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Government The Almighty Buck

Silicon Valley Continues To Explore Universal Basic Incomes (siliconvalley.com) 382

A Silicon Valley Congressman "is pushing for a plan that has been described as a first step toward universal basic income...a long-shot $1 trillion expansion to the earned income tax credit that is already available to low-income families." An anonymous reader quotes the Mecury News: Stanford University also has created a Basic Income Lab to study the idea, and the San Francisco city treasurer's office has said it's designing pilot tests -- though the department told this news organization it has no updates on the status of that project... The problem is that giving all Americans a $10,000 annual income would cost upwards of $3 trillion a year -- more than three-fourths of the federal budget, said Bob Greenstein, president of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Some proponents advocate funding the move by cutting programs like food stamps and Medicaid. But that approach would take money set aside for low-income families and redistribute it upward, exacerbating poverty and inequality, Greenstein said... Jennifer Lin, deputy director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, is skeptical that basic income can do much lasting good in Oakland. What the city needs is more high-paying jobs and affordable housing, she said... The idea, [Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator] said at the Commonwealth Club, tackles the question not enough people are asking: "What do we as the tech industry do to solve the problem that we're helping to create?"
This summer Y Combinator is expected to announce a larger Universal Basic Income program, though the article also describes "small pilot studies" in the 1960s and 1970s in Canada and in several U.S. states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa and Indiana, where "Some studies showed improvements in participants' physical and mental health, and found children performed better in school or stayed in school longer. But some also showed that people receiving a basic income were inclined to spend fewer hours working."
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Silicon Valley Continues To Explore Universal Basic Incomes

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  • A Wonderful Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BlueStrat ( 756137 )

    ...That will work flawlessly.

    .

    Right up until they run out of other people's money.

    Strat

    • It is amusing that all of these rich people proposing this are not talking about using their own money...
      • Aren't the rich the guys who pay most of the tax? They are in fact talking about using rich people's money.

        • Re:A Wonderful Idea (Score:4, Informative)

          by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @04:35PM (#54502589)

          Aren't the rich the guys who pay most of the tax? They are in fact talking about using rich people's money.

          The problem is one of scale. Even if the government took 100% of the wealth of the top 5% it still would be a drop in the bucket. By ny calculations to supply ~320M people $10K/year would cost $3,200,000,000,000 or $3.2 *trillion* dollars...every....single...year!

          And, that number will only increase.

          The *only* way this is even remotely feasible is if *all* other "social safety net" entitlement programs are halted. No more Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, food assistance, housing assistance, etc etc etc.

          Basically it would be removing *all* government assistance in exchange for $10K/year per person. This would actually be a huge savings compared to existing entitlement programs, but at what human cost?

          Strat

          • Basically it would be removing *all* government assistance in exchange for $10K/year per person. This would actually be a huge savings compared to existing entitlement programs, but at what human cost?

            It doesn't work unless you also have national health. 10k/year is plenty to live in the midwest and have a boring life, or it would be if the banks weren't driving property values up by sitting on properties until they rot. If you want to live in California or New York, you're going to have to make some money or someone else is going to have to want to host you.

      • Money, get back
        I'm all right Jack keep your hands off of my stack
        Money, it's a hit
        Don't give me that do goody good bullshit
        I'm in the high-fidelity first class traveling set
        And I think I need a Lear jet

        Money, it's a crime
        Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie
        Money, so they say
        Is the root of all evil today
        But if you ask for a rise
        It's no surprise that they're giving none away

        --excerpted from "Money" - Pink Floyd

        And the song remains the same.

        Strat

      • "It is amusing that all of these rich people proposing this are not talking about using their own money..."

        I see a comment like this pop up in every UBI discussion on slashdot and there's no truth to it at all. Any wealthy person talking about this is talking about using their own money by default because they pay a disproportionate amount of taxes. On top of that, given that these people are generally not dumb people, they probably realize that their taxes will have to go up to make UBI work.

  • Equilibrium (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @03:46PM (#54502389)

    The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer.

    The real problem is jobs being replaced by machines, A.I., etc. This should decrease the costs of those goods and services. But instead, it's making the rich richer and the poor unable to afford those goods and services because they're out of work.

    • Re:Equilibrium (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 28, 2017 @04:23PM (#54502543)

      This isn't true. By just about every measure the standard of living has increased for even the poorest of people. It's more accurate to say, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting richer, only slower. I think it's dis-genuine leftism to focus on the money rather than measure and improve standard of living.

    • Re:Equilibrium (Score:4, Informative)

      by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @04:37PM (#54502599)

      The only things that really cost an inordinate amount of money today are housing and healthcare. Basic subsistence otherwise is cheap. I retired recently reducing my pay by 50 percent. I own my house and car outright so even though my pay is half I actually have much more money. I eat out maybe 10 percent as much as I used to because I'm home and have time to fix better quality food that's cheaper than what I paid for eating out. I no longer pay to get my grass cut, I have time to do it myself and benefit from the exercise of pushing a mower around my half acre. My main monthly expense is my health insurance, over the last 8 years the cost of it nearly tripled and my copays doubled and catastrophic limit more than doubled. Still, I'm pretty well set, as long as the country doesn't fail. There are of course no guarantees in life.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      The real problem is jobs being replaced by machines, A.I., etc. This should decrease the costs of those goods and services. But instead, it's making the rich richer and the poor unable to afford those goods and services because they're out of work.

      If you look at the BLS employment-population ratio [bls.gov] they have data back to 1948 and it swings between 55% and 65%, currently at 60.2%. That is to say, there's not an exceptional number of people out of work even though it's considerably lower than the 90s and early 00s even though wages are depressed. They've mainly been depressed the last ~50 years first because of a Europe recovering from WW2 and then a huge influx of cheap labor, particularly Indian and Chinese on the world market affecting supply and dem

  • The people of Alpha Centauri were happy to hear about this.

  • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @03:50PM (#54502413) Homepage

    Okay this universal basic income is too generalized for what needs to be taken care of. It needs to be a specialized approach to be economically viable.

    You can't just give money away, and let people spend it on ipads.

    What you need is to take care of the most abundant things in the world, that tend to be the most lacking, that are the most essential and cover those.
    Universal food program. Everyone is entitled to a certain amount of food per month.
    Universal housing program. North america, massive land space, utilization is low, but somehow you can't find a place to live.
    Universal transit - Public transit shouldn't have execs making huge bonuses, it should be a non profit system run by the government. Need it for work and getting around with huge stores pushing out stores to be spread instead of small towns having everything close by.
    Universal utilities - Basic amount of energy and water allowed to people at no cost.

    I give you - Universal essentials. Besides the transit, land is huge and cheap, food is tons, cheap, and tons thrown out, and renewables are driving down utility prices.

    This works out way better as it puts in more effort at reducing the cost of these items, so the government doesn't have to spend a ton of money for someone to have the essentials while a company rakes in the profit. Maybe costs + 10% or something for items part of the program.

    Want to do business in north america? Your company in these sectors will have to offer at cost prices for the basic amount for individuals. It won't take money from you. Your profit is on non essential items, premium items. People who choose to purchase beyond their basic allotted amounts.

    Companies will go "Fuck you I'll go elsewhere since I won't make as much and you'll have no food etc!"
    Go ahead, the more companies that leave, the more business for the ones that stay, so they'll still be quite profitable.

    • by timholman ( 71886 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @04:26PM (#54502559)

      You can't just give money away, and let people spend it on ipads.

      I give you - Universal essentials. Besides the transit, land is huge and cheap, food is tons, cheap, and tons thrown out, and renewables are driving down utility prices.

      While I agree that just handing everyone a check every month would be a recipe for disaster for a significant percentage of the population, I also shudder to think of the government bureaucracy that would be required to administer everyone's "free" housing, food, transportation, etc. Furthermore, those who already own a home, own a car, etc., would find such handouts useless.

      If you're going to institute a UBI, you have to give everyone the choice to use the money as they see fit. On the other hand, you have to prevent some of them from taking the money and blowing it on drugs, alcohol, or gambling in the first 24 hours, and then begging in the streets for the rest of the month. Western society has never tolerated such extreme social Darwinism, and I don't think we're going to start now.

      One possible solution would be two-fold: (1) make the UBI a daily , rather than monthly income, and give approved parties the ability to put a lien on your UBI, so that essentials get paid for first. In this scenario, you'd be given your government credit card, and every day a certain amount of money would be added to it, less the daily cost of rent, meals, etc., according to whatever contracts you have signed for your day-to-day living costs. Even if you go and drink or smoke away the rest, the maximum damage you can do is limited to 24 hours of income. You won't starve or sleep in the streets.

      Of course, this still ignores the myriad ways that people will still come up with to abuse the system, just as current government handouts are already abused. But it might mitigate some of the very worst abuses.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Monday May 29, 2017 @01:04AM (#54504003) Journal

        On the other hand, you have to prevent some of them from taking the money and blowing it on drugs, alcohol, or gambling in the first 24 hours, and then begging in the streets for the rest of the month.

        When everyone knows that all of your financial needs are met and so the only possible reason you're begging is because you blew your money on booze and hookers, will people still give you money if you beg for it?

      • by djinn6 ( 1868030 )

        (1) make the UBI a daily , rather than monthly income, and give approved parties the ability to put a lien on your UBI, so that essentials get paid for first. In this scenario, you'd be given your government credit card, and every day a certain amount of money would be added to it, less the daily cost of rent, meals, etc., according to whatever contracts you have signed for your day-to-day living costs. Even if you go and drink or smoke away the rest, the maximum damage you can do is limited to 24 hours of income.

        Someone will start a UBI loan company that gives you $5000 right away in exchange for your daily income for the next year. Stupidity is boundless in its ingenuity, and so is evil.

    • by Koby77 ( 992785 )
      While I disagree with your solution, I do like that you identify the core problem with the universal basic income. If you give money away, then people will spend it on ipads. Actually, they will probably spend it on things that I consider wasteful, such as gambling, alcohol, or drugs. Spending your own money on those things is fine, but we know that when people make bad decisions and run out of their free money allocation, and are now homeless, starving, and without medical care that they will come begging
      • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 )

        I'll admit it is a very simplified concept I put out that doesn't even begin to address all the nuances of the problem.

        As an example would be an alternative currency. Items purchased with the alternative currency (some sort of government plastic) must be billed at cost.)

        So items for those purchasing beyond or even if we limit to people below certain income levels, the government isn't forking out money to inflated items since stores are practically promised consumers since people can only spend it there.

        Ite

    • Government has spent billions on ipads with the money it was given. So how about eliminate government minimum pricing of food, eliminate taxes on homes, transport, utilities, and of course eliminate government money counterfeiting that doubles the cost of living every couple of decades?
  • Replace (Score:4, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @03:55PM (#54502431)

    >"Some proponents advocate funding the move by cutting programs like food stamps and Medicaid. But that approach would take money set aside for low-income families and redistribute it"

    If it does not *replace* all the other social income and welfare programs, then what is the purpose? That is the only way it could even remotely be affordable; and even then, it is still questionable. Basic income is not based on need, it is based on equality- that everyone would get an amount of subsistence money, regardless of what they choose to earn or already have. A program with zero red tape, almost no overhead, and without trying to create standards for who supposedly "deserves" money. Otherwise, all we would be doing is starting another absolutely massive, unaffordable, unsustainable, unfair, corruptive social welfare program to add to the dozens that already exist.

  • Unless there is a mechanism to keep non-workers out of neighborhoods where workers live, there will be massive crime. We'll have a population of people who have the basics met, but who won't have extra money for luxuries (or whatever is a step up from basic) and who will also have all the time in the world on their hands. Resentment will build, boredom will take over, and workers will regularly come home to find their homes looted, with cops who will care less about it than even now. Sounds fun, man.
    • Even if you had no menial jobs that require any input people would manage to create an economy. Some people value what they do and try to make the world a better place.

      Unless you get an AI to replace the entirety of humanity, there is always work to be done whether it is research or art or mowing the grass and tending to flowers.

      What you need to do instead of UBI is find the human need for exploration, the rest will come. How many people at McD wouldn't love to go to the moon? Or Mars?

      Give the military budg

  • by tricorn ( 199664 ) <sep@shout.net> on Sunday May 28, 2017 @04:10PM (#54502487) Journal

    Greenstein misses the point, while a UBI does pay out to everyone, and you do get some back from eliminating newly redundant programs (not health, though, that needs to be expanded separately, not as part of a UBI), you also increase taxes as well.

    If you make it a straight flat tax increase you can adjust the level of the UBI and the tax increase to set the income level where it's break even. The UBI for people above that level is just a tax refund.

    Figure out, for example, what the effective and marginal tax rate is at various income levels with a flat tax of 50% and a UBI of $2000/month.

    • it's about taking the rich's ability to decide who lives and who dies away from them. And make no mistake, anyone that controls your access to food, shelter, health care, transportation and education decides whether you live or if you die.
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @04:22PM (#54502535)

    I finished reading "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley" [amzn.to] by Antonio Garcia Martinez. The author and his two engineers leave the startup they worked at to create a startup at Y Combinator to create a better version of the Digg toolbar (remember toolbars?) for Google advertisers in 2010. He sold his company and engineers to Twitter and jumped ship to Facebook in a three-way deal. The funny thing is that his engineers made out better than him in the end. As for Y Combinator, I've heard mixed things about their success rate.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Money = work. Make people work to earn it. Universal basic work. IE you can always get a job even if we have to hire people to do something silly like rebuild our infrastructure. All money should represent work. Giving it away devalues it and it has to come from somewhere (taxes) and that is theft.

    • That's a good idea, but that incurs overhead, which is what UBI is supposed to eliminate. Doesn't take a lot of administrators to have a machine cut checks to people.

  • if they got behind HR 676 (aka Medicare for all). UBI is still a complete pipe dream. If they care about the working class there's plenty they could do right now. Me thinks they don't because like Trump and other false populists they don't really care. It's easy to promise something that in the current political climate is basically impossible.
  • UBI will be put into place but a lot of people are going to be jobless and homeless long before politicians get the message. The funny thing is, it's the people who are currently against UBI that are going to be the ones that are going to start calling for it because they have lost their jobs to automation. The only alternative outcome is a conflict on par with a civil war. Not even "make work" jobs are going to be able to stop UBI from happening because of the sheet amount of people that are going to be

    • Not even "make work" jobs are going to be able to stop UBI from happening because of the sheet amount of people that are going to be put out of a job.

      There is another solution. Instead of waiting till we have massive unemployment, we could start increasing the number of jobs right now. If we reduced the number of hours worked each week to 38 hours (5% decrease), it would create 5% new jobs because those jobs would still need to be filled. If we slowly decrease the workweek as automation takes over then we can evenly distribute both the work and the idleness instead of having a huge split between the people lucky enough to still have a job and the ones

      • Offer companies a tax break for creating jobs.
        • Offer companies a tax break for creating jobs.

          Companies hire employees to do jobs because those jobs provide the company more income than they spend on labor. Companies don't just hire people to do nothing. The only thing a tax break might do is adjust the marginal cost of the employee down to where the income exceeds the labor cost. If the job worth to the company is that low to begin with, that job is going to be a very low paying job. A much better solution would be to turn off H1B1s and reduce the number of hours a highly skilled person is allo

  • I don't think pilot studies are worth much, because people will act drastically differently when given a guaranteed income for a few years, compared to a guaranteed income for life.
    • I don't think pilot studies are worth much, because people will act drastically differently when given a guaranteed income for a few years, compared to a guaranteed income for life.

      I think the best way to do pilot studies would be to get some of the state lotteries involved. They could easily set up a lottery where the winner wins 10k or 20k for life. Then you could really see if a UBI works. From what I've heard about most lottery winners, it doesn't usually end well.

      • Good call.
        The downside would be that the selection would have a heavy bias towards people who are willing to buy lottery tickets, but that's definitely a smaller distortion than the one in current and previous experiments; and would be easier to control for.
  • by Pfhorrest ( 545131 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @07:45PM (#54503123) Homepage Journal

    I was a desperate poor single young man wisely not having kids or getting married while I was shit poor, and I never qualified for EITC.

    My equally poor divorced father stopped qualifying for it as soon as I moved out to go to college.

    Mom is on disability so doesn't file taxes but I doubt a single woman not supporting a kid would qualify for it either.

    There's a "family" of three desperately poor people not filing taxes together because we don't live together and none of us see a lick of this EITC.

    A first step toward making a universal basic income would just be making EITC universal. Make poor people, not poor families, get the credit. Then, yeah, expand it from there and it makes a great start. Give every single taxpayer a tax credit of a fixed amount, tax every single taxpayer a fixed percent to fund it (a percent equal to the credit amount over the mean income would make it immediately revenue-neutral), and there you go, you have a universal basic income. Then make tax refunds paid out monthly instead of all at once (and allow tax payments to be made monthly too, to be fair about it) so people don't blow their whole basic income at once right after tax season.

  • I suspect some will push a wrong flavor of UBI to better kill the idea.

    I see two ways to do it badly: first, an UBI too low to live on it, which makes sure people still have to beg for any job that can pay the bills. In the end, employers will even be able to pay them less because they already have UBI. Such an UBI is a social subsidy for employers.

    The other way to get it wrong is to make something without proper funding, and kill it as too expensive to be generalized.

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @08:20PM (#54503243) Homepage

    Surely the point of an UBI is that the UBI is "enough" and that anything beyond that point should be taxed? Say 40% flat.

    Earn $0, get $10k/year (UBI).
    Earn $10k, get $16k/year ($4k taxes, $10k UBI = $6k net) = -60%
    Earn $20k, get $22k/year ($8k taxes, $10k UBI = $2k net) = -10%
    Earn $30k, get $28k/year ($12k taxes, $10k UBI = $2k tax) = 6 2/3%
    Earn $50k, get $40k/year ($20k taxes, $10k UBI = $10k tax) = 20%
    Earn $100k, get $70k/year ($40k taxes, $10k UBI = $30k tax) = 30%
    Earn $200k, get $130k/year ($80k taxes, $10k UBI = $70k tax) = 35%

    So the break-even in this example would be $25k. But it's not like most under $25k will burden the full amount, if you're working minimum wage you'll be paying over half of it yourself. Those who really cost money are those with no income, but they're probably on some program today, where you could for starters say that the first $10k of any program today is 100% taxed towards your UBI. That is if you get $30k disability pension today, tomorrow you get $20k disability pension, $10k UBI and keep adjusting the system from there. Every dollar you make, you keep 60 cents no funny limits or drops or brackets etc.

  • One thing I think is for certain.. a lot of the people complaining about people who will take UBI instead of trying to work, will probably be taking UBI to not work.
  • by PJ6 ( 1151747 ) on Sunday May 28, 2017 @09:27PM (#54503459)
    Why don't we start with food as a UBI instead? Just make a certain basket of foods, the basics - fruits, veggies, grains, etc., free to all.

    We already massively subsidize farms. With the savings from eliminating SNAP and other related programs, we might not even need to taxes to do it.
  • The problem is that giving all Americans a $10,000 annual income would cost upwards of $3 trillion a year -- more than three-fourths of the federal budget, said Bob Greenstein, president of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Some proponents advocate funding the move by cutting programs like food stamps and Medicaid. But that approach would take money set aside for low-income families and redistribute it upward, exacerbating poverty and inequality, Greenstein said

    So much for the

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