The $3.8 trillion question

How would the government pay for universal basic income?

Universal basic income, rolled out across the U.S., would cost $3.8 trillion annually, or 21% of the nation's gross domestic product, if every American citizen were to receive $12,000 a year (the current threshold for poverty), according to a July 2018 paper, "Primer on Universal Basic Income," by Ray Dalio, co-chair of American investment-management firm Bridgewater Associates.

How to pay for all of that? Proponents of basic income have offered numerous ideas: a progressive income tax or a wealth tax; a carbon tax; or, as is done in Alaska, dividend distribution from the sale of natural resources.

Doing away with the country's non-health-related welfare programs could also partially fund a program: The Economist magazine created a basic-income calculator at that indicated the U.S. could pay $6,300 in basic income for each person if it eliminated those welfare programs. A $10,000-per-person program could be implemented with the infusion of the equivalent of an additional 7% of the gross domestic product.

Natalie Foster, co-chair of the nonprofit Economic Security Project, an advocate for universal basic income, notes that other resources also could be used as funding.

"If data is the new oil, we could harness some of the wealth from technology," she said, noting a recent proposal by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

During his State of the State speech in February, Newsom proposed a "data dividend" to be obtained from the tech sector.

"California's consumers should also be able to share in the wealth that is created from their data. And so I've asked my team to develop a proposal for a new data dividend for Californians, because we recognize that your data has value and it belongs to you," he said.

Levying a tax on companies that most benefit from automation is another idea, according to Juliana Bidadanure, the founder and faculty director of the Stanford Basic Income Lab.

Another idea: a sales tax on luxury goods, an idea that the Swiss held a referendum on in 2016. The referendum — which would have provided 500 Swiss francs ($2,555 in 2016) for adults and also 625 Swiss francs for each child — failed, however, with only 23% of voter approval.

Some research suggests that universal basic income is financially feasible. In a 2017 study, the left-leaning, nonprofit American think tank the Roosevelt Institute looked at three theoretical scenarios for unconditional cash assistance: $1,000 a month to all adults, $500 a month to all adults and a $250 a month child allowance. The Institute estimated that the federal spending program, conducted over eight years, would cost between $208 billion and $1.5 trillion.

The study looked at the effects using two different financing plans: increasing the federal debt or fully funding the spending with increased taxes on households.

Overall, the study found that the economy "can not only withstand large increases in federal spending but could also grow thanks to the stimulative effects of cash transfers on the economy."

"In fact, their analysis found that a guaranteed income could expand the economy by up to 12.56% over the baseline after eight years," Foster said.

Researchers haven't come to any conclusions on the long-term viability of universal basic income, but a 2016 study of the Alaska model indicated there could be some hiccups.

The study "Permanent Fund Dividends and Poverty in Alaska," by the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage, noted that per-capita payments in 2016 were smaller relative to personal income when compared to payments in the 1990s.

Over time, "the (Alaska) Permanent Fund principal and its associated earnings have increased. But the number of residents and their incomes have increased as well — although income growth just kept up with inflation.

"Recent (fund) payments, although generally larger than those in earlier years, have not increased as fast as inflation and therefore represented a smaller percentage of per-capita personal income than (dividends) during much of the 1990s," authors Matthew Berman and Random Reamey noted.

This article is part of a larger story on universal basic income, which can be found here.


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14 people like this
Posted by Paul C.
a resident of Midtown
on May 17, 2019 at 12:50 pm

Here is a very good session of UBI number crunching and a rational debate.

Web Link

Freedom Dividend Fund (FDF) - This is a new term I imaged - a fund from people who do not need the UBI but will anyway get it, they can pick and contribute to some radically New Job Creation Ventures and see how their venture at work.

UBI experiment is fun to watch how people spend it - Create a hashtag such as #Freedom and people can be encouraged to post videos, pictures, or simply tweets of their ideas of how they will usefully spend their monthly Freedom Dividend. This needs to seeded with a dozen examples and stay organized to make it enjoyable to check out frequently.

20 people like this
Posted by The Concept Works!
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 17, 2019 at 1:01 pm

In Sweden, a guaranteed basic income, government health care benefits and mandatory paid 25 day vacation periods works wonders.

We will returning to Stockholm ASAP. Living in America is a DRAG.

26 people like this
Posted by gare-n-teed!
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 17, 2019 at 1:04 pm


Ask the socialists up in Alaska.

10 people like this
Posted by Le plus ça change...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2019 at 2:38 pm

This is a tough conversation to engage in, because if I could just (within the time and resources of an ordinary person in a way that doesn't interfere with life) enforce the existing contracts I have had throughout life, with banks, insurance companies in the event of major casualties and major health problems, technology companies, financial services companies, lawyers, telecom companies, car and other consumer goods companies, etc etc, I would be millions richer today. I could create a whole reality TV show around it. Your money or your life? A whole bunch of people in Northern CA disasters are about to learn all about the guardrails they paid money for that aren't really bolted down.

I remember listening to a radio show in which someone wealthy spoke about learning of a group of poor women who were not getting the benefit of having their paychecks put into banks and at least earn the interest -- completely oblivious to the advantage those women were creating for themselves of not having their wages stolen unpredictably through ever changing fines fees and other forms of financial predation from the goliaths of this country.

It's also hard to hear about all the jobs that are going to be obsoleted by AI when I limp along unable to use my technology the way I need it because goliaths like Apple deliberately obsolete them to sell more and pay absolutely no attention whatsoever to serving me better for all that money I shell out.

The situation is highly analogous to that movie with Bradley Cooper - Limitless - in which people take a drug that makes them superpowerful and better in every way for just awhile, and then it wears off and they spend all their time and focus trying to get that back and get more doses, but they are only ever a shell of what they were and would have been better had they had never used it and had not become dependent on it in the first place. (Where the analogy falls apart in today's world is that it's really not a choice like a drug in a movie.)

Instead of the Six Million Dollar Man model where we get stronger, faster, etc from technology, we get the Limitless or Terminator model. Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we SHOULD.

I would much rather see government supporting opportunity, proper regulations, and making it easier for people to lead their lives by creating opportunity (like education and healthcare), easily enforced regulations, and self-enforcing laws (in which ordinary people can leverage the right thing at the point of every interaction).

An example of self-enforcing laws, in the '70s our society was suffering from predatory mail order -- companies would send people unsolicited merchandise and then if it wasn't returned fast enough, they would proceed to collections. Lots of people paid just to make it go away. It became a huge problem. Everyone was affected, even members of Congress took it up because they were hit. Such a scheme not only shakes people down for money, it's aggravation, stress, loss of time and control in people's lives. When hit by more and more of it, it could destroy whole families.

When Congress took it up, companies claimed it would hurt the economy, jobs, etc, if it were stopped or regulated. Congress could have made regulatory laws trying to differentiate the good actors from the bad ones, or made rules about how long people have to return things, what recourse they have in court, etc. Instead, very late in the process, someone had the brilliant idea of making it so that if someone sends you something you didn't overtly ask for, then it is yours to keep. It stopped the whole thing overnight, and it not only didn't hurt the economy, it redeemed mail order as a respected sector of our economy since then. Rules that put the time and autonomy of ordinary human beings FIRST ended up being good for the economy, and they were certainly good for ordinary people.

An upgrade that causes me lost time and that damages my personal productivity and workflow and makes my device function worse or essentially bricks it isn't an upgrade. That's false advertising, unethical, shoddy... I and everyone else should have easy recourse against a company that does that, so they are never tempted to do anything called an "upgrade" that isn't really, the very first time it happens. Such a situation could only be in an economic world in which the laws respect my time and autonomy as a human being and these are protected above the interests of the predatory goliaths.

In short, why isn't anyone thinking of AI that works for individuals (rather than shelling out some dough that someone will quickly figure out how to cheat most of them of)? Why isn't anyone thinking of AI that catches and sets straight these kinds of injustices before they can affect lots of people? The Internet came about because of a government project. Hoover dam, ditto. Going to the moon. The Interstate highway system, the ports, the airports, our public health system, etc etc etc. My health insurance company uses AI now to settle insurance claims, and as a result, after more than a dozen phone calls and letters, I have just received $85 for an undisputed claim from four years ago. That's just one of MANY. Why isn't the AI being developed to PREVENT that kind of thing from happening to people (and no, I do not have a right to sue, millions of people in this country are not, by law, protected by state insurance laws).

It seems to me that people on the left would do better, instead of serving up a warmed up version of Communism, to go after the unproven economic ideas from the right that have resulted, rather predictably, in this very imbalanced economic situation and the loss of power and wealth and autonomy among everyone on the bottom.

This extreme inequality was always going to be the result, and if it is NOT dealt with, it always ends in violence and extremism (which those at the top NEVER see coming). What we got from advantaging people with power is plutocracy, which is kind of like monarchy but without the noblesse oblige. You can have good economies with strong en leaders and monarchies, but what you can't have is democracy that works for everyone. (It has been painful to watch the last 30 years of the powerful on the Right manipulating The People to hate and give way the source of their own power, their government of by and for the people.)

Strengthen the power of and the rights of people. Strengthen opportunity and vibrancy of our democracy. Those on the right would do well to heed the lessons of the past and support it, because the rise of the extreme left (which we haven't seen yet, this is NOT it) is inevitable in answer to the extreme right we've seen arise from the whole plutocracy/permanent Republican-majority (i.e. anti-democracy movement to destroy the marketplace of ideas)/teaparty/laissez-faire economic scam. (I can say that because Reagan's own budget director admitted the whole thing was a scam made up in order to cut top tax rates.) Where are the people on the left willing to go after those damaging ideas and restore healthy balance in our democracy? Again, warmed over Communism is like demanding affordable housing in an area with too many jobs for the infrastructure, when it's a lot easier and beneficial to incentivize and invest in better distributing the job centers throughout the state -- it sounds good but the devil is in the details.

8 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2019 at 9:14 am

UBI is basically what SF had before Care Not Cash passed when Newsom was mayor.

Cash handouts didn't work in SF. All it did was cause a spike in ER visits twice a month and people driving in from Reno to get their handout. Why does anyone think it would work in a bigger scale?

Furthermore, it's just an injection of capital into the market. When there's more capital, there's more demand for everything, causing inflation. It's just like the easy student loans led to college tuition inflation.

It's all magical thinking.

7 people like this
Posted by john_alderman
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2019 at 9:39 am

john_alderman is a registered user.

@The Concept Works! - Sweden doesn't have, and has never had UBI. But enjoy your trip, it is beautiful country.

32 people like this
Posted by The Concept Works!
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 18, 2019 at 6:16 pm

> Sweden doesn't have, and has never had UBI.

It is currently on a referendum (as in Switzerland) but there is more income equality in Sweden than in the US.

Plus...most US companies are too cheap to allow 25 days vacation.

27 people like this
Posted by Le plus ça change
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2019 at 7:03 pm

The minimum salary in Switzerland already exceeds $30/hr and is the result of strong unions negotiating them.

7 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on May 19, 2019 at 2:16 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I’m waiting for the panel about uploading my consciousness into the cloud and thereby living long enough to see total Fascism in the former USA.
Or as Bill Withers said: use me, until you use me up.

2 people like this
Posted by Wsc
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 20, 2019 at 6:07 am

“De-incentivize?” What an appalling trashing of the English language.

8 people like this
Posted by george drysdale
a resident of Professorville
on May 20, 2019 at 9:21 am

Economics. Already the national debt is as high as just after the second world war. On paper the U.S. is already bankrupt with interest on the debt headed toward wiping out all other expenses. The basic cause the U.S. has twice the number of people already on the dole as other developed nations. It's in the numbers but the rhetoric sounds good. Welcome to California.

George Drysdale land economist

22 people like this
Posted by Ronnie
a resident of Woodside
on May 20, 2019 at 1:50 pm

"The basic cause the U.S. has..."

Cut taxes for billionaires too many times.

Bush took Clinton's budget surplus and ran a trillion dollar deficit.

Trump handed 2 trillion over to billionaires and corporations.

Get real, George.

12 people like this
Posted by sewuzy
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 22, 2019 at 1:52 am

[Post removed due to copyright infringement.]

18 people like this
Posted by gare-n-teed!
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 22, 2019 at 7:24 am

>> The basic cause the U.S. has twice the number of people already on the dole as other developed nations.

George: your sources, please.

I keep hearing how we don't want to be a 'socialist' country like "dem durn eur-o-pens". According to you, we're 'worse' than them.

Any comments on Alaskan incomes? Seems quite popular. Is it just a fringe Alaskan Socialist Party?

Like this comment
Posted by Bill Miller
a resident of Downtown North
on May 22, 2019 at 7:30 pm

The first issue/objection that routinely comes up in discussions about basic income is its potential cost — “How will we pay for it?” Along with a reimagining of the social contract as the above article alludes, an updated awareness of the nature, purpose, and potential of modern money is needed. Despite other advancements of modern society, our conceptions of money are superstitiously stuck in feudal times.

For a proposal toward instituting a UBI without new taxes or redistribution, please see:

Web Link

Further, a counterproductive popular misunderstanding about modern money:

Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 23, 2019 at 9:26 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Note on Ford Foundation Reference above - I am a former employee of a Ford company (Ford Aerospace & Communications Company) and still have Ford stock. Back in the day is was gold plated. Now Ford Stock is barely on the market. So the economy has shifted in a way that is less supported by unions. The economy today is not able to provide UBI. Our economic structure is not the same as Sweden. Our land mass and population is far greater than Sweden. What works in a European setting is not going to work in the US. And if we had stayed in the Paris Accord we would simply be an ATM card for the EU countries who are struggling themselves to maintain their status quo. They desperately need money to support their activities both in Europe and their former colonies in Africa who are supposedly "independent" but still have the major EU business operations on-going within those countries.

So comparisons to other countries and non-profit foundations who may also be on squeaky grounds and relying on past glory should not be taken as relevant to today.

Is this the "new world order" I see floated about? Everyone looking for a free ATM card.

26 people like this
Posted by gare-n-teed!
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 23, 2019 at 9:57 am

>> The economy today is not able to provide UBI

Yet it is able to give trillions in tax cuts to billionaires? Funny how that works.

2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 23, 2019 at 10:55 am

Too many grasshoppers, not enough ants.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 23, 2019 at 3:44 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Is the billionaire going to give everyone an ATM card for free? Billionaires manage their portfolios and give to selected charities of their special interests. Do not count on being one of their special interests - you will lose.

26 people like this
Posted by Trump Foundation Gal
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2019 at 8:20 am

"Billionaires manage their portfolios and give to selected charities of their special interests."

Some. But there are a lot of demonstrable exceptions.

Trump proved through his fraudulent, now shuttered Trump Foundation that he gave "to selected charities of their special interests" - himself.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 24, 2019 at 8:51 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Unbelievable - Some are trying to float a socialist program - is that the New World Order by attacking the President who has tried to put more jobs back into America. And if you can read a newspaper then he is accomplished that. If you are living in PA then you have already accomplished some mark of accomplishment. And it was not by getting a free ATM card. You all had to do that the old fashion way. By going to school and working at a job. All of the places you use as a benchmark - in Europe - have a different taxation process, different set of commercial and government ventures, and are all struggling with the EU trying to direct traffic and tell everyone how to live. The great EU experience is falling apart so please do not try and push their agenda and tell everyone how happy they are. Your daily newspaper says otherwise.

14 people like this
Posted by Trump Foundation Gal
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2019 at 9:25 am

"who has tried to put more jobs back into America"

By giving away trillions to billionaires and corporations. Corporations that didn't use the tax cuts for jobs, but mostly for stock buybacks, etc.. (see Forbes: "Why The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act (TCJA) Led To Buybacks Rather Than Investment") Web Link

"then he is (sic) accomplished that"

Take a look at any monthly jobs chart and it's obvious that current job growth is just tracking the Obama Recovery from the Bush Great Recession, not from anything Trump did (and there's only one thing Trump did, a failed tax cut for billionaires.)

Web Link

Note the chart - the disaster from Bush through our current recovery, Trump thus far hasn't Gus Grissom'd it, yet. Roughly same job growth the Obama established over 8 years during the Obama Recovery.

If you are seriously interested in debate - comment on the numbers, not the fantasy.

4 people like this
Posted by Clinton Foundation Guy
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2019 at 9:30 am

> Trump proved through his fraudulent, now shuttered Trump Foundation that he gave "to selected charities of their special interests" - himself.

Sounds just like the Clinton Foundation! So what's the difference?

They're all the them .orgs for personal money laundering.

30 people like this
Posted by Trump Foundation Gal
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2019 at 10:16 am

The Trump Foundation was shut down. Trump didn't even argue.

The Clinton Foundation continues to provide millions in aid. There have been no charges other than by Fox and the rest of the fringe loons.

Please prove your statements:
- the falsehood: that Clintons weree like the crooked Trump Fdtn "their special interests" - himself."
- the falsehood: "personal money laundering"

You can't, can you?


Such a fringe Fox racket that sucks in the low information voter:

"The Clinton Foundation has received 3 consecutive 4-star ratings from Charity Navigator."

"...the operations of Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity that has announced intentions to dissolve ... For this reason, we have issued a High Concern Charity Navigator Advisory"

Like this comment
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 24, 2019 at 10:22 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

The Pelosi's are one of the richest families in the state. You can add the Feinstein-Blums in that category. Would you like to add the Zuckerberg's? And that is just the bay area. Go down to LA for the rest of the billionaires in the state. Yes - there are billionaires all over the place - get over it. I don't notice them running around touting the universal payment plan. Using the "billionaire" argument does not fly given the area we live in. And the Clinton Foundation is famous for receiving donations from foreign countries after official government visits to those locations, plus speaking fees to Bill which are outrageous. That is the great shakedown. Mr. Amazon just wants tax free locations - which is another shakedown.

But if you are in the great EU then Brussels would be shaking you down to support their very monied group who wants to control the world - same as they did back in the good old colonial days. They have the Paris Accord which simulates the great colonial good old days. No -we are not going there.

1 person likes this
Posted by Backyard
a resident of Mountain View
on May 24, 2019 at 10:54 am

@Trump gal, why don’t you start in our own backyard?
Web Link

26 people like this
Posted by Trump Foundation Gal
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2019 at 11:09 am


Thanks. Appreciate that you didn't try defending your false claims about jobs. Respect. That chart from BLS really got ya, eh? Happy to educate.

Always love, when their falsehoods fail, that so many try to attack others: the Pelosi's, etc.. Bet you love that phony, doctored video of Nancy Pelosi that Trump sent out! So presidential!

5 people like this
Posted by Clinton Foundation Guy
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2019 at 1:11 pm

Not just from FOX-NEWS but other creditable sources. Bill 'Bubba' Clinton will accept money from anybody!

Web Link

Web Link

Charley Navigator isn't seeing the light of day...

Web Link

24 people like this
Posted by Trump Foundation Gal
a resident of Downtown North
on May 24, 2019 at 3:13 pm

You're joking, right?

First you claim money laundering at the Clinton Foundation, then your proof is a 2 year old op-ed by Theisen??? Sad.

Your second op-ed, 3 years old, concludes"These allegations, IF TRUE, are at least as egregious as what the Clinton Foundation has been accused of."

"IF TRUE"????? That's your 'evidence'??? Weak!

Your 3rd hit-peice says: "Despite the suspicions conservatives have long raised about the Clinton Foundation, Charity Navigator, a group that rates the fundraising and spending practices of non-profits, gives it high marks. The foundation spends 87 percent of what it raises on the programs it supports, a higher share than most of its peers."

Charity Navigator is the gold standard, even your links imply that fact. You offer weak opinions, not facts.

You claimed: "MONEY LAUNDERING".

You lie. Go back to fox. They love you. They know you can't be bothered with facts. They really really love that demographic.

from YOUR link:

"The (Clinton) foundation spends 87 percent of what it raises on the programs it supports, a higher share than most of its peers."

1 person likes this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 24, 2019 at 5:48 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

This is like a bunch of people having a food fight and throwing jello at each other. Give it up - you are not going to change any minds here. And the jello you are throwing is melting and falling down the wall.

3 people like this
Posted by Bacjyard
a resident of Mountain View
on May 24, 2019 at 7:44 pm

Especially when Trump Gal refuses to acknowledge the nepotism of the CA Democrat party.

5 people like this
Posted by Clinton Foundation = A Cash Cow For Chelsea
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2019 at 7:56 pm

And let's not forget Chelsea and her benefits from being associated with the Clinton Foundation. Incredible.

Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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