Updated: August 3, 2020

Universal Basic Income and You

In 2007 I was part of a group that met weekly. The facilitator, the person who made the arrangements for the space and led the group, said little about himself during the meetings. Once when I arrived early I asked him what he did between the meetings. He said he was in a post-graduate program. I asked what his area of study was. It was Universal Basic Income.

I remembered reading about Universal Basic Income. "Good luck," I said. He gave me a look and I added, "I think it's a good idea, but it will be really hard to get it." He was used to hearing that. Others began arriving and we didn't have time to talk about it more.

In 2017 there was a TED Talk with Rutger Bregman, titled Poverty isn't a lack of character; it's a lack of cash presenting the concept of Universal Basic Income. This is interesting, I thought, but still, would it ever be part of society in our lifetimes? I have an archive of more than ten years of TED Talks. After seeing the recent interest in the topic on the internet, I re-viewed the 2017 video.

Here is that video:


Rutger Bregman's 2017 TED Talk

The topic of Universal Basic Income has surfaced and is being talked about all over the internet and media, including talk shows and a candidate for president in the 2020 election, Andrew Yang. The subject can't be avoided, but will it take hold for real?

I often wonder what happens with ideas on TED Talks. I looked for info on Rutger Bregman. It turns out he is not only a cute TED-talker. He is a passionate advocate for Universal Basic Income.

Rutger Bregman gave another TED Talk, this one in Maastricht the site of the signing of the European Union treaty. In this talk he elaborated on a different example of Universal Basic Income. Here is the audio1 from that talk:


TEDx Maastricht audio

And a link to the TEDx Maastricht video.

Following that talk he was invited to a conference in Davos, the World Economic Forum, ostensibly to talk about his book, Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World. Frustrated with the proceedings at the conference he brought up the subject of taxes. After upsetting the participants at the conference he was invited to appear on Fox News by Tucker Carlson who was at the conference. Paraphrasing one part of the conversation, Carlson: "people fly in on private jets to talk about global warming and you talk about taxes"; Bregman: "it was like going to a fire fighters conference and not being allowed to talk about water."

A segment of the show with Tucker Carlson was cut out, but showed up on the internet. Here is the improved audio from that clip:


Rutger Bregman and Tucker Carlson clip

Rutger then appeared on Late Night with Trevor Noah where a clip from the World Economic Forum at Davos was played. Here is that clip of Rutger Bregman at the Davos conference


Rutger Bregman at Davos clip

And the Trevor Noah episode with Rutger Bregman.

This reminded me of another TED Talk, by Douglas Rushkoff. It is not specifically about Universal Basic Income, but it sounded like he was at the same conference, though perhaps not at the same time as Rutger Bregman. If it was the same conference, it gives further context to the above clips. Here is a link if you would like to see it: Douglas Rushkoff: Team Human.

Does Universal Basic Income have a chance of becoming real now? Let's see.

Bernie Sanders sponsors a bill in congress called "Scrap the Cap". This is about the cap on Social Security. Actually there are three different caps involved. There is the cap on the Social Security payout, a cap on gross earnings from employment before a two-tiered reduction occurs on the payout, and there is a cap on the payroll deduction where, over a certain amount of earnings, there is no longer a deduction. These will need clarification, but Bernie Sanders has said, "I don't know how anyone lives on $13,000 dollars a year." And not everyone who receives Social Security gets "the cap".

I used to listen to a podcast, (World Business Report, defunct now) wherein the host frequently mentioned that he thought Social Security payments should be increased. He said this increase would be spent and immediately help the economy.

There is, in 2019, a presidential candidate calling for and claiming he would institute a "Freedom Dividend" which would be his version of Universal Basic Income. This candidate is Andrew Yang. His slogan is MATH: Make America Think Harder. He references Rutger Bregman's TED Talk. Yang echoes Bregman's statements in the 2017 TED Talk; he does not offer any of his own research on the subject, but he does present a plan unique to his campaign. On his 2020 election website one post gives us the example of a couple with two children and who receive less than $600 a month; the ages of the couple and their children is not given. I caught a phrase in the post that said, "wouldn't they rather have this than that?" What does that phrase mean? I did the Think Harder thing and explored exactly what Andrew Yang means and I found a flaw in the math, a big gaping, ironic flaw. Here is a series of clips from one interview, edited together from Yang's appearance on The Breakfast Club:


Andrew Yang at The Breakfast Club clips

Yang would give everyone $1000.00 a month, everyone EXCEPT the poorest of the poorest people in America; they do not get $1000.00 a month over and above their basic living expenses like Everyone Else, and in fact those people would potentially lose some benefits that are based on income, such as food stamps, subsidized child care, and subsidized housing in exchange for at most a few hundred dollars, leaving them with hard choices to make.

Yang originally had it so only people up to age 65 were eligible for the $1000.00 per month "Freedom Dividend".

Further in the interview Yang is asked if the $1000.00 a month would adjust with inflation. He says no. He continued that there has been no inflation on basic consumer goods. There has been some recent inflation, but so far it has been minimal. Inflation will likely change rapidly when the current administration's tariffs trickle down to consumer level. There are exceptions, he says, in Housing, Education, Health Care. He says he would forgive most student debt, Medicare for All will take care of health care, but housing – which affects everyone – is due to zoning and other factors that he blows past and changes the subject.

On top of this flaw in Yang's math, which he calls a technological dividend and paid for by the advances in technology and taxing tech companies, he would also impose a "value added" tax that all consumers would pay, further reducing the "value" of the $1000.00 a month. In the end, the host of the show, Charlemagne, says to Yang, "You're a great disruptor."

Not long ago I encountered a man on the street rattling a paper coffee cup with what sounded like a few coins in it. He walked briskly past me and went around the corner. A few minutes later he came back and we started talking. He said he lived in Brooklyn. I asked him what it was like. He said I wouldn't want to live there, it wasn't safe. I thought Brooklyn was cool, I said. Not where I live, he said. We continued talking for several minutes. He seemed mentally and physically healthy, in his 40's, intelligent and friendly. I mentioned this and asked why was he doing this, wasn't there something else he could do besides the coffee cup thing. He said something about the government, stopped and, as if he had just thought of something, became defensive. I told him I understood, "you're on SSI, I'm not an inspector." He nodded yes and relaxed and we talked more. I asked if this was the beginning of his day or the end of his day (it was near dawn by now). He said it was the end of his day and left soon after. Andrew Yang's "Freedom Dividend", as it is, will have no affect on someone in his position. He will still need to beg on the street with an empty coffee cup to supplement his income.

It will be better to start by getting support in Congress for a Universal Basic Income. One way to do that is to, for example, if you are in New York, vote for James Felton Keith who supports a Universal Basic Income with a slightly different approach.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said she pays her congressional staff a living wage: $52,000.00 a year. Keith's disrict is next to the district Ocasio-Cortez represents.


  1. You can download a zip of all the audio files on this page here.  ↩

=======

Rutger Bregman gave another TED Talk, this one in Maastricht the site of the signing of the European Union treaty. In this talk he elaborated on a different example of Universal Basic Income. Here is the audio from that talk:


Rutger Bregman's Maastricht UBI Talk

Andrew Yang

Original Date: August 29, 2019

Updated: August 3, 2020

Summary: - Andrew Yang's version of Universal Basic Income is a scam on the public.

Universal Basic Income is not a new idea. When we hear that a presidential candidate wants to give us a one-thousand dollar check every month, it draws our attention, but it is naive to think that this would take effect in January 2021. Calling Universal Basic Income a "Freedom Dividend" is as close to an original idea Andrew Yang has. Listening to Andrew Yang, we realize that he is echoing others whenever he talks about Universal Basic Income. We still think a Universal Basic Income is a good idea, but not, definitely not, the way Andrew Yang proposes it. See our Universal Basic Income analysis for details.

Andrew Yang at The Breakfast Club (repeat of clip above):


Andrew Yang at The Breakfast Club clips

The situation with Andrew Yang is worse than we originally thought. He says there are people waiting for him in Washington, D.C. No doubt there are. There are people, politicians and lobbyists, who have long wanted to repeal Social Security, food stamps, and Obamacare. Yang represents their chance to begin that process. Yang's OPT-IN cuts off Social Security and other social benefits.

Furthermore, Andrew Yang does not believe U.S. citizens need a minimum wage increase. He believes that a wage of $7.25 per hour plus $1000.00 a month is better – better for business, not people which is what appeals to corporations and many politicians.

screenshot: Andrew Yang toot/tweet on keeping minimum wage low
screenshot: Andrew Yang’s toot/tweet on keeping minimum wage low.

Yang believes that better food and nutrition would negate the need for Medicare For All. We agree there is some truth to that, but it won't cure most pre-existing conditions that are a major concern for many.

Now Yang calls his freedom dividend a data dividend, an idea he got from James Felton Keith. No matter. Don't forget the value-added tax (for which there is no added value) and raising the president's salary 10X and keeping minimum wage at $7.25 (or lowering it to $7.25).

What candidate is the opposite of Donald Trump?

During his campaign for president Andrew Yang frequently told reporters he was the "opposite of Donald Trump." Here is how we viewed this claim:

Who Check
An Asian man who likes math, but is not very good at it. NO
A woman who likes science and is very good at math, but is often perceived as a twentieth-century professor and is a known public deceiver and general liar. NO
A Jewish man who has experience, has thought through all his ideas and has detailed them, has integrity, has planned for twenty-first century planetary survival and for the benefit of humans like you. YES

Where does Andrew Yang come from? He left a start-up he founded called Venture For America. Venture For America3 was modelled on an ineffective operation called Teach For America. It failed in its mission to create 100,000 jobs, creating 4,000 instead. The idea was to have new college graduates teach others in forming start-ups.

Reference:

Diane Ravitch and Vox.

=======

Andrew Yang Update

Andrew Yang quit his campaign for president following the New Hampshire Primary.

I was in New Hampshire as a door knocker for Bernie in the week before the primary. The roadsides were littered with Pete2020 signs and the doors where people didn't open their doors were littered with Warren doorhangers, a few Pete doorhangers, and one Yang doorhanger. I guess we were the first Bernie-bros in that neighborhood. On another trip to New Hampshire I saw a Tulsi billboard and a Steyer TV ad. Bernie Sanders won the New Hampshire primary.

A week later Bernie won the Nevada Caucus. Between the Nevada Caucus and the South Carolina Primary several things happened.

On a personal note - I was preparing to go to South Carolina to canvass or to do any needed thing for Bernie's campaign. I obtained the locations of all the field offices. I responded to a call from Bernie's campaign for out-of-state help in South Carolina and contacted the campaign to ask which location I should go to and was told to "phonebank" which I had already told them I could not do.

All of the remaining candidates for president, except Warren, dropped out. The enmasse drop out was precipitated by former president Obama, who is among the worst presidents the U.S. has seen since Nixon. The speculation is that these dropouts were given to believe they would be considered for cabinet positions in exchange for dropping out now. Yang, who had already dropped out, immediately endorsed Biden. South Carolina was Bernie Sander's first primary loss.

Since then Andrew Yang has been endorsing fresh progressives in Congressional and Senate races. The sad part is that these candidates are accepting Yang's endorsements. The more honorable thing to do would have been to reject Yang's endorsements. Yang's endorsements are another scam, a marketing ploy to have his name in the public space again.

An example:

screenshot: Andrew Yang toot/tweet on term limits
screenshot: Andrew Yang’s toot/tweet on term limits.

"I know how to get it passed," he says, "exempt current lawmakers." No one need "think harder" to understand that this is a nothing proposal because in most cases it is the current lawmakers, the career politicians, who need to be removed from office. Giving "current lawmakers" the power to get rid of new "lawmakers" would not result in a dynamic legislature in no time in any time at all; it would keep the status quo going in perpetuity. It was another marketing ploy for the non-thinkers.

Andrew Yang is not fit for any public office anywhere.

Consider:


Yang's fraudulent ad claim on Medicare for all

Have we written enough on Andrew Yang? Maybe, maybe not. Yang is now the "presumptive" pick by Bret Weinstein for his Rube Goldberg style presidential proposal.


James Felton Keith

Original Date: August 29, 2019

Modified: August 02, 2020

James Felton Keith, who likes to call himself JFK, has one of the worst websites I have ever seen (it may have changed since I last looked). Nevertheless I would vote for him if I were in his district. (Update: James Felton Keith did not win in the NY primary.)

James Felton Keith advocates for a Universal Basic Income based on the Personal Data collected about humans that runs the machinery (algorithms) that eliminates the need for a human workforce and profits the owners of those algorithms. He wants to "give the value of data back to the people".

James Felton Keith believes housing is a human right. He has ideas of a universal rent control.

James Felton Keith -policies would like to see life-long free college. This is the first time I've seen a politician include "life-long" as part of a free college proposal.

While we don't have enough detail to know who would or would not get James Felton Keith's version of Universal Basic Income, which he calls a "data dividend", on the surface it seems better than Yang's plan which does not extend to everybody. And while Bernie Sanders programs (pre-Covid-19) may reduce the urgency for a Universal Basic Income, it is still better to have someone in Congress who supports the idea than to elect a presidential candidate like Yang who makes promises that cannot be fulfilled without the cooperation of the U.S. House and Senate and are not inclusive.


The BOOST Act

Original Date: October 26, 2019

Updated: August 01, 2020

The BOOST Act - part one

The BOOST Act - Building Our Opportunities to Survive and Thrive

The BOOST Act of 2019 would provide a new [ANNUAL] tax credit of up to $3,000 for single people and up to $6,000 for married couples, which would be in addition to existing tax credits. Income limits would prevent well-off households from receiving the credit. Unlike other refundable tax credit proposals, the BOOST Act would not be limited to people with earnings or people with children.

The BOOST Act would provide a new tax credit of up to $3,000 for single people and up to $6,000 for married couples, which would be in addition to existing tax credits. Income limits would prevent well-off households from receiving the credit. Unlike other refundable tax credit proposals, the BOOST Act would not be limited to people with earnings or people with children.

The BOOST Act Follow-up

We did some follow up regarding the BOOST Act, or as it is formally known, Building Our Opportunities to Survive and Thrive Act of 2019, or House Resolution 3590. The BOOST Act was introduced into Congress on June 27, 2019 by Representative Rashida Tlaib and twelve supporters or co-sponsors. It was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means (rather than economic development or similar) which in this case made finding further information on it difficult, but we got it.

  • Will people need to file an income tax return even if they would not otherwise be required to file? Yes.
  • There will be an option to receive monthly payments in advance based on the yearly expected amount, evenly divided or less if people choose (leaving some in to keep a savings account or the traditional "tax return").
  • There will be grants to help people with tax return filing.

However, an algorithm predicts the resolution has a 3 per cent chance of passing. Regardless of the prediction, it would be miraculous if it passed anytime in 2019 or 2020, but such events do happen.

Here is the PDF of House Resolution 3590 to download and study.

References

The BOOST Act - ITEP

Democrats Want to be Economic Populists. Why Are They Clinging to a Flawed Reagan-Era Tax Credit?

Peoples Policy Project


The BOOST Act - 2020 Update

Representative Rashida Tlaib has been busy dramatically updating the original BOOST Act. It is now called The Automatic BOOST to Communities Act The new version calls for every person alive in the U.S., child or adult, documented or not, to be given a debit card, refilled monthly with $2000.00 DURING THE. COVID CRISIS; $1000.00 FOR ONE YEAR AFTER COVID. And she has a plan to make that happen at no cost to tax payers. Another miracle you say? These are desperate times. Cash withdrawals are allowed and it does state, in the final paragraph of the document that the card "should be converted into a permanent, Treasury- administered digital public currency wallet system".

One question I have about this right now: What about the fact that, as of August 2020 USA, we are in the sixth month of the COVID-19 CRISIS. I see any kind of government income due to the crisis as compensation for the government's careless managing of COVID-19. Give us the money. All $12000.00 as a first payment.

Download the PDF of Automatic BOOST to Communities Act.