Democrat-run cities continue to dangle promises of no-strings-attached guaranteed income to their residents, but how feasible is the idea of a federal Universal Basic Income (UBI) program for all Americans?
Turns out, welfare experts don’t believe it is at all likely to succeed, for one simple reason: math.
To provide America’s 332 million citizens with even $10,000 per year would cost an unsustainable $3.3 trillion — “more than three-quarters of the federal government’s entire annual budget,” according to the Daily Mail.
But that hasn’t stopped local administrations across the states from test-driving programs that provide guaranteed payouts to lower-income households to the tune of $250-$1,000 per month.
Robert Greenstein was a welfare administrator during the Carter era. Now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, he says the U.S. is “miles” away from implementing the free-money schemes on a national level.
“Even if these interesting pilot schemes across the country come back with positive results, we’re not on the verge of doing this nationally,” he told the Daily Mail. “The federal government is 80 million miles from doing UBI. It won’t be feasible for decades due to the costs.”
Fueled by a surplus of COVID-19 pandemic cash, cities from Tacoma, Washington, to Gainesville, Florida, are launching their own pilot programs, in many cases, sparking controversies in their wake.
One of the nation’s largest programs — a yearlong pilot — began in recent weeks in Illinois’ Cook County, which covers Chicago and its suburbs. Their, more than 3,250 residents are receiving an extra $500.
But in states like California, only select groups are eligible, such as transgender residents.
And, as American Wire News has reported, the Golden State’s “reparations panel” is proposing a state estate tax to provide each black resident with a whopping $223,000.
From California wealth taxes to $14M in federal funds, reparations rhetoric moves forward https://t.co/Yo3XuX4T8U
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) January 31, 2023
Last week, the woke Board of Commissioners for Shelby County in Tennessee, which also includes Memphis, cited the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of black police officers and voted to approve $5 million to launch a feasibility study to examine reparations for the descendants of slaves.
After death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of cops, TN county approves reparation fundshttps://t.co/97iU4mWCb4
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) February 25, 2023
If you think programs such as these sound Marxist, it’s because they are — a point Toni Preckwinkle, the black Board President of Cook County, made clear during a C-SPAN call-in show when she said the $500-per-month payouts she is pushing are aimed at “our people,” according to the Daily Mail.
The inspiration, she said, came from the gun-carrying radical 1960s Marxist-Leninist civil rights group, the Black Panther Party.
“This isn’t a new idea,” she said. “Martin Luther King in the 1960s talked about the importance of providing an economic floor for our people, a guaranteed basic income. And, actually, the Black Panthers talked about either guaranteed employment or guaranteed income for residents.”
Under her program, “3,250 hard-up Chicagoans would receive the payments for two years, funded with $42 million from President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus package,” the Daily Mail reports.
When that money runs out, Preckwinkle plans to tap into taxes generated from the legal sale of cannabis — a market that has yet to prove itself stable.
Even Big Tech moguls are jumping on board with the idea of guaranteed income, “including former Twitter boss Jack Dorsey, who funds pilots and warns that automation and AI could leave millions of people unemployed and unleash social chaos,” reports the Daily Mail.
The outlet explains: “Many local trials are borne of stimulus cash and one-off charity pledges, including Dorsey’s $18 million donation to launch or expand schemes in Columbia, South Carolina; Madison, Wisconsin; Providence, Rhode Island; and beyond.”
And that, says Mike Tanner, a fellow at the libertarian think-tank, the Cato Institute, is a problem. When that money is spent, those same struggling cities will have to raise taxes to keep the cash flowing, and residents and businesses will abandon them for nearby areas with lower tax rates.
According to the Daily Mail:
That leaves America’s myriad guaranteed income trials too small-scale and short-term to provide useful insights — beneficiaries won’t change their behavior over a $500 paycheck that could vanish next year.
Likewise, the payments are far from universal and only benefit a fraction of locals, meaning researchers cannot say whether they further fuel inflation or deter people from working in an already-tight labor market.
“They don’t tell us anything beyond the fact that giving people money gives them money, and that probably makes them better off in the short term,” Tanner said. “They’re really more performative than actual attempts to implement a UBI.”
“There’s a theoretical case for UBI as a more straightforward, simpler, improvement to the existing welfare system. But I’ve not seen a way to make it work financially on a larger scale without raising taxes and hurting the economy,” Tanner stated. “You can’t redistribute wealth that doesn’t exist.”
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