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My Responses to the Responses to the Basic Income Article in Newsweek

Scott Santens
Scott Santens
7 min read

This weekend Newsweek joined the mainstream media club to write favorably of basic income. Please read the article if you haven't already done so.

I think it's important in an article like this to get a feeling for how people are reacting to the idea and try to best answer them appropriately. And so the following are some of the comments to the article and my responses to them.

Give everyone a basic income check and you have just zeroed out everyone. If everyone's starting point is $15,000 instead of $0, then the cost of things will go up to reflect this. It boggles my mind that people don't understand this. It will not work. The bigger question is where is this play money supposed to come from? We are trillion$$$ in debt that we cannot pay off, and now this proposal is to add unconditional gifts of money to everyone? MERRY CHRISTMAS! This article continues to prove that Gruber was right about the stupidity of Americans.

I know it sounds really simple, this idea that a basic income will just immediately lead to a new zero and so the idea is just retarded, but there's a lot of variables involved in an equation like this. If you want to learn about what they are, here's something to read. It provides a summary of the many variables and will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the complexities involved.

And if you want to learn more about where the money comes from, just read the article it is in response to, at the top of the page.

How about only basic needs coming through the churches and not the government and how about not giving amnesty to illegals. I am sure Mexico is going to follow suit and give each family money. This is about as dumb a system as I have ever heard of. Good grief!

Because that doesn't work. Our private safety nets are strained past capacity. They were never meant to pull the weight they are pulling. You may be surprised to learn they are actively failing. This is also why we are actually beginning to see food banks themselves pushing for basic income. Food banks know that if everyone can afford their own food, there is less need for food banks, and they can focus their resources on those that will still need help with a basic income.

Churches and food banks can not make an industrialized economy in the 21st century work better. Basic income can.

Scott Santens You are kidding right? Mexico already dumps its unwanted into the US. You cannot have open borders and a welfare state. Mexico will never do anything to change its corrupt kleptocracy. Other countries won't follow. They will just do what Mexico does. Ending all welfare will do more to end poverty than expanding it. Apply the Christian model for charity. Those who can help themselves but just need a hand up through no fault of their own, and those who are disabled and unable to care for themselves. And stop all programs that incentivize the destruction of families (LBJ's plan) For those who live entirely on the dole, $15K will be up to a 70% cut in benefits. In MA the total benefits are equal to nearly $50K a year full time work.

Mark Kelcourse , No I'm not kidding, but I wish you were because the very idea of dropping all safety nets and hoping private charity will pick up the slack is like uninstalling your car brakes and relying on prayer to prevent future accidents.

Why should someone get $15,000 for doing nothing? They shouldn't. It's not my responsibility to support anyone but me and my family. PERIOD.

Because you get it too. Why should someone on welfare get $15,000 while you earn $15,000 from work? That's the way things currently are. A basic income means that all work pays more than not working, and it's the only way to accomplish that. As soon as we pull benefits away for working, we provide a strong work disincentive, and that's exactly what we have right now.

Meanwhile, if you think that anyone not working should get $0 and that only those who can find jobs earn income, which by the way there aren't enough of for everyone who wants one to get, then we will just achieve complete social collapse.

People who can't find work or even choose not to work (and instead volunteer and do care work and countless other forms of unpaid work) require a safety net. And the only way to design a safety net without a welfare trap is to not pull it away once someone no longer needs it, and instead treat it as a bonus for work. That's how basic income works, and it'll create a far better system with far better outcomes for everyone, including you.

If you want to learn more about our current counterproductive welfare system and how much room for improvement it has, here's an article to consider.

[Those with higher incomes paying more back than receiving in basic income] would be defeating of the concept.

No it wouldn't. Replacing subsidies with cash actually makes a lot of sense. Right now the poor get stuff like food stamps, the middle class get stuff like the home mortgage interest rate deduction, and the rich get stuff like the laws they pay lawmakers to pass for them.

A basic income allows for the elimination of subsidies, making all for this welfare that everyone already gets fully transparent.

Seems to me if we're already okay with those with higher incomes paying say $15,000 in taxes and getting $15,000 in deductions or subsidies or whatever else we don't see as welfare because it's for the middle class and the rich instead of poor people, than why not be okay replacing the existing subsidy with money?

If someone wants $15,000 a year knocked off the price of their mortgage, why not just not do that and give $15,000 cash? That's the economically more sound thing to do.

To read: Cash transfers can work better than subsidies.

There is one additionall thing missing in article. How much do you spend on police and dealings with side effects of crime and poverty? That could be additionall saving for tax payers. And payoffs? There is nothing more common than wasted talent. In plenty of cases it's because it's really f-k hard to learn well when you are really poor. It's not only cash, it's also social pression, how people look at you, how your parents argue because of lack of money, how your collegues are awesome when they get so needed money by selling weed. It's also really hard to pursue your own talents and ideas when you have to work 40hr/day to pay bills.

Exactly! Actually the estimate of how much money we waste on our criminal systems and our medical systems due to allowing poverty to continue and all the effects it has on people and society is over $1 trillion every year. Yes, trillion with a "T", annually.

Meanwhile, we know from the Mincome program in Manitoba, Canada that hospital use declined almost 10% by providing a minimum income there, and in Namibia, a basic income experiment there showed a decrease in crime rates of over 40%. And that's average. Extreme crimes, as in only those crimes people do because they feel they have no other choice, went down even more. Poaching went down 95%! That is a massive increase in crime that should drop our collective jaw.

We should all know the nugget of wisdom that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Well, that's basic income. By spending money on basic income, we will grow our GDP while simultaneously reducing our wasted spending on crime and health care.

Once we understand that, we can understand how a basic income essentially pays for itself, and does so in spades.

The free enterprise system that has made the USA the most prosperous country ever on the planet requires incentives. Why go to school if what is needed to survive is provided free to all? Why strive for a higher education, why invest time and money in a business? Communism (or whatever new name you come up with for that system) sounds wonderful and kind, but does not work well in practice. We would be better served unwinding much of the socialism out of our system, leaving only a basic net for those that are not capable of working or producing. Reward what you want more of (production) and not what you want less of (able people surviving on the fruits of others labor). People that are producing and contributing are happy, able people surviving on the dole are not.

You ask "why invest time and money in a business?" That's a very good question. Now ask if you are more likely to invest time and money in a business if failure means destitution, or if failure only means failure and the freedom to just try again? Right now very few people are becoming entrepreneurs, and this number has been trending downwards for a long time. Do you actually think there will be fewer incentives to create businesses once everyone has a basic income? Because that's not at all what the data shows from basic income pilots. Entrepreneurship increases. Small businesses thrive. That' what we want isn't it?

Good systems do require incentives, and the free enterprise system really does work, but it could work even better. Making something better does not mean you destroy it and turn it into communism.

We can make capitalism work better just as we can shift gears in a car to go faster using less fuel. That's what basic income will do, shift capitalism into a higher gear, where we leverage what we know from actual data and observations to improve the economy for everyone, billionaires included.

If you read this,  it goes into further details of how friendly to capitalism this idea actually is.

I for one love capitalism. And I also love basic income. They are not mutually exclusive and actually work very well together.

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Unconditional/Universal Basic Income (UBI) advocate with a crowdfunded basic income; Founder and President of ITSA Foundation, Author of Let There Be Money; Editor of