Can Universal Basic Income Solve America’s Wealth Gap?


The financial upheavals of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented cash benefits that policymakers have implemented in response have sparked renewed interest in an old idea: a Universal Basic Income (RBI) for all Americans . Last proposed and seriously debated in the 1970s, the UBI would offer every adult in the United States a cash payment every year with no obligation to work.

Is it time for UBI? The Inquirer, via, brought in two writers to debate.

By Darryl Lorenzo Wellington Jr.

It’s all too common for an experience in America today to be a hair’s breadth away from homelessness, saved at the last minute by improved unemployment benefits or a COVID-19 relief stimulus check. Data suggests 40 million Americans were laid off at the height of the pandemic.

I will certainly not forget my own recent economic difficulties. During the pandemic, so many companies have ruled the purse strings, cutting back on spending on the kind of writing, proofreading and advertising work I depend on for my income. I’ve been fortunate enough to pay the rent, but utility payments during the winter months can cost as much as the rent, and the bills add up.

In January, I had well over $ 2,000 in debt. But I got a stimulus check for $ 1,400, which helped pay the gas, electricity and water bills. The relevant word here is helped. I always refund the full amount. But at least I don’t expect to be trained. For that, I can thank President Joe Biden.

Several months later, I received Biden’s letter congratulating Congress on adopting the US bailout, which, Biden wrote, “would help millions of Americans through this crisis.”

I agree that the policies adopted under the American Rescue Act saved millions of lives from immediate disaster. But I still don’t believe we are fulfilling the mandate of a nation “where there is nothing we cannot do” with these short-term solutions.

“We cannot count on effective solutions for today alone, leaving people hanging on a thin thread until the next disaster. “

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington Jr.

We must respond in a way that recognizes that the pandemic has not created so much disaster as it has revealed that we are a nation living on the brink of a massive shortage in which the majority of Americans are prone to disease, unemployment or unforeseen expenses on a daily basis.

We cannot count on solutions that will help for today alone, leaving people hanging on a thin thread until the next disaster.

An example of myopia would be to let the expanded earned income tax credit and the expanded child tax credit provisions expire after one year.

These payments will potentially lift millions of people out of poverty and protect the middle class. The funds will be distributed on a monthly rather than annual basis so that families can provide for the immediate economic needs of the household and even save for their future. But under the American Rescue Act, these provisions are only funded until 2021, and they leave out more than a million immigrants without Social Security numbers.

READ MORE: What if the federal government sent you $ 1,200 every month? | Will Bunch newsletter

Families with children suffered significant economic hardship long before the pandemic. Proof of this is that the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, is consistently among the nations with the highest child poverty rates in the industrialized world. This is partly because we are spending too little on our social safety net. Some studies indicate that the United States spends proportionately less on public funding than any other country.

Making constant cash assistance to low-income families permanent and more inclusive will stabilize unstable incomes, facilitate financial planning, lift disenfranchised communities, and improve the quality of life and opportunities for millions of people.

All families deserve financial stability that can help them prosper over the long term. A permanent safety net in the form of guaranteed income could get us there. Thanks to widespread financial malaise and the understanding that too many of us are vulnerable while wealthy CEOs get richer, this idea is only becoming more popular politically.

Now is the time to claim a permanently expanded child tax credit and guaranteed income. As Biden says, “There is nothing we cannot do as a nation if we do it together.”

Darryl Lorenzo Wellington Jr. is Communications Officer for Washington Community change. He wrote this for

By Richard Morrison

While the Universal Basic Income (RBI) often scores high in polls, that would be a terrible idea for both idealistic and practical reasons.

Perhaps more importantly, severing the link between work and income would create the illusion that the benefits received are somehow automatic and natural, rather than funded by working taxpayers. All spending and consumption is funded by someone’s work. When we are children, they are our parents. In adulthood, it’s usually ourselves. In the case of income from social assistance programs, it is the other current taxpayers. In the case of deficit spending, it is the future taxpayers.

READ MORE: Is Giving Government Money To Every American The Best Way To Fight Poverty?

UBI supporters often argue that its universality produces benefits ranging from administrative cost savings to improved mental health, as current recipients of social assistance programs may be ashamed of receiving benefits. But that puts the whole story of social spending on its head. The vast majority of programs target specific groups who need it most. In the current system, the shame felt by an able-bodied, working adult is a characteristic, not a bug.

This sensible approach to work and responsibility is a big obstacle to any UBI proposal. Despite UBI approval ratings when Americans are asked about it, the actual legislation to implement it would be highly controversial. In the 1970s, Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter – who had noticeably divergent political views – both endorsed UBI’s proposals which were rejected when the public was confronted with the details.

Many recent UBI proposals have called for a new benefit to replace much, if not all, of existing welfare spending. This radical simplification, often called the “big market”, would theoretically ally the conservatives, who want to reform the cost and the complexity of the system, with the progressives, who want to prevent anyone who “falls between the cracks” of the many current programs. But anyone who thinks such a case is likely to have spent too much time in political theory seminars and not enough time on Capitol Hill.

“In the current system, the shame felt by an able-bodied, working adult is a characteristic, not a bug. “

Richard Morrison

For such a bipartisan effort to work, policymakers would have to wipe enough current spending from the books to fund a universal benefit. This means that many of the programs anti-poverty activists currently cherish would be wiped out for good. Say goodbye to temporary assistance for needy families, the supplemental nutritional assistance program (“food stamps”) and supplemental security income for people with disabilities. The version put forward by conservative political analyst Charles Murray, a frequently cited advocate, would also abolish all social security, medicare and Medicaid plans.

There are many reasonable, even radical, arguments for reforming current social spending, but any plan to do so must reflect reality. A plan that would eliminate current anti-poverty programs and replace them with a single UBI is simply not politically feasible. Any attempt to repeal long-standing poverty programs would be attacked as an attack on the vulnerable, while any effort to create a UBI system that maintains current benefits would break the bank and undermine compromise with those who do. want a smaller, more affordable plan. . We would probably end up with a UBI on top of the existing programs, which would be both more complex and more expensive.

Finally, many of the claimed benefits of living under an UBI contradict the statistical evidence. The promoters would like us to imagine a utopia where beneficiaries are free to become artists, community volunteers and caregivers. But as Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute notes, most men who aren’t currently working or in school spend the overwhelming majority of their free time “socializing, relaxing and entertaining.” There is little evidence, beyond wishful thinking, to imagine that most people “freed” by an UBI would spend more time improving the community or doing anything constructive than on television, video games and smartphone applications.

Richard Morrison is a researcher at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He wrote this for


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