Could a universal basic income really work?

Could we solve poverty and income inequality by just doling out money to everyone, no questions asked?

The idea of a universal basic income has stimulated a lively debate among public policy wonks, economists and businesspeople. It even made Goldman Sach’s list of trendy buzzwords this year.

Under such a system, every person would automatically receive a salary “without means test or work requirement,” say campaigners who support the idea. The idea has gained traction in recent months, particularly among Silicon Valley tech executives who see it as a way of solving the problem of job losses resulting from automation. According to some estimates, 47 percent of America’s jobs could be at risk due to automation. In addition, a guaranteed income is seen as a solution to alleviate poverty in an America where the top 1 percent on average make 25 times more than the average salary of the bottom 99 percent.

The concept has attracted an unlikely coalition of supporters on the right and the left. Some conservatives like it because it could replace the existing “welfare state” and the immense cost of running several complementary and overlapping government assistance programs. Liberals see it as a way of narrowing the gap between the rich and poor, uplifting the country’s poorest citizens through a guaranteed social safety net.

Other countries are considering the idea. The Swiss rejected it in a popular vote last month, but the Canadian province of Ontario is launching a basic income pilot program this fall and Finland is considering it.

Here in America, a group of 43 influential economists were polled recently by the University of Chicago on a basic income scenario inspired by a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that argued for a basic income of $13,000 for every American. The article’s author, American Enterprise Institute author and political scientist Charles Murray, says under his plan, “the entire bureaucratic apparatus of government social workers would disappear, but Americans would still possess their historic sympathy and social concern.”

The poll asked whether “granting every American citizen over 21-years old a universal basic income of $13,000 a year — financed by eliminating all transfer programs (including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, housing subsidies, household welfare payments, and farm and corporate subsidies) — would be a better policy than the status quo.”

While most of the economists polled opposed the idea, the comments some provided with their responses indicate that they were, at least in some cases, rejecting Murray’s framework more than the underlying concept. Still, there’s no consensus on how a basic income would or should work, with disagreements about how much would be doled out, how such a program would be funded and whether it should exist alone or alongside other social support programs.

Below are some of the comments from the economists:
“Universal basic income is a step in the right direction, but very complicated. Devil would be in details. So, lots of uncertainty.”

Steven Caplan (University of Chicago), Vote: Agree

¹“Bill Gates would get 13K, which is crazy. Raising taxes is costly and so redistribution should be targeted to those who need help most.”

Oliver Hart (Harvard University), Vote: Strongly Disagree

“Current US status quo is horrible. A more efficient and generous social safety net is needed. But UBI is expensive and not generous enough.”

 – Daron Acemoglu (MIT), Vote: Uncertain

“This is a dumb question. We are not going to eliminate Social Security and Medicare etc.”

 – Richard Thaler (University of Chicago), Vote: No Opinion

²“Provocative idea but as stated would cost ~$3 trillion, equal to all federal tax revenue. What about e.g. national defense?”

 – Jonathan Levin (Stanford), Vote: Disagree

Article source: Suman Bhattacharyya, Fiscal Times


¹This is one of the reasons I have an issue with income based tax systems;

“what about this millionaire, what about that billionaire getting it too?! Bill Gates gonna get $13 grand too, Bill Gates this and Bill Gates that……aaauughhh!”

Who cares how much he/she gets, and who cares about how much money they have or make? Stop using his products Windows/Xbox user! What does that have ANYTHING to do with YOU? That’s “Class Warfare 101”, and that ideology just earned a big huge A+ and graduated to the University of Divide & Conquer.

²I want to see the balance sheet of the United States. I want to see its entire financial report in order to prove $3 trillion.

Now you ask yourself; what would you do with an Universal Basic Income? Don’t worry about what the next door neighbor would do, or everyone across the country would do — you’re not them, you’re you. So what would YOU do with it? And despite the “experts”, do you agree or disagree?

I’m actually all for it. If you knew what I know about America’s financial situation, this might not bother you; $13 grand times 310+ million citizens equals about a little north of $4.03 trillion annually. If you believe America can’t afford that, then the United States lost it’s stellar credit rating (AAA3, Moody’s and S&P), its license to print its own money on demand (your credit cards, mortgage, car loans, student loans, etc), and its status of being the wealthiest country in the world a long time ago (US dollar and its superiority in the global marketplace).

In other words, take everything of doom and gloom you’ve heard about the United States and toss it–no–throw it, as far away as you can. Cock it far back, and give it a nice Hail Mary throw where it will NEVER come back. EVER.

If you knew what I know about America’s financial well-being, you’d want to know why we didn’t adopt a Universal Basic Income off the back. You would wonder why America’s been trained and indoctrinated to believe that the government takes away from Peter to pay Paul, which did a good job in promoting class warfare in the first place. I believe that was done intentionally so that Americans could get distracted and fight among each other based on income status and class instead of uniting as a country and encouraging each other to start a business and have the government to help pay for it.

I also believe that I was taught to see government as the enemy instead of a platform that would do everything it can to assist the citizens in growing a robust economy, while providing for a safety net (the general welfare) for the people who were in an economic bind.


I believe that one of the biggest cause of stress in America is finances, and worries about the economy which usually have absolutely nothing to do with them. But (deep breath) because media says so — you know that game.

If each person regardless of income got a living check for $1k a month, how much stress regarding money would be eliminated? Then there goes away the stress related illnesses and medications, and the distractions of worry would be lessened so that the person can focus on being more productive. Yes?

I believe also that one of the major oppositions of this idea derives from how majority of taxes is collected; income.

You have a society of hardworking Americans who feel like they’re paying out and being fleeced in taxes, but not getting a good return on their investment. They are trained to focus on the so-call “welfare queens/kings” abusing the system and the taxpayer get more angry. But the thing is, the taxpayer don’t know if their taxes is going towards that welfare recipient. IF the average taxpayer knew where the money was going, welfare would be the least — let me spell that out — the L-E-A-S-T—of their concern. Trust me.


It’s not a magic pill, but I would advocate eliminating the current tax code first before initiating a UBI. It makes sense because let’s be honest; there are so-call tax cheats, avoiders, and people who just don’t pay taxes. Forget the IRS, YOU try to go after them, and see how much money, time, and manpower you will waste in order to catch a so-call “tax cheat”. Then you might ask ‘what’s the meaning of this **ish?!’

So eliminating the current tax code is priority number one in my book. You do just that alone would create a massive celebration across this country so jubilant, you’d think we REALLY sent a man on the moon, and celebrated the Fourth of July all on the same day!

Then when the people feeling all good inside and want to conceive more because the stress is gone and they believe their children will have a brighter future — THEN you can hit them with an economic orgasm by passing a flat consumption based tax code (I repeat CODE, singular with one number) due to our economy dependence on consumption and consumers courtesy of this proposal.

And after everyone marinate on that tax code and let it sink in, THEN you hit them with the Universal Basic Income.

BUT, just like some of the comments earlier, it might be a hard sale based on the current economic assumption and fiscal policies right now.

Again I’m all for it after seeing a few things, but it’s also up to the 310-plus millions of people in America.

To our country 😉



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