Why Does Sumner Prefer UBI to JG?
If you have read me for any period of time you know by now that I’m
1. Mike Sax
2. Am a first time candidate for the NY 2 Congressional District.
3. If people ask ‘Who the heck is Mike Sax?’ just respond, ‘All Sax is good Sax, so elect Mike Sax Democrat for NY 2 Congressional District.’
The three pillars of the Mike Sax NY 2 campaign are:
The 3 pillars of the Mike Sax NY 2 campaign: 1. Legitimacy crisis. 2. Strong public option. 3 Low wage epidemic https://t.co/CNAoLonmZE
— mike sax (@mikesaxny2) June 29, 2017
Yesterday we did a major post on various policy options for the low wage epidemic. They are:
1. The idea of the Job Guarantee (JG). This could be sort of like FDR’s old WPA but permanent.
2. A Universal Basic Income (UBI).
3. Expanding the EITC.
The post focused mostly on 1 and 2.
After considering those who argue that
1. The JG rules and the UBI drools
2. The UBI rules and the JG drools
3. I concluded that those who argue ‘Can’t we just get along’ are right.
I quoted from Brad Voracek:
“It’s disappointing to see debates between proponents of the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) and the Job Guarantee (JG). These discussions detract from the fact that both of these ideal policies are distant from the policies we currently have in place. Supporters of either of these policies should be working together to get either one implemented, and we can debate adding the other later. Today, we need to move beyond our current disjointed welfare system to one that will help Americans, and either policy (or both!) seems like a step in the right direction.”
And concluded he was right:
“Amen. I’ve argued exhaustively since the Dem primary against the tendency of sectarianism on the Left of the circular firing squad. But this sums up the ridiculous opprobrium of the Bernie Bros towards Hillary for calling for a $12 federal MW-No! It’s $15 or it’s nothing. And of course, we got Trump and it’s nothing.”
I agree with UBI and JG working together as I’m a pragmatist-rathe than a dogmatist. Dogmatists gum up the works on arcane sectarian differences. But politics is the art of emphasizing where we agree not where we disagree.
I notice that there are a lot of people on both the Far Left and Far Right who prefer to emphasize where we disagree.
I actually had an interesting Twitter conversation with Brad Voracek yesterday afternoon after praising his post. He informed me that Congressman John Conyers currently has a ‘jobs for all’ bill.
— Brad Voracek (@bradvoracek) June 29, 2017
He also showed me his dissertation.
Voracek is certainly right about the increasing disutility of education.
I then spoke to someone else named Scott Santens who is a very big advocate for UBI.
He feels very strongly that UBI is superior to JG and talks as disdainfully about JG as Bill Mitchell talks about the UBI.
Again, to my mind that makes them both kind of dogmatic. I consider myself a pragmatist. If you have a first, second, and third best policy, spending a lot of time debating those who support what you see as second and third is a waste of time compared to moving the Overton Window in the direction that anyone of them or combination of them becomes politically doable.
One interesting point that Santens made-Andre Coelho made this same point in a post I also reviewed in the UBI vs JG post-is that UBI implicitly can be seen as ending the social stigma of not having a job at all.
JG proponents emphasize the idea that people want to work, they’d prefer to work. They don’t want to just collect a paycheck. On the other hand UBI proponents like Santens and Coelho emphasize that there is a social stigma for us in not having a job.
Maybe if you removed the stigma people would be happier just taking the ‘welfare’ check.
Again, I’m a pragmatist. On the issue of whether or not we as a society want to take away the social stigma of not working has not been my central concern in studying these policy options.
For me it’s very simple-we have a low wage epidemic. Over the last 17 years more and more Americans are unable to make ends meet.
It’s not so much where are the jobs? as where are the decent paying jobs?
But as to whether or not we want to weaken the stigma of not working or not-I’m sort of agnostic. Just whatever is the best way to fight back against and reverse our low wage epidemic is what I support. And I my tendency is to say ‘Lets try a little of each’ and see how it works out.
Interestingly, when I asked Stantens about how large he’d like the UBI to be he is only calling for $1000 per month which seems to me to be pretty reasonable. But this would by itself not be enough to live on-though it would alleviate it for someone with zero or very little income.
I asked him about having along with the $1000 UBI a JG of some sort and he has no problem with that. He just doesn’t like the coercive thing that people ‘have to work.’
But this brings us to Scott Sumner-who’s best known for his advocacy of the Fed targeting NGDP rather than its current dual focus of inflation and employment.
Sumner has made it clear he’s contemptuous of the idea of a JG. On the other hand he seems willing to at least entertain the idea of a UBI.
“Again, I really want to believe the GAI can work. It’s the type of solution I like. Please convince me I am wrong. It’s easier to administer than my wage subsidy idea. But I just don’t see how the numbers add up. At best you could do a GAI that is so small that it does not eliminate poverty. Not enough to live on. That might help at the margin, but it would not end poverty.”
So Sumner at least entertains the UBI though he doesn’t think it will work. But he rules out the JG as absurd-he considers the MMTers absurd and they can be tough to love. I think they make some good points but their snark wins them no friends.
But it seems that whether or not Sumner believes the JG can work-and his neoclassical theory of the economy assumes it can’t-you’d think he’d at least respect their aims.
After all, Sumner believes that the social stigma against not working should be maintained-contrary to what at least some of the more fervent UBI proponents like Stantens want to see overturned.
The JG school’s argues for a society where everyone has a livable wage but that people choose to work rather than stay home and collect a check. You’d think that was in line with Sumner at least in aim.
But it’s not.
Indeed, I find that conservatives consider the JG a nonstarter whereas they have been open to a UBI or expanded EITC.
Sumner’s preferred policy is just like his hero Milton Friedman’s, an expanded EITC.
Basically Sumner is ok with the government sending people checks that add up to a 30% or 40% premium on their low wage service jobs.
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.