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  • What happens when a government gives their citizens free money?

  • And - if it's coming from the government - is it really free?

  • l Hey guys, I'm Alex, this is NowThis World,

  • and on this episode, we're talking about Universal Basic Income, what it is, and why

  • it's becoming a popular subject of debate.

  • Following recent news that Finland opted out of continuing its UBI pilot program beyond

  • 2018, economists are questioning the sustainability of the controversial model.

  • We're taking a look at local and national governments around the world that have given

  • it a shot - and diving into the question: could a universal basic income work for the

  • U.S.?

  • First - let's break it down.

  • Though it comes in different shapes and sizes, universal basic income is an economic concept

  • in which everyone gets an equal amount of money from the government, every month, no

  • strings attached.

  • So whether you're unemployed or working, low-income or in the 1%, the same check will

  • always come.

  • And nobody will tell you how to spend it.

  • Supporters say the idea is that providing folks with a security net won't encourage

  • them to stop working, but actually give them the freedom to pursue work they're really

  • interested in, and restore economic security.

  • Some liberal proponents argue that increasing taxes on corporations and the wealthy to help

  • support a universal income could be a positive way to help out low-income communities, while

  • some conservative supporters like the idea that a successful UBI could replace what they

  • deem as costly and ineffective social services like food stamps, job training, Medicaid,

  • and more.

  • The idea has gained steam in recentyears, with 48% of Americans supporting a universal

  • basic income program as of 2017, a number which, according to economist Karl Widerquist,

  • has skyrocketed up from 12% just 10 years ago.

  • But it's not a new concept.

  • As far back as 1516, philosopher Thomas More proposed a similar idea in his book Utopia.

  • In a 1792 pamphlet, founding father Thomas Paine proposed a basic income forevery

  • person, rich or poor.”

  • And 20th century leaders from Milton Friedman to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., spoke out about

  • the potential for a basic income to help different communities out of poverty.

  • And under President Nixon, a plan nearly passed to establish a guaranteed minimum income in

  • the early '70s.

  • Fast forward to today, and the concept is the subject of books, documentaries, and countless

  • academic panels.

  • It's got big-name backers from Elon Musk, to Mark Zuckerberg, to Senator Bernie Sanders,

  • who said he's “sympatheticto the approach.

  • Countries around the world have piloted versions of the UBI experiment including Kenya, Canada,

  • Finland, the Netherlands, and Spain, with proposed versions in places like India and

  • Scotland.

  • It's even been tested in a few U.S. cities - but, would it be a viable option for the

  • American economy?

  • Let's look at the pros and cons.

  • We asked UBI expert and advocate Sandhya Anantharaman for her take on why some feel the concept

  • is gaining steam.

  • Poverty is exhausting, and financial stress is exhausting, and it really limits the time

  • and space mentally that you have to work on great ideas.

  • So the idea is that, for people who are struggling to make rent payments, buy groceries, and

  • support their families, the stress can be overwhelming - and flat-out tiring.

  • But having a security net - of, say, $1000 per month, could clear up people's time

  • that they'd ordinarily spend stressing about where their next meal will come from, and

  • spend more time job-searching, volunteering, or participating in the economy.

  • Some participants in Finland's pilot program, which will run through the end of 2018, are

  • already reporting that their stress levels have decreased.

  • And while many critics argue that free cash would disincentivize work, supporters say

  • there's some evidence to the contrary.

  • In the 1960s we did a number of experiments around the country in different states to

  • test the impact of unconditional cash on work.

  • So essentially, do people work fewer hours or work for less money when you give them

  • unconditional support?

  • In a paper done by the Roosevelt Institute last year, they reexamined these experiments

  • and saw that there was essentially no reduction in work hours, so when you gave people unconditional

  • cash, you didn't see a decrease in the hours worked, instead folks just took the opportunity

  • to enjoy the stability that they had.

  • When we looked into the data Anantharaman references , it did indicate that some programs

  • resulted in “a slight reduction in work and earnings,” but also ultimately showed

  • that the experiments didn't result in the average worker leaving the labor force.

  • Of course, data from a few small experiments in the '60s isn't a perfect predictor

  • of what would happen in the U.S. economy today.

  • But another recent study by the Roosevelt Institute showed that the economy could stand

  • to gain trillions of dollars if UBI were to be successfully implemented.

  • Others argue that UBI is a good solution to the growing fear that automation will swallow

  • jobs and lead to mass unemployment.

  • Study results vary widely on how much of a threat automation actually is to the workforce.

  • Whatever the truth, the risk certainly feels real to some Americans.

  • Two-third of them think robots and computer will domuch of the work done by humans

  • within 50 years, according to a 2016 Pew study.

  • There have been other positive from similar pilot programs in other parts of the world,

  • too, including one in Dauphin, Canada.

  • So you saw kids, particularly young boys, stay in school longer, thanks to the cash

  • that their families had, because that means they didn't have to drop and get jobs, they

  • could stay in school.

  • You saw young mothers take more time off, particularly women who had just given birth

  • took time off to spend with their kids.

  • You also saw health outcomes go up.

  • You saw incidents of hospitalizations went down, you saw mental health go up.

  • And in Western Kenya - early results based on interviews with participants of the 12-year

  • pilot program showed reduced conflict and poverty.

  • And advocates of universal basic income in the U.S. argue it could actually build bipartisan

  • support , with a program that would both reduce social welfare programs and tax the wealthy.

  • Of course, critics of the concept argue there are many reasons UBI wouldn't work in the

  • U.S.

  • The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities suggests that even a cautious approach

  • to UBI would likely increase poverty rather than decrease it.

  • Their report shows that a monthly $900 for each American would cost about $3 trillion

  • annually.

  • Even if we just take into account the net cost of UBI rather than the gross, it's

  • still a huge cost - and would Americans really go for a major tax increase?

  • Some critics of the program also take issue with the fact that, unlike other social welfare

  • programs, UBI wouldn't specifically help low-income communities.

  • The same monthly check would arrive at Bill Gates' doorstsep as the average American.

  • And many argue creating something like a UBI would inevitably lead to the government having

  • to slash other social welfare programs.

  • And finally, another critique is that UBI could disincentivize work - critics argue

  • that people wouldn't feel the need to work or keep a job if they're receiving a free

  • check.

  • Most data we examined from pilot programs - both in the states and abroad - showed that

  • people generally kept working.

  • In some instances, part-time work even increased.

  • But some experts say that might only be the case if the cash subsidy is enough for people

  • to live on.

  • One thing critics and opponents agree on is that funding this program will come with one

  • heck of a price tag.

What happens when a government gives their citizens free money?

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What Countries Have Tried Universal Basic Income? | NowThis World

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    王惟惟 posted on 2018/09/05
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