What if the government guaranteed an income to all people, regardless of their financial means? Known as a “universal basic income,” the concept is gaining followers on the political left and right who see it as a tool to reduce income inequality and prepare workers for a future where many jobs will be automated. Critics argue that it would be prohibitively expensive. Pilot programs, including one in Oakland, are exploring the effects of a guaranteed income at the local level and yesterday, in a historic referendum, Swiss voters decided against adopting a universal national income.

Movement to Provide All People a Basic Income Gains a Following 10 June,2016Michael Krasny

Guests:
Natalie Foster, advisor, The Aspen Institute and Open Society Foundation ; fellow, Institute for the Future; co-founder, Peers
Matthew Krisiloff, manages the basic income project, Y Combinator

Mike Tanner, senior fellow, Cato Institute
Scott Santens, writer; subsists on a basic income provided through crowd funding.

  • Pontifikate

    I wonder if a universal national income would lead to rising prices the way college prices are believed to have risen so precipitously because of all the student loans available. And it that happens, will the middle class become less able to pay for retirement, etc. Will the middle and lower classes merge?

  • EIDALM

    While the U S today as whole is richer than ever ,near all of the wealth is shifted to the few on the top of less than 1% of the population which makes the elites ,Billionaires ,and multinational corporations ,all of that started with Ronald Reagan voodoo economics of Reaganomics and trickle down economics ,which changed the U S economy from consumer based to shareholders based economy ,when factories were closed shipped to Japan ,Korea ,and China ,jobs were outsourced to foreign countries ,HB1 ,HB2 foreign workers were imported .paid fraction of the wages of the high tech American workers they replaced……With that all , it put an end to the great American great middle class and most and created the great poverty and homelessness…..All of the was done by the strangle hold and corruption of the Wall Street on the U S government ,

  • EIDALM

    Over 60 million Americans have a total net worth of less than ten dollars ,most Americans have real difficult time making ends meet ,and tens of millions are one or two pay check away from eviction and homelessness ,no thanks to the Wall Street bubble after bubble economy, their casino they call the stock market ,saving and loan great robbery of older Americans ,trillions of dollars of savings ,assets ,homes ,and others were robed from Americans by the Wall Street and the corruption of the American government,.

  • EIDALM

    A quick solution to the current terrible financial affair most American endure today is to put a ceiling on wealth ,say 50 million dollars ,since near all of the shift of the wealth was done by illegal and by shady deals by the Wall Street and their corrupt control on the government…..It does not make any sense to have few near all the money in the hand of few hundred billionaires while at the same time over 80 million Americans go to bed hungry or die from lack of money……

    • Louisla4

      God him/herself says this in one of the “Conversations with God” books.

      • marte48

        I don’t think that the voice of God is attributed to any book but the Bible.

      • Robert Thomas

        “I Am that I Am” doesn’t exactly count as a fully comprehensive manifesto for the Class Struggle of the International Proletariat.

    • Robert Thomas

      This seems as likely as it would be for the members of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Berkeley – who once, by meekly proffering their ungrammatical pamphlets, irritated concert goers standing in line for tickets on Shattuck Avenue – to take control of the Intergalactic Revoltron.

      • EIDALM

        I actually know ,you are not rich guy ,but brain washed by the Wall Street media propaganda machine ,I don’t want see few billionaires holding all the money ,while I can’t walk in the streets of Berkeley ,Oakland , San Francisco or elsewhere in the country because we live in a society that turns poor and hungry people into criminals who pray on us all……50 millions is lots of money ,and super rich people the likes Steve Jobs who found out too late ,they can’t take with them ,while Steve jobs terrible reputation will hunt him forever ,as the man who send tens of thousands of high paid American jobs to china and elsewhere and use slave labor…..I don’t know how deep in hell is Steve jobs right now for destroying the life of tens of thousands of Americans as well Chinese slave workers

  • EIDALM

    Unless you are born to a wealthy family ,the U S with the extreme high cost of education , lack of good paying jobs , affordable housing ,and health care ,the U S is one of the worst countries on earth to be born in today to a poor family.

  • Peter

    Our elected representatives won’t even enact universal health care, despite its well-known economic and social benefits. And California has long abandoned its former policy of tuition-free state universities, because taxpayers were no longer willing to spend so much money on subsidizing them. Universal health care and tuition-free universities are cheap compared to a universal Basic Income. If voters won’t vote for higher taxes to pay for health and college education, which are seen as good things, why would they vote for the much higher taxes required to fund a program that would pay everyone to do nothing? Not to mention that unlike the other two programs, universal Basic Income has no track record of success anywhere, because it hasn’t been implemented anywhere.

    • regisqus

      Despite my belief that everyone deserves healthcare, there’s the reality is that since 1965, physicians have grown to expect large incomes and wealth from medicine.

      Check the distribution of specialties: there’s a strong correlation between the financial rewards and the flow of people into the specialties.
      What would universal healthcare mean? Well, one of the first things it would mean is controlling the costs of healthcare.
      Currently, universal healthcare in Britain is heavily subsidized by the flow of physicians educated in poorer Commonwealth countries into the UK.

      Here’s a story I heard yesterday:
      The children of two US physicians just got their first jobs: in consulting and private equity. According to their parents, they’d never even considered medicine. Our financialized economy siphons off the smartest and most talented kids.

      I’m not saying that healthcare as a right isn’t a worthy goal, I’m just wondering how to pull it off. I can assure you that Paul Krugman (who I generally agree with) sees the best physicians in New York, many of whom accept no insurance, ACA or other.

      Any ideas (recalling that most people are not particularly altruistic)?

      PS. We might start with permitting the federal government to negotiate prices with drug companies and regulate them to reduce their impact on decision-making throughout US medicine.

      • Peter

        The U.K. is not the only country in the world with universal health care. Look at Canada: it has a system that operates much like U.S. Medicare, but with eligibility starting at age 0 instead of age 65. There are other models, too. Just look at Wikipedia to start:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_health_care

  • Max Varázsló

    Such a plan would never take root in a country founded on greed. It’s interesting that providing all citizens (and possibly a fair amount of non-citizens) with minimal sustenance is considered “prohibitively expensive” by the rich. Why do they feel “entitled” to their wealth when most of it is acquired through stealthy and exploitative means?

  • Louisla4

    I believe (Working Assets founder) Peter Barnes’ latest book is on this subject.?

  • geraldfnord

    My basic concerns are these:
    0.) Wouldn’t prices rise to make the amount inadequate to task?
    1.) Would the amount vary with the local cost of living?
    2.) Wouldn’t the replacement of all transfer payments with a single programme produce a tempting target for “libert”arians and other conservatives to cut into inadequacy or eliminate, echoing Calugula’s supposèd ‘If only all Rome had but one neck!’. (The Great Society was crippled by the same people who then mocked it for limping.)
    3.) If poor people weren’t afraid of starvation, illness, exposure, and humiliation, wouldn’t a lot of them expect to be treated with decency and respect by the rest of us, even by the police?—I think we’re not set-up for that, being ‘better than those people’ and acting and emoting accordingly is all some people have.

  • Peter

    The Oakland pilot program is not a realistic model of Basic Income, because Basic Income is a REDISTRIBUTION program, but the Oakland pilot program is about giving people money, and ignores the other essential half of collecting the money.

    • Peter

      Oh, and Natalie Foster touts the Alaska program, which pays up to $3000/year. But that money comes from the state’s oil revenues. So it’s a good model for an oil emirate, but not for the whole U.S.

  • Ben Rawner

    The coming robot revolution will displace so many workers. If we do not try new solution now we will grt caught off guard and the wealth gap will he even greater.

    • Scott A

      Agreed.
      We need to be running these experiments _now_.

      Humanity is walking out on a peninsula – one for which we can see the end. We need some people to building boats and teaching swimming lessons NOW, even if swimming is slower than walking for the time being, so that by the time humanity reaches the edge of that peninsula, we’ve got some experience with dealing with the depths we’re about to be plunged into.

    • Robert Thomas

      I for one, will be there at the threshold, smilingly welcoming our new Robot Overlords into Walmart.

      Hey, it’s a gig.

      • Ben Rawner

        I for one will start a robot boot shining business. They should have shiny boots as they crush our dreams.

        • Robert Thomas

          Shinola!

  • Robert Thomas

    Despite Mr Santens’s flat-Earth claim to the contrary, the Swiss vote was a resounding rejection for this idea.

    People are talking about it because they’re perplexed as to how it was put on the ballot there.

  • geraldfnord

    I doubt this can happen until either so many are jobless that empathy for their suffering can’t be soothed away by attributing their condition to a moral or genetic failing, or until so many are working satisfying, reasonable, and well-paying jobs that the desire to see people without jobs suffer will diminish. I’m not holding my breath waiting therefor.

  • marte48

    When wealth is used for war and corruption it is never referred to as “redistribution” of the wealth.

    • regisqus

      Of course, war does keep markets free and open for the owners of businesses that want to profit from those markets. The US wouldn’t have gone to Iraq if that country didn’t sit on oil assets — and, the US wouldn’t be “friends” with Saudi Arabia either. The money used and the people killed in recent wars of choice are subsidies to property owners in the US — it is the very definition of “redistribution.”

      If the children of the rich were subject to the draft, you can be reasonably sure that the US would never have gone into Iraq. Nixon’s cynical ending of the draft was specifically designed to free the middle and upperclasses from the risk of war — and, thus, eliminate objections to such actions. Can you even imagine Barbara and Jenna Bush and Mitt Romney’s kids in battle (like Dick Cheney, they had “better things to do?”

      “Volunteer army” should be added to Orwell’s Dictionary of Newspeak — it was designed to make it impossible to even think of the redistribution of risk that’s been going on since the end of the draft.

  • marte48

    People never seem to mention that money given to the working class gets “redistributed” UP.

  • Scott A

    With the press that the vote in Switzerland has been getting, it’s easy to think they’re the first to move to implimenting BI on a national level. They’re not.

    In fact, BI is effectively ALREADY in place in a few countries. Just look to the Middle East.

    Which points to the importance of culture in how the funds from a BI will be spent by citizens. In the Middle East, it allows for a prolonged educational period – mostly in religious schools, as that is how one can gain status in many of these societies when the engineering, science, building, and labor is provided by others.

    Interestingly, the work ethic in Switzerland would be more likely to provide the type of results that BI proponents hope for – but that very same work ethic keeps the society from voting to allow economic “free riders,” at least for the time being.

    Personally, I _know_ I’d keep working on really interesting projects if I had a guaranteed BI.

    So, Y-Comb, fund me, and watch something magical happen. 😉

    • Sar Wash

      Keep in mind that the programs to which you refer only apply to native citizens and do not apply to immigrants. Aliens make up the majority of the population in those countries, but they are not eligible for the subsidies.

  • Scott A

    Talking to friends who work in programs like WIC has shown me that they spend over half of their budget/time in screening their clients to make sure they’re eligible.

    One registered dietitian I know claims she would be able to see 2 to 3 times as many patients if the eligibility paperwork & questions didn’t slow down her day at WIC. Multiply that efficiency by all similar government programs, and you can quickly see how a UBI wouldn’t cost nearly as much as it appears it might at first blush.

    • Peter

      Really? Paying $10,000/year to everyone in the U.S. wouldn’t cost 3 or 4 trillion dollars, as it would appear at first blush? Tell me more.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    I’d like to introduce another angle. Rather than sending absolutely everyone a check, regardless of need: how about guaranteeing everyone the right and ability to earn their own income by enhancing universal health, education, and critically: CIVIL legal services?

    Many of our best, most creative and brightest run into trouble when they get cheated in one way or another and can’t defend themselves and recover using the law. Their cases simply won’t fit into the strictly limited business model of contingency lawyers: low risk, high return.

    A Universal Right to Civil Counsel would be a social investment likely to fix this problem by letting honest people consistently earn an honest living for themselves.

  • Peter

    In general I’m not a fan of the Cato Institute, but the guest from the Cato Institute is by far the most thoughtful and sensible panelist on this program.

    • regisqus

      As he says, taking money away from the rich would reduce the money they can use to employ others. For example, taking money from the Koch brothers might reduce the money they use to employ people like the speaker from the Cato Institute.

  • Pontifikate

    I don’t trust these people. They totally twisted the question the caller asked about raising taxes to rates 50 years ago.

  • Robert Thomas

    Dennis Moore (John Cleese) discovered in his eighteenth century romantic robbing of lupins from the rich and delivering them to the poor, “Blimey! This redistribution of the wealth is trickier than I thought.”

    Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore,
    Dum dum through the night
    Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore
    Dum dum dum their plight
    He steals from the dum
    And dum dum dum dee
    Dennis dum, Dennis dee
    Dum dum dum

    “Dennis Moore”
    Monte Python’s Flying Circus
    Episode 37; 4 January 1973

  • Ben Waldo

    Universal income might head off massive unemployment as jobs are increasingly automated; however, it might eliminate upward mobility as the corporations and individuals who own automated systems continue to grow their wealth while everyone else flatlines economically. Time to sit on your school board seems like petty consolation prize when there is no way to pursue vocation. Additionally, not everybody wants to be creative – nor does the creative culture always benefit from universal access. For instance, has photography benefited from instagram?

  • TimDoyle

    I’ll never trust governmental caregiving after I saw Gavin Newsom’s mayoral run in 2003 for Care Not Cash. Newsom is a fraud as well as Hillary.

    • And

      I hate Newsom and his creepy vampire haircut. Please don’t let him be our next governor.

  • Pontifikate

    Fund basic needs (housing, health and education). That’s a more reliable path. (and we can’t even do that.)

  • Pontifikate

    Fund basic needs (housing, food, health, education). That seems a more reliable path and one we can’t even get to now.

  • Bill_Woods

    A carbon tax isn’t a viable source of revenue for anything, since the whole point of it is to cause CO2 emissions to fall drastically.

  • Peter

    Matthew Krisiloff gives the example of the Google guys who came from “lower-middle-class” backgrounds and built an amazingly successful company because of the resources that were given to them, so what if everyone were given those same resources? Come on, the reason they were given those resources was that they showed great talent. If everyone got the same amount, then the amount would be far less.

    • regisqus

      He got his facts wrong. Larry Page’s father was a professor at Michigan State. Sergey Brin’s parents were highly educated in Russia (although the family, it is true, didn’t have much money when they moved to the US). In both cases, these are hardly lower middle-class launching pads.

      • Peter

        Sergey’s father was (still is?) a professor at the University of Maryland.

  • A mom

    Ever since the Democrat Bill Clinton “ended welfare as we know it” in 1996, we have given welfare recipients less and less cash. Instead, the poor are given programming and marriage seminars. This is a political pipe dream. I read a New York Times conservative writer proposing matching poor people’s 401ks–the hook being that they would end all welfare to help pay for the match! Conservatives (including Democrats) are too successful at cutting cash welfare already, they don’t need a new scheme.

  • regisqus

    Larry Page was the son of a university professor. Sergey Brin’s parents were highly educated in Russia. Although Steve Jobs’s family was not wealthy, he grew up in a strongly middle-class community in postwar America when everyone’s boat was rising. Let’s not kid ourselves that the only issue here is income. It is a matter of culture and supporting the general commonwealth.

    Before Prop 13, the California Public School System was the envy of the country and the world. It took a while, but tax policy eventually took it’s toll — and we’ve got a mess. Returning to the pre-Reagan taxs policy might pay for the civilization that Wired magazine and futurologists seek. But that is more science fictiony than robots everywhere — right?

    The UBI idea is being floated by the very people who are effectively Randians, who worship the capture of automated productivity gains by a lucky few by means of network effects. They have a vague awareness that this cannot continue — or if it does, that the rich will be living in homes surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire as they do in many other countries.

    Let’s hope a future Peter Thiel won’t be saying:
    “We were promised a future of robots doing all the work for everyone, and what we got were barbed-wire compounds.”

  • marte48

    The jobs that are created by automation are generally more engineering jobs for which most people are not qualified.

    • Robert Thomas

      So get your skates on for that Automatic Controls final.

  • TimDoyle

    The US statistic for unemployment are 80 years old!! They don’t take into account those who have given up looking for work

  • Scott A

    TL;DR – Tax the robots.

    (where “robot” = any automation/AI resulting in efficiency gains)

    We need to tax _gains_ in efficiency.

    These gains are what is driving the dramatic increase in wealth inequality (ensuring many people can no-longer make decent incomes, while funneling the VAST majority of the gains towards a _very_ small ownership/investment class).

    These efficiency gains due to automation are not going to slow down. This is as close to a physical law as humans have ever created. If we could tax gravity or the sunrise, we should. We can’t tax the sunrise. But we CAN tax increases in efficiency/automation.

    So – set a start date, say Jan 1, 2018, measure existing efficiencies (there are a number of standards used for this already. Which one to use can be debated), and base any increases on efficiency upon that point, placing a 10% tax (even a 1% might be enough with the expected logarithmic gains) on any _increase_ in efficiency from that date.

    In this way, the very factor causing the problem is turned into it’s solution.

    • geraldfnord

      R. A. Wilson had an optimistic scenario in which any worker who figured-out how to automate their job away would get a luxurious income, and any of their fellows made unemployed thereby a badic income…all in severely deflating currency, so that they’d spend it into the economy.

  • Peter

    One of the panelists (Scott Santens?) just said that the risk of people coming to the U.S. to take advantage of Basic Income is not a serious one, because right now, immigrants use welfare less than the native-born, and immigrants are coming here above all to work. All true, but the immigrants right now are responding to the incentives that exist right now. If the U.S. gives a basic income to everyone, then for sure we’re going to have a lot more immigrants who are arriving in order to take advantage of it.

  • Peter

    The recording here is CUT OFF at 22:30. The last 30 minutes of the program is missing.

  • And

    Just provide everybody with a single payer healthcare and then people will be able to live in cheaper areas away from urban centers if they can get medical care.

  • wandagb

    This U.S. study of Indian Casino wealth offers some insight into the role that money plays in improving the lives of folks:

    ” Professor Costello calculated that the extra $4,000 per annum resulted in an additional year of educational attainment by age 21 and reduced the chance of a criminal record at age 16 by 22%.”

    “the casino cash distributed to Cherokee kids ultimately cut expenditures. According to his conservative estimates, eliminating poverty actually generated more money than the total of all casino payments through reductions in crime, use of care facilities, and repetition of school grades.”

    https://medium.com/utopia-for-realists/why-do-the-poor-make-such-poor-decisions-f05d84c44f1a#.v61y401st

Host

Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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