House Concurrent Resolution 89: Hawaii Passes Universal Basic Income Bill
This is an idea that I’ve been looking at-as I consider policy options for my Mike Sax NY 2 Congressional campaign. Hi-I’m Mike Sax.
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The Mike Sax campaign argues there is a low wage epidemic so we’re studying policy options-and one is the UBI-another is the Job Guarantee (JG).
Why does Scott Sumner prefer the UBI to the JG? https://t.co/fCj9fGw9Ik
— mike sax (@mikesaxny2) June 30, 2017
While there are some very fierce dogmatists in both the UBI and JG camps that seem to desire a battle to the death to figure out who are the True Progressives it seems to me that the ideas can-and should-be complementary.
And both are in the news, and very much ideas whose time has come. John Conyors just introduced a Jobs for All Act that is indexed to a 4% unemployment rate and a 3% CPI rate.
And Hawaii just passed a UBI bill.
Here is a conservative writer at The Hill-who doesn’t approve:
“The idea of a so-called guaranteed national income or “universal basic income” (UBI) has become fashionable as a way to address concerns about everything from wealth inequality to a future in which technology has run amok. It has the appealing simplicity of a bumper sticker: Everyone in society should be paid a cash grant from the government, enough to prevent any person from living in poverty.”
It’s not some futurist daydream. It has already run amok. We have a low wage epidemic that has developed over the last 17 years and is here today.
Evidently in the rarefied conservative Republican circles Malia Blom Hill runs in, this hasn’t broken through yet. Other than maybe someone’s kid at the country club might have read something about it in graduate school.
“And because it is fashionable, it should be no surprise that it has found traction in Hawaii. The Aloha State has a long tradition of adopting (or attempting to adopt) “cutting edge” legislation, regardless of how good a fit it might be for a small island state in the middle of the Pacific. There are few social and political experiments that don’t get at least a hearing in the Hawaii Legislature.”
Note-when a conservative calls something fashionable it’s seen as such an ad hominem attack there is not even any reason to go on to debate the issue on its merits-it’s fashinable among the wrong people-liberals. So it’s loopy and we can’t afford it and let’s cut some rich people’s taxes.
Which is exaclty what Malia Blom wants to do:
“Legislators should scrap idea of ‘basic income’ and just lower taxes.”
The Republicans in Congress are already cutting rich people’s taxes to the tune of billions. But Ms. Blom is still not satisfied. Sure, the way to raise the wages of the poor is cut taxes for the rich.
“This year, the legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution 89, which directed the state to convene a working group to study the feasibility of both a full and partial universal basic income.”
“The resolution itself is full of references to automated cars and retail checkout lines, doctors being replaced by smartphones, and other technological advances that it alleges will “soon” displace human workers. Like a fever dream concocted from YouTube videos and threads from the /Futurology subreddit, it’s a vision of a dystopian future that convinced enough Hawaii legislators (almost all of them, actually) to consider researching UBI as a way to address the human fallout of technological advancement.”
The idea of simply researching the idea seems to be giving Ms. Blom her own ‘fever dream.’
And again-this dystopian future she keeps mocking is here, has been here, is getting worse.
It turns out that the UBI is not a new idea in concept-in fact Nixon himself floated it back in 1969:
“Under a UBI program, every citizen is granted a fixed income that’s not dependent on their status in life. Despite the current focus on the concept, it actually isn’t particularly new. In fact, former US President Richard Nixon actually floated the idea back in 1969.”
“However, the benefits of such a program have become more appealing in light of recent technological advances, specifically, the adoption of automated systems that could result in widespread unemployment.”
“Proponents of UBI have highlighted how it would be an improvement on existing social welfare programs while mitigating the effects of the joblessness expected to follow automation. Critics think that UBI would encourage a more lax attitude about work and argue that funding such a system would be difficult, if not impossible.”
Regarding the lax attitude about work, as I argued in my previous post it’s interesting that conservatives like Scott Sumner prefer UBI to the JG-as Sumner for one, is very concerned about a lax attitude towards work.
“Existing pilot programs, however, seem to indicate otherwise.”
About indicating otherwise:
“But is UBI really such a good idea? Some believe that it’ll act as a giant safety net provided by the government for those facing poverty or unemployment. Others believe that if you hand someone money, they’ll opt to doing absolutely nothing with their lives in return. Countries flashing free money would wave a flag to millions of people while shouting “Come get your cash!”
This is part of a real debate about preferences. Who would work if they don’t have to? Maybe preferences on this question differ.
And whether people blow off work depends on how large the UBI is. If it’s $1,000 per month, while that’s helpful, it’s not by itself enough to live on if you have no other income sources or savings.
If you’re going to give everyone $10 million dollars per year, it might be different. Of course, that wouldn’t be sustainable.
I don’t think most people would want to do ‘nothing with their lives.’ People desire to be useful to society, to contribute, to achieve goals. Even if they are not literally fearful of starving every single day.
Which goes to the issue of social standards and stigma. Does ‘doing something with their lives’ only apply to things that have a paycheck?
But again, I think it may well be that people’s preferences on these sorts of question are heterogenous
“Fact of the matter is, UBI has its benefits. In a study led by researchers at the World Bank, underdeveloped nations in particular saw a decrease in the consumption of “temptation goods” when given free cash each month. This would include the consumption of alcohol and tobacco.”
“If you tell people money is for a certain thing, then they’re much more likely to spend that money on that thing,” said David Evans, one of the lead researchers in the study. That’s why each cash transfer came with a label featuring a positive intent such as “for improving the lives of your children” or “for starting your business.”
This is an interesting point. Many economic conservatives seem to take exception with taking away people’s ‘choice.’ They’d rather just hand over the money then tell people where they should employ it. But this fetish of ‘choice’ is what gut us clunky monstrosities like George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D.
It was a good thing to give people a new prescription drug benefit. But because it was designed to maximize choice’ it worked a lot less well than it could have.
Think about health insurance. If your employer-or the government-automatically enrolls you in a particular HC plan will you complain?
It all depends doesn’t it? I mean-does is it adequate healthcare that meets all your needs? If so, then you won’t want to drop it. Only if it’s inadequate will you want to drop it.
It’s actually a little more complex even that that as we tend towards status quo bias. So unless a healthcare plan we already have is awful, we probably won’t take active steps to leave it. But bottomline is that when it comes to healthcare what people want is good, adequate care at an affordable price. If one is selected for them but it meets this requirement they don’t care about choice.
What the choice dogmatists miss are it’s possible also to have too many choices. Too many live to paralysis via analysis.
P.S. If you believe that 25 years is enough for an imperious monarch like Peter King NY-2 who is a Republican first and an American second and is too arrogant to even speak to his own constituents please help me in my challenge to him in any way you can. If you live in the area you can volunteer-or at least tell everyone you know. And no matter where you are in the country, donations help.
Mike Sax is the One to Dethrone the King. All Sax is good Sax.