STUMP » Articles » Universal Basic Income: This Time, Something Something! » 5 May 2019, 08:04

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Universal Basic Income: This Time, Something Something!  


5 May 2019, 08:04

I guess Stockton is going through with it.

California city begins universal basic income experiment

The city of Stockton, Calif., has begun piloting a universal basic income (UBI) program for 130 residents over the next 18 months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Under the program, the recipients will receive $500 a month with no conditions such as work or sobriety requirements, according to the Times. The organizers of the project have kept the identities of the beneficiaries secret.

“We are in a moment where big ideas are important and politically people are ready for them,” Natalie Foster, co-chair of The Economic Security Project, told the Times.

The Silicon Valley-based organization donated $1 million in initial funding for the program, about a third of its total budget.

“The stories coming out of Stockton will put a real name and a face on what that economic insecurity looks like and what it looks like to make a different political decision,” Foster said.

The first payments under the program were distributed on credit cards in February, with organizers soon able to collect data on how it was spent from a subgroup of “storytellers” among the recipients, according to the Times. While final results will not be available for the next few years, the program’s backers hope to be able to illustrate its progress with individual anecdotes as the data take shape, according to the newspaper.

The rest of the piece is about various Democratic candidates for president.

The main candidate running on UBI is Andrew Yang.


Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang wants to give everybody $1k per month, he tells Detroit crowd

DETROIT, MI — Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang appeared in Detroit on Friday, touting part of his platform that would give every American $1,000 per month.

One of his cornerstone policies — and he’s released more than 70 — is what he calls the universal basic income. It would give every American $1,000 per month, paying for it in part with a “value-added tax” on goods and services businesses produce.

Oooooh, a VAT.

Then EVERYBODY would be paying for it… and as high income folks (like me) don’t necessarily eat a hell of a lot more food, or consume more services… this is definitely a middle class tax.

“This town very much is ground zero for the automation of jobs,” Yang told a Detroit crowd of around 300.

But as automation increases in areas like retail and transportation, he said, more and more jobs are at risk of being replaced by technology and automation. The $1,000 per month basic income would help compensate for that technological shift, he said.

“We’re going to call this the ‘tech check,’ and all of America’s going to love it,” Yang said.

Yang’s supporters call themselves the “Yang Gang.” The crowd in Detroit skewed young, diverse and energetic.

So. $12,000 a year. Doesn’t sound like much.

From 2013, we hear the problem with a minimum wage:

Up until the early 1980s, an annual minimum-wage income—after adjusting for inflation—was enough to keep a family of two above the poverty line. At its high point in 1968, the minimum wage was high enough for a family of three to be above the poverty line with the earnings of a full-time minimum-wage worker, although it still fell short for a family of four. The falling minimum wage has led to poverty and inequality. Today, at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year yields an annual income of only $15,080.

Okay, $12,000 is just a nice round number, and if it’s per person, then you’re going to do pretty well.

FWIW, the federal minimum wage is still $7.25, but many states have minimum wages higher than that. It seems appropriate for these to be set at a state & local level. Here in New York, the statewide minimum and the NYC minimums differ. For now.


In a related note, I went to McDonald’s yesterday with my son. I used one of those ordering kiosks, put a marker on the table… and somebody brought the food to our table (I had to get up to get my own soda & ketchup). Seems like there still were plenty of minimum wage jobs, even with some automation. I mean, you gotta remember that fast food places have had customers doing some self-service (get your own damn soda) for years.

It was interesting to me that when we went in, there were far more cars in the drive-thru line than there were people ordering inside. I don’t want food crap all inside my van.

Anyway, they still have humans moving bits around, mopping the floors, all that “fun” stuff. Indeed, removing the really annoying part: taking orders from people who might not be all that decisive, could actually make the job a little better. The guy going around wiping down tables after people left was talking with a couple people who were obviously regulars. It was kinda nice.

I could go on and on about the effects of automating jobs, but that is probably not a blog topic (for now). The big one will be truck drivers, not fast food folks. But driverless trucks is probably still a long ways away.


UBI isn’t the most idiotic idea that’s out there among the panoply of Democratic candidates, but I will hold something against him:

He is unabashed about pursuing data-driven policies, and his supporters waved campaign signs that simply read “MATH.” He promised to be the first president to bring a PowerPoint presentation to the State of the Union, to which supporters chanted “POWER POINT, POWER POINT.”

Ugh. The only worse thing is if he promised a TED talk-style SOTU.

If, on the other hand, he promised to take the SOTU address back to written form, and not TV performance, I’d take a look at him.

I went to his candidate website, looking for any powerpoints to download.

Imagine my disappointment in finding none. Also, no spreadsheets.

Boo hoo

Anyway, here is him talking about UBI:

If nothing else, way too many policies for a federal campaign, in my opinion. For example, I actually agree that the $$ sports in the NCAA mean the athletes should get a cut of the revenue. However, that’s a fairly unimportant issue (unless you happen to be a college athelete in one of the few sports that actually makes money).

That said, he does prioritize three main items, and here is his page on UBI. Here are additional explainers, but for one who supposedly loves math a lot, I’m not seeing much in the way of graphs, tables… or anything with numbers in it. Step up your dataviz game, dude.

There is a list of where UBI has been tried… but a lot of it actually isn’t UBI, but fairly traditional charities or welfare as we know it. Oh, and a few I clicked on… the link didn’t even work. Yang, make sure your web folks cull dead links, or at least find the link for what you want.

I don’t think Yang is going to get far in the Democratic primaries, but who knows.


Let’s see. The last time I covered UBI was February, so let’s see what’s been going on the last couple months:

I’m sure we’ll keep hearing more about UBI, even if it fails everywhere it’s been tried.


Here ya go:

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