Je Vous Dis, Merde! 22: UBI in the USA? Hell Yes.

Back in December 2016, in “Liberation From Fear in The Age of Trump 1: Poverty and Economic Oppression,” I argued for Universal Basic Income, aka UBI, as a morally right, highly politically progressive, and economically realistic solution for poverty and economic oppression.

The UBI idea, as such, isn’t new: various utopian thinkers, from Thomas More on, have proposed it.

Fast-forwarding to forty-two years ago, starting in 1975, the Canadian province of Manitoba actually ran a 3-year UBI pilot program called “Mincome” in the city of Dauphin, with notable success, but no publicity, and the 20th century version of the UBI idea was soon snowed under by the yearly onslaught of harsh Canadian prairie winters and Politics As Usual.

Recently, however, the UBI idea, especially as promoted by the Dutch neo-utopian social thinker Rutger Bregman, is gaining new recognition worldwide.

Indeed, on Monday 24 April 2017, the Canadian province of Ontario announced plans to implement a three-year, real-world UBI pilot program, covering 4000 people currently living in the cities of Hamilton, Lindsay, and Thunder Bay, starting this coming summer.

There are several different versions of the UBI scheme, however, and the differences between them really and truly matter.

Some versions of the scheme propose giving a monthly stipend to every citizen, without regard to age, rational status, or actual economic need.

I’ll call these Stupid UBI Schemes, because they are fully open to many obvious, knockdown objections, especially including these ones:

What would children, or adults who are non compos mentis, do with a BI? Wouldn’t it be immorally absurd to give them one?

Why should citizens receive a BI, but not non-citizens who are permanent residents? Wouldn’t that be immoral discrimination?

Why should people who don’t actually need a BI, receive one? Wouldn’t that be immorally excessive?

Wouldn’t the overall cost of giving a BI to every citizen be prohibitively high, thereby ruling out other equally important social programs, hence immorally unaffordable?

By sharp contrast, here’s The WTFU Partys version of UBI, which I’ll call UBI in the USA:

· Anyone 21 years of age or over who is living permanently in the USA, who has a personal yearly income of $50,000.00 USD or less, and who is capable of requesting their UBI, would receive $25,000.00 USD per year, with no strings attached.

There are two absolutely crucial things to notice about UBI in the USA.

First, UBI in the USA is not one of the Stupid UBI Schemes, precisely because none of the knockdown objections apply to it.

Therefore, using one or more of the above knockdown objections, which apply only to Stupid UBI Schemes, in order to criticize UBI in the USA, is nothing but self-serving sophistry.

Second, and perhaps even more importantly, UBI in the USA is essentially interdependent with four other equally morally right, equally highly politically progressive, and equally economically realistic schemes:

A 15-Hour Workweek for Understaffed Non-Bullshit Jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs):

· Anyone 18 years of age or older who is living permanently in the USA, who has completed a high school education, and is mentally and physically capable of doing a job, would be offered an eco-job, paying a yearly wage of $25,000.00 USD, for fifteen hours of work (three 5-hour days) per week.

Thus anyone 21 years of age or older with a high-school degree and who is also mentally and physically capable of working, would have a guaranteed yearly income of at least $50,000.00 USD if they chose to do an eco-job.

The rationale behind the three-year gap between (i) being offered an eco-job at 18 and (ii) beginning to receive their UBI at 21, is that every young adult who has finished high school will have the option of pursuing three years of part-time or full-time free higher education without credentialing, i.e., for its own sake, after high school, before making longer-term decisions about what I call job-work and life-work.

***

Here are a few more details about UBI and eco-jobs.

(i) The UBI is to be paid by a monthly stipend check.

(ii) Eco-job income is not taxed.

(iii) For all individual yearly incomes of $50,000.00 USD or under, no tax will be levied; hence for someone receiving their UBI and also doing an eco-job, no income tax will be levied.

(iv) For all individual non-eco-job incomes, for every $1.00 USD earned above the standard UBI of $25,000.00 USD, the monthly UBI stipend is reduced by 50 cents, until the recipient’s UBI is reduced to zero; hence for those individuals with yearly non-eco-job incomes equal to or under $50,000.00 USD, the maximum UBI + non-eco-job income sum is always $50,000.00 USD.

(v) For all individual yearly incomes over $50,000.00 USD, for every $10,000.00 USD earned, that surplus income is taxed at the rate of 1%, with the highest surplus income tax rate being 50%; hence the maximum surplus 50% tax rate starts at individual yearly incomes of $550,000.00 USD, and applies to all higher surplus incomes.

***

Universal Free Higher Education Without Credentialing (HEWC):

· Everyone would be offered, beyond their high-school education, a free, three-year minimum, optional (but also open-ended beyond those three years, as a further option), part-time or full-time universal public education program in the so-called “liberal arts,” and also in some of the so-called “STEM” fields, including the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

· For many or even most people, their HEWC would fall between (i) the end of their high school education at age 18 and the corresponding availability of eco-jobs, and (ii) the beginning of their UBI at age 21.

· But HEWC would be open to anyone with a high school degree, no matter how old they are, provided they are mentally and physically capable of doing the program.

Universal Free Healthcare (UFH):

· Every human person living permanently in the USA will receive free lifelong healthcare.

2-Phase Universal Open Borders (2P-UOB):

· Phase 1: Starting in 2021, there will be universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, and everyone who moves across those borders and then claims residence in the USA, will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the USA, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents to depend on the current availability of (i) adequate funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the USA, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the USA and elsewhere in the world.

· Phase 2: Also starting in 2021, the USA, Canada, and Mexico will collectively form a Global Refugee Consortium (GRC), with three-way open borders to any political refugee, economic refugee, or asylum seeker from anywhere in the world (aka “global refugees”), who will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the three GRC countries, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents, and the precise distribution of new residents among the three members of the GRC, to depend on the current availability of (i) funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the three GRC countries, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the GRC and elsewhere in the world.

In other words, in order to make UBI in the USA genuinely viable, it also has to be combined, as essential parts of a single, multi-faceted, comprehensive social package, with

· serious work reform,

· serious higher education reform,

· serious health care reform, and

· serious immigration reform,

most of which I’ve already argued for, in “Liberation From Fear in The Age of Trump 2: The Job Dilemma,” “Liberation From Fear in The Age of Trump 3: Healthcare Hell,” and “Liberation From Fear in The Age of Trump 4: Cultural Conflict and Closed Borders.”

The various elements of the five-part comprehensive social package (UBI in the USA + FHW-for-NBJs/eco-jobs + HEWC + UFH + 2P-UOB) would effectively interact to ensure that human dignity was always being respected and human oppression alleviated or ended.

To take one example, UFH, aka “single payer healthcare,” would be designed so that it adequately covers the basic needs of children, and of adults who are non compos mentis, if they weren’t already being looked after by people who have a BI, or who are sufficiently well-off that they don’t qualify for a BI.

And to take another example, although UBI wouldn’t kick in until you’re 21, nevertheless you’d still qualify for an eco-job when you’re 18, which would also be perfectly consistent with your pursuing part-time free higher education under HEWC for the three years until you qualified for a BI.

OK.

Here’s a real-world thought-experiment, to make what I’m proposing more concrete.

Let’s suppose that you’re a 23-year old Central American refugee — a single mother with one young child, a 5-year old boy, and you had to leave school right after finishing your high school education, in order to work long hours for terrible pay, to support yourself and your child, in abysmal housing; and now that both of you have arrived in the USA, you intensely desire to have fairly-paid work, so that you can live in adequate housing and properly feed yourself and your son, and also send him to a decent school, and also enjoy your work, and also be able to look after your child yourself at home, whenever he isn’t in school, and also eventually pursue some sort of higher education.

These are not in any way unreasonable desires: on the contrary, they’re just the sorts of desires that are perfectly in line with your human dignity.

Then, under the five-part UBI in the USA-based social package I described, you could use your BI, and afford adequate housing and proper food, and also find a decent school for your son, and also take a 15-hour-per-week eco-job, which you enjoy, and also look after your child at home whenever he’s not in school, and also pursue your educational dreams part-time, without ever having to worry about falling back into poverty, or having either no or inadequate health care.

In short, you could have a good life.

Now, generalize and appropriately adapt that story to the 43 million people currently living in poverty in the USA, and to the 65 million people who are victims of the current global crisis of displaced humanity.

Therefore, if the comprehensive five-part social package consisting of UBI in the USA + FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs + HEWC + UFH + 2P-UOB, were to be implemented in the real world, say, over the next 4 to 8 years, then the USA would be well on its way to becoming a utopia now.

— Not only that, but the contemporary real-world alternative looks like this:

So what’s a better world: the USA as Utopia Now, or the USA as Trumpzilla On Wheels?

Therefore, I’ll conclude this essay post by answering my own initial question, UBI in the USA?, with an even more emphatic version of my initial answer:

Hell yes!

And to anyone who thinks it’s just impossible or simply can’t be done,

Je vous dis, merde!

***

“Je vous dis, merde!” (literally, “I say to you: shit!” or more loosely, “You’re so full of shit!”) is a morally and politically defiant slogan invented and first published by an early 20th-century Catalan anarchist who used the nom de guerre “Miguel Almereyda.” Almereyda, who was murdered in a French prison in 1917, was also the father of the famous French film director Jean Vigo, who immortalized the same slogan in his breakthrough 1933 film, Zéro de conduite, aka Zero for Conduct.

Here is the seven-part platform of The Wake The Fuck Up! Party , aka The WTFU Party —

1. Universal Respect for Human Dignity (URHD):

· Human dignity is the absolute non-denumerable moral value of every member of humanity, and everyone ought to try wholeheartedly to treat everyone else in a way that is sufficient to meet the demands of respect for human dignity, especially including (i) alleviating or ending human oppression, and (ii) actively engaging in mutual aid and mutual kindness.

2. Universal Basic Income (UBI):

· Anyone 21 years of age or over and living permanently in the USA, who has a personal yearly income of $50,000.00 USD or less, and who is capable of requesting their UBI, would receive $25,000.00 USD per year, with no strings attached.

3. A 15-Hour Workweek for Understaffed Non-Bullshit Jobs (FHW-for-UNBJs):

· Anyone 18 years of age or older who is living permanently in the USA, who has completed a high school education, and is mentally and physically capable of doing a job, would be offered an eco-job, paying a yearly wage of $25,000.00 USD, for fifteen hours of work (three 5-hour days) per week.

Thus anyone 21 years of age or older with a high-school degree and who is also mentally and physically capable of working, would have a guaranteed yearly income of at least $50,000.00 USD if they chose to do an eco-job.

The rationale behind the three-year gap between (i) being offered an eco-job at 18 and (ii) beginning to receive their UBI at 21, is that every young adult who has finished high school will have the option of pursuing three years of part-time or full-time free higher education without credentialing, i.e., for its own sake, after high school, before making longer-term decisions about what I call job-work and life-work.

***

Here are a few more details about UBI and eco-jobs.

(i) The UBI is to be paid by a monthly stipend check.

(ii) Eco-job income is not taxed.

(iii) For all individual yearly incomes of $50,000.00 USD or under, no tax will be levied; hence for someone receiving their UBI and also doing an eco-job, no income tax will be levied.

(iv) For all individual non-eco-job incomes, for every $1.00 USD earned above the standard UBI of $25,000.00 USD, the monthly UBI stipend is reduced by 50 cents, until the recipient’s UBI is reduced to zero; hence for those individuals with yearly non-eco-job incomes equal to or under $50,000.00 USD, the maximum UBI + non-eco-job income sum is always $50,000.00 USD.

(v) For all individual yearly incomes over $50,000.00 USD, for every $10,000.00 USD earned, that surplus income is taxed at the rate of 1%, with the highest surplus income tax rate being 50%; hence the maximum surplus 50% tax rate starts at individual yearly incomes of $550,000.00 USD, and applies to all higher surplus incomes.

***

4. Universal Free Higher Education Without Credentialing (HEWC):

· Everyone would be offered, beyond their high-school education, a free, three-year minimum, optional (but also open-ended beyond those three years, as a further option), part-time or full-time universal public education program in the so-called “liberal arts,” and also in some of the so-called “STEM” fields, including the humanities, the fine arts, the social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

· For many or even most people, their HEWC would fall between (i) the end of their high school education at age 18 and the corresponding availability of eco-jobs, and (ii) the beginning of their UBI at age 21.

· But HEWC would be open to anyone with a high school degree, no matter how old they are, provided they are mentally and physically capable of doing the program.

5. Universal Free Healthcare (UFH):

· Every human person living permanently in the USA will receive free lifelong healthcare.

6. 2-Phase Universal Open Borders (2P-UOB):

· Phase 1: Starting in 2021, there will be universal open borders with Canada and Mexico, and everyone who moves across those borders and then claims residence in the USA, will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the USA, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents to depend on the current availability of (i) adequate funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the USA, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the USA and elsewhere in the world.

· Phase 2: Also starting in 2021, the USA, Canada, and Mexico will collectively form a Global Refugee Consortium (GRC), with three-way open borders to any political refugee, economic refugee, or asylum seeker from anywhere in the world (aka “global refugees”), who will receive temporary or permanent residence in the USA, Canada, or Mexico, and also full membership in the system of UBI, FHW-for-UNBJs/eco-jobs, and UFH in the three GRC countries, with the precise number of new temporary or permanent residents, and the precise distribution of new residents among the three members of the GRC, to depend on the current availability of (i) funding for UBI, eco-jobs, and UFH , and (ii) adequate living accommodation, in the three GRC countries, provided that all new residents also fully respect the human dignity of everyone else in the GRC and elsewhere in the world.

7. Universal No-Guns (UNG):

· No one in the USA, including police, internal security forces of all kinds, armies, and intelligence forces of all kinds, has the moral right to possess or use guns of any kind, for any purpose whatsoever, because the primary function of guns is coercion, and coercion is immoral.

· UNG would be implemented by repealing the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in 2021 and then universally banning the possession or use of guns thereafter.

I’m also assuming that Universal Public Education (UPE) — universal free access for all human persons of any age to good public education up to the end of high school — already exists in most countries, and needs no further justification.

Where UPE does not already exist, it would automatically become a necessary part of the seven-part WTFU Party package, thereby making it a eight-part package.

Mr Nemo, Nowhere, NA, 27 April 2017

The WTFU Party is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store