Universal Basic Income (UBI) is not a new concept; it is believed to have first been thought of during the Renaissance. This concept has become one of the campaign promises Andrew Yang (a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate) has made. What his proposal is, is that the government will issue $1,000 per month to every United States citizen that is over the age of eighteen. According to his website, there are no real qualifications to receive the money except that people who choose to receive welfare benefits instead are not eligible. The system is supposedly going to combat the effects of poverty, homelessness, and mass unemployment. Andrew Yang alleges that a UBI plan will improve the mental and physical health of the recipients. He even goes so far as to claim that it will cause a decline in domestic violence and abusive relationships, as it purportedly ensures that “everyone has an optimistic sense of his or her own future.” Unfortunately, that is really not how any of this works.
UBI is defined by Andrew Yang’s campaign site as “a form of social security that guarantees a certain amount of money to every citizen within a given governed population, without having to pass a test or fulfill a work requirement.” So this is essentially a program that gives each person (over the age of eighteen) a check for a set dollar amount every single month, no matter what. It really is not much different from our current welfare system; funded by extortion and the money is given to those who either cannot or will not work. The difference with UBI, is that everyone receives the money rather than people who “qualify.” It is systems like these that reward laziness and encourage entitlement. If people are paid to not work, what motivation will they have to get a job and better themselves?
To demonstrate how outlandish a UBI plan is for the United States (or any country really) I decided to try to determine approximately how much it would cost. According to the 2018 United States census, roughly 22.6% of the population is younger than 18 years old. Also according to the 2018 census, the total population is estimated at 327,167,434 people. That means that there are about 253,227,594 people in the United States over the age of 18. Andrew Yang’s proposed UBI plan states that every adult, eighteen years and older, will receive $1,000 dollars per month. So per month, the United States would be spending $253,227,594,000. Per year, the cost would be $3,038,731,128,000 (please remember that these are estimated amounts based on the census from 2018 - this also does not include those who are on welfare benefits, assuming they would not choose the UBI over the benefits they are currently receiving). For those of you who are like me and have dyscalculia (dyslexia, but with numbers) that is three trillion, thirty-eight billion, seven hundred thirty-one million, one hundred twenty-eight thousand dollars. According to Andrew Yang’s campaign website, the government currently spends $500 to $600 billion per year on various welfare programs. However according to an article from The Heritage Foundation (“Understanding the hidden $1.1 Trillion Welfare System and How to Reform it”) the number is actually around $829 billion. The United States government currently runs trillion dollar deficits to keep these programs running, yet somehow there are those who think a UBI plan is sustainable.
The current system is going to self-destruct whether we adopt the UBI plan or not. Adding another trillion dollars will simply speed up the process.
The only way the government could possibly (temporarily) sustain this kind of system is to increase taxes. The current federal income tax brackets range from 10% to about 37%. In order to combat the amount of unemployed people benefitting from the program, these percentages would have to be significantly increased - three trillion dollars cannot just appear out of thin air, unless the government starts printing more money. In which case the United States risks starving its citizens with Venezuela-like inflation.
Regardless of whether or not you believe that taxation is theft, anyone can see that this is, quite frankly, a silly idea. The government will be taking money from people's paychecks, only to turn around and send out $1,000 checks to everyone. It makes more sense to abolish taxes completely and allow people to keep the money that they earned. The majority of Americans pay less than $12,000 in income taxes. The government is notorious for stealing money from people and giving it to those who did not work for it. It is the unfortunate truth that those who pay more than $12,000 will be picking up the tab.
A concern for the future, and one of the arguments for UBI, is mass unemployment due to technological advancements. It’s another non-issue as historically this has never occurred. Machines are always going to need someone to service them. There will always need to be new software updates. While some jobs will disappear, becoming null and void, new jobs will be created in response to the advancements made. Humans have always found ways to make jobs easier. For example; written communications. We started off sending messages via horseback, sometimes they never made it to their destinations. Then the telegraph came around. Now we can send messages to the other side of the world, near instantaneously. Letter runners became obsolete, and now we have many different phone manufacturers. It’s one of the beautiful things about humanity - we keep moving forward.
Government programs are always doomed to fail - each new program adding to the burden of the multitude of others. Eventually the entire system is going to collapse underneath its own weight. The number of people who advocate for more of these programs is astonishing. There is such a complete lack of awareness of history and how the economy works - everyone is convinced that capitalism is this evil system and that socialism is the best course of action, without realizing that socialist states never succeed.
I think it’s amazing how some people don’t understand that their fair share of what someone else has earned is nothing.