Today, June 5th, 2016, Swiss voters reject a proposal to give each citizen 2500 Euro per month. Voters indicated it would devalue work and encourage immigration.
Universal Basic Income or Basic Income
The idea of Universal Basic Income has been around for a while. The idea is that the government would give a basic level of income each year to every citizen to reduce poverty and promote human development. The benefit could vary by amount and need but everyone would receive some benefit. The benefit could be large enough to lift them out of poverty or a supplement to existing programs like food stamps, TANF, SSI, health care or housing support. However, it would be universal like social security to build broad public support.
In the United States, the general public is starting to recognize basic income can help eliminate poverty and economic insecurity. As of 2014 census, 14.8% of the US population lives below the poverty line. There were 46.7 million people in poverty.
The official poverty rate is here: “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014.
The topic resurfaced to a broader public when Farhad Manjoo reported on “silicon valley proposals to give everyone an income so people will not fight job-killing technologies.
Manjoo was discussing the ideas of Scott Santens in his NYT piece. Mr. Santens is profiled here in the Atlantic. “What if everybody didn’t have to work to get paid." . Mr. Santens also moderates the reddit discussion of Basic Income.
UBI is being widely discussed as the economic climate worsens and insecurity grows for many people.
The pro-UBI side argues,
1) UBI lets people attain their full potential. “What would you do if all your basic needs were taken care of ?”
2) Helps people find the right job
3) UBI Is efficient to administer.
The anti-UBI side argues,
1 1) It destroys the work ethic
2 2) BI is too expensive to afford
3 3) Would encourage immigration
4 4) Does not factor in geographic cost differences such as housing costs.
In the United States, giving 300 million people $10,000 a year would cost $3 trillion dollars. Currently, military spending is the largest discretionary budget item at $598 billion out of a total discretionary spend of $1.11 trillion dollars
Basic Income Discussion
About a year ago some silicon valley folks wrote about UBI because they were afraid people would oppose job killing robots. The widely read piece rekindled the discussion of UBI.
Eduardo Porter from New York Times has written on UBI here: “Universal Basic Income is a poor tool to fight poverty”. He calls the plans too expensive and “Poorly thought out”
We highly recommend this great overview of Basic Income from 538. The story by Andrews Flowers is well researched and has lots of links. “What would happen if we just gave people money”
Economist says it too expensive here. “Basically Unaffordable”
Tony Atkinson advocates for a participation credit. You must contribute to society in some way either by working, looking for work or volunteering.
Roosevelt Institute has an article by Mike Konczal against UBI “Guest post: Max Sawicky on the liberal case against Universal Basic Income”
Mr. Sawicky, argues that the cost is too expensive and there are other ways to achieve the same objective. These include full employment, a higher minimum wage, support for unions, federalizing temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) and making the government the employer of last resort. These measures are “more in keeping with our current system and political culture.” He says UBI is a pipe dream and we are better off increasing TANF, if we really want to reduce poverty.
UBI in real life
Besides the Swiss, a number of cities and countrie are conducting experiments on basic income.
Silicon Valley Incubator Y Combinator is funding a research project on basic income in Oakland. The application is here.
The Dutch city of Utrecht is paying people whether they work or not. They are experimenting with paying clients about 1000 euros each month without any means test. Here.
Finland is also looking at a UBI experiment. They would give each citizen 800 euro a month.
Finally, one of the longest running website on Basic Income is basicincome.org/ which is run by the Basic Income Earth Network(BIEN) which has the most update to date news on basic income issues in the world.