Andrew yang UBI education reform

A modest proposal.

Andrew Yang is running on a ubi platform that clearly has legs in nyc and after the covid payments its pretty hard to say that its a stupid idea.

I am particularly interested in education in nyc (and inner cities generally) and we had some experiements here in dc and we know a few things that look like they work. Many of them are resisted by liberals and teacher’s unions (which begs the question whether the public education system is for the benefit of the students, the teacher’s unions or the politicians) but one that I think would have some traction is the dc experiment on giving students from underperforming schools an allowance based on attendance and behavior. They tried it in underperforming schools and high achieving schools and there was almost no effect in high achieving schools (even higher achieving schools in poor neighborhoods) but there was a dramatic effect in underperforming schools, particularly on the behavior front. It led to higher test scores and academic achievement.

It seems like a slam dunk to me. nyc spends 50 billion to educate about 1 million kids. Thats about 50K per kid. I think spending a thousand dollars per semester to ensure better behavior and attendance is a bargain. Is there any reason why cities shouldn’t be doing this?

The thread title mixes two unrelated topics. I think UBI is a stupid idea. Bonds aren’t free (that’s how the government raises money, they don’t create it out of thin air). The government can afford those payments on a short term basis because (like a mortgage) they’ll pay for it later.

The proposal for education is a good one.

I would like to see cites, though.

IMO you should not say this:

Because questioning motives, especially among fairly popular groups, backfires. You don’t know why teachers resist, you just know that they do. It also sounds like conspiracy talk, which many people are heartily sick of now.

The results suggest that UBI is a bad idea because of the “Universal” part. The money spent on people who already had money was basically wasted. We don’t need to send money to everyone, we need to spend money on poor people who don’t have enough money.

This isn’t the paper I was looking for but it has some support for my statement.

I didn’t say teachers, I said teacher’s unions. Charter schools are pretty universally opposed by teacher’s unions and many liberal politicians.

The proposal of the OP has nothing at all to do with UBI. It is an interesting concept but I’d like to see the data.

You need to pay everyone for several reasons.
If you create a cut off, then you have the problems associated with having benefit cutoff levels.
If you don’t include everyone then it’s just another welfare program and there is kneejerk political resistance to all welfare programs. Paying the top 1% costs us 1% more and removes a ton of resistance to the program…
Paying everyone also makes the programs cheaper and easier to administer.

You don’t need to waste time on means testing. Just fiddle with the tax rates so the richest earners refund it on the back end.

I’m failing to understand how Andrew Yang fits into this. I don’t recall him making any education suggestions like this. I also don’t recall him as suspicious of teachers either.

That’s not completely correct. Bonds are one way of raising money to fund a project. But, it’s not the only way. The govt actually can, and sometimes does, just create money out of thin air. The Federal Reserve has that power. And then there is the Platinum Coin Act which gives the govt the power to literally just mint money.
These are both tremendous powers of the govt that are seldom used, because of fears of causing runaway inflation. But, if used judiciously can be quite something.

There is currently a proposal gaining traction to mint a couple trillion dollar coins and sell them to the Fed to get money for covid relief.

Yes, if you are a magic dictator who can set policy like this, then UBI with higher tax rates probably works well. The problem is that it’s politically very easy to give out money and very hard to raise taxes.

UBI is like the other side of the Laffer curve nonsense from the 80s. The idea that we’ll get a free lunch out of a popular-sounding policy.

“Just fiddle with the tax rates” is very simple to say, and extremely difficult to turn into law. If the goal is to have an effective transfer from rich people to poor people (and I think that’s a good goal), we should do it directly, not have a complicated two-part system where we give money to everyone and then take it back from rich people. Because if “transfer money to poor people” isn’t a politically viable solution, the two part process won’t be either.

I’m arguing what’s good policy, not what’s easy to do. Implementing UBI will never be easy to do. That doesn’t make it wrong to advocate for it and to explain that means testing is inefficient when efficiency is a big part of the plan.

This criticism would be more relevant if Andrew Yang were still running for federal office. At this point he’s running for Mayor of NYC. As powerful as NYC is, it still doesn’t have the powers you’re referring to.

You are correct. This is a power of the federal govt, not local. I was responding to the blanket statement that the govt doesn’t just create money. Not useful for a local school initiative.

This sounds exactly like fractional reserve banking. It’s lending money to the government*, and that needs to be paid back. I don’t count this as “printing money out of thin air” as there’s a limit to how much money can be electronically generated.

The Fed currently does not require banks to hold a reserve (it used to be 3% for larger banks until COVID hit). However this isn’t unprecedented. Canadian banks don’t have a reserve requirement. They just set their own, because not doing so is dangerous.

*The Fed is partially private, and it’s not the only central bank that isn’t completely owned by the government.

Who is suspicious of teachers?

Or do you think teacher’s and teacher’s unions are the same thing?

I suspect we will be raising taxes. Corporate taxes will likely rise, taxes on those making over 400K will likely rise, capital gains and other preferential tax rates will likely rise.

NYC doesn’t need to raise taxes by much for this program.

I am still not sure how they spend 50 billion on education for a million kids and have so little to show for it. Their last chancellor was a boob (who now works at IXL of all places… after all his rhetoric about test prep, he signs up with a for profit online cram school) but it’s been a problem for decades.

NBER working paper 15898 describes a randomized trial where financial incentives are contingent on behaviors that are harder to achieve in a poor neighborhood. Diametrically opposite to this experimental design is the granting of funds to students who exhibit behaviors like truancy and not completing assignments. This morning NPR aired a story about Valencia University doing outreach to the latter population. By offering cash grants to students who feared the expense of having to retake a course that they failed after the switch to remote learning last spring, Valencia University managed to retain their student body to a greater degree than some of its sister institutions.

Both studies tend to support your suggestion that the funds should be targeted, not universal. Still undecided is the question of whether it’s more effective to reward good behaviors before their fruits are full-blossomed, or to not allow students to feel like their past failures pose an insurmountable obstacle to eventual success.

For what it’s worth, the reason teachers’ unions (and teachers) oppose charter schools is that the vast majority of them exist purely to bilk as much taxpayer money as they can, with the students being purely a means to that end, and no effort whatsoever for their welfare. Sure, there are some good ones out there, but that’s how most of them operate.


The charter schools in DC seem to be doing a pretty good job of providing value and that seems to be more the rule than the exception. The larger criticisms of charter schools around here are that they cherrypick the best (and cheapest) students form a school system and leave the students with behavior problems (expensive) behind. But the majority of parents seem to be glad to have an opportunity to remove their kids from that environment.

nyc also has a pretty good charter school system. It should be noted that both nyc and dc have highly regulated charter schools. they are held to reasonably high standards, certainly higher standards than the public schools. And yet the teacher’s unions in these cities still object to them.

When michelle rhee left dc,
they made a big song and dance about how they were going back to the way things were and then just continued to implement her reforms and now there are more charter schools than public schools in DC. It just felt better to have these reforms coming from a black woman (who presumably cared about black kids) than a korean woman (who presumably did not).