It’s the great, grand dream of the more hard core socialists in the Democratic Party and the liberal movement in general. Long seen as impossible, it’s getting a second wind among some of the Bernie and Elizabeth Warren supporters. We’re speaking, of course, of the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI). It’s the idea that you should be free to work if you really want to, but if you can’t (or simply won’t) the government should provide you with some sort of basic stipend which is enough for you to get by on.
If you combine that with Sanders’ “Medicare for All” scheme, free college tuition and free housing for those who can’t afford a home, you’ve pretty much got a socialist paradise. But not all Democrats are on board with the furthest left fringe of socialism in America. Joe Biden touched on the subject recently and spoke some words which probably just derailed any thoughts he might have been entertaining about another run at the Oval Office. He had the audacity to say that such a plan undermines the value of work. Oh, Joe… say it isn’t so! (Fortune)
Former Vice President Joe Biden took a swipe Monday at an increasingly trendy but controversial idea that calls for the government to provide citizens with a base level of income. The concept, called universal basic income, has a long history but is resurfacing lately as technology threatens to outmode workers in an ever-diversifying range of jobs.
“The theory is that automation will result in so many lost jobs that the only plausible answer is some type of guaranteed government check with no strings attached,” Biden wrote in a blog post. “I believe there is a better way forward. I believe we can – we must – build a future that puts work first.”
Joe won’t find many friends in the newly ascendant wing of his party spouting ideas like that. Of course, while he hasn’t ruled it out entirely, we’re also not seeing many solid signs that he’s seriously considering another run. Perhaps he’s quietly decided that he’s retired and free to speak his mind these days.
We’ve discussed the idea of UBI here before, also known in some circles as Guaranteed Basic Income. No matter what you call it, it’s an idea which thrills socialists who would like to see us be far more like Sweden and who also don’t grasp the fundamental differences between our societies. A number of countries have toyed with variations of plans for supplemental income for the poorest and related concepts. When you include all of those, the United States has an extremely generous social safety net for those who can’t work. But that’s something different.
When you get down to true, Universal Basic Income you are relying on the government to be able to hold up their end of the bargain. And that generally calls for a system where the government has some other source of income of its own beyond taxing the citizens. Sweden, for example, was able to partially implement a program such as that, but their government owns their vast oil resources and makes money on its own. In the United States, the workers are the source of all government revenue aside from a few land fees and energy exploration leases. If you give too many people the opportunity to draw from the well while earning no taxable income to replenish it, the system begins a slow and inevitable implosion.
But don’t let that dissuade you. Joe Biden is clearly one of those last generation, unfashionable Democrats who hasn’t heard about the new, far left wing running the party. Run on that platform and we’ll be watching to see how far you get.