August 13, 2014
Why reform conservatives should embrace a universal basic income (Jeff Spross, August 12, 2014, The Week)
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 13, 2014 6:17 PM[I]f reformocons truly want to remake the American social safety net for the 21st century, they're going to need one additional policy. It's rather radical for the political mainstream, but its radicalism flows from some of the best insights conservatism has to offer. And it falls right in with reformocons' renewed focus on the interests of the poor and working class.It's called a universal basic income -- or a UBI for short. It's simple: The government writes a check for the same amount to every American. It could come once a month or once every two weeks. For Americans under 18, it could be given to their guardians as a child allowance. But most importantly, it comes with absolutely no strings attached. You get it regardless of your income level or whether you have a job. If you're here and you're breathing, you qualify.This design comes with two immediate strengths that anyone who's read Ryan's plan will recognize. One, it's simple for Americans to use, as opposed to the smorgasbord of assistance programs they face now. And two, because there's no cutoff after a beneficiary reaches a certain level of income, a UBI doesn't create a disincentive for people to keep earning more.Matt Bruenig and Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig (who both write for The Week) recently calculated that a modest UBI of $3,000 a year would cut poverty in half. The annual $900 billion price tag could be paid for in a revenue-neutral fashion by clearing away the carve-outs in the tax code for the affluent -- something reformocons have been hankering to do anyway -- and by taking a cue from Rand Paul and reducing military spending.