An expert on fighting poverty makes the case against a universal basic income

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

Notice how “an expert on fighting poverty” makes the case against a universal basic income:

I began to get particularly concerned when I began to see, in recent years, the emergence of this notion of going to UBI through a left-right coalition — of which a key building block, for the right, is eliminating most or all means-tested programs. It was at that point that I got much more heavily engaged again. I found that a lot of my fellow progressives did not fully appreciate or understand that that could well move us backward on poverty and inequality, rather than forward.


Among my fears of UBI is that given US political culture, if we ever got to a form of UBI in the first place (which I think is extremely unlikely), I think the odds are high that it would exclude people who have no earnings and have no work record.


  1. James James says:

    “Greenstein argued that adding a basic income on top of the existing safety net would require tax increases that are simply not politically viable.”

    Sounds like this guy doesn’t really understand Citizen’s Income. It wouldn’t be introduced on top of the existing safety net. That’s the whole point.

    “He also argued that using basic income to replace the safety net would actually increase poverty, because the spending wouldn’t be as well-targeted.”

    Well that depends how they fund it. Let’s assume it’s revenue neutral. They could fund it by increasing the marginal tax rates of people who receive it but don’t need it. I.e. the government gives me an extra 5k/year but then increases my income tax rate by 5%. Low income tax payers will be better off, high earners will be worse off because the tax increase will outweight the UBI.

    If they fund it solely by replacing welfare programmes, then obviously they are redistributing money back from welfare recipients to non-welfare recipients, because that pot of money that used to go only to welfare recipients now goes to everyone.

    Or they could do a bit of both.

    The sensible thing to do would be to bring it in gradually. Institute a small one, and fold welfare programmes into it one by one.

    The reason the Swiss proposal failed is because they suggested a crazy amount of money. Sane advocates of UBI suggest about 5k. I’d be happy with an initial 1k then increase it later as welfare programmes are phased out.

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