General Question

crazyguy's avatar

Has COVID given us an opportunity to try UBI on a national scale?

Asked by crazyguy (2981points) 2 weeks ago

UBI is Universal Basic Income. The idea is based on future economies providing fewer jobs than prospective employees; therefore, permanent unemployment and/or welfare will have to be provided to a significant number of people.

The first Covid relief bill passed under the previous administration included a $600 subsidy to unemployment compensation resulting in a significant number of ex-employees making more money in unemployment than they ever did while working. The new bill, signed by Biden, has cast the subsidy down to $300. Even that subsidy is rich enough for many people to turn down job opportunities. For instance, see

Any person receiving aid from the Government has to make a calculation to decide whether accepting a particular job offer makes financial sense. The same thing will happen with UBI, except, with UBI, every potential employee whether unemployed or not will have to make the same calculation. Therefore, the current COVID pandemic may have one use – testing out the concept of UBI.

What do you think?

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25 Answers

seawulf575's avatar

I think that paying people to not work is a recipe for disaster. It is like living on your credit cards and never paying them off. Eventually it catches up with you.

JLeslie's avatar

There might have been an opportunity, but they didn’t take advantage of it, and I see no sign that it will happen.

Most people who support UBI care about paying for it. The stimulus had ZERO effort to pay for it from what I can tell. Trump and Congress just printed the money. Moreover, people who earned over a certain amount did not get a stimulus check, and UBI is usually for every adult citizen (some argue it should be stretched to all permanent residents).

If it was an attempt at UBI it was a horrible one. Do you think Trump wanted to try a UBI? That wouldn’t sound like something his supporters would like.

I’m going to say no, it wasn’t a UBI attempt. I think it was just an attempt to not have a lot of people wind up on the street with no shelter or food during a pandemic. A lot of people wound up with money they didn’t really need, or even as said above maybe stayed unemployed longer than otherwise, but that kept fewer people interacting (safer during covid). That’s all ending now.

elbanditoroso's avatar

It might have given us an opportunity to test on a wide scale, but if that were the goal, it was done poorly. The whole point of an experimental program is to set measures and goals, and then compare to predicted results – you know, the scientific method. Analysis and all that.

This was sort of stumbled into without any clear measures of effectiveness. So how will we know if it is successful?

I’m on the fence about whether UBI is a good idea or not.

But this current approach has not been the way to go about testing the theory.

crazyguy's avatar

@seawulf575 I agree 100%. We need to define the minimum level necessary for survival and peg unemployment compensation to that level. Most states have a reasonable approach to estimating Unemployment Compensation. It is the federal subsidy that ouches up the compensation to levels where it seems stupid to work.

@JLeslie Be honest now – did you read the FoxBusiness story I linked to? There were a lot more stories to choose from when the federal subsidy was $600.

Whether it is the previous administration, or Bumbling Joe, it makes zero difference. The idea is flawed. For most people in this country, whose basic needs have been met before and during the pandemic, the UBI will represent just so many extra dollars to invest. For the poor, it will provide an excuse to not seek unemployment, if it is substantial enough. In that sense, we have used the pandemic to test out what is the minimum level of unemployment compensation that will not interfere with hiring.

You are absolutely correct in saying the previous administration would not try UBI. His supporters would definitely oppose it. I personally think it is an obviously hare-brained idea, that does not deserve any discussion or study. However, I think we have just proved that if a UBI were substantial enough it will interfere with hiring.

crazyguy's avatar

@elbanditoroso Like you, I am not convinced UBI is a good idea. In fact, I think it is the dumbest idea to come from the Left.

Whether the federal subsidy was intended to test the concept or not, in my opinion, it did. I think unemployment compensation should be set at a percentage of prior earnings with no minimum; and, perhaps, a maximum. The level should be set to ensure that the unemployed person suffers a decline in living standards; otherwise, why would s/he look for a job?

stanleybmanly's avatar

“Paying people not to work” is the wrong concept. Of course people will work. It’s when the landscape dictates working your ass off as your standard of living declines that troubles ensue. And that increasingly defines present day America. It isn’t necessarily a bad idea to pay people who don’t work. We used to call that retirement. In fact I can remember a time when most careers came with a pension, and wives stayed home to care for the children and household. What shifted to change those times?

Smashley's avatar

I agree that the method of direct cash stimulus employed recently is something of a testing groumd for UBI. This method has libertarian roots and feels more of the moment than older systems of beurocracy we have used for social support. This is why both Republican controlled and Democratric controlled Senates allowed them to go through. Keep in mind, though, that the pandemic has a distorting effect on motivations. Low wage employees had it bad before the pandemic, and no one likes being told that their particular class requires them to risk their lives, or those of their families.

crazyguy's avatar

@Smashley The Republican Senate did let the federal subsidy of $600 go through, but not without a fight:

That debate convinced me that the Democrats care not one whit about America.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The debate also convinced the voters that Republicans care not one whit about the PEOPLE of America.

JLeslie's avatar

@crazyguy Well, I have mixed feelings about UBI, but regarding the article, I myself have said the money was doled out illogically. The first stimulus was during a panic time, but after that we should be doing better giving it only to people who really need it. Some industries continue to be hurt, and with all social services it is impossible to do it 100% fair or perfect.

If some Democrats think this is a way to install UBI, that is faulty thinking. Republicans talking about it is most likely just politically charged to accuse Democrats of being socialists and communists, and it is tiresome. We get nowhere, just worried about the next election. Sigh.

I have sat in on a few UBI presentations where I live, and learned a lot. The person who is most interested in it, and does most of the presentations here, is a capitalists, thinks it has to be done in a way that it is paid for and not just printing money or growing our deficit. He argues we should be taxing companies, and the justification is large companies like facebook and Amazon use our data to market and make money. It is like we are a free focus group, and he argues we should be paid. He also thinks it should not be based on income, but based on being an American adult. He argues that the job market will get tighter and tighter with Artificial Intelligence and robotics, and we need to prepare for a time of high unemployment where people will not have to panic and can still be productive for themselves and society.

I have reservations about giving the UBI to very young adults. I think it is very important to work when we are young. I do think people will voluntarily not work if they don’t have to panic about money, allowing a parent to stay home with a child or help an elderly parent, or try starting a new business. This will free up the job market for people who need to work. I also think we should be able to retire younger, but I think socialized medicine can achieve that also, or at minimum Medicare kicking in at a younger age. Even if we leave Medicare the same and healthcare the same, if there is a UBI, that can go towards paying the high premiums for healthcare.

What I think most, is we need a plan. We need goals as a nation regarding what we want society to look like in ten or twenty years, and then figure out what programs will help get us there and not reinforce behaviors that we don’t want to reinforce. I do feel there are people in our society who want to hold onto “work yourself to death, because I did.” NO! We can have better, more balanced, more enriching lives. AI and robotics should be ushering an easier life for Americans and the world. 150 years ago people worked 7 days a week, then 6, then we brought in the 40 hour work week. It can still get better. You play golf, some people never get to retire and play golf when they feel like it and they also worked hard in life.

Anyway, I am getting off track. I think there needs to be a multifaceted plan, watch other countries that are putting in a UBI, see how it is working. Maybe that is not the answer, I really don’t know, but I do think something can be done to make life better for all.

crazyguy's avatar

@JLeslie I would love to see any country put in a UBI plan, because that would be one country we no longer have to compete with. A UBI in my opinion is an absolutely idiotic idea. If we do get mass unemployment because of AI and robots, we can address the problem by relaxing the standards for unemployment compensation; however, it makes zero sense to give out money to every American.

You said: The first stimulus was during a panic time as if that justified throwing caution to the winds. If you ever watch any video I think the one I linked showing the debate in the Senate on the Sasse amendment is the one to watch. That video illustrates like no words ever could the utter contempt felt by Democrats for small business. Almost single handedly the $600 subsidy stretched out or economic debacle for months, if not years. A year later, we learnt something from our mistake – we halved the federal subsidy. We should have eliminated the subsidy completely. I could see stretching out unemployment compensation, but, to my way of thinking, paying anybody more in unemployment compensation than they ever earned at a job is absolutely foolhardy.

If you think otherwise, please tell me why.

crazyguy's avatar

@JLeslie The video is linked below for your convenience, although I did link it in my reply to @Smashley.

stanleybmanly's avatar

While it is arguable that there are many recipients of covid relief payments who were not in dire straits, the solution arrived at was justified (for a change) in that a little rain fell on EVERYONE. The delay in the bureaucratic nightmare around determining who is or isn’t worthy would render the process a hopeless squabble. As it is we have at least put off the otherwise certain economic collapse engendered by Trump’s fkup in addressing this pandemic. And for the millions who are desperate and on the brink, the timely arrival of that money has unquestionably been the alternative to catastrophe.

seawulf575's avatar

The problem with all the “covid relief payments” is that they were entirely unnecessary. They were a reaction to the governmental overreach forcing the massive shutdowns, using non-science as a justification. It was all based on scare tactics.
As time goes by we are seeing more and more examples that the actions pushed upon us were not realistic efforts at stopping the spread of the disease. Masks: CDC and WHO both had multiple peer-reviewed studies showing they do nothing and may even add to the spread of the disease. Social Distancing: I just found this that shows social distancing was based on faulty parameters and that it really doesn’t seem to matter.
All the actions the government rammed down our throats did irreparable damage to the economy. It increased cases of suicide, mental health aberrations, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and drug overdoses. It basically resulted in lives being lost. And we don’t even know the full extent of the impact due to children that are now being raised on the computer and who are not learning socialization skills at the most critical point in their development. But the government showed they have the power.
So then they start paying people as a band-aid for lost wages and monetary troubles the government caused. It is totally inadequate pay and it is money we don’t have. We have to go deeply into debt. It is a debt we will have a very hard time paying off. And the politicians continue to play the same failed hand over and over.

JLeslie's avatar

Suicides were lower in 2020 than 2019. It’s marginal, just a 5% drop, but anyway, the claim suicides went up is false.

@crazyguy I will try to get information on countries doing a UBI like method, but I just don’t remember which country or countries were given as examples and also I think it is all very new. Moreover, it might not be the same formula people in America who support UBI are proposing.

I agree with you that people making more during covid, whether it be from federal subsidy or some other unemployment deal doesn’t make sense and we have a big enough deficit already. What I will say is I think Trump was just as happy to do it as the democrats, because it made Trump look good. Economy continued to go up, stock market bounced back. I think you are only looking at it from one side, but it is both political parties working the system.

crazyguy's avatar

@JLeslie Suicide is sometimes not acknowledged as such. We know a very good friend whose son died of a gunshot while jogging on the beach (supposedly). The strange thing is there is ZERO mention of the murder in any online source. Hmmmm.

As far as the former President’s support of the First Covid Relief bill goes, I’ll say the following:

1. From the video, it is quite obvious the Democrats had no reason to not go along with Ted Cruz’s compromise suggestion.
2. You could see by Sen Durbin’s reaction to Cruz’s proposal that he was a little blindsided by it. And for a moment or two, he was not sure how to respond.
3. He finally said something to the effect: “You cannot begrudge a poor person receiving a few extra bucks, can you?
4. By that time, the Democrats knew they had the Republicans in a corner, one of the Republicans’ own creation; and they were not about to relent.
5. So the bill passed.

The former President would have signed it with or without the extra subsidy.

So I disagree with your assessment that it was both parties working the system. It was just the Democrats ingratiating themselves with the poor.

seawulf575's avatar

@JLeslie Your sources for the claim suicides went down? I have several that show the exact opposite. Here is another.

The 5% you cite comes from the CDC, I suspect, but can’t say for sure since you didn’t give a citation. But even they will tell you it takes several years to get the full picture. There are others that speak to this stating that there is much more slicing and dicing of the data that needs to be done to get the full picture.

In the end, as I said before, we don’t know all the long lasting impacts from all the covid actions our government rammed down our throats. Neither does the government. And worse, they don’t seem to care.

JLeslie's avatar

@crazyguy I only watched a short part of the video, but needless to say we overall agree about the stimulus, no point in arguing. I can tell you my city full of a lot of Republicans had a whole bunch of my very Trump supporting friends and neighbors thanking President Trump for their stimulus check, plus my bible belt friends, and then when the third one was done suddenly they decided stimulus was bad and socialism. Literally, a lot of them were writing “THANK YOU MR. TRUMP” as their facebook status when they received the first one and posting photos of the check or deposit. That was a trend across facebook. Needless to say both Trump and the Democrats pushed for it, but they gave Trump all the credit for their wonderful stimulus check that they did not need, and believe me NONE of my friends who wrote that needed the check. Their income did not go down at all, many of them here where I live don’t even work. I do not group you in with them, but the average Republican (not politician) seems to just follow the herd, join in on the mantra at the time, and blind to their own hypocrisy and amnesia.

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crazyguy's avatar

@seawulf575 I was as surprised as you by @JLeslie‘s claim that suicides went down in 2020 vs 2019. Knowing @JLeslie to never knowingly post falsehoods, I checked her claim and found several sources that confirmed the fact. Here is one:

The CDC source:

does have the same admonition you have: that the full picture will emerge in a few years.

crazyguy's avatar

@JLeslie I think you are referring to the direct payments to Americans, not the federal unemployment subsidy. The debate was entirely on the unemployment subsidy.

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