There are a lot of people who think I am clueless. Just read the comments after my columns. There are certainly enough people expressing that thought. Then there is The Wife who tells me I am on a regular basis. Of course, my two kids remind me of how I am lucky I achieved anything in life without their guidance. Then I read a recent column by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post and discovered I was totally left out of our societal drift.
Cohen was writing one of the Post’s regular attacks of Donald Trump when he expressed this thought “If Trump were honest, he would tell his people that things are only going to get worse. He’d warn them that the robots are coming — just over yonder hill — and they are going to take so many jobs that serious people are now discussing something called universal basic income, or UBI. This would be a stipend — much like a Social Security payment — which everyone would get, regardless of income, so that the trucker who gets replaced by a robotic truck can still, as it were, make a living. In Silicon Valley, where the silicon scabs of tomorrow are being conceived and manufactured, UBI is a lively topic. I have yet to hear it mentioned by Trump.”
I was informed by Cohen that I am not only not a serious person, but I was clueless not being on the UBI bandwagon. I did not even know there was a bandwagon to hop onto. An interesting part of Cohen’s statement attributes the thinking to Silicon Valley not mentioning the salon’s and cocktail parties of D.C., New York or Cambridge. Now children like Mark Zuckerberg or Travis Kalanick (Uber) are our public policy sages. Cohen did not even state he heard whispers at the World Economic Forum in Davos where the neat meet to cheat.
One of the prime advocates of this idea of everyone getting money from the government just for existing is the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) – which you just have to love that name. It is headquartered in Louvain, Belgium which is 15 miles east of Brussels which gives you an idea where the brainwaves for this idea comes from. It is a group of academics and other ‘deep thinkers’ interested in the idea of a UBI solely on citizenship and not on work requirement or charity.
Most Americans have a name for people receiving UBI – their children. And in the current American economy apparently one-third of millennials are stretching this out deep into their 30’s. Of course, in Italy, mothers encourage this behavior even doing their grown sons’ laundry until their ward can be pawned off onto some other younger helpless female.
One is left to wonder where this entire idea of UBI is going. As this column has delineated in the past smart people should not dismiss ideas like this out of hand. As I wrote about everyone’s favorite socialist candidate for President – Bernie Sanders – his idea for free college for all will be mainstream Leftist mantra within ten years. Just like that absorb idea this one will soon grow in strength as it spreads through the Left like wildfire. There is one clear reason why this will happen – The Left never thinks their way through the ramifications of their ideas.
If you follow the sentiment of Cohen’s statement you can only come to this conclusion; more and more people are going to be out of work due to technological intervention in the workplace and thus more people are going to lose their jobs. The question becomes if more people lose their jobs and less people are producing revenue for the economy and government who is going to pay for everyone else’s UBI?
Then there is the natural extension of Leftist thought which this column has cataloged on multiple occasions. They will start the program small with very tight requirements for qualifications. A few sympathetic Republicans may support it (Obamacare is the exception). Then they will come up with some rationale to expand the qualified recipient’s. They always do. They will talk of the heartless, uncaring Republicans and the suffering masses. They will assert their favorite rationale – fairness. They will severely underestimate the additional costs and misstate how the program is already costing a multiple of what it was originally budgeted at. We will be unable to limit it because it will now become an ‘entitlement’.
A perfect example of this is social security disability. The number of recipients has gone from 5.2 million in 2001 to 8.9 million in 2015. Here is a program which keeps growing with no explanation other it being free money and any criticism is considered intemperate.
Those caring, thinking people at BIEN refer to eligible individuals being citizens. When does citizenship start? Does it start at 18 years old? Does it start at birth? And what is citizenship today? Germany just took in over a million people. We take in a million people a year legally and God knows how many illegally. You are aware all people in this country have rights even if they came here illegally and broke other laws.
I started this column expressing how ignorant I was about UBI. I am not anymore and neither should you be. It is another dangerous idea from clueless Leftists. It is another creeping move to achieve Karl Marx’s dream of a communist society where “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” It is another program designed to destroy a person’s motivation to be productive.
Mr. Cohen, no one serious would be whispering about this because it is ludicrous on its face. But then you are a columnist for the Washington Post. The rest of us work for a living.
Addendum: After I finished writing this article, the luminous Charles Murray wrote a lengthy piece for the Wall Street Journal endorsing UBI. He had three provisos. The first is that it replaces any and all welfare programs. Like the VAT tax replacing the income tax, that will never happen. It will get layered on to existing programs and if they did abolish all others they would add on others later. Second, he stated it should be for people over 21 years old. That will be monkeyed as who can legally obtain the UBI will likewise be monkeyed with. Third, he stated it should be $13,000 with $3,000 going toward health insurance. That will be raised and raised and raised after the initial establishment. All in all, I believe Mr. Murray, one of my most revered political scientists, appears to have had a detached moment.