A Universal Basic Income – Part I

In a capitalist system, there are winners and there are losers.  While competition doesn’t preclude growth in an economy, it does introduce real human suffering in the case of those who fail to compete.  A UBI is one very simple method to blunt this negative consequence.  While social safety net programs such as social security, welfare, disability payments, and unemployment insurance go part of the way, UBI is a naturally extension of these that eliminates many of their inherent problems.

A universal basic income (UBI) is a way for a government to ensure that its citizens all have access to a basic level of regular income to see to their fundamental needs for survival.  There are many forms of UBI including negative taxes, but I’m envisioning a very specific version.  I’ll outline my ideal system below, and in future posts I’ll address specific issues, costs of the program, benefits, and drawbacks.

Amount – The payment amount should be ideally $1000 per month per person or $12000 per year.  This amount should be indexed to inflation.

PaymentsAll citizens would be paid monthly.  Monthly payments represent a good midpoint between overwhelming people with a yearly payment and keeping logistical costs low.  I have no problem with enforcing the UBI be accepted either as a direct deposit to a checking account or into a UBI-only debit card account run by the federal government.

UniversalityAll citizens, regardless of yearly income or accumulated wealth, would have access to the UBI.  No one can claim another citizen has an unfair advantage as all would get a monthly check for the same amount.

ChildrenThe parent of a child would receive 20% of their earned UBI until the child turns 18, when the child gains access to their full UBI.  The remaining 80% from the child’s youth would be put away in an account for the child, to be given access to at a later time.

RestrictionsNo restrictions will be placed on what the UBI can and cannot be used for.  As the UBI is just a cash deposit it would be unfeasible to enforce rules in any case, but it’s worth stating that the UBI is usable at the discretion of each citizen.

Program ReplacementAll similar programs will be subsumed by UBI.  This includes social security benefits, federal disability benefits, state and local welfare, food stamps, and unemployment insurance.  Note that this does not include any medical programs.

That’s about it.  There are a lot of minutiae to cover, but this is the basic plan.  As unrealistic as it sounds, I’ll lay out a case that it isn’t quite as crazy as all that.  We’re also a lot closer to already having a UBI than you might think.  Here are the broad topics I’ll be covering in later posts:

  • What are the benefits?
  • Can we afford it?
  • What’s the personal impact?
  • What are the downsides?
  • An aside on taxes and healthcare
  • Is it inevitable?  Do we have it already?
  • Has anyone tried it already?

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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s