This may surprise many of you, but I have come to believe that the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI), where everyone is guaranteed a basic income regardless of what they do, is an idea whose time has come. It just makes too much sense to ignore.
Proponents of the idea have long argued that it would guarantee everyone in the country a basic and humane standard of living. Proposals have ranged from paying everyone in the nation anywhere between $400 and $1,000 a month. The theory is that this would provide dignity while giving everyone the ability to afford life's basic necessities. And after much internal deliberation and debate, I now agree with them.
Sure, it's failed everywhere it has been tried, but I am convinced, like my pro-UBI brethren, that it is because it has not yet been attempted by the right people. Despite spectacular failures in Norway and elsewhere, the city of Stockton, California is forging ahead with a test program that provides $500 a month to a lucky few citizens. The mayor of Newark, NJ has also weighed in, saying that his city should and will start providing a Universal Basic Income for all of its residents. These are the right people that I am talking about. Despite the fact that Newark has massive pension obligations and is swimming in a sea of red ink (Unfunded liabilities for Newark as a percentage of revenue in 2016 were 284%, the fourth worst ratio for cities in the nation), they are forging ahead with a bold plan to make life livable for all.
That's what I'm talking about, people. Bold, decisive action that will make a difference in people's lives.
But I say, is that bold enough? Why stop at a paltry $500 a month? That amount merely secures a guaranteed place in the halls of poverty for those who do not aspire or do not have the ability to earn more on their own. Instead, I propose that we pay every adult in the US the more princely and livable sum of $1,000,000 (one million) per year.
Just imagine it. Overnight, every person in the US would be an instant millionaire. The surge in disposable income would drive the economy to unprecedented levels. The auto industry would sell record numbers of top of the line automobiles, assuming, of course, that anyone bothers to show up and make them. But why stop there?
When you think about it, it would be patently unfair for our nation to be swimming with overnight millionaires while much of the remainder of the world toils in abject poverty. Therefore, my proposal doesn't stop at some man made, imaginary border that somehow foolishly defines our identity as a “nation.” No, the Wilson UBI Plan would be truly Universal, and provide an annual income of $1,000,000 for every man, woman and child on the face of the earth. Given that there are approximately 7 Billion people inhabiting our little corner of the universe, the program would be estimated to cost only about $7,000,000,000,000,000, or 7 Quadrillion dollars a year (not including administrative costs).
To break that down and make it more comprehensible, that is 7,000 trillion dollars. Every year.
Detractors and naysayers, who always seem to have an unbridled urge to point out blinding glimpses of the obvious, will trot out that old whiny question, “But how do we pay for it?” In response, I would simply point to the current congressional representative and future Nobel economist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who recently issued a brilliant economic plan by saying, “We just pay for it!” Besides, if she can figure out how to pay for her apartment in DC, we can certainly tackle a miniscule issue such as finding an extra 7 Quadrillion dollars. Every year.
I jest of course. To pay for this reasonable UBI we will simply tax the rich. Of course, by our current definitions everyone will be rich if we are all making a million dollars a year. That might mean we have to tax everybody – but that is crazy talk. We'll just take it from the fat greedy bastards that have more money than we do; like those who unfairly earn anything more than the one million dollars per year they are guaranteed. It's about time they paid their fair share. Of course, according to the Tax Foundation, in 2016 the top 50 percent of all taxpayers paid 97 percent of all individual income taxes, while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 3 percent. Still, they'll be getting a million a year from the government. Surely, we can take the rest. It is only fair.
Other disparagers of this concept might point out that the dollar amount is irrelevant if everyone has exactly the same amount of money to spend. They would say that a tide of rising income across the world would merely lead to an elevated inflation level that would ultimately mitigate any increase in personal income. It is essentially the same argument around the “Fight for $15” minimum wage movement. You might get that $15 an hour, but at the end of the day you are still earning a minimumwage. Congratulations on that, by the way. Opponents of my UBI plan would suggest that you might make a million dollars a year with the plan, but that cup of Starbucks coffee might cost just over $100,000. Of course, that is not too much of an increase from Starbucks current pricing strategy, so that might be a bad example.
Still, we must press on until this program is adopted. Like the dazzling bartender turned Congresswoman, Economist & Savior of the World, AOC, we cannot let a little thing like reality stand in the way of our greater aspirations.
By now you may have surmised that this article, published on April 1, 2019, is the perfect topic for the momentous occasion of the day. And if you happen to be a true supporter of the UBI concept, consider it a challenge to define for me why $500 a month makes sense, but a million dollars a year is ridiculous. Somewhere in your defense we will find the actual reason that UBI will be an abysmal failure.
But, by all means, carry on. And have yourself an especially happy and poignant April Fools Day.
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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