@oren_cass: UBI (universal basic income) means: free money for everyone; the government should send a check to everyone in the country for about $1,000 a month.

Dec 02, 12:24 AM

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Conservatives and the Politics of Work: Oren Cass: Mitt Romney’s former domestic-policy director, says wage subsidies are an alternative to the current welfare state and the left’s universal basic income.


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Oren Cass, Manhattan Institute senior Fellow, and author, The Once and Future Worker, in re: Universal basic income – UBI. This means: free money for everyone; the govt should send a check to everyone in the country for about $1,000 a month, so you can live on it if needed. Probably to anyone with a Social Security number, plus perhaps undocumented immigrants. Maybe everyone over age eighteen. Did McGovern speak of this in 1972? The thought is that it answers poverty – needn’t worry about the safety net, declining wages. We currently have ways of conveying assets to people who are unemployed, disabled — many versions: in come subsidy, SNAP (food stamps), daycare, subsidized housing, does the thousand dollars take the place of all that? It varies a lot from proposal to proposal. Some say replace, others say on top of the programs. A thousand dollars a month sounds like a lot till you look at health insurance, Medicaid, elders with Medicare. This kind of idea has a lot of the Devil in the details. Tax increases would be needed--might double the size of the entire federal government, Once you plunge in, there’ll be no way out, ever. It’s more important to focus on the conceptual aspect: do we like the idea? Is this what people really need? Is saying, “That’s OK; richer people will send you a check” —is that addressing their problems in am effective way? Do we really want to live in a society where everyone is in effect a trust fund baby? Taking care of yourself is no longer your responsibility. If people are underemployed, does giving them money for breathing solve their problem? The consumer approach we've taken – consumer welfare is what matters; we measure success by your material living standard, the economic pie. That’s not consistent with what people really care about, what’s important in their lives, to their own happiness, to their families, their communities. For those, you have to worry about work, their role in the community, in the economy. Are they productive contributors, do they feel that they’re fulfilling their obligations? Do they have a purpose? Are they taking care of themselves and their families? If those are the foundation of a healthy society, then the UBI model is no answer at all.

JB: My time unemployed in life when I was a novelist, composing books or seeking publishers, I felt extremely empowered. Between those, I was discouraged. My memory is that it's very hard even as young, healthy person to walk the streets looking for work. Without a job it's difficult to maintain an even-keeled personality.

OC: Yes, having something to get up and do every day is an important part of organizing a person’s life, helping give it focus, ensuring that they’re engaging with other people – when you take that away, it has a immediate negative effects on how people feel and how they spend their time. One of the most foolish things you’ll hear is, “This would free people up –you could be an artist, a poet, start a business.” That not what most people do. Those who drop out of the labor force, esp young men, the main thing they use their time for is sleeping and watching TV. It's important in ...