Sunday, January 28, 2018

Universal Basic Income: Good idea or Bad?

Okay, I promise to ease up on the idea of a basic income after this post. At least until the next relevant discussion is researched and reported on.

NPR has been covering this fascinating topic for a long time, and I almost missed it covering the backward movement Scott Walker and the Republicans have been pushing for the last 7 years. Let's face it, their bizarre "every day is opposite day" supposed "forward" agenda is an amazing distraction that even got to me.

Whether you're for or against the idea of a "universal basic income" (UBI), the following podcasts will dissect every question you might have right now. From their archives...:
The basic income is a hot topic of social policy. It's a steady payout to citizens. Liberals argue it provides support to struggling citizens with dignity and freedom. Libertarians like that it can be dispensed without an expensive, and controlling, bureaucracy. The rest argue that it's a giveaway that will inspire laziness. 

In Finland, unemployment is 8.8 percent, and most of the time, citizens can't collect unemployment if they're making additional money, discouraging recipients from finding jobs. So the Finnish government has set up something unusual: a live experiment. A test to help settle the debate, or figure if it's even worth having. A test group of 2,000 unemployed Finns receive 560 euros each month from the government. No strings attached. For unemployed researcher Sanna Leskinen, that meant being able to apply for part time jobs and plan for the future. Avery Trufelman went to Finland to see how the experiment was working ... how does the basic income work in practice? And could it work in the U.S.?

Here's another perspective, answering even more questions...(click  on the image for the TED video presentation):
Historian Rutger Bregman says a lack of cash is the cause, not the symptom, of poverty. He proposes a simple but radical solution: give those in need a guaranteed basic income. Bregman's most recent book, Utopia for Realists, explores universal basic income and other provocative ideas. Bregman also writes for The Correspondent and has been featured in The Washington Post, The Guardian, and on the BBC.

If you have the time, the report below is a great overview as well:
Much of the anger and anxiety in the 2016 election is fueled by the sense that economic opportunity is slipping away for many Americans. Misha Chellam is a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco and is part of the burgeoning basic income movement … "I have this gut sense from having been in the Valley for a while now that there will be a coming wave of automation that's going to get rid of a lot of jobs." While technological advances make some jobs obsolete, the past has shown that tech has also created new opportunities.

Then there's Uber, which is experimenting with driverless taxis and trucks. "And that would affect 3.5 million truck drivers, another 5 million people who support the truck-driving industry," Chellam says. "And that's just one example of automation."

Chellam says software is eating white-collar jobs, too, and everyone from bookkeepers to doctors and lawyers will be affected. Chellam criticizes politicians for not talking about this automated future. At best, he says, they talk about "retraining," which doesn't address the scope of the problem.

Chellam believes as technology replaces more workers, the traditional 40-hour-a-week job could become a thing of the past. If that happens, how will families get health insurance or save for retirement?

Some experts say the only answer is a government-guaranteed paycheck that would allow people to buy food and housing. That would not only help the individuals but would help keep economic wheels spinning and generate tax revenues.

Natalie Foster, a fellow at the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit research organization in Palo Alto said some technologists suggest setting the basic income at $10,000 a year. Others have proposed raising carbon emission taxes to pay for it. They're hosting panels asking what would it mean to give people money they didn't work for. In Oakland, they're about to find out. Y Combinator is funding a research project on basic income, where it will pay 100 people enough money for food and shelter — no strings attached. The prestigious tech accelerator helped launch companies that include Airbnb and Reddit.

Y Combinator in a blog post by its president, Sam Altman, predicted that "at some point in the future," some version of basic income will be rolled out nationally.

Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook who is active in the basic income movement says that whether you like the idea or not, there won't be an alternative because decent-paying jobs are disappearing for millions of people. "The reality is that work has changed. Forty percent of jobs are now contingent, meaning they're part-time, independent contractors, Uber drivers," he says. And he says that shift has already left middle-class Americans economically insecure. A recent study by the Federal Reserve found that 46 percent of Americans surveyed didn't have enough cash to cover a $400 emergency expense. "I think there is a sense that our economy is broken in many ways," Hughes says. "But rather than try to restructure our economy so it looks like the 1950s, I think we have to be honest with ourselves." Hughes says that means basic income isn't an idea for the distant future but one we need to consider today.

Sadly, the first vote for a basic income in Switzerland failed. Yet maybe a whole country shouldn't try something until a few smaller attempts were made with tweaks and improvements:
Swiss voters over the weekend dealt a stern backslap to a ballot proposal that would have guaranteed a basic monthly income for all 8.1 million residents — regardless of their employment status — of that wealthy European nation.

The vote wasn't even close. Almost 77 percent of voters rejected the proposal that the government give every adult in Switzerland about $2,500 every month. (Children would have received a smaller subsidy of $650.)

Supporters had argued that the bold social experiment would help eradicate poverty and protect workers in an increasingly automated economy. Opponents said the measure, with an estimated price tag of more than $200 billion a year, was too costly and would lead to public spending cuts.Switzerland was the first country to offer its voters their choice on the idea of a government-guaranteed monthly income, USA Today reports. The newspaper says the proposal is being debated in other countries, including the Netherlands, Finland, Canada and New Zealand.

1 comment:

  1. A really provocative topic, showing just how strange our economies have become. I'm not against basic income, yet economics should be about people, not machine "employees."

    Music created by machines is not music, but a computer code to represent some kind of "sound" that promotes a market objective. Do computers find joy or appreciate music, or do they just follow the instructions they're given?

    It's much like business pushing the next kind of slavery, where business has total control over their worker assets, only their assets are no longer people but machines--machines don't complain about the low wages or working conditions.

    The banks and business surely love the machines, but our State and Nation, and their direction, are based on rule by the people. I actually prefer Muzac to ringtones, bland as they both are.

    If all the formerly-paying jobs are going to be taken over by the machines, then basic income is an absolute necessity. It's just awful that America has reached this juncture.