UBI Without Quality Public Services Is a Neoliberal’s Paradise

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By Rosa Pavanelli, General Secretary of Public Services International (PSI) and chair of the Council of Global Unions. Originally published at openDemocracy

From tech-billionaires to Socialist leaders, Universal Basic Income has caught the imagination of many across the political spectrum. This mechanism, which would give everyone regular cash payments that are enough to live on, regardless of income or work status, is increasingly promoted as a key policy to maintain social stability and ensure a decent standard of living.

Yet many in the labour movement have been unsure how to approach the topic. This is why our trade union federation, Public Services International (PSI), has been working with the New Economic Foundation to produce a detailed labour analysis on the issue. Examining 14 trials from India to Alaska, the report found that although UBI trials provided valuable insights into the nature of work and welfare there is little evidence to suggest that UBI is the best tool to address the core challenges of our time: inequality, wealth redistribution, precarious work, and digitisation.

What the studies do demonstrate is that giving cash payments to the poorest helps improve their lives and does not increase wasteful spending or laziness as many right wing politicians would have us believe. This gives strong weight to the argument that our social welfare system needs an overhaul: we must do away with punitive activity testing and demonization of the poor.

But government spending is inevitably about choices –and compared to funding better universal quality public services, UBI doesn’t stack up. Providing a single mother with a cash payment to fend for herself in an inflated housing market is not as effective as providing quality public housing. Giving people more money to fill up their cars is not as progressive as offering free public transport.

When it comes to UBI, the models that are universal and sufficient are unlikely to be affordable, and models that are affordable are not universal. The ILO estimates the global average cost for UBI, as a percentage of GDP, would be 32.7%. The current global average government expenditure is 33.5% of GDP.

Until we manage to dramatically increase public revenue – something which the mega-rich have been fighting tooth and nail – then it is clear any UBI program would necessitate huge cuts to key public services including education, healthcare and infrastructure. Whilst many in the UBI movement point to administrative savings and preventative measures generated from UBI, there is little evidence these will be enough to fund the UBI considering the large amounts of funding that will still be required to finance public health, education and infrastructure.

The fact is free public services, such as health and education, are one of the strongest weapons in the fight against inequality. They benefit everyone in society, but the poorest most of all. According to the OECD, publicly provided universal services give the poorest the equivalent of an extra 76% of their post-tax income and are strongly progressive.

And a UBI would not exist in a political vacuum. Once in place, some argue that the State’s obligations would be largely met. Consumer citizens could then buy “service products” on the open market. It is unsurprising that many of UBI’s most famous proponents are Silicon Valley’s tech-billionaires – like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.

They claim that automation will soon make UBI essential. Yet technological advances and inequality are not outside of human control. Increasing precarious work – often described as ‘uberization’ – has frequently been the result of corporations (such as Uber) flouting labour rules rather than any new technological development. In this regard UBI can be seen as a capitulation to deregulation and exploitation, not a solution to it.

While many jobs will be automated, this does not mean “work” is disappearing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the world will be short 12.9 million healthcare workers by 2035. And by 2030, countries have to recruit 69 million teachers. Ending poverty and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will require a huge amount of ‘work’ – with a socially beneficial outcome – which the market alone simply will not provide funding for, even with a UBI.

Many advocates of UBI are raising extremely important points which should not be ignored: We need to do away with punitive systems of welfare delivery. We need to stop tech-billionaires and the mega rich from swindling money away to tax havens. We need to redistribute power, wealth and resources.

But a UBI without public services is a neoliberal’s paradise. When we manage to build the political will to raise the substantial extra funds required to fight inequality – then surely funding public health, transport, housing and education would be our key priority?

Free and universal quality public services is a radical demand worth fighting for. To the progressives of the UBI movement: let’s win this struggle first.

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  1. Chris Cosmos

    I think the advantage of UBI is that it creates the possibility of radical change in the way people live and gives them more choices. For example, while $1000 a month in today’s dollars is inadequate for anyone to live on if he or she pools his/her resources with several other people they can create a household or a community that can sustain them financially without having to have a full-time job. This can lead to something we need more than money–re-vitalizing community feelings which are at a low ebb in our society. Neoliberalism is, at heart, not just an economy of selfishness but invites a culture of selfishness and opening up the possibility of more cooperation from people who are less stressed by stupid, useless, and soul-destroying jobs that many people I know are forced to endure lessens the psychic energy they need to be creative. Desperation can lead to creativity with some people but it is a creativity that is often negative and anti-social–but feeling supported, and not staying up at night worrying about whether to buy food or pay the electric bill which along with what will happen if the landlord evicts your family and, at the same time, working a job whose schedule you cannot count on is enough to drive people to depression and anxiety disorders. While being able to chart a life based on a guaranteed amount every month suddenly opens up some scope in life.

    Some issues are supported by those of us who favor UBI like universal health-care, and other public services the article mentions. Much of this starts with the idea of taxing the rich more heavily and lowering the spending on the utterly corrupt and largely useless military. Andrew Yang’s website, for those interested, has a whole lot of interesting reforms we ought to look into to accompany UBI.

    As for jobs, they will always be there but need to be decoupled from the economic and political domination of corporations who use bribes to Congress and other government and regulatory personnel to fix markets by demanding that corporations act in the public interest or lose their charter to do business thus freeing up some space for innovation coming from the bottom–it exists only slightly in our economy today where small businesses face an uphill climb in a system dominated by the interests of the corporate sector.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i agree wholeheartedly.
      UBI…which i think of as a much expanded EITC…is the only good thing that ever came out of milton friedman(at least that’s how i learned of it)>
      I built this house on the EITC, and i use it’s example a lot in my evangelism for new dealism out here.
      …and the repetition of “we can’t afford it” leapt out at me, too…aside from the still esoteric MMT, how do folks like this miss the great big money pit in Arlington?
      regardless…i drive to town, and look at all the trucks on the highway, and think about those folks driving them being replaced by AI. something will hafta change, because the multiplier effect works both ways, and it’s high time we had a little Demand Side economics.
      even the mitlaufer dems should be able to get behind it, at the very least to avoid some hobbseian civil war

      1. skippy

        I would remind that Friedman also said a UBI would necessitate reduced democracy, because of expectation voters would just vote to increase it, and the political ramifications of that.

    2. JohnnyGL

      JG is better than UBI. There’s power in production. That’s why strikes work better than boycotts.

      Writing an inadequate check each month doesn’t give anyone any real power. Giving them a job means they get to tell the current boss to go fly a kite.

      More directly related to the post, if there’s good quality public services under democratic control being provided, the private sector parasites don’t get to have that control or to suck the life out of them.

      1. Hepativore

        I think that the best solution would be to combine a UBI and job guarantee in one program. A job guarantee would be no protection against neoliberal mismanagement, as you would have to constantly keep an eye on the financial elite letting it devolve into a glorified “Rent-A-Serf” service of horrible and crappy jobs with people who are little more than indentured servants in positions that they cannot legally refuse as part of being in the jobs guarantee program.

        Also, while there is indeed a lot of work that needs to be done, we will need fewer and fewer people to do it with as automation continues. The UBI portion of the program would let people choose not to work or if they simply cannot and still get a livable income. Plus, this can also serve as a sort of education/counseling program that would help people find meaning in their lives and use their time to do what they enjoy in life instead of it being tied to a job. As technology increases, the UBI part of the program will help people transition from the jobs guarantee.

        1. teacup

          Yes, and the remedy would provide for a citizens dividend at the same time of attacking the core of excessive unearned gains (economic rents).

  2. Alternate Delegate

    “Anything Without Quality Public Services Is a Neoliberal’s Paradise.” Fixed your typo.

    Universal Education, Universal Health Care, and Universal Basic Income – these are precisely Quality Public Services.

    This article is purely about defending the vested interests of specific institutions, organizations, nonprofits, etc, and portraying anything else as taking away from their prerogatives. Yes, that is correct. More like that, please!

    1. jrs

      Yea can anyone pretend we have any but the most minimal almost inaccessible public services in the U.S. now? I’m not saying none would be better, it wouldn’t. But this system stinks, don’t wonder why a Yang is popular, at least he talks about *something* as opposed to nothing. And to a lot of people who have nearly nothing, “something” may as well be the promise of earthly paradise. Most people can’t regardless of poverty and desperation qualify for even $1000 of public services now. He’s not one of my top choices or anything (we tried woefully inexperienced last time).

      If not UBI then universal housing at least. Healthcare and education won’t keep one out of homelessness (unless one’s homelessness was caused by health problems which happens). And education might if one manages to use it as one weapon to win the “meritocracy” game, but everyone delusionally thinks they will be the winner there, and they won’t all be winners, not everyone is going to be above average. If anyone thinks housing vouchers and the like work, no, not unless you want to wait over a decade for housing.

      Meanwhile we have proposals for “job guarantees” that are supposed to be “green”, and yet everyone commutes to work now, and frankly in the foreseeable future (if something else is possible, we certainly aren’t there now). Ha the greenest people around commute in their cars even to discuss ecosocialism at this point I think. Sometimes it all seems delusional, when work by itself is a massive carbon producer, not just via what is produced but just commuting to it.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Yang comes across as a bright, decent, personable guy. He also seems like he means well and is trying to speak to people’s pain and suffering.

        The problem is he doesn’t want to empower people. He just wants to do a little triage. He also doesn’t seem to understand how the world works. That’s a problem, too.

      2. BCD

        RE commuting, have you seen globally increasing ebike sales? We have a solution for commuting, its kind of fun and more practical than many Americans realize. China is lapping the rest of the world in this market as the US has seceded yet another market it once lead as it continues down the historical dead end of large ICE powered vehicles for personal transportation.

        The thing I’m beginning to realize (as is the rest of the world), Tesla like electric clones of ICE vehicles will not meet our Climate Change requirements. Telsas are closer to ICE vehicles on energy requirements, raw source materials, manufacturing requirements and emissions than ebikes. Its not too hard to setup an ebike rig that can commute up to 100miles round trip completely powered by solar and out pace rush hour traffic at near zero emissions today.

        JG could pay people to not work when that makes most sense although there is a lot of potential for paying people to improve the environment like the CCC. Most people don’t realize the east coast was logged to the point of deforestation. Great Smoky Mountain NP was nearly barren at one time and the park’s beauty is a product of the CCC. CCC efforts to fix dust bowl devastation are similar to Ag soil improvement plans and their potential to sequester carbon that Yves has posted, projects made for a new CCC.

  3. Mael Colium

    Forget the UBI, which is nothing but an extension of the serfdom desired by the elites to keep the consumption wheel turning and their cash registers ringing. They are quite happy for Governments to fund a UBI only because of self interest and nothing else.
    Humans are curious creatures and want the dignity and social interaction that involves meaningful work. There are a range of opportunities crying out for action around environmental projects which could be delivered by local governments via federal government funding, so that anyone who wants a job can go and get one. It’s called a job guarantee and is far superior to giving someone a minimum wage to sit on their backsides doing nothing but getting depressed.

    1. Chris Cosmos

      I think you may not know that much about what motivates human beings. “Sitting on their backsides” is not something healthy people have much interest in doing unless they are very, very old and can’t get around much. People want to engage with other human beings in all kinds of activities from sex to working on meaningful things that are important to them and not necessarily important to the oligarch class which you seem to think “know better” which could be possible at some point but as of today they tend to be, whether in business or government filled with lives of perverse incentives to screw people and not help them. However, I agree with you that environmental projects should be encouraged by all of us though I’m not sure government is the best location for those projects since, in my experience, corruption has reached to high a level at this time–this could change when we can eliminate a lot of stress that being forced to live on the edge of disaster.

        1. BlakeFelix

          I think if they are hopeless drug addicts or otherwise mentally ill they are way better off with a UBI than a job guarantee. They can sit around their room and talk to plants or whatever. Have you ever tried to get useful labor out of a drug addicted sex offender? A crazy person whose meds aren’t working? What kind of people do you think can’t find jobs in this economy?
          Do you think the government is smarter and more competent at that stuff than you are?

        2. Amfortas the hippie

          I’m “on drugs” practically every day(vicodin and a bunch of weed).
          couldn’t do anything without them, due to global arthritis/effects of hard livin’.
          but i get more done before noon than most people i know who have “jobs”.
          …and i have no boss, at all,lol.
          entirely self-directed.
          the mandatory drug tests that your comment appears to point to is similar in it’s arbitrary cruelty and irrationality to the “means testing” so loved by Team Blue.
          it’s all about controlling the lower orders….not about efficiency or health or any of the high minded excuses trotted out to justify it.
          Fie on all that.
          I’ve witnessed numerous “self made men” in my life drinking high dollar scotch in golf-course clubhouses at 9am.(I once repaired golf carts)
          “drug” test the masters of the universe, first….and maybe add a test for psychopathy while we’re at it.

    2. jrs

      Much of the depression of unemployment comes from the process of job seeking itself of course, not just from idleness (of which job seeking isn’t really anyway – it’s actually mostly very unproductive labor). Constant Rejection is depressing to people? Amazingly enough it is.

      That and the stress of uncertainty which is hard to deal with.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Dignity and social interaction that involves meaningful work.

      Meaningful work, which could be elusive, or activities other than work, say, for example, caring for one’s parents on one’s own time (which can be said to be work, if it is not considered work previously) or sitting quietly by oneself, or with friends, imagining a better future for the world.

  4. Barbara

    Every time I hear arguments for the UBI, I remember, during the time of Occupy Wall Street, the young twenty-something WS trader screaming at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrator, “Go get a job!” – when that was exactly the point.

    On the front page of the Guardian is an article, “‘A White Collar Sweatshop’ Google Assistant Contractors allege wage theft.”

    We need a helluva lot more than free public services to make UBI nothing but a green light to the “ownerhship class” to destroy the work product of humans altogether.

    Every time these discussions come up, I think of Ra, the God-King, in the movie, “Star-Gate”. Seemed like a laughable fantasy when I saw the movie year ago, but it left a shadow on the wall of my cave.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    I think this conclusion is unavoidable – in particular with healthcare and education as its been clearly demonstrated through practice that direct provision of health and education in not just more equitable, its simply cheaper than ‘free market’ solutions. Much the same also applies of course to policing, defence and the provision of infrastructure. In other words, a UBI which attempts to replace most government services will not be efficient and will encourage rentier behaviour in service provision.

    Another issue with UBI is that unlike more complex forms of welfare, it doesn’t take account of specific needs. As an obvious example, people with physical or intellectual handicaps often need significantly more than a ‘minimum’ income in order to have a decent standard of living.

    Or put another way, good social welfare systems are complicated because human needs are complicated, you can’t really escape this. There is a paradox of course in that the more complicated a social welfare system becomes, the more opaque it becomes to outsiders and the easier it is for insiders to game. This results in a loss of societal support for the costs of a comprehensive system. It seems almost universal in societies with any type of social welfare system that many people believe ‘someone else’ is getting more than they deserve. And very often, its true. The benefit of UBI is that it avoids this issue, as does any ‘simple’ welfare system such as universal free healthcare or universal free education (although the latter can also be gamed) and so its easier to maintain its popularity (just see how generations of Tories have been unable to undermine the NHS to see the benefits of a properly constructed universal benefit).

    One issue with articles like this though is the lack of a universal definition of UBI. I’ve seen multiple proposals, from ‘pure’ UBI to a more loosely defined minimum income guaranteed by way of direct welfare and tax credits. In reality, something closer to the latter would look more practical and affordable, and could be compatible with other proposals such as the JG. However, it needs restating than neither UBI or JG remove the desirability of a range of guaranteed universal provisions and benefits.

    1. BlakeFelix

      The problem with the minimum income is it acts as a 100% marginal tax rate on low incomes and hurts rather than helps anyone over the bar. One of the beautifully elegant things about a UBI is its lack of perverse incentives.

      1. Grebo

        It incentivises landlords to raise rents, employers to cut wages, and politicians to eliminate other forms of public benefit. Beautiful.

        1. BlakeFelix

          Employers and landlords are always incentivised to make more money. The more people have the freedom to move or quit the less leverage they have. I would expect both wages and rents to rise overall. I guess if you are highly enamored with (or benefiting from) the current welfare system it makes sense to oppose change…

  6. skk

    Thanks for highlighting the report. Its a good one. Of course, I note that that the report was put together by the PUBLIC Services International so the conclusions in the political report – “Free and universal quality public services first, then…” is to be expected. Quite rightly. You serve your members. Of course those proponents of UBI – the capitalist owners who are somewhat farsighted about the end of their need for reasonably paid workers, yet need people with money to buy their stuff – are also self-serving.

    I’m into data, into evidence so I really liked it that they detail the weaknesses in the trials head on – they say:
    There is an acute shortage of high-level evidence relating to UBI as it is essentially defined at the start of this paper: unconditional, regular [basic level] cash payments to individuals regardless of their income or status”

    And also: All trials have not run for long enough. Nor have they been at scale so one can reasonably generalize from them. Most impose conditions on recipients – “send child to school and vaccinate them” or ” meet income limits ”

    In thinking about how one can gather evidence for UBI – as defined – an off-the-wall idea would be a study of “reasonable levels of income, reasonably healthy retirees”. you’d certainly get a clue as to what they’d do with their life…” ( though that would be biased in that they have a history of what they’ve done and perhaps sworn “never again” ). From a cost aspect, one could total up their pension benefits – to get an idea of universalization amounts.

    The elephant in the room is of course – what is BASIC income ? what is “reasonable levels of income” ?In the US, with health care costs the way they are, BASIC is a lot higher than a country with a free at service point, quality level of health care. Is current median income the right level ? One might just need to study groups in bands of retiree income.

  7. Michael Fiorillo

    A Universal Job Guarantee, at a living wage, would do far more to organize and empower people than a UBI, which the more “enlightened” members of the Overclass see as a way station to their Soylent Green vision of the future.

    1. skk

      My objection to a universal Job Guarantee is that with a job, in the conventional meaning has these conditions attached to the money you get for doing the job:
      1. little or no say when you do it.
      2. little or no say how much of it you do at a minimum.
      3. little or no say what you do, specifically items, cadence of the work items,
      4, little or no say how you do it.
      5. little or no say who you do it with.

      YMMV may vary on the amounts involved in “little say”.

      Yes, you get paid but a UBI ( at the right amount) also gets you paid without the aggro of points 1 to 5.
      What will you do then ? Anecdotally, as I watch mygen retiring ( with adequate money ), they certainly do work, volunteering/work for free, same stuff as before but less of it, etc.., gardening but at the same time they are all improving, to their liking, on the first 5 points, they reducing the aggro of a job. So most work, work that is useful to society, contributing to society. Anecdotally.

      Does this behavior generalize to all age cohorts, to all cultures ? I don’t know. Hence the need for studies of past data of retiree cohorts. And proper trials of UBI. where it comes with no strings attached ( apart from agreeing to be observed ) and with proper amounts of Income, not some measly INR 200.

    2. Oh

      Instead of UBI for all, especially the people who are above the poverty level, why not provide federal government employment for all? It seems to me that UBI is another way for these elites to cut off any kind of support for the poor, such as medicaid, low income housing and the like. Once they’ve dismantled these programs they’ll turn off the spigot on UBI for those who really need it and leave them out in the cold.

  8. Cal2

    “The fact is free public services, such as health and education, are one of the strongest weapons in the fight against inequality.”

    Good public services should BE the U.B.I., not cash.

    Excellent Public Schools and Universities, Libraries, High Speed Internet, free urban public transit, roads and most importantly, Medicare For All, give equal opportunities to those who choose to use them. Special targeted customized benefits and programs, i.e. housing projects, have not benefited society at large.

    Payments to people, no matter how deserving, or undeserving, are just toll-gating opportunities for parasitical feeding off the taxpayers.

    Say a thousand dollars a month UBI is given to every American citizen by the government.
    A family of four now has 4,000 extra a month.
    What’s to prevent landlords from just raising the rent on a family by $4,000? Or grocers raising the cost of food commensurately?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Four thousand a month for a family of four would seem pretty good for 40% of Americans who would have problem meeting a $400 emergency.

      What kind of house in, say, Oklahoma, can a family with an (extra) monthly income of $4,000 would get, so they don’t have to rent?

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “What’s to prevent landlords from just raising the rent on a family by $4,000? ”
      said landlords would have to be subtle, i’d think. there’d be a lot of joy in the hoi polloi at the advent of a ubi…and to brazenly negate it with price gouging wouldn’t go over all that well.
      there’s a bridge too far in all this greedy a$$holery…i’m generally shocked that we haven’t reached a breaking point yet.
      but that point is there.
      woe to the rentiers when we finally reach it.
      i think ubi AND a JG is necessary.
      both have the ingredients for shenanigans…means testing, pricing games, make-work lorded by busybodies, etc
      maybe both together can make such shenanigans harder.
      the Peeps need a break.
      call it a long overdue dividend for putting up with so much BS.

      1. jrs

        what’s to prevent them raising rents if the minimum wage goes up? Nothing (except perhaps the increases being too small to matter and that’s just sad). What’s to prevent them from raising them when the economy does slightly better? Nothing. And they do. A job guarantee should in theory lead to more employment than we have now, and yet rents ALREADY go up every time the economy is doing even kind of good. Why people think only a UBI leads to rents going up and not the others is a mystery.

        Now if the job guarantee jobs were in building housing, maybe not (that’s not usually what is suggested). I do think cheap necessities might work better than a UBI – really cheap if not free housing, healthcare etc..

  9. notabanktoadie

    A more basic question is why the Central Bank is permitted to create fiat via asset buying, Interest on Reserves, and lending to the private sector when ALL fiat creation should be to promote the common welfare of the citizens – not the welfare of banks and the rich?

    So the very LEAST the citizens DESERVE is a Citizen’s Dividend to replace all other fiat creation by the Central Bank beyond that created for its monetary sovereign (e.g. US Treasury).

  10. nihil obstet

    I’ve yet to see a supporter of a UBI outside the glibertarian right argue against public healthcare, education, or transportation. In fact, we argue for them. Many of us note that without means of controlling rent extraction, a UBI would simply be sucked up by corporations. The same goes for more jobs — without means of controlling rent extraction, extra income will be sucked up by corporations.

    I agree with Alternate Delegate’s comment: “Anything Without Quality Public Services Is a Neoliberal’s Paradise.” There are other issues about how we value human beings, what the goal of our society should be, and how we treat each other that I think are best addressed with a UBI as a right of the members of the society to the common wealth of the society.

  11. anon y'mouse

    the problem with the way these public services are currently provided, thus how they *may be provided in future when expanded/improved, is that you have to sign up for a million different programs, sometimes in different places from different institutions (some non-profit, some state, county, etc), all with their own criteria. you can usually assume that someone who is poor enough for one will get them all (after dragging oneself around to the offices and re-explaining one’s embarrassing personal circumstances again and again), but that is not guaranteed.

    they also lock you into place in a way that you may not want to be. they also have all of their own requirements as to how much you can earn and not suffer penalties (way too low a threshold). i can see why people want the UBI–it would simplify their lives tremendously and free them from bureaucratic hell and the need to “beg” these institutions for aid. also, they can choose to work, not work but caregive or volunteer, work at home-based things (gardening for food, handicrafts). these kinds of freedoms can’t be stricken aside with more of “well, you just take what you can get when you are the beggar” kinds of statements. the system of aid locks people in now in a way that is a bit onerous, unintentionally shaming.

    i understand full well that the problem with UBI is that landlords, and every other opportunist who currently has us over a barrel, will take these as a subsidy and increase their prices. we will be stuck in the same place, and no better off but our slavedrivers will be getting more money again. and, i have no argument about the above things (public provision of services) being “better than”. they are, or would be if they didn’t involve similar kinds of humiliation and hoop-jumping.

    and yes, i have direct experience.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      in my fisrt, second and third hand experience…such shaming is hardly unintentional.
      it’s baked in.
      the default assumption with all po folks programs, as i’ve said, is an assumption of fraud and ill intent.
      if you’re applying for…say…foodstamps, you simply must be a shyster, trying to “game the system”.
      the applicant must continually attempt to prove otherwise.
      it’s very discouraging, and emotionally and psychologically damaging.
      that institutional habit is what makes me leery of many of the JG things i’ve perused…and skeptical of anything that isn’t truly Universal.
      (ie: even trump gets a check/healthcare/etc. no exceptions, no excuses)

    2. jrs

      I hear around here the wait is 10-12 years to have a landlord accept a section 8 tenant. Another benefit noone can actually use.

      So people that think it’s easy to just get even 1k a month worth of benefits now, I really doubt it. Maybe VERY temporarily as unemployment, and entirely depending on what you earned before, and maybe for some in old age (again entirely depending on what you earned before). Maybe if you have a ton of healthcare expenses it comes out to more than that if you can get on Medicaid.

      1. anon y'mouse

        i have direct experience of this as well. i managed an apartment where a significant percentage of the tenants were on housing assistance. it has pros and cons as far as the owner/manager of property is concerned.

        the owner liked the guaranteed income and the non-existent vacancy rate among those tenants. they were the stable pool which allowed the rest to be rented to students in a 7+college/university town, so he could more than make up for what he “lost” in not raising the rents on them by raising them on the students. this was expressed to me as “if they (students) don’t like it, they can move”. and, because these tenants had little extra money in many cases, it was very unlikely they were going to be saving up to rent somewhere else in an ever-more-costly rental market. so, another lock in which benefits the Owning class and may do harm, be neutral or be positive to the recipient (they have a roof. but what if they want/need to move?).

        but, i heard many complaints by the management company over these tenants. for one, the entire property had to be inspected by the overseeing authority on the regular for fitness, thus costing the managing agency time and money to address whatever they would find “deficient”. and i don’t think that, had the managing company the choice, they would have chosen to rent to such people.

        then again, that management company had a generally discriminatory attitude against a host of people, and hired their site managers to “make the trains run on time” accordingly.

  12. chuck roast

    Maybe they ought to call it Universal Subsistence Income. That will clarify it as a Neoliberal project.

  13. Cincinnatus

    Reading through these comments, it becomes apparent that arguments (in this case, “UBI Without Quality Public Services Is a Neoliberal’s Paradise”) which lack nuance — for example, “[Uber] flouting labour rules rather than any new technological development”; it is both inaccurate regarding “rules” and technological innovation — result in broad stroke responses which ultimately are quite polar, and don’t provide an accurate picture. The author is both self-serving in her priority and apparent in her inability to communicate practically regarding UBI.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You have not made an argument, merely a handwave.

      Uber is not an innovation. We have a now 20 part series by transportation expert Hubert Horan that has discussed why not at length. I suggest you read it. There is no reason that a “polar” position isn’t accurate. And “inability to communicate practically” is mere fulminating.

      As for “labor rules,” Uber has been found to be an employer in some jurisdictions, particularly London, which is devastating to its business model. Uber’s revenues are highly concentrated in a few cities, and London was seen as one of the few where it might actually become profitable. In New York City, has been required to pay a minimum wage, again reflecting that it was paying drivers inadequately when full driver costs were factored in. And your discussion of the author is ad hominem, a violation of our written site Policies, which I suggest you read before commenting again, and not substantiated.

      Commenting here is a privilege, not a right. You need to make substantive, well supported comments for them to be approved in the future.

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