Prof. Wolff on Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp


Prof. Wolff joins Lee Camp on Redacted Tonight to discuss his latest book and the current crisis facing capitalism.

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  • commented 2016-08-22 19:35:39 -0400
    I think what you say makes sense. It’s not fair that almost all the productivity gain we’ve produced as a society go to the top few percent. I also think the idea of UBI might work. But I’d like to see someone run some numbers in more detail. I’m not sure people can live on $12K/yr. which would be equivalent to $6/hr. If you figure $18K/yr., and there are about 246 million people over age 18, that’s 4.4 trillion dollars which is more than the current total federal tax revenue. I expect this would probably have to coincide with universal health care because you can’t pay for current health insurance costs on that UBI. I assume it would require a big progressive tax increase which politicians are not likely to propose since they aren’t even willing to raise taxes now to avoid a deficit. So I think other big structural changes would have to take place first.

    I’d like to see the productivity gain distributed in the form of less hours worked. (I’d sure like fewer hours!) But there are a couple of obstacles to overcome. Employers like to have as few employees as possible working the most hours as possible due to per-person overhead costs like health insurance, office space, equipment and tools, etc. We might alleviate this a little with universal health care and more people working from home. But also it will be the case that, if everyone else is now working 30 hrs. per week, I can get ahead of them by working 40-50 hours per week. So I will out-compete them for jobs. Not sure how to deal with that sort of thing.

    I think the people who will be against UBI are those who hate the “lazy” people who collect a welfare check and then sit around watching TV all day. (But for some reason they don’t mind when the Koch Bros. wealth grows by 10 billion a year. Now who is taking your money?) It will be hard and maybe even impossible to change their minds.
  • commented 2016-08-21 20:04:13 -0400
    Just watched “The True Cost” and started following RW.

    I heard the idea of UBI shot down on Freakonomics as well by economists. But it seems like everyone talks about UBI without defining it. How much is it? How does it work? Not all versions do away with SS. I like the idea of doing away with 126 welfare programs and the overhead that goes along with them. I envision all those admin people freed to do other work, volunteer, start small businesses, go back to school.

    We need a massive cultural shift away from materialistic capitalism and toward inward growth and simple pleasures. (Think Star Trek Utopian work ethics) But this shift would be compatible with UBI. The way I envision UBI is it would only be enough to get by on. $12-18k a year for those over 18. And no extra for kids. And no minimum wage! (This would free labor markets) For those making over 40k per year you could tax back the UBI progressively. It would have to go along with government provided wellness care and free healthcare and free education.

    It sounds radical, but if we are looking for the next ‘ism’ after capitalism, it seems to be worth exploring the details of how it could work. Sure, some people would mooch. But they already are. That doesn’t mean that direct cash payments which are more efficient and let people decide what they need to get ahead aren’t a better idea.

    I’m also wondering why RF doesn’t bring up technology productivity gains only going to the top few percent. Sure we could shorten the work week and tie UBI to part time work. But why? If so few people using super productive technology and equipment can provide enough wealth creation that only taking a small portion of GDP to provide a small income for everyone, (basic needs) why not do it WITHOUT tying it to work. Only a very few ‘lazy’ people would stay home all day playing games and using drugs. (OMG, that would be sooo awful……. F$%&#$ them. They can rot in their UBI funded apartment!) At least that keeps them off the streets.

    I’m concerned with the other 95% who would be enriched by UBI. I don’t see the tension RW describes between top earning workers and UBI recipients occurring. What about UBI compensating the work of child rearing that is vitally important and often doesn’t occur because of parents working multiple jobs? The societal benefits a UBI would bring must not be overlooked. (Too many people chasing too few low pay jobs is madness! Wasting human capital.)

    Most people want to improve themselves and get ahead. They would do art, volunteer, teach, build, start businesses etc with the freedom that a UBI would afford. I think that is the main attraction for proponents of UBI. I’m really interested to hear your thoughts.
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