Why We Should be Talking About Universal Basic Income

Imagine if the government gave every American adult $2,500 a month in real dollars (30K annually) for the rest of their lives – no strings attached. Seems crazy right?

Not so fast – this idea is known as Universal Basic Income (UBI). I believe UBI will be the solution to a myriad of economic problems we currently face. I have listed some things to consider when talking about UBI.

Benefits:

Provides a social safety net for all Americans. This would eliminate homelessness and extreme poverty among the most vulnerable Americans.

Addresses concerns from automation and technology significantly increasing structural unemployment. It is estimated that up to 47% of US jobs could potentially be replaced by automation and robots in the next 10 to 20 years.

Eliminates the “retirement age” from social security. People can work as long as they want to supplement their income or save money on their own to retire early.

Solves the welfare cliff dilemma where welfare recipients can lose benefits as they earn more supplemental income. 100% of all income earned would be supplemental to UBI.

Empowers individuals to choose how they spend their money versus receiving specific items like food stamps etc.

Reduces government bureaucracy and cost of administering social security and welfare programs

Has garnered bipartisan support in the past from both liberals like Huey Long and conservatives like Milton Friedman

Concerns:

The total cost of a UBI program. It remains to be seen how much UBI would cost, but the total cost would be offset by things we already spend a ton of money on like social security and welfare.

Lack of incentive to work. Critics of UBI worry that people will have little incentive to find a job.  While job participation would likely decrease, most people would still want to supplement their income or find intrinsic meaning through being productive.

Crowding out of other social benefits. Some people are concerned that UBI will eliminate all other government assistance programs. While UBI would eliminate things like social security and welfare, I would argue we should still provide education, healthcare, and other important social benefits that are not income related.

Overall, I think UBI is an issue we need to be discussing. As the pace of innovation in automation and technology continues to accelerate, we will need to find a solution to help those that are left behind.

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