Opinion | UBI Is Not The Solution
By Omar Njie
Universal Basic Income, a non-means tested regular monthly income for every American citizen, something Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang dubbed as “The Freedom Dividend”, is gaining steam again thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic! First of all, I want to be sensitive to the fact that people are hurting financially, emotionally, and professionally! And whether you are directly or indirectly impacted by this nasty bug, these are trying times for America and the rest of the world…. we’re in this together, and as Warren Buffet said this past weekend, “nothing can stop America.” However, absolving individuals and society from responsibility and the government assuming the role of a sole provider is a non-starter! It has never worked, and it will not work this time!
The year was 1961, on a cold snowy day, a young elected President JFK uttered these words during his inauguration speech…..”Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.” Many Presidential historians believe that JFK felt so strongly about these words that he decided not to wear an overcoat despite the extremely cold weather that day. Almost 60 years later, his words still bear fruit …..hard work and giving back to society has been a core hallmark of the American identity!
UBI will guarantee a fixed amount of income to every American whether they add value to society or not, and it will inevitably diminish the dignity of labor – manual or intellectual and work eventually becomes optional! How on earth can any society thrive when people have the option to binge-watch on Netflix all day or sleep until noon and still get paid? My take on this is simple, if you are able-bodied and you can work….get a job! Yep….there is no free lunch in America, and this reminds me of the ant and the grasshopper fable! If you don’t work you don’t eat!
UBI will also perpetuate both our consumption habits and the transfer of wealth from those at the bottom of the food chain to the “one percenters”! And government will be the facilitator and coordinator of this wealth transfer this time! People will be more prone to squander money they didn’t earn, purchasing $1000 phones when they can’t afford it while making multi billion dollar Apple and Samsung corporations richer, and fortune 500 companies will also have a genuine excuse of not paying a living wage…..the gap between the rich and the poor will be astronomically high! I am all in for government interventions in times of crisis to help put out the fire, but people should also have a skin in the game! How about programs such as the depression era Works Project Administration to allow people to participate in the economy and be gainfully employed? Government handouts can be addictive, it has never worked to uplift people from poverty, and it will not be the silver bullet to our Covid-19 problems!
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