UBI Watch: Free Money Experiments Underway
07/26/2021
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[See Also: Americans: Stop Assuming You Still Have A Country—Organize!]

I'm not a socialist and think that having the state pay citizens to survive is a sign of decline. Nonetheless, we are where we are. Currently, we already have socialism for non-whites and for the very wealthy. Morally, electorally, and strategically, it's my view that it makes more sense for the authentic Right to champion universal access to programs on a non-racial basis. For white working-class people who need help, and, frankly, for working class blacks and Hispanics who receive far less than their more privileged co-ethnics on the affirmative action track, this is the best way forward. 

I've been advocating some version of Universal Basic Income since 2013. Of course, the devil is in the details and how it is done could turn this from a nation-destroying policy into a rebirth of the Right. However, the pandemic has made it more critical. Small businesses have been crushed by lockdowns, the disease itself, rising crime, and the collapse of public infrastructure. Considering the billions wasted, let us hear nothing about fiscal conservatism. The money is being spent anyway - I consider UBI to be a kind of tax rebate.

Thus, I note with interest that UBI experiments are underway nationwide:

By triggering $1,400 stimulus checks for millions of people and expanding the child tax credit for many families, the pandemic offered a clear takeaway for some officials: That putting tax dollars in people’s pockets is achievable and can be a lifeline to those struggling to get by.

Now a growing number of mayors and other leaders say they want to determine for sure whether programs like these are the best way to reduce poverty, lessen inequality and get people working.

In experiments across the country, dozens of cities and counties — some using money from the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package approved in March — and the state of California are giving some low-income residents a guaranteed income of $500 to $1,000 each month to do with as they please, and tracking what happens. A coalition known as Mayors for a Guaranteed Income plans to use the data — collected alongside a University of Pennsylvania-based research center — to lobby the White House and Congress for a federal guaranteed income or, for starters, to make the new $300 per month child tax credit that’s set to expire after this year permanent.

The surge in interest in these so-called free money pilot programs shows how quickly the concept of just handing out cash, no strings attached, has shifted from far-fetched idea to serious policy proposal, even as critics blast the programs as unaffordable or discouraging people from going to work. Supporters say it’s all due to COVID-19, which cost millions of people their jobs and prompted the federal government under both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden to cut checks to rescue the economy — relief that was hugely popular politically.

[Free money for all? Mayors hope local tests bring big change, by Sara Burnett, Associated Press, July 23, 2021]

We shouldn't kid ourselves that this will automatically work out. An intensive study in Finland produced mixed results. It showed a positive result in wellbeing for those who received the pilot program. 

Interestingly, the final results of Finland’s program, released this spring, found that a basic income actually had a positive impact on employment. People on the basic income were more likely to be employed than those in the control group, and the differences were statistically significant, albeit small. Concurrent changes in other unemployment policies make it difficult to ascertain, from this study, whether the basic income, the other changes, or both were responsible for the higher employment levels. However, something about the modest level of the basic income and the lack of conditions attached to receiving it seems to have motivated recipients to seek and accept work they otherwise might not have.

[An experiment to inform universal basic income, by Tera Allas, Jukka Maksimainen, James Manyika, and Navjot Singh, McKinsey & Company, September 15, 2020]

However, that's putting the best face on it. Most coverage called it a "flop" and found it didn't increase employment by much, if at all.

The findings were based on comparing the 2,000 unemployed participants who had received the €560 a month from January 2017 to December 2018 with a control group of 173,000 who did not. There was only a small statistical difference between the study group and the control group in the number of people who found work after two years.

[Does Finland show the way to universal basic income? DW, May 30, 2020]

This is also in Finland, where we can expect greater efficiency and less corruption than in America.

Still, it will be fascinating to see how this plays out. The best way Republicans would have to play this would be to limit it to citizens only, give Americans a financial incentive not to import more people, and link receiving the funds to certain patriotic obligations, perhaps a form of national service. Of course, all of this presupposes a government that isn't dedicated to deconstructing the nation, the way ours is. 

Given the current reality, universal programs might be justified simply because it is the only way nationalists can compete. You aren't going to out-bribe non-whites with racial welfare programs. You shouldn't anyway because it provides an incentive to affirmative action and Cultural Marxism to continue. In contrast, straight up UBI provided by a nationalist government on a race blind basis could undermine the progressives' cultural program and help rebuild the middle class and strong families. Given that the government has essentially destroyed lives with the way it handled the health care crisis, it doesn't seem unreasonable for Americans to demand what was taken from them. It will also give an economic reason for white working-class voters to turn out.

Finally, such a debate will necessarily involve questions of who is eligible, including immigrants, and that is a debate we desperately need to have. The more attention we can have on immigrants, and the more public awareness we can raise about the benefits they take, the better. 

 

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