Do you think we will need a UBI?

With the news of Tesla Motors’ self driving semi trucks and PepsiCo and Walmart preordering fleets to replace both their trucks and drivers. Also Walmart will be replacing all of their cashiers with self checkouts by the end of 2018 or 2019. Their warehouses will follow (only Walmart jobs will be shelf stockers and customer service). So the largest private employer and the biggest job in 49 states—truck driving—will lose millions of jobs in the US alone. Further, Uber and Lyft are experimenting with self driving cars. McDonalds is also building employee-less stores including kiosks and machines to prepare food. Lawyers are being replaced with AI and surgeons with much more precise robotic arms powered by AI. With the two biggest sectors of private jobs being lost and even high skilled jobs at risk—including accountants and CPAs, what kind of new jobs would our magnificently efficient capitalist system create for tens of millions of Americans? (sarcasm) Doing a quick run of some numbers, I found that the Social Security Admin could pay all ~280 million adult US citizens $1,200 a month and $300 per child without substantially raising taxes. Simply scrap the cap on social security payroll tax and increase it 10%. Since everyone will be getting tax free UBI, save another trillion by eliminating the standard deduction and another trillion by reducing safety net programs 80%, and eliminating others completely like SSI, and reducing military spending by 50%. Fully financed and poverty would be virtually eliminated. Only a 10% tax increase, and we could make it progressive to lessen the burden on the working and middle class.

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  • Nicholas Anderson
    commented 2018-01-02 19:06:13 -0500
    To paraphrase professor Wolff’s previous responses to this question: the problem with UBI is that it facilitates class-warfare by focusing on redistribution instead of original distribution. In this sense UBI is a capitalist solution, not a socialist one. The welfare state is a corrective entity for inequality. It does not prevent inequality and it does not address the source of it. Simultaneously it requires constant update and maintenance to remain effective; maintenance at the expense of the capitalist class and by extension the United State’s political machine. Think about the fate of other macroeconomic policies such as minimum wage, the New Deal and(by extension) Social Security. Every time an economic policy intending to expand the welfare state comes into effect it is repealed or neglected to the point of uselessness. Ironically the political forces that refuse to adjust these policies often use the subsequent failures of them to validate their own political agenda. UBI is merely an expansion of the welfare state. It IS an attempt to stimulate consumerism and the economy by subsidizing the purchasing of commodities, rather than the investment portion of the economy. In this sense it is the opposite of supply-side economics and in my book that is a very good thing. However income redistribution ultimately feeds into the divisiveness of class based society. The more money that is taken from the wealthy, the more incentive they have to buy political power to undo it. In short, UBI has the potential to create a more humane capitalism, but it does not address the primary conflicts that that permeate capitalism as a system. Instead it actively inflames them. Why dedicate resources to temporarily address a symptom when those same resources could be used help replace the system?
  • Lincoln Quick
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2018-01-02 15:36:19 -0500