Franklin Countys First News

Politics & Other Mistakes: Money for nothing

Al Diamon

I’m in favor of people giving me cash – particularly, if I don’t have to do anything in return. Like work.

It’s a sad commentary on these times that virtually all financial remuneration is available only after one agrees to onerous terms and conditions that require getting up much too early, not showing up drunk or stoned, and performing mind-numbing tasks that make listening to a Joe Biden campaign speech seem entertaining by comparison. Small wonder I’ve been forced to spend my career in journalism.

There is, however, some hope for those of us who’d prefer to squander our days in indolence. Maine has created a special committee to study a proposal to give everybody in the state free moolah.

I’m not making that up.

The concept is called universal basic income, and the idea is that if we all had more money, we’d, I dunno, pay off our bar tabs. This would strengthen the economy, which would create more jobs of the sort that I didn’t want in the first place.

Still, only a fool would pass up a monthly check that requires nothing more to qualify than existing.

The basic concept of UBI has been around since at least the 16th century, when it was discussed as a possible method of stopping poor people from stealing. In the 18th century, Thomas Paine advocated a form of it, as did John Stuart Mill. In more recent times, Canada and Finland have both run pilot projects that hand out free money from the public coffers, while a Stockton, California experiment involving 125 families is being privately funded. Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has made UBI the centerpiece of his campaign and is testing the plan by paying for a small focus group to receive monthly cash payments.

The only problem with UBI is finding a way to finance it. One estimate (by opponents, so grain of salt and all) claims giving every adult in the state an annual payment of $12,000 and every child $6,000 would cost $14 billion. Considering that the entire state budget for two years comes to a little over $8 billion, that added expense would appear to require a substantial tax increase or an unusually lucrative Ponzi scheme.

Candidate Yang claims the cost could be covered with a tax on digital advertising, a value-added tax on just about everything and sending masked enforcers around to every dwelling to shake down the populace for extra dough. This sounds as if it would cost me at least as much as I’d receive, which considerably dampens my enthusiasm.

Some members of the Maine committee have suggested that welfare programs could be consolidated, so that instead of receiving food stamps, heating assistance, rental subsidies and Medicaid, poor people would get a UBI check. In that case, rich folks and sluggards such as myself wouldn’t qualify for anything, which hardly seems universal or of much benefit to my bar tab.

The conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center is at least open to the idea of paying for this sort of handout by eliminating current welfare programs. In a posting on its Maine Wire website, it theorized that “a Maine-based UBI could be better than our current system, which has failed to eliminate poverty.” But it also warned that it might encourage people like me to goof off even more, meaning, “the effects of a UBI program could actually worsen Maine’s current and projected workforce shortage.”

The liberal Maine Center for Economic Policy isn’t fond of using existing social-service funds to pay for UBI. The center’s policy analyst, Sarah Austin, told the Portland Press Herald, “Replacing that safety net with a new cash benefit could have unintended consequences for low-income families and our economy writ large.” Among those consequences might be a massive loss of federal matching funds.

The bottom line: Nobody knows if UBI will make society better or worse. All that can be stated definitively is that if it came to pass, the owners of bars I frequent would be greatly appreciative.

Universal basic irritations may be emailed to aldiamon@herniahill.net

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19 Responses »

  1. It's true this is not a new idea.
    This whole "concept" of handouts is proven to make matters worse all the way around.

    A handout has no value...
    its "easy come / easy go.

    The flip side of this is the fact that someone who works hard for their money (a Republican ) strenuously objects to having it taken away and given to someone who is playing the system (a Democrat) with no intention of contributing in any way.
    I guarantee the Democrats are behind this whole FREE STUFF scheme.

  2. The concept of handouts has proven to make matters worse because it is always means tested. If my option is to sit at home and be given $1k or work for $1k (and lose the $1k I was given), I'm choosing the former. UBI is different because it doesn't reward sitting at home. The option now becomes sit at home and be given $1k or work for $1k AND be given $1k for a total of $2k.

    Also, previously handouts have had an extremely small effect on the economy. However, studies have shown that if every adult is getting $1k/mo (and likely spending it), the GDP would grow by about $3T and it would lead to the creation of several million new jobs.

    Yang's main method of paying for UBI is through a 10% VAT. This type of tax is common in every other developed country. In Europe it is at around 25%, but only a porton of that percentage is passed down to the consumer due to competition. Plus Yang's plan calls for exemptions on necessities. However, even if the entire 10% was passed down on all goods, it would require an individual to spend $10k/mo on goods and services for the extra tax to wash out the benefits of the $1k/mo UBI. Therefore, UBI would be a net positive for about 94% of the population.

  3. I am so tired of hearing about all these handouts people get who don't work. I am all for helping those who can't help themselves, but we have more abled people taking advantage of our well fare system. There are plenty of jobs out there, but why work when the state is so quick to: pay for your food, rent, heat, phone, healthcare and whatever else is available to them. Frustrating for us working people who barely make ends meet!!

  4. Wow, you can almost hear the circus music coming from these liberals. Free anything, isn’t free at all, someone pays, that you count on it. All this socialist BS, so popular of late, although entertaining, will never fly because its economical not feasible. These are self defeating propositions The last thing we need is more welfare dependent layabouts. Maine’s got folks coming here, illegally, from Africa no less, because Maine under Ms Mills can’t stop giving away taxpayer money. We can refuse refugees don’t ya know. All the seat warmers in Augusta have to do is tell President Trump to keep them and we can eliminate the expense. Let’s remind these folks in November, who pays for this free stuff.

  5. Here's a 'project' that is actually testing the concept of "guaranteed income" - so far, so good!

    Kind of hard to not smile at a grandmother having a little means to buy her grandchild a treat.
    https://www.businessinsider.com/stockton-basic-income-test-success-mayor-tubbs-2019-12

  6. Here’s a novel idea. If you want an extra grand a month go work for it !!

  7. There will always be two sides of the same coin. On one end, nobody likes to be giving out handouts, as we all should be earning our living. I've worked small jobs since I was 11 and was happy to get a proper part time job when I was 14, and eventually start my own company. Working brings purpose and energy to life. On the other hand, I am extremely privileged to be raise in a family where I had the freedom to explore opportunities and do what I choose to do with my life. Options to work, play or study were all open to me when I was growing up.

    Yes, it's because my parents worked hard that I get to have a good life. But does this mean that if my parents didn't work hard or was unlucky to be struck with debt through either unforeseen medical expenses or any other life events, that I am supposed to suffer or deserve to suffer as a result? If an auto plant got shut down and thousands are having trouble transitioning after working in the same field for 30 years, are they now deserving of their situation and should starve and struggle? I don't attempt to understand or judge the situation of others as I am not even close to knowing the vast varieties in the circumstances that caused millions of Americans to be struggling.

    The only thing that I can account for is that perhaps there are economists out there that are smarter than me, and observe what some of the smartest minds in the field would think about these policies.

  8. Canada and Finland have both ended their programs, citing sustainability problems. See here's the thing, poor people are not the most responsible people on the planet, they tend not to do the things they should with the things they do have. At least with the state paying for the fuel or bill assistance directly, at least it gets paid and the poor people have the things that the money was intended to go for. I can name 10 people right off the top of my head, that if you gave them $12,000 they would have 2 new 4 wheelers and still be freezing their butts off and starving to death. People might not see that as fair but that the truth, the money is there to provide them with warmth, rent and food, not to pay Rent A Center bills and keep the fridge stocked with beer.

  9. @Hrtlss Bstrd...well said!

  10. If you pay me $800 or $1,000/month for nothing, I WILL NOT work any longer. I can live on that (believe it or not). This, I promise you - I will simply take from you, let you support me...blank it, that's the final straw. I won't make money to pay taxes into something like this. Nope. Gimme.

    Right now, I work and contribute my fair share of income and other taxes to the fed/state. Not rich by any means (far from it), but we get by, honestly (until we're so taxed we'll have to move away). If you pay ME to sit home, that revenue is lost. In WHAT warped mind does this idea make ANY sense whatsoever?? Seriously...are people actually this NUTS? I guess they really are...children in adult bodies.

    Only someone with ZERO knowledge of how economics, and human nature, works would even entertain this idea. And Hrtlss is right - just as 'tax return money' is blown, so would this be. 100% guaranteed.

    Nothing says "Democrat Socialists want to take MY money to buy votes with" like an idiotic program such as this.

    "Tune in, turn on, and drop out" is going to take on a new meaning soon....Who is John Galt?

  11. Well said Derek and HB.
    I don't know too many people who just simply don't want to help the needy.

    It is truly complicated,,
    But the problem is the CHEATERS and those who ENABLE them.

    Tough situation.
    I just pray more truly needy folks don't fall thru the cracks while the CHEATERS and their ENABLERS take it all.

    Fyi, it's not a crime to want something done about Welfare Fraud and Abuse..

  12. No skin in the game: I couldn’t help but point out how ludicrous your statement was. Just because an individual would vote/believe/identity with being a “Democrat” or “Republican” does not mean that they work hard or don’t work hard for their money. I know several “Democrats” that work harder than I ever will.
    With that being said; this UBI concept in my humble opinion- is equally ludicrous.
    Also- I’m a Republican.

  13. Its true intention is enslavement.

  14. No skin in the game...
    I'm sure your generalization is deliberate only to make a point,,
    I know a lot of Democrats that are fully employed...ha.
    And very intelligent caring people..
    Well intentioned to a fault.

    The bumper sticker declaring that "Working People Vote Republican",, is chuckle worthy,,
    Sorta...

    I share the concern being raised about them touting all the free stuff..
    THIS concerns any serious person.

    Nothing is free.

  15. I think it’s a good idea. Look at the billions we waste on political ads etc.,why
    Not let the common folk use that to feed their families!!

  16. Working people (who work on Wall St) vote Republican. There! I've been meaning to correct that!

  17. Working people who don't want to have 35% or more of the money that THEY earn seized by a corrupt and inept government, to be used solely for purchasing political power and causing even MORE social problems, vote Republican. Smart people don't vote to hurt themselves and their own families...

    2Cent isn't far off...dependence on gov't and its associated loss of individual freedom is absolutely the goal of the Democrat party. All you have to do is watch how it has worked in other countries -we are NO different. Happily, many are tossing Progressive ideas where they belong - right in the trash can.

  18. Something for nothing is always a bad idea. It was the mentality that drove the real estate bubble and stock bubble - the idea that if one just invests, one makes money with no risk or thinking. I admit, I'm quite progressive and believe that our system now is rigged by the very wealthy, and we need better regulations to make sure everyone has equal opportunity. But handouts - something for nothing - while at times necessary, should not be a long term solution. That creates a psychology of dependence, people are not happy and healthy if they do not have a productive, meaningful life. Getting $1000 a month for doing nothing may sound good, but ultimately if one isn't working, producing, creating or innovating, life loses meaning.

  19. @ erb,congratulations,you have just posted your most sensible comment that I have read.Being productive brings,among other things a sense of pride.Free rides are not sustainable.I am not against a helping hand which is not to be confused with hand outs

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