UBI or Not?

The presidential run of candidate Andrew Yang made a lot of folks familiar with the idea of a universal basic income. A monthly cash amount given free of qualification or restriction to every citizen and legal resident to spend without any preconditions.

The idea is to reduce poverty, compensate for jobs lost to automation, and eliminate the stigma of receiving welfare, all while saving money by eliminating social services such as housing assistance, food stamps, Medicare, etc.. Since these payments would go to everyone, most plans include taxing the money back from wealthy recipients.

In providing assistance to those in need, I have always preferred giving goods and services directly. Free clinic, food bank. That sort of thing. The next best choice is a voucher good for specific use. The cash alternative seems like the least best way to help. It’s advantage is that in the short run it may be cheaper than maintaining the social infrastructure of a welfare system. My problem with it is that it may fail to provide the specific help desired. Most of these plans, including Andrew Yang’s, don’t go far enough, leaving some people worse or no better off than before.

I would much prefer giving aid exclusively to those who need it. Our greatest failure in this regard seems to be with housing assistance. We can’t seem to match up vacant houses with homeless individuals and families. As far as automation displacement and unemployment in general, instead of a guaranteed basic income, I much prefer a guaranteed job, with the government the employer of last resort. The UBI addresses real concerns, but it’s the wrong solution.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s