based upon fairness and generosity otherwise it is just harmfull and no fun at all (greed destroys it never builds). There in is the catch, they actually want that power to harm and destroy, to choose whether others live or die, it feeds there genetic anti-social cerebral disease. Going to them for solutions is like the chicken going to the fox for solutions on how to be safe, the foxes response, every single time, you can only be safe from the attacks of others, inside my belly.

          Going to the current rich psychopaths for solutions, those who parasitically prey upon the rest of society, is just as stupid. Look at the response, it can't be done, we don't the capital. What the fuck does that even mean, when we obviously have the actual resources to do it, they are going to purposefully starve to death as many as they can for fun, they are going to stick as many as they can in labour camps for fun, they will lord it over us peasants yet again for fun (this after millions died stripping away that power, the current gutless generations will give it back, pathetic).

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 17, 2016 @11:46PM (#52531189)

            It's not broken because of greed, it works because of greed, or more accurately because people behave in a way that is in their own self interest. This is inescapable. You say we just need "an administrative means of allocating and distributing those resources" as if that is an easy task. Nobody has figure one out yet that works better than the market. The demand on such a system is that it knows what everyone wants, what everyone needs, and can predict the future with reasonable accuracy. The market is a terrible system, except for all the other ones.

            • by Medievalist ( 16032 ) on Tuesday July 19, 2016 @11:16AM (#52540755)

              It's not broken because of greed, it works because of greed, or more accurately because people behave in a way that is in their own self interest.

              Ah, the Big Lie of the post-Reagan age.

              Greed is when you want more than what self-interest demands. Greed is excessive desire that exceeds what is reasonable, healthy or meaningful.

              Many, if not most, of the rich are greedy. They want more than what is best for themselves; they don't understand that impoverishing others also harms them.

              As Adam Smith figured out a long time ago, a viable economic system has to work despite the existence of greed. This is not in any way the same thing as rewarding or encouraging or worshipping greed, as lassiez-faire capitalists want to do. In fact the principal function of government in a market economy is to provide regulation that will restrain the destructive effects of greed on social structures (such as the market itself).

              As you say, a market should work best for those who behave in their own self interest. Greed is by definition excessive and thus not in one's one self interest; it is a character flaw and not the virtue that greedy folk wish you to believe it is.

          • Re:Money the Fantasy (Score:4, Interesting)

            by HeckRuler ( 1369601 ) on Monday July 18, 2016 @02:20PM (#52535323)

            What the fuck are you smoking?

            The lie inherent right from the get go[; that] money is a resource[. I]t is not, capital is an illusion,

            First off, "money" and "capital" are separate concepts. You're talking about money. Capital actually DOES refer to real things. Goods, machines, roads, schools, and ALSO money. I get what you're saying, you're just technically wrong on this.

            Second, yes, money is just a placeholder. A tool to help mange it all. The US$ is backed by nothing but hopes and dreams and 11 carriers and a bunch of nukes.

            The resources are there, an administrative means of allocating and distributing those resources just needs to be found.

            ...We HAVE that. The "administrative means" we use to figure out who gets what is called "capitalism"*, with a healthy dose of taxes and socialism and welfare because we're not the monsters from the robber-baron era. You even mention this because you know that it's the

            *The -ism portion is important. Capital and capitalism are two different things. Related, of course, but it's the difference between saying a friend is fucked up, and saying friendship is fucked up.

            but wealth is only fun if it is based upon fairness and generosity

            HohoHO! Said like someone who has never been wealthy. No kiddo, the vast majority of history shows us that most wealthy people have PLENTY of fun regardless of how fair and generous you'd consider their source of wealth.

            Sweet jesus. ALL of that rant can be boiled down to "I don't like capitalism". The rest is a mad ranting of a laughable caricature of rich people. Even the actual robber-barons weren't that monstrous.

            It's not constructive. Do you get that? This sort of stark-raving-mad soap-boxing doesn't help tear down capitalism. It doesn't support socialism. It doesn't feed the hungry or raise up the poor. (Poor as in actually physically poor. The group that don't have the resources they need and not some pseudo-intellectual "everything is a metaphor and the fault of capitalism" sort of poor). To be blunt, you're hurting the cause. The catch phrase "Eat the Rich" is supposed to be humorous.

            No, not all rich people are psychopathic monsters. There are certainly monsters out there. Real-deal psychopaths that are so focused on climbing that corporate ladder that they don't pause to think about what the thousands of unemployed will do when they liquidate. There is a sector of business where those people excel. But they do not represent all rich people any more than dirty hippies strung out on heroin represent all socialists. The vast bulk of all of us want a stable functioning society. A good swath of them, they vote republican, they don't want to hand out money to people who aren't working for it. Another good swath of people, like you and I, see that we are really wealthy as a whole and there's no real reason people should be so screwed by technological improvements and shipping jobs overseas, and helping people down on their luck will end up helping all of us in the long run. There's currently a debate about which group is more correct and what kind of society we want to be.

            But the answer is not to tear it all down. We've seen how that goes in the communist states. But the current system of welfare and subsidies and grants and scholarships and services are CERTAINLY not in the philosophical camp of capitalism. We've ALSO tried a more pure form of capitalism in the late 1800's. It sucked for most people. Dear god man, we've got to learn from the big lessons of the past. Take a look at the Nordic countries. Very socialist, but they STILL HAVE MONEY and they still operate by people working and getting paid in cash. MONEY, as a placeholder for wealth, WORKS.

            Get your shit together. You're making us look bad.

        • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Monday July 18, 2016 @01:21AM (#52531513)

          You are certainly correct this is a straw man argument, but not really in the way you describe. The US government (federal, state, local) spends just over $400 billion on welfare per year, and $1.2 trillion on pensions and social security (94% of that on SS). That only comes to half the $3 trillion figure, and certainly not all of this would go away. I'd say its reasonable 2/3 of it would go away, leaving $2 trillion of the author's figures left over. Take away another $500 billion by removing children from the calculations, and you still have $1.5 trillion of increased government payments.

          Then comes the real problem with the author's argument. No one claims everyone's net income would increase by $10k per year, just that they would all get a $10k check. We already have a progressive federal income tax, so it would be easy to adjust the brackets to ensure only the needy would receive an increased net income from UBI.

          To simplify math, lets say 1/3 get $10k extra income, 1/3 pay the same in extra taxes that they get in UBI payments, and 1/3 pay for the lower third. Considering the top 40% of earners already pay 97% of federal income taxes [], this wouldn't be much of a change in the status quo.

          So now we are down to $500 billion in extra costs, which is a much more realistic figure. The federal government collects $2.4 trillion in income taxes, so the 50% of households and companies which pay any incomes taxes today would need to pay 20% more. I pay a little over $30k per year in federal income taxes, so this would mean almost $6500 in extra taxes for me personally.

          But I would get something for this money. Reduced crime is hard to quantitatively measure, but removing the minimum wage would significantly impact the costs of basic services. If my food, daycare, house/lawn care, haircuts, etc. dropped by just 10% that would save me $6000 per year so this would be a wash for me.

          These figures are all obviously very rough, but they at least show UBI is not as drastically unrealistic as this article suggests. It may still not work, but it is a very reasonable alternative to a future where technological disruptions make the status quo impossible to maintain.

  • Makework (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <> on Sunday July 17, 2016 @07:40PM (#52530005) Homepage

    He suggests instead focussing on the neediest people first, possibly by subsidizing jobs programs.

    In today's world of increasing automation, how many of those jobs are essentially going to be makework? Or part of marketing efforts that try to convince people they need something frivolous that they don't have? Is the current economic system so inevitable or desirable that those things are preferable to just letting people stay home?

    • Re:Makework (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 17, 2016 @08:02PM (#52530089)

      how many of those jobs are essentially going to be makework?

      How many jobs are already makework?

      It's been 30 years since Lotus 1-2-3 became cheap, available, accessible, and accurate. What the hell are all of these accountants still doing? I personally think a lot of it is work for idle hands, but makework if you prefer.

      • Re:Makework (Score:5, Insightful)

        by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @08:19PM (#52530175) Homepage Journal

        What the hell are all of these accountants still doing?

        I think they're busy deciding which country to set as their headquarters for tax reasons and what internal costs to invent so that the income is made where it should be to minimize costs. For example, having the headquarters in Ireland and paying them all their income to use their brand name elsewhere so they make no profit where it would be taxed.

      • Re:Makework (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ClickOnThis ( 137803 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @09:11PM (#52530445) Journal

        What the hell are all of these accountants still doing?

        For one thing, they're keeping up with laws regarding taxation, and shepherding the flow of money in an organization.

        Accountancy is not just about counting.

      • Re:Makework (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 17, 2016 @09:35PM (#52530593)

        Actual accountant here.

        The industry has a fuckload less AR/AP. There's a lot less clerks. There's no typists. There are no filing clerks. There is a lot less of anyone other than a handful who run much larger books and much larger payrolls. A billion dollar business has one Director, a handful of managers and a handful of divisonal staff under them, rather than the hundreds that used to be

        So there are in fact a HELL of a lot less employed in the accounts department than there used to be. You haven't noticed as Old Mabel who retired was never replaced. The remaining have a lot to do with shit like payroll, applying the lastest rulesets, budgeting doing the work that 10 - 20 people would have needed to do 40 years ago.

        Lotus 1-2-3 was a fucking godsend and presented complex accounts simply. It took a whole tho for the mass of jobs the Accounts dept supported to disappear tho but disappear they did. What's left is actually quite minimal and VERY different to when I started.

    • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @09:25PM (#52530525) Homepage Journal [] is an intro to the topic, but to reword it in terms of this article:

      What if there is NO work that actually needs to be done? Why should people be forced to work just so that filthy rich bastards like Robert Greenstein can get a little more money that he doesn't actually need?

      The ekronomic answer is threefold:

      (1) The nonessential investment work that they willingly do will help reduce the required amounts of essential work in the future, which is basically a nice thing. (No insult intended to the people who enjoy doing the essential work and more power to them. Actually, they are lucky to enjoy doing what needs to be done anyway.)

      (2) The nonessential recreational work on the creative side will remain as bottomless as ever. Still not possible to force anyone to do it.

      (3) The nonessential recreational work on the consumption side also remains as bottomless as ever, and they also serve who only sit on the couch and consume entertainment. However, if they have some money to spend, then it's an important metric what sort of entertainment they want.

      What greedy bastards like Robert Greenstein can't understand is that ambitious people will be ambitious no matter what, and those ambitious people will eagerly invest their time in increasing their own personal productivity (rather than recreation). Creative people will be creative no matter what, and if they can get paid enough money to survive longer, then they will eagerly create more things (without wasting precious creative time on grunge work).

      It is ONLY the money-loving greedy bastards like himself who desperately need to get more money no matter what. From Robert Greenstein's perspective, slavery is just as good as anything else that gives him the same amount of money. Unfortunately, his personal problem is fundamentally unsolvable because there is NO amount of money that is sufficient.

      • by shanen ( 462549 )

        The long comment negative modifier is stupid. While it would be nice to have a warning, it is fundamentally stupid to apply pressure to fit EVERY idea into any small package size if you prefer that more people be able to see it.

        Then again, I can be verbose sometimes.

    • Re:Makework (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 17, 2016 @11:10PM (#52531069)

      Is the current economic system so inevitable or desirable that those things are preferable to just letting people stay home?

      And that's the rub. You would think that if we need to do a lot less work to make the stuff to make all of our lives comfortable then we could find a way to spread the work out more or less evenly amongst those who can do it and consequently spend a lot less time doing pointless pointless make-work and a lot more actually living. Working 4 hours or less a day 5 days a week (or compressing that into 2-3 8 hour days per week) each should be entirely feasible and our lives could be richer for it. Instead we seem to be concentrating the work onto fewer and fewer wage slaves to concentrate the wealth into the 1% while the rest fall by the wayside.

      I'm not saying that capitalism is the problem, but our rigid adherance to certain extreme forms of free market economics and the woeful lack of creative or original thought on behalf of our leaders toward solving this growing problem is very worrying.

  • That huge cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @07:41PM (#52530011) Homepage Journal

    We're already spending an awful lot of money on social services that won't be needed if people had a guaranteed basic income. It's rather duplicitous of this think tank to pretend that it would be an entirely new cost, rather than a replacement for other programs as it is intended.

    • Re:That huge cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @07:53PM (#52530057) Journal

      Are we spending 3 trillion a year on these social programs?

      I don't think it matters with the existing spending. It is still more.

      • Re:That huge cost (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @08:11PM (#52530129) Homepage

        Presumably the basic tax deduction would go away and taxes would increase more steeply thereafter. In other words, people making over $30K would see no noticeable increase in income. This is a program meant for people at the very bottom of the wage scale, or about 40 million people at $10K each this is $400 billion which is less than social programs.

      • Re:That huge cost (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @09:00PM (#52530385) Homepage

        Are we spending 3 trillion a year on these social programs?

        Are people getting 3 trillion a year in benefits?

        Obviously if you compare a higher net benefit level then you're going to have to have a higher income to pay for it. Stop the presses here. Nobody says you have to compare a higher net benefit level when talking UBI.

        And while we're at it, can we stop pretending that all forms of basic income that we call by different names in our current systems are paid for by the government? What exactly is minimum wage if not for UBI on poor workers that we mandate that companies pay? Yeah, you won't see that figure on any government balance sheet, but it's a very real cost to the economy nonetheless.

      • Re:That huge cost (Score:5, Insightful)

        by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @10:12PM (#52530815) Homepage Journal

        Are we spending 3 trillion a year on these social programs?

        My point is, the 3 trillion supposed cost is a fabrication. The basic income level would be set to cost approximately the amount spent on the social programs it would replace. Despite being universal, it would only cost what goes to the poor -- those beyond a certain income level would pay it back in taxes (if basic income is more efficient than means-tested programs this could be done so that every single American is better off).

        As for the amount spent on social programs, that amount might be higher than you think. For example, did you know you occasionally spend over $1000 to give a single poor person three crappy hospital meals? Some people will report in to the emergency room with "chest pains aka you need to keep me in for observation in case it really is my heart" when they get hungry. If they need a ride to near the hospital, they can call a really expensive "cab" with flashing lights to get them there really quickly. And if it gets too cold, they can get some longer-term accommodations by committing a minor crime. These people would prefer cheaper food and accommodations, but they take what they can get. Minimum wage is also a social welfare program, with difficult to measure cost or efficiency, which won't be needed if people have a basic income.

        When poor people are given money, they will spend it, which would boost the economy. A lot of people would start new businesses if they had the ability to do so without fear of failing and going hungry, which would create jobs and improve the economy. Both these would increase tax revenue, meaning it would be as if the program cost that much less.

        I'm not saying that I know basic income is a good idea. My main fear is the same as that of many others -- that too many people would simply choose not to work. This one problem could be the doom of the whole idea. But their 3 trillion dollar cost is totally bogus.

        • Re:That huge cost (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jezwel ( 2451108 ) on Monday July 18, 2016 @12:31AM (#52531339)

          My main fear is the same as that of many others -- that too many people would simply choose not to work.

          UBI should cover your needs. The incentive to get *further* ahead by working will have people wanting to work. The flip side is that automation needs to be removing jobs, drastically increasing productivity, and reducing consumer costs to that the UBI is sufficient.
          The $3 trillion 'cost' will be taken from welfare, disability services, veteran services, social security, superannuation type agencies (all obsoleted under UBI), transportation (less traffic maintenance / expenditure on highways and roads as people are not commuting), DoD (more automation), IRS (lower requirements); the list could extend to every agency.
          I'm not American, so not sure how many agencies/what names you have.

        • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 )

          3 trillion is simple math: 300 million times 10 thousand. You can argue about UBI being truly Universal (cut off minors, and you drop a good portion of the 300 million), or you can argue that 10,000 is too much per person, but the numbers are not bogus. What you are proposing simply isn't UBI.

        • Re:That huge cost (Score:4, Interesting)

          by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Monday July 18, 2016 @12:38PM (#52534321) Homepage Journal

          When poor people are given money, they will spend it, which would boost the economy. A lot of people would start new businesses if they had the ability to do so without fear of failing and going hungry, which would create jobs and improve the economy. Both these would increase tax revenue, meaning it would be as if the program cost that much less.

          It doesn't actually work that way. Money isn't wealth; money is backed by the productive output of labor. Every dollar spent goes to buy a product, and becomes the income of an individual (wages) or a business (net profits). More money without more production means inflation; more production without more money means deflation.

          The gain from a basic income is the efficiency gain in reducing risks and reducing wage:income ratio.

          Risk comes with unstable markets, unstable employment, and unstable incomes. To rent apartments, for example, you need to recover the loss in empty units, in tenant evictions, and in tenant damage. As income levels decrease, the stability of an income falls: resilience to financial emergencies, fluctuating hours in part-time jobs, loss of part-time work, and loss of unemployment. That means more evictions and empty units, increasing the cost per square foot charged for apartments marketed to these levels. Below a certain income level, the costs are more than the tenant can pay, so certain sized apartments marketed to certain levels of income just don't exist.

          This is loss: evictions and empty units are worthless; they produce nothing, they do nothing to enrich society, yet they carry a cost. Evictions require labor for legal action, for moving action (removing all your stuff), and so forth; they also frequently destroy a person's possessions, as the evicted has nowhere to go, and thus said possessions can only be reclaimed by expending new labor to make more. An empty unit requires upkeep and consumes heat and electricity, yet provides no one a home; and it cannot be rented out for free, lest other tenants pay to cover the costs--the wealth represented by housing is the support of labor which produces other things.

          As for wages, your employer pays your wage, your benefits, and payroll taxes. You might make $50,000/year, but your employer is paying $56,000/year; likewise, you only take home $42,000/year. For every dollar your employer pays to have you, you as a consumer receive 75 cents; yet, as a consumer, you must pay the wages incurred by the time invested in making any product you purchase. Narrow this gap and the consumer can purchase more.

          These are mechanism. If you just handed out money, or just took more money from one place and sent it to be spent in another, you wouldn't increase labor time and, thus, produced output; you would only either exhaust the economy (make everyone spend until they're in deep, deep debt) or create inflation.

          My main fear is the same as that of many others -- that too many people would simply choose not to work. This one problem could be the doom of the whole idea.

          Modern welfare sharply reduces your wealth and devalues employment if you seek employment.

          When I was on unemployment, I took in the equivalent of $10.25/hr. Would that Fedex offered me $10.50/hr, I'd have laughed them off; 40 hours a week for only $0.25/hr? I can stay home and get checks from the Government for near as much.

          Any form of UBI has the advantage of continuing to provide income as you move into employment. The decision between $X and not working vs $Y and working has to compare ($Y-$X) to the effort of working; whereas the decision between $X and not working vs. $X+$Y and working only has to consider the value proposition of $Y in comparison to the effort of working.

          This is bolstered by security: if you take a job when receiving welfare benefits and then lose it, you risk being denied further benefits. If you take a job under a UBI system, your benefits never stop. The individual doesn

      • Re:That huge cost (Score:4, Interesting)

        by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Monday July 18, 2016 @12:10PM (#52534121) Homepage Journal

        Want to do the numbers? I'll even put a tl;dr summary at the end.

        In 2013, the cost was $1.678 trillion, with $1.276 trillion spent on Federal programs.

        In 2013, retail for apartment rent in low-income areas spanned from $0.62 cents per square foot to $1.10, with a general median around $1/sqft. This included samples spanning from California and Washington to New York state (mostly Western New York, but also some of the ghettos of Manhattan, near the big city centers) and Baltimore.

        Renting an apartment to someone with a low income poses business risk: empty units and tenant evictions are expensive, and low-income individuals are prone to lose their unemployment income or face reductions in working hours at their part-time jobs; these risks are offset by raising the rental pricing, which makes renting unaffordable to these income levels, and thus excludes the market. A stable, guaranteed income eliminates this risk and the associated cost-of-risk, allowing lower rental prices with the same profit margin (about 33%, typically, although I didn't account for anything but retail).

        To that end, I estimate the housing cost in 2013 at $1.33/sqft, being $1/sqft plus a 33% risk reserve (i.e. I might be wrong about $1/sqft; I'm less likely to be wrong about $1.10/sqft; I'm approximately 100% guaranteed to be above the threshold at $1.33/sqft). Budget: $300/month, single-person, 244sqft. That gives a 6x9 bedroom, 6x10 main room, a bathroom (shower stall with corner sink integrated, plus a toilet outside the stall), and a small kitchen (I've lived in an apartment where the kitchen was ~6 feet wide, with only a 3 foot wide floor space). That can be shaved a bit at the edges (it's 255sqft), or fit as-is, or widened, to fit to budget.

        Utilities for a space of that size range around $30. I know because I've heated a 700sqft apartment for $56/month utilities (gas and electric), and it had poor insulation. We may need to mandate better insulation standards for micro-units; the cost to insulate well when you're already doing demolition and construction (to subdivide for the new market) is cheap. Good R-23 stone wool insulation only costs like $50 for the whole apartment's 16 foot back wall; $100 if you have to do one of the side walls, and $200 if you have to do the side walls and ceiling. In-wall foam sealing would cost about $50 per apartment. A normal 1 bedroom costs around $58,000 to build; these smaller ones would cost around $25,000, including the replicated cost of stove, sink, and bathroom, so this additional cost is not onerous if implemented during already-planned remodeling. Such insulation stabilizes utility costs, thus decreasing risk of tenants coming up short.

        Moving on.

        I've run estimates on food as recently as April, 2016, and gotten as low as $25/month for 2000kcal/day 30day spans, including lots of beans, rice, frozen mixed vegetables, the occasional rotisserie chicken, bread, eggs, and so forth. This actually spans a fair variety of food (pancake vs bread, rice dishes, and so forth combine a surprisingly-consistent set of ingredients), although nothing luxurious.

        My original estimate was $100/month per person in 2016, because of extreme risk if the food budget deviates (which can happen *easily*). While that remains valid, I also overestimated personal care ($35 in my original budget) and clothing (another $35). It turns out tooth paste and soap are pretty cheap, less than $5/month per person. To that end, I used a combined Food-Clothing-Personal Care budget of $170/month in my models: personal care is cheap and clothing is elastic; food is inelastic and volatile.

        That all left about $56/month in the 17% figure of the time--another risk reserve. That gave a total of $546/month per single adult. Total inflation in the following two years was 4.24%, and per-capita GDP increase was 6.24%; that means the inflation-adjusted equivalent would be $569 in 2015, and the *actual* income per adult would be $580/month. That makes sense bec

  • by beheaderaswp ( 549877 ) * on Sunday July 17, 2016 @07:41PM (#52530013)

    Ok... aside form the possible tax implications we may or may not have to deal with...

    We've de-funded NASA, the National Endowment for the Arts, education in general, and the state university system.

    All we'd have to do is fund those items fully- and ten years later we *might* be able to consider some form of UBI. But not before the infrastructure needed to support it is in place. And it's probably a bad overall idea.

    This seems a better investment to me: Make education easier, fund creativeness (a singular American strength), fund science, and fund space exploration.

    That's a winning combination for any economy.

    UBI is a nice idea for countries who have their economy in order with the goal of long term prosperity. The USA does not manage it's economy for long term goals. It simply tries to survive....

    (As a note I do support social security and disability benefits for those who qualify for it.)

  • by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @07:44PM (#52530023)
    So what if the UBI reaches 100% of the federal tax? It will replace Social Security (25% of the budget), safety net programs like unemployment insurance (10%) and partially Medicare/Medicaid (25%). That's 60% of the budget that will be replaced by the UBI.

    The rest is military (24%) and "everything else". Military should be curtailed, but we probably want to keep the "everything else" stuff since it includes funding for NASA, NIH and education and other stuff.

    So yeah, UBI is definitely doable but it will require significant adjustments in multiple programs.
  • tax the rich (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @07:46PM (#52530029)

    they have more money than god, at this point in time. what they stock pile, many of us could live on for the rest of our lives, in the thousands and 10's of thousands. the disparity is disgusting.

    take money from the churches, too. they should work for the people but they hoard and don't do SHIT with it, for the most part. sell their land and their assets and give it to the people. we need it. what does god need with a starsh^Hall that money?

    stop spending on military. defund 90% of it. its bullshit and its not needed in the way it once was.

    truly remove about half of the government offices and jobs. they suck up funds and don't give much back for it.

    tax those who are leeches the most; like the wall street motherfuckers. they don't create anything (nothing built, nothing written, nothing really created in any sense other than virtual) and they take so much. tax those who do nothing and collect so much for doing nothing.

    we could easily READJUST ourselves so that its more fair.

    but we won't unless we fight. and oh boy, I see a fight coming on in the next 50 or less years if we don't fix things soon.

    • Re:tax the rich (Score:4, Informative)

      by LynnwoodRooster ( 966895 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @10:29PM (#52530881) Journal

      Interesting little factoid - about 100% of Federal receipts go straight to Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, welfare, and interest on the national debt. Cutting those other spending issues won't really do anything other than slow down how fast our debt is growing (over $100 billion a month so far, this fiscal year - about $1.22 trillion so far).

      The Federal Government already spends all its receipts (and thus, about 70% of all its spending) on the bottom 50%. I guess we need to spend even more?

  • by BenBoy ( 615230 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @08:08PM (#52530117)
    Big fan of the UBI, and yet I think this guy's not entirely wrong. People talk about phase-in's like "we start with $5,000 for everybody, then ramp up year over year by x dollars. This guy is saying something more, I think, like start with a livable amount for the very poor, and work your way up the income ladder. Think it'll peter out before it gets to the rich? You don't know any rich folks, do you? Wealth trickles up [], anyhow ...
  • One of my clients has 13 subsidized foreign (!) workers. In round numbers, he pays them $4/hr, you pay them $8/hr, but they only actually get $8/hr, because $4/hr goes to an NGO "acclimation and training" scam. I'll have to check to see if Greenstein is running it (and/or arranging their grossly overpriced 3-to-a-room housing).
  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @09:11PM (#52530441)

    10K/year basic income for 300 million people is not going to "cost" 3 trillion. 14.5 percent of americans are considered poor. UBI will be structured in such a way to to supplement income of these individuals to the level where they can purchase food, shelter and other basic human needs. The other 95.5% will be paying the basic income they received and extra to cover the poor in taxes. So the net income transfer will be around 10% of cash flow (not all poor have zero income), or 300 billion. This is about half of 2015 military spending.

    But wait, there is more. Basic income can replace most other assistance programs like food stamps and homeless shelters. These programs employee a large number of government bureaucrats and enforcement officers. If the value and overhead of these other benefits are saved, we can substantially reduce additional taxes needed or alternatively provide more substantial basic income for the same cost.

    But wait, this is not all. Since basic needs of everyone are now taken care, you no longer need to pay "living wage" to your nanny or gardener. You can now hire people for a dollar per hour so long as that's the best money they can get at the moment. In fact poor communities can jump-start their economy by first providing services to each other and gradually attracting wealthier customers and raising their profits.

  • by MettaBen ( 685128 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @09:24PM (#52530511)
    As proponent of Basic Income, I disagree with much of the analysis offered in the linked article. However, I wanted to sink into this one point in particular: "If you take the dollars targeted on people in the bottom fifth or two-fifths of the population and convert them to universal payments to people all the way up the income scale, you’re redistributing income upward. That would increase poverty and inequality rather than reduce them." This is a seductive line of reasoning, and appealing to liberals. But it misses the point about HOW taxation must be structured to take this into account. While basic income must NOT be means tested, taxation almost certainly must be. Poor ppl shouldn't be burdened by having to prove or disprove wealth and income. Having grown up poor I can assure you that that IS a huge burden. Let those most benefiting from the system be the ones who fight for the most fair tax rate possible, because they have all the tools and expertise at their disposal to do that. Poor ppl do not. So to the extent that basic income hurts ppl on the bottom, the taxcode must to that extent raise revenue from the higher economic classes to compensate for it. Easier said than done, of course, but the practicality of moving forward is an entirely different issue than the theoretical underpinnings of the idea in the first place. []
  • "He suggests instead focussing on the neediest people first, possibly by subsidizing jobs programs and making housing more affordable."

    Or in other words, doing the same shitty things we have since before I was born and hope to hell it does something _this time_? Most people that get these benefits have had to jump through so many hoops that they abuse the system. Everyone else is just left to rot and nothing changes. Our 'support systems' have failed. It's change or watch the system fail and possibly bring the whole thing to an end within another couple decades.

    No one I personally know is even 'middle class' in the US anymore because that's somewhere over 150k/year last I checked and here in northwestern PA the number of people in that category is crazy small. Poverty in a very real sense is growing year over year and the state in general keeps taking away support for those in the most need while cutting nice fat checks for their own pet projects. Heck, 'obamacare' had minimum levels before it even kicked in and my state did raise their coverage minimums to include people between the federal minimum and theirs. This left hundreds of thousands without coverage and with no means of getting it (the federal site would give the raw rates to us, so even basic plans were over $500/month for people who don't even make $500/month). It has nothing to do with 'political parties' and everything to do with the way politics has come to work in this country.

  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday July 17, 2016 @11:02PM (#52531043)
    This universal basic income idea is a fraud. The path to prosperity is to eliminate the minimum wage, tax cuts for the job creators, and complete and total deregulation.

    How in the hell will job creators create jobs if the money they need to create the jobs is in the hands of the people they are creating the jobs for?

  • by allo ( 1728082 ) on Monday July 18, 2016 @02:14AM (#52531663)

    UBI is needed.

    More and more jobs are automated. A machine does your work for a fraction of your salary. So the industry uses machines instead of humans. Now there is money, which is not spent on your salary. Currently this money is addition profit for the big company, at the expense of you being without work.
    You being workless isn't the problem. Your job can be automated and it should be, as it is more efficient. But you still should get money. And the money is still there. The only difference is, that you won't get it, but the big bosses.
    Now this money, which were available before, should be used to pay your UBI.

    To make the point more clear: Think of a far away future, where all work is automated. If you have an UBI, this is an utopia. People finally do not need to work anymore and all people can live a calm life, because the machines do the work.
    Without UBI its an dystopie. A few rich people live an expense life, while the rest of humanity lives in slums and cannot efford their meals.
    You may know movies predicting this future. Let's prevent this, lets pay an UBI which allows a life in dignity but sets an incentive to work to get more luxus.

  • by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday July 18, 2016 @05:16AM (#52532105)

    that we keep trying the same policies that have failed to achieve this for over 2 centuries. In politics, consistent failure is never a reason to abandon a policy - that's why we still have austerity policies despite 2 centuries during which every time it was implemented it utterly failed to achieve it's stated goal (austerity makes deficits worse and debts higher - because it decreases income more than it can ever decrease expenses. It's the national economic equivalent of burning your paycheck to save on your heating bill).

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!