Class Warfare Blog

January 5, 2017

Should We Have a Basic Income Level for All U.S. Citizens?

One of my favorite economists, Yves Smith, has written about the one large scale experiment in providing a basic stipend for all citizens here. (Finland is giving it a go now.) Her conclusion is that the result of that experiment was the creation of a large un-skilled underclass. Her preferred approach to such a solution to poverty is to guarantee not income but jobs. I am not opposed to this.

I see two issues that do not seem to be being addressed in this debate, Most people seem to focus on class and worthiness and other things, but there are a couple of aspects I want to add.

For one, there are many, many jobs that are, well downright nasty. There is even a TV series (Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe) that is quite popular possibly because of the yuck factor, probably more in seeing a celebrity getting really filthy and doing some manual labor. In the main, these are not jobs that I expect to see being taken over by computers or robots, any time soon. The jobs that are subject to automation are usually the high paying ones, or ones for which skilled labor is in short supply. For example, one California farmer doubled down on President-elect Donald Trump’s “promise” to deport undocumented foreigners by buying a lot more tree-picking machinery. Even though those jobs do not pay well, if the majority of the people willing to do them are exported, the only other option is machinery. (Note that they hadn’t done this before or not to this level, because of the availabilty of cheap human labor.)

The second thing was brought to mind with regard to the experiment described in Yves Smiths’ former post (linked yo above). There is a large class of people, a very large class of people, who have their basic necessities taken care of that could form a study group. The question is: “What would people do if they had the basics (food, shelter, health care) taken care of?” The group that falls into this class is much of the current U.S. citizens who are retired. Some people of a similar age do not retire because they like working, others of this age cannot afford to retire, but the ones who have, have a pension or Social Security or savings or  a combination thereof, which makes the need to work no longer pressing.

So, what do these “senior citizens” do? Well, one thing they do is volunteer their labor in large amounts, as much as any other age bracket. Another think they do is start business. Another thing they do is pursue arts and education. And … some even sit on their couches and watch TV.

If we all were to paid taxes to provide minimal support for each of us, why would not the “retired” or “unemployed” person have the right to do whatever they damn well pleased?

Maybe a guaranteed job of the able and a minimum income for the unable and “retired” would be a good blend. It is not the case that there is not enough work to do that is in the public interest.




  1. Yes. My basic income should be 100k. Thank you!


    Comment by shelldigger — January 5, 2017 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

    • This is always a concern, e.g. “how much?” If everyone were granted a $100,000 basic income, guess what would happen? It is called inflation, and $100,000 per year would become the new poverty line.

      Just as I argued when discussing health care for everyone, the basic stipend should cover very basic things. If you want more, you have to pay/work for it. So, a person who is unable to work, due to injury, they should be able to acquire shelter, basic food, and basic health care. If that is all they want from life they have it. The same should be true for the purely lazy. If they have a small apartment, food to eat, and health care, then that’s going to have to be good enough. Just like in the healthcare business, the insurance industry will have plenty of “supplemental” coverage to sell for people who want more than the basics. People looking for mates will probably eschew others willing to settle for the basic stipend. Those who seek out people just like themselves have to be prevented from forming a permanent underclass through education of their children. Since people have the wherewithal to provide for themselves and their children, if they do not, then the law can be dropped on them like the proverbial 16-ton weight. We need to focus on children, making sure they have adequate nutrition and upbring, like the French do now.

      So, poverty is redefined, not as people who do not have enough to eat or are homeless but as people who settle for the basic stipend, a step up for many, and a chance for their children to rise up out of poverty.

      On Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 6:18 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — January 6, 2017 @ 9:41 am | Reply

      • Well now I didn’t say give everyone 100K!

        I’m practicing to be a Republican. I want mine but screw everyone else. It is tough trying to be like that, but soon as I get my 100K it will be easier 🙂


        Comment by shelldigger — January 6, 2017 @ 3:22 pm | Reply

        • I think you are worth it, but I don’t think I can convince the others, you know.

          On Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 3:22 PM, Class Warfare Blog wrote:



          Comment by Steve Ruis — January 7, 2017 @ 2:21 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: