UBI, basic needs and employment

Continuing the discussion from The Nahployment 'Crisis':

The point at which more money doesn’t make you happier is at $70K. Since no UBI will be guaranteeing $70K per year, there’s no point at which UBI and basic needs being met are in the same plane. Either your original statement doesn’t make sense that UBI will have anything to do with basic needs being met or your statement that a UBI pilot that gives $500/mo doesn’t meet anyone’s basic needs doesn’t match.

But I’m willing to discuss at what point you think basic needs will be met with UBI such that it will affect employment. Again, every study I’ve seen disproves that idea.

Thanks for moving the hijack.

I think that UBI works best at a level that moves people out of poverty but does not do so with dignity. This gives people motivation to strive for more and contribute to society. Typically, I propose a $1,000/month per adult and $300 per month per child. This would put a family of four at the poverty line but not living a good life and certainly more money would make them happier.

The problems with all of the UBI studies are they are not enough money to prove their point. In the case of the study you showed they are getting $500 a month which is able to pay for child care or a more reliable car but not much more. No one is capable of living at that level so they used that money to help them get more money.

The second problem is that all of these UBI studies are not intended to be permanent. We should expect to see people act differently with a permanent income than with a temporary windfall. Getting $500/month for two years means you need to plan for what will happen once that two year period is up and the money is gone. You can’t let skills languish because you will be going back into the workforce. While if people believe that the money will continue they should be more willing to stop working and rely on it.

In my proposal if people could pay for their rent, their food and an internet connection there are certainly some people who will call that a good enough life. In the thread that spawned this one we were talking about people who were making UI +300 per month and were unwilling to go back to work for a variety of reasons. In Colorado the UI payment would be about $360 for someone making $15/hour so they would be making $660 per week or $2,838 per month. That seems to be a level where people are already showing reluctance to work even though it is temporary.

First, I like to think that dignity doesn’t have to do with financial conditions. But I get your point that you think that the level of UBI shouldn’t be enough for people to live on without more.

But if that’s the case, then employment wouldn’t ever be affected since people would still need to work to make ends meet, so that wouldn’t be an argument against UBI since employment wouldn’t be affected at that level.

Alaska has had a type of UBI for 25 years. That’s pretty permanent. It only amounts to $2-3K/year. but the result is the same. No effect on full time employment. Some gains in part time employment.

. . . during a pandemic where going to work has the potential to kill you. That may or may not be the case if there wasn’t a pandemic going on.

Not quite. There are lots of people in the US that live below the poverty line and my plan would be to lift them all up to the line. What I mean is that if people chose to live on UBI alone they would probably have to live in dorm conditions and only have a private space of 10x10 and they would be living in the lowest cost of living areas of the country.

The UBI should be set at a level where it is possible to live because otherwise it can’t create a floor that people have to choose to fall below. Once you allow people to have a safe secure environment some people will look at getting more and wonder why when they can spend a day making flower necklaces in the park.

Again with the Alaska example of course if allows people to work because it is giving them some financial security but it isn’t practical to live on. Setting a national UBI at 2000 per year wouldn’t allow us to cut any social programs or give people the freedom to quit their job to try and start a new company. These small dollar programs and short term programs don’t scale because they are all cost from a social perspective with very little gain.

I can think of two huge benefits to UBI. One is that we would have a lot more single earner families. This would have huge benefits for society, more people available for childcare, volunteering etc…
The second would be that we could vastly reduce govt. If UBI was $1000 a month or more I think we could eliminate hundreds of thousands of govt employees. Most of the social welfare jobs would no longer be needed. Govt would no longer need to do economic subsidies etc.
I think that wages would go up after UBI because so many people would chose not to work. I think another long term benefit would be the evening out of cost of living (COL). A silicone valley type huge COL would be tempered if the people who did the grunt jobs moved away and they had to pay janitors etc a hundred grand a year. A couple with a two grand a month UBI income could move to Kansas and buy a $50,000 dollar house. Now If they make 4-5 grand a month and spend it all on a tiny apartment they can’t move because they can’t risk it with no sure income. Long term this would even out demand and COL.

I’d want to see some kind of study for this possibility, but even if it could work it almost certainly won’t. When was the last time you observed a government bureaucracy make itself smaller? What politician is going to get re-elected because they put hundreds of thousands of people out of work?

Then so would prices, both because low-level workers would have to be paid more, and because more people would have more money to spend. Then you have inflation, where the $1000/month becomes insufficient (not to mention my retirement fixed income). Don’t forget, everyone with an income is also a buyer of goods and services.

I’m not philosophically opposed to UBI, but it’s not some simple panacea. It has to be carefully thought through.

I was a big supporter of Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign. This was his platform. I agreed with it at the time. He was advocating $1K/mo. Since then, Yang has mused in interviews that maybe that wasn’t enough given our current conditions.

While it’s true that there haven’t been any studies that have been long term enough and that give enough money to show what would happen if people were given more money guaranteed over an extended period of time, I still think we can extrapolate from the studies about what would happen. Here’s more from the Finnish studies.

Here’s a study that debunks the inflation argument.

This is one of the reasons UBI won’t happen. Not only the govt employees but the tit companies as well. You would no longer need to subsidies home loans/small business loans etc so there goes the banking industries welfare check.
As for wages going up causing inflation that is unlikely. Prices are not competitive, Most things are made by only one or two companies and sold by Walmart. The price is based on what point enough people will not buy it that it cancels out the extra income from raising the price.
Even if increased wages increased costs it would be by a small amount. Most things you buy have very little labor cost in them. The benefits of UBI would far outweigh the costs. Wages are tax deductible so the out of pocket costs for a business is usually less than half the amount paid.

I don’t think that the point was that a UBI would cause inflation, only that a UBI would have to take inflation into account.

1k a month may be sufficient now, but in 10 years, if it hasn’t seen any increases, it may very well not be.

Ah ok, thanks. I must have read that wrong. Yes, most UBI plans are pegged to cost of living increases.

As to the OP

I disagree with this. I think that people won’t take shitty jobs for low pay if they have their basic needs met. That 45 year old taking your order at Wendy’s isn’t doing it for personal enrichment, they are doing it because if they don’t, they are homeless and starving.

OTOH, I can think of a number of jobs that I’d be willing to do for cheap or even for free if I didn’t have to worry about making enough to survive.

OR I may just sit at home and write short stories, work on campaign settings, and run RPGs 5 days a week.

I don’t think that many would just sit on their asses all that long, and do nothing that is not productive to anyone. They aren’t going to be sitting around playing games all day, unless they only want to play the free ones. They won’t be sitting around watching TV or movies all day, unless they only access free services.

If someone wants games to play or Netflix access, they are going to have to do something that someone else finds valuable enough to pay them.

Hell, that doesn’t even mean that they won’t sit around playing games, but they may be doing so productively. Imagine that you have a job that pays pretty well, but you’d like to play World of Warcraft or something like that. You don’t have time to level a character, collect all the weapons and armor, and all that crap, you just want to log in and kill some baddies. Paying someone else to work for you in game could become a viable form of gig job.

Same with other forms of game. There are DMs on some online RPG platforms that make fairly decent money running games. I am actually a pretty good DM, and I’d probably get a decent rep enough to make money off of it, but I don’t have time for that, I have a mortgage to pay.

People also like pets, and pets cost money to buy and maintain. I would not sit on my ass all day if that meant that I couldn’t have a dog or two, I’d be willing to work enough to afford to pay for their care.

People also like drugs, especially if they have plenty of time on their hands. Want a beer? Get a job. Want a joint? Get a job. I don’t have a problem with a pretty wide slew of drugs being legalized. Not all of them, and some should come with some pretty strong warnings, but legalizing the “good” ones should lower the cost enough that people aren’t willing to spring for black market prices for the “bad” ones.

People also like to travel, and that’s not free either.

Needs are predictable and limited, if we cover those, then we don’t have to worry about people not having what they need to survive. Wants on the other hand are unlimited, and most people will work to attain the things that they want.

I would assume that a UBI would be combined with a UHC.

The thing about UBI is that it is universal - you, too, would get it even if you did work, even if you had retirement income. You’d have it on top of whatever you had saved for retirement.

There actually have been such services for the past 16 years in World of Warcraft. They’re not allowed by the rules, and there are all sorts of issues with hacked accounts and gold-selling (which Blizzard fixed in part by allowing players to sell gold in-game to other players willing to pay), but yes, that very much could turn into an industry within the gaming industry.

One of the useful things about UBI would be that businesses would not have to pay you as much to give you a decent salary. They could, of course, but they also could choose to use that saved money to improve the product or service, or employ more people (and then use shifts to extend work hours but while simultaneously reducing employee hours).

A UBI also would increase spending power so improve the local economy, alleviate stress and mental illness, reduce crime, and eliminate the stigma of social welfare. It’s all of those improvements that will ultimately pay for it.

Just seems like a win for everyone. Whatever the downsides are, I can’t see them being any worse than the downsides we suffer already.

Keep in mind that the sort of jobs we’re talking about here are largely going away anyway, with or without UBI. A few generations ago, an unskilled person could go to work in a factory, and work there for life, and make enough money to support a family. There are still factory jobs, of course, but there aren’t as many as there used to be, because automation means fewer people can produce more product, and what jobs there still are are more skilled. Those jobs aren’t coming back. So too with retail jobs: More and more retail nowadays is done online, where the salesperson is a computer. Online sales have resulted in an increase in warehouse jobs, but those are only temporary, too, until Amazon et al figure out how to make more and better warehouse robots. Driving is still a lucrative gig, but we’re not all that far away from self-driving vehicles, and then those jobs will disappear, too.

This decline in low-skill jobs is a major contributor to the political angst that we’re going through, and most of the solutions focus on trying to increase number of jobs, somehow. But that probably won’t work, and it’s also not what we actually need. People don’t need jobs. What they need is a livelihood and a vocation, and there’s no reason those have to be the same thing. UBI can serve as a livelihood just as well as unskilled jobs can, and the sorts of jobs we’re talking about were never a vocation (if they were, then people would be taking them even if they didn’t need the money).

I’m thinking if UBI ever happens one side effect will be kids staying at home more often, or longer. Getting enough to get by on without having to work a series of McJobs to get spending money will be a dream come true for some.

Well I am not convinced that these jobs are more vulnerable than that of higher skilled jobs (though not the highest skilled jobs). The low-skilled jobs usually involve physical activity–so you need complicated robots to replace them. But for “knowledge workers” replacement you usually don’t need the robot, just the computer program.

I worked food service for quite a while, and much of the time, I was thinking on how to automate my job.

Most of the stuff in fast food or bistro level restaurants could automated.

The writing on the wall’s been there for a while. I remember in the 80’s, lots of accountants and other paper pushers started getting laid off as one person with a computer could do the work of dozens of people doing the work by hand.

There are entry level jobs that I think would be hard to automate. Dog grooming, for example, I think is going to be pretty far down the road before anyone makes a robot that clients will trust handing their dog to.

It also gives people time to pursue other interests. I cannot see how the world would be improved if this guy was trapped behind a fast food register 40 hours a week.

How many other people are out there with a talent that they could share with the world if they weren’t stuck working in a cycle of poverty?

I’m not sure how you are defining “government bureaucracy” for you purposes so I’m not certain you will like my response. The IRS is a lot smaller than it used to be. This is because Republicans have been starving it of resources. The principal effect has been to make it easier for wealthy people to cheat on their taxes. Thus the “tax gap” is increasing.

But that’s just one example. If you look closely at this White House chart, showing trends in government employment in terms of “full time equivalents,” there is not a single category that hasn’t had periods of decline. Agriculture shrunk in 15 of 27 years for which final numbers are available. According to the most recent final figures (2019), it is 26% below its peak employment. Interior shrunk in 12 of 27 years and is 22% below peak employment. Treasury (which includes the IRS) is 24% below peak employment after declining in 20 of 27 years. Some portion if these declines are government agencies that have moved from using employees to contractors (which generally aren’t counted in these totals) but most of it is just bureaucracies shrinking and growing depending on the government’s priorities.

I don’t know why you think shrinking a government agency violates some inexorable law of physics. It happens all the time.