Debate of the UBI among the Privileged

I originally wanted to publish this piece on Sunday (because of the long video that goes with it and may be too time consuming to listen to during the week), but I ran out of time. Well, you can save much time by merely reading what I wrote and (if you wish) listening only to the parts of the video I specify in my text.

The debate presented in the video is a pretty horrible debate over a universal basic income. It’s the kind most likely to be presented by the establishment media. It’s held by people who have never suffered material insecurity in their lives and philosophize over it. Two of the guys have had close enough contact with the poor and growing precariat to essentially get the UBI. The other two bloviate as the children of privilege usually do. Still, interesting points get raised. It is good – if sometimes painful – to see how some people think all wrong about the issue.

Some good stats are given by Andrew Stern from 8:04–11:36 minutes. That part is well worth hearing.

(Note: if the video linked above gets deleted, you may search the Internet for the title: “The Universal Basic Income Is The Safety Net Of The Future”)


As the leftmost speaker points out, the inhumanity of bureaucracy is an important reason to favor a UBI over specific, means- and/or needs-tested welfare programs. I can fully confirm this from personal experience.

As MLK said, the dignity of a person flourishes when decisions concerning his life are in his own hands.

Some more notes and comments:

  1. a mere 34% feel financially secure ==> 2/3 feel financially insecure ==> this is the U.S. of Anxiety (or the U.S. of Anguish)
  2. One of the deplorable privileged argues the winners and loosers theme — that $1 given to one person means $1 taken from another. As usual, this blithely overlooks that this is exactly what is massively happening in our current system, taking trillions form the poor to give to the rich (and a nice cut to types like him who defend this economic injustice)!
  3. Starting at 18:53 minutes, Charles Murray describes (A) how, with a UBI, poor people can climb to a middle class income, have cash instead of food stamps, and don’t have to beg bureaucrats to enroll them in one welfare program and not kick them out of another. He also argues that a UBI gives moral agency (by removing the excuse that one is completely hopeless) and letting friends and relatives step in where bureaucrats never will. He also argues about family integrity being rescued with the money that gives possibilities, options, dignity, independence, and human flourishing.
  4. The other clueless elitist argues that (A) a UBI would take $$$ away from anti-poverty welfare programs (basically using the same argument as the 1st elitist, yammering that money will need to be taken from others — only he doesn’t blabber about raising taxes but the other side of the same coin: cutting benefits for the poor, ignoring completely the benefit of the UBI making up for them. His second argument is less moronic and does indeed have a point: the political feasibility with the current two political gangs in power. But that only supports my claim that to change from our horrid status quo to a great country and/or world we must first achieve true democracy (as opposed to our current sham democracy).

The funny thing is that these elitists arguing that the math doesn’t add up never ever mentioned capital gains by the rich and the low or even absent taxation of those.

One less blasé argument brought against a UBI is the declaration that it is wrong to give money to people who don’t need it. This almost makes sense (and certainly wins a lot of people over through an internal knee-jerk reaction). However, the reasons for being universal with a citizen dividend outweigh this argument of saving a little by not giving to those who can take care of themselves. Besides the well made counter argument that in the future, if we don’t change things, we will have so many poor that this savings argument will become fairly moot (there being no more middle class to tax), it really is very important to remove means- and needs-tests from a UBI so it can act as a secure financial safety guarantee for everybody at all times and also not raise the ugly specter of fraud/abuse/bribery/envy/misgivings and such things that only create societal infighting. We must, I repeat must, step away from our massive infighting while our societies, economies, and ecology disintegrate, and refocus on creating a just and thriving world for all. A UBI is an important early step in this, but not the only one for sure.

Good point made: a UBI is like your own strike fund, a batch of walk-away-money giving you choice.

Another good point made: rich people have a basic income called their parents (when they are still young). I’ll add that they have another two (called inheritance and dividends) when they are older.

Another interesting argument made: Don’t spread thin the funds for a UBI by spending some of it on people who don’t need it, because – if you don’t – we will be able to pay true living wages for jobs created by a federal job guarantee. Well, one counter argument was already made above: the number of those who “don’t need it” is rapidly collapsing. As for the idea that we must be thrifty because we don’t have enough money, that’s bull! We do. It just currently goes to the 1%! I’d like to add: we need both, a UBI and a FJG! We need a monetization of needed labor which the market won’t ever fund, but we also need a financial safety floor and safety cushion for those who won’t be helped by the job guarantee. We furthermore need a decoupling of income from work to deal with the growing disappearance of jobs. None of these two programs can handle these problems perfectly by itself. However, together they can cover each other. And when we add job-pay-with-assets by undoing the asset hoarding of the rich, we can ultimately get rid of the owner-class/working-class dichotomy which is at the root of our problems.

As for the question how all this can be financed. Sooner or later I’ll perform a simple little calculation that it can. (I am chomping at the bit to get other articles out of the way, first, though)

Good point made by the #2 speaker: the history of the U.S. shows that our people/politicians always want to cut things for people who don’t have much and want to give more to people who have a lot. A UBI would be a protection from that, in large part because everybody gets it.

Now, the voting at the end of the debate was depressing. Probably, though, it is merely an indication that most or all members of the audience are also (like the team 2 debaters) representatives of that small and shrinking part of our society who have never experienced the struggles, anguish, and precariousness of today’s economy, not even vicariously. I shall at least hope so. People like these believe we live in a meritocracy, that everybody has opportunities and shapes their own lives. They have never, like me, worked hard their entire lives and tried hard to save up for a down payment on a house, only to be shot down time and again by factors outside their control (like Wall Street crashes) — people like me who eventually find themselves unemployable, exhausted, scarred, old, age-discriminated, and ready for a slightly early retirement so the constant hunt for (and struggle within) useless short-term jobs no longer keeps them from taking proper care of their ailing relatives, partaking in political activism for a better world, and maybe, just maybe, living a little bit of life themselves before it is all over.

Those privileged folks think you get yourself a good education and then have a successful career all your life. At the worst, they think, you may have to retrain once in your life. They have never had to reinvent themselves and re-educate and retrain themselves as often as I. Those privileged folks cannot imagine what struggles poor people face, and they cannot imagine what difference even a mere $1,000 a month with no strings attached would make. Oh sure, $2,500 a month would be the real solution for those economically suffering now, but even the measly $1,000 people currently are deliberating would help a battered veteran of structurally sabotaged human life like me a whole lot. It would help to such a significant degree as these people in their bubbles of privilege can never imagine. And $1,500 would move us up yet another significant rung on the ladder, also unimaginable to the lifelong privileged. Down at the bottom where I have been living much of my life, these amounts make for huge differences. Add free healthcare, and we go from night to day.


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3 thoughts on “Debate of the UBI among the Privileged

    1. I won’t settle. We are in today’s mess because our grandparents settled for FDR’s handouts and didn’t walk the last mile, the one of fixing our flawed system which is designed to create rich and poor. Therefore, the rich simply rolled back FDR’s government charities after his death and even legalized political bribery for good measure…

      We need to not have the ACA repealed because even more Americans will then die unnecessary early deaths. Even more so, we need it replaced with nothing less than Medicare for All, as you agree, I know. But we also need to fix the system as a whole, and part of that is the financial security from a UBI, I am convinced. And not only is it a part of the package, but also a step towards fixing the system. It’s not a system with a few flaws. It is a flawed system, and we need to be for all-out change to a good system. That’s something we must all become aware of and not retreat from.

      (I am positive you are on board with this, Cindy. My response is for those who still waver.) 😉


  1. On Facebook, someone left a comment on the link to this article. It exemplifies the reality of matters, fleshes out the issue to move from mere theory to facts on the ground. He explains, among other things, how a UBI would have protected him from being so crippled by unemployment that even looking for a new job became more difficult:


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