UBI Is Not Enough

Andrew Yang is getting attention for promoting an idea which has been gaining traction for some time. Universal Basic Income or UBI.

I have written about UBI on several occasions. I am very much in favor of it. More and more jobs are being eliminated thanks to automation, while centralization has eliminated millions of jobs over the past 25 years. Much of that is thanks to advances in technology making it more efficient and cost-saving for companies to condense business operations into much smaller remote locations with far fewer employees. None of those jobs will be coming back because they simply no longer exist.

UBI would definitely create jobs and boost the economy considerably by increasing consumer spending.

However, UBI would have to include other components to be effective.

First of all, it would be counterproductive to make it truly universal. There should be an income cap where a person is no longer eligible. For an arbitrary number, say $100,000 but research would be beneficial to determine the optimum average number. Beyond a certain income, an earner ceases spending and instead places money in savings and investments. Any calculations would have to consider not only wages but income from all sources, including capital gains. If a recipient used the funds for other than spending in the economy, the effect would be removing any UBI funds received by that person from the economy. Instead, it would be horded in banks and stocks.

Second and most crucial is that price caps would be necessary, especially such as rent controls and food price caps. This is not suggesting a simplistic approach. It would have to be calculated by city or region due to price fluctuations from one geographic location to another. Without price caps being imposed, capitalists would take advantage of the increased average income by increasing prices, leading to the fears many state of increased inflation, nullifying any benefit seen by UBI. Once again, the ultimate effect would be an increased flow of wealth to the top and the money would be removed from the economy.

I know some will claim that price caps are somehow un-American or anti-capitalist. Yet this country is no stranger to price caps. There were once price caps on many items in this country. The subsidies we still have on dairy products are a remnant of price controls which once existed. There would be nothing anti-capitalist about dynamic price controls based on market conditions and imposed as a profit percentage for producers and retailers. We definitely have the technological means today for such price controls to be implemented and merely doing so would create a fair number of jobs.

The fact is, the US uses price caps right this minute in a form. Of course, they are called any number of other names and are primarily for the benefit of corporations. I am talking about corporate subsidies. Some people will object to price caps when they benefit the people of this country but if their corporate masters benefit, it’s okay because “capitalism”. Some estimates say we subsidize fossil fuels to the tune of over $700 BILLION a year. The military contracting industry is not only subsidized but is wholly and completely dependent on federal funding. Ethanol is massively subsidized. It is possible that subsidies for some of these items help keep prices lower. However, without caps we can have no real idea. One thing is true, which is that subsidies do not come free of charge. They cost taxpayers and drive up the national debt, meaning the subsidies of today will cost taxpayers for entire generations.

I’d say if we can afford it for corporations, we should be able to afford it for the people of this country.

No matter what, UBI is not as simple a solution as it is promoted to be. It is well worth looking into and implementing. In fact, it is mandatory. Without it, the economy is likely to collapse over the next few years. Wait until autonomous vehicles are being used in mass numbers and millions of workers lose transportation jobs. By then a lot of damage will have been done, so it’s better we start acting on UBI now.

Federally Guaranteed Jobs Versus UBI

Certain presidential candidates are promoting the idea of a Federally Guaranteed Jobs program. This proposal is competing with the idea of UBI (Universal Basic Income) proposed by other candidates.

First of all, one has to take into consideration is the fact that a Federally Guaranteed Jobs program does not equate to guaranteed federal jobs.

Think of it in this way. For decades we have had a federally guaranteed student loan program and federally guaranteed home loans. In each of these cases, the services rendered are not provided by the federal government, they are farmed out to be provided by corporate entities. The corporations make the profits while the federal government acts as the collection agency for the corporations, ruining your life for years should you default on any “federal guarantee”. Simply put, they do not guarantee the loan or service, they only guarantee that they will put the screws to your thumbs to collect for the corporations.

Right now, while federally guaranteed jobs are being discussed, our government contracts out most of the work being done. Contracts out to corporate entities who do the work for corporate profit, that is. Road construction and repair, building design/construction/renovation, food production and delivery, weapons manufacturing and research. You name it, the government probably contracts for it.

So it most likely means that when we talk about federally guaranteed jobs, what we are really talking about is federally subsidizing corporate profits. Above and beyond the level to which we already subsidize corporate profits through government grants and subsidies. We subsidize corporations through welfare and food stamps, allowing them to continue to pay low wages while collecting inflated profits. We subsidize the current and past bailouts of corporate banks through quantitative easing and the repo market. We subsidize corporate profits through sanctions and tariffs and tax breaks. We subsidize profits for wealthy investors and executives through bankruptcy laws that allow for pre-bankruptcy dividends and post-bankruptcy bonuses for executives. All while writing off unpaid debts to other businesses and individuals who will be forced to also declare bankruptcy or increase prices for the debts they were unable to collect. We subsidize through slashed benefits and seized pension funds.

So, let’s expand on that further, right?

It is only a very small step between federally guaranteed jobs to federally mandated jobs.

A huge difference between UBI and federally guaranteed jobs is the chance for self advancement. UBI is suggested as an income for every person as a means of meeting their basic needs, hence the term “basic”. It should cover food, housing, shelter and ideally basic medical needs. Thus, if a person wishes to move beyond absolute basics in their existence, they can work part time or full time, even overtime as their needs or desires dictate. Their employment income serves as a means forward beyond mere existence.

With the guaranteed jobs program, this does not happen. The income from the job serves as nothing more than spinning your wheels. That job becomes your basic income. If you want to move ahead, you would be exactly where millions of Americans are at this exact moment. You would have to forfeit family and leisure time, subject yourself to more physical and emotional stress, chasing a higher income while paying more taxes in the process.

Which one sounds more like a move forward for our society, for the individual?

I have already written that UBI in and of itself would require additional measures to counterbalance the responses from capitalists. If you missed that article, you can find it here.

Automation- Your Job Is Not Safe From Indirect Effects, Pt 1- The Challenges

I’ve been writing about the effects of automation reducing jobs for several years now. More jobs are being eliminated through automation than the number sent to other countries.

Jobs which become automated will never come back. Period. The jobs do not even have to be automated in this country. They can be automated in another country. The result is the same, that the job no longer exists.

I still encounter people continuously that insist that technology creates more jobs than it eliminates. When challenged to explain how that works, they consistently fall silent. All they have is propaganda which they regurgitate, either programmed into them or which they directly promote with full knowledge that their words are false. Many of those who have challenged my statements work in the tech and robotics field, trying to justify their positions. I will admit that some of them seem to be trying to ease their own conscience. Sorry, I cannot be that nice to them.

I am not a Luddite or against technology. As a nurse, I prefer computer charting and despise paper charts. They’re a pain in many respects. They may be more secure for privacy but there have been many cases of paper charts being damaged, burned or destroyed. Once they’re gone there is no backup, they’re just gone. Forever. Plus the whole thing of chasing down the single copy of a chart when multiple offices or doctors want to access it while medical records sits on their thumbs is not fun, to say the least. As a writer, this effort relies almost exclusively on technology. Accessing information today takes a fraction of the time it once did. Sharing valid information is done in milliseconds. Mass social movements can be built in short order in this way. Independent media relies on technology, allowing us to bypass the multibillion dollar corporate propaganda machine.

Their rationale fails every time. The point where the tech propagandists fall is when I ask them to explain why companies would invest in expensive systems to reduce labor, when it would only result in more labor cost. I’ve stated before how jobs for auto workers, telephone operators, print setters, proof readers, toll booth attendants, accountants, bank tellers, cashiers, file clerks, manufacturing jobs and many more have been eliminated due to technological advances. Once systems are built, it takes only a few workers to maintain them. Updating software is done remotely, so one worker in another state or country can maintain systems. One or two technicians for a large company or from a contractor can maintain hardware for a city or several cities. Repairs are a matter of replacing disposable components.

No, trades are not safe. Of late, I have heard from people who say that trades are secure. No, they’re not. One person replied to a comment by saying he is a painter who does mold remediation. I concede that his job is secure. For the moment. Yet over time it will not be. This is true for many occupations.

The threat does not need to be a direct one.

The race is on. On his own statement, I directed him to do a search on YouTube. Right now there are many companies and universities in multiple countries developing home painting systems. Each one first does scanning and mapping of the space to be painted, stores a 3D model and then starts painting. So they are not limited to a set environment. It is a race for the first system to be patented and implemented. These systems do not do remediation but focus on viable structures and new construction.

Now, think about the implications.

Overcrowding. I’ll stick with the home painting issue as an example. Painters do not all do remediation. However, once robotic systems become widely used which eliminate an ever-growing number of jobs for new and stable construction, painters who relied on new or stable construction for income will acquire new skills which add on the their existing skills. Like mold remediation. This results in increased competition, driving down prices for remediation. Reduced pricing then results in reduced income per contract. The number of contracts will remain constant, while more workers will be competing for them. Less income per job, fewer jobs available.

Expand the concept. I have challenged the growing cry of people claiming that trade skills are secure. See that article here. However, let’s say that they are correct and I am wrong. If other occupations continue being eliminated while trade/vocational occupations remain secure, what happens? You’ve seen this before. What happens is that the number of people entering those careers skyrockets. The field becomes overcrowded, competition for those jobs becomes fierce, driving down wages and available opportunities are spread among a greater number of workers.

Ask a Programmer. One of the claims that will not go away is that there is an increasing need for programmers. That information is sorely outdated. Years ago, there was a demand for programmers who developed entire programs and systems. Those who had the skills could demand high wages. Today, thanks to competition, a programmer who could once demand $100 an hour can barely demand $30 and have to compete for that. Today, rather than building programs and systems, we have developers who develop applications or “apps” which run on top of operating systems. In many cases, apps can be developed with drag-and-drop programs developed by someone else. Even that has seen competition which demands short development time, perhaps only a few hours, at lower cost, meaning less income. In fact, tech development has resulted in systems which can create simple apps with no human programming needed. Tell the system what you want the app to do and it compiles an app for you with pre-written scripts pasted together. Developers have developed themselves out of jobs.

We already see the effects. The dwindling number of remaining occupations, the increasing number of applicants into these occupations is already apparent. Careers which once demanded high skill levels have been “dummy-proofed” through technology. That means fewer literal skills are required for most occupations. That means companies can pay less to workers and offer fewer benefits. Corporations can move entire operations to different states or countries and hire people with no skills at all. Just follow simple instructions for actions they repeat all day, every day for years. Auto workers demand far less pay than they once did. Programmers rarely program. Cashiers don’t have to be accurate. Trust me, I used to run a manual cash register. Riveters don’t rivet, they push a button and the robot rivets.

Many jobs are centralized. Talk to a telephone operator in your own state lately? Customer service technician in your own country? When you get invasive sales calls, chances are they are in New Mexico, Texas or some other country routed through a US number. I lived in San Antonio and New Mexico and those jobs have a high level of competition. My brother made a decent income decades ago as a telephone sales person for the San Antonio Light Newspaper. The Light no longer exists, driven out of business by Rupert Murdoch long before Fox News ever existed.

Worker productivity. We hear reports on financial news that worker productivity keeps rising. This is good news to investors, not to workers. Increased productivity means fewer workers are need to produce the same amount of goods. That means fewer jobs available. It’s that simple.

This is the end of part 1 of this series. Part 2 will delve into solutions.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

I am an independent writer with no corporate sponsors or backing. The only income I make from my writing comes from views. At least I have reached the point where it makes more than it costs me! lol! (Not by much.)My writing is done in between full time (and overtime) nursing, shared custody of my brilliant daughter and mundane existence.

I have opened my new website which is intended to be a central listing of protests and political rallies across the US. It’s still a work in progress but is functional. You can find it at http://RallyAndProtest.com

Please consider becoming a patron on Patreon. I try and average at least 20 articles a month, so a $1 a month donation would come down to 5¢ per article to support independent, non-corporate writing. My Patreon page is here.

If you care to share articles with those who do not have Medium or Patreon accounts, I also post most of my articles on my own website, which has no advertising and I pay for with income from writing. My website is at https://issuesunite.com/ and all articles can be shared freely. You can always quote me, no attribution required. My goal is spreading information and awareness. The whole point is building a better, more peaceful, more equitable world for us and future generations.

Rising Cry For Vocational Education

I’ve been seeing a rising tide of cries for people to forget about college or university education and instead seek training for trade schools, such as carpentry, construction, welding, etc.

Many of those endorsing this claim to be Progressives. In truth, they tend to be centrist Establishment neoliberals. Ones who oppose universal adult education and want to maintain the status quo.

The time for trade schools is long past. At least for anyone who is realistic.

Millions of jobs over many decades have been mechanized and automated. Auto workers, machinists, print setters, wood working, highway construction among these jobs. Technological advancements have reduced labor jobs. Plastics and synthetics have replaced wooden floors, furniture, cabinets, etc. We are now seeing 3D printed buildings with lab experiments to 3D print skyscrapers utilizing carbon nanotubules by robotic construction machines. Autonomous vehicles are being worked on furiously by multiple competing companies. Once developed, they will eliminate millions of jobs, from low to living wage. Some autonomous vehicles are already being tested on highways at this very moment. How much effort do you think it will take to develop robots to do new welding for major projects? Or oil well drilling? Laying building foundations?

This is the future we are facing right now.

One of the biggest advantages to a college/university education is being taught critical thinking skills. In other words, being taught how to think, how to be unafraid of asking valid questions, challenge the established narrative. Of course, this is a large reason higher education is being priced out of the affordable range of lower income people, leaving them relegated to low wage, “unskilled” jobs. Forever.

Then those jobs are being eliminated on a daily basis. Telephone operators, customer service agents (dial “1” to eliminate another worker’s income), file clerks, bank tellers, toll booth operators, cashiers. Even movie projectionist is a job which no longer exists. Walk through your local theater and you will instead see a room full of computer servers. Work is progressing to replace fast food cooks with robots. How long do you think it will be before your pizza delivery arrives by drone?

It’s not only labor jobs being replaced in many cases. Computer software has long replaced a huge percentage of many professions. You don’t need a lawyer or paralegal to write your will. Get a program for a fraction of the cost, write your own will and have it notarized. Same with articles of incorporation of your business. Accountants. Proof readers. Traffic cameras take your picture running a light and send you a ticket with no human input required.

Scream and cry about immigrants all you like. Immigrants did not take these jobs away from you. Complain about these jobs being exported. In some cases, those jobs aren’t even filled by human beings in other countries but more machines.

Translation: Those jobs are never coming back.

Which brings up another aspect of the argument some people use in favor of trade schools. Some wish to claim that these trades are secure, will always be with us, that they provide a future. Problem is, with so many other jobs ceasing to exist, it means there are fewer consumers who can afford to pay the people in those trades. That alone will reduce the number of jobs in the trades which will provide a living wage for the few jobs that remain. Then the positions will have so many applicants that it will drive wages down further.

Simply put, if you think trade/vocational schools or apprenticeships will provide a future, you’re sadly mistaken. I’m afraid that belief is a sign that either you are highly privileged, your opinions are decades out of date and/or you really should have paid more attention in college, yourself. We are living in very different times.

Now, look more closely at Universal Basic Income.

A Deeper Look At Universal Basic Income

The idea of a Universal Basic Income or UBI has been gaining wider attention, both good and bad. Of course, some claim it would be a panacea of sorts, while others claim it would destroy the job market and the economy. Not many examine it from a neutral standpoint and look at both sides. Here I will try and postulate what would happen if it were implemented, both good and bad.

Full disclosure, I am in favor of UBI. There have been limited experiments with it in other countries, with varying results depending on the interpretation by sources who have an existing bias. I would be very much in favor of a large scale experiment in the US involving an entire city or state. I don’t find it likely that would happen because of capitalists who fear the results.

Any such experiment would have to be at least a full fiscal year, though two years would be more valid to eliminate attempts to manipulate circumstances and give a more clear image of what adjustments would be needed and true end results determined.

What it is. To recap, UBI is a proposed system whereby each citizen would be provided with a basic income. While we call it universal, it would prove no benefit to offer that income to those above a certain income level, such as those earning above $100,000. Determination of benefits should include a person’s income from all sources, not just wages. Above a certain income level, that money does not benefit the individual or the economy. So it would only serve to remove money from the economy and increase the flow of wealth to the top.

It should meet basic needs to be considered a basic income. A UBI should offer an income level high enough to provide for all basic needs. Housing, food, clothing, transportation and medical care. Not entertainment.

We’ve heard these arguments before. The major criticism of UBI is that it would encourage those already at the low end of the income spectrum to stop working. This argument is something I find equivalent to the objection to ending slavery. Slaves did not object to ending slavery and it is not those living below the poverty line who object to having a secure income which provides stability.

Decreased work hours. Many people would stop working entirely or scale back hours voluntarily. Those most likely to continue working full-time would be those in positions and careers they enjoy or pay which allowed them to rise above basic subsistence.

This would lead to wage increases across the board as employers were forced to compete for employees with higher wages, a more hospitable environment and better benefits. THIS is the biggest reason that the mere mention of the term UBI sends capitalists and corporatists into shivers of terror.

Job market effects. What this would mean to the job market would be a decrease in unemployment numbers as fewer people would be seeking employment. This would be followed by a further increase in available positions as those previously employed by companies would have the opportunity to branch out on their own.

Effects on society. What this would mean for society would mean increased life satisfaction, decreased stress, lower levels of drug abuse, increased health and longer lifespans.

Effects on militarism. A society under less stress and less ruled by fear would be less prone to wage war on other countries. Another reason that capitalists loathe the idea.

Effects on general economy. For the general economy, it would be beneficial, as more people would have an increase in disposable income, spending more and investing more. Problem is, major investors don’t really want the average consumer to invest. The greater percentage of a lower number of stocks available the rich control, the greater their profits, the greater their grasp on the economy as a whole.

Effects on consumer spending. As is obvious, consumer spending would increase. Not only in purchasing but on tourism, education, entertainment, you name it. The negative? Value menus would meet their demise.

Explosive growth. If UBI were implemented, we would see a period of explosive economic growth which would level off after a short period of years but end with sustained stability. I have covered how growth is a myth, here. Growth cannot continue indefinitely, the entire idea is ludicrous and unsustainable.

Like I said, we’ve heard these arguments before. Many of the same arguments being used against UBI have been used previously against Social Security, welfare, TANF, WIC, food stamps and the minimum wage, both when it was first implemented and with every single minimum wage increase ever. In no case did these things destroy the job market or the economy. In fact, the exact opposite is true. They improved the job market and the economy.

Effects on environment. The effect on the environment would be positive in the long term. When people are not running in fear of being unable to meet their basic needs, they would have more consideration for the environment. Right now, people are fed a diet of fear leading some to place more concern for income than the future of the planet their children and grandchildren inherit to live in. Capitalists place no concern on the environment in the first place, unless they can profit from it.

Effects on inflation. Now, here we do see a negative. Perhaps. Yes, implementing UBI would result in inflation. The biggest question is whether that inflation would be a damaging level. The answer lies not in UBI itself but in how much capitalists would continue to insist on a continued unlimited increase to their profit margin above and beyond the increased profits they would experience as a direct result of UBI itself. Because capitalists are never happy with simply increasing profits, they want to increase their percentage of profit over cost. Even if they had to pay higher wages and offer more benefits, they would already experience more profits by consumer spending. So inflation would not be organic, it would be a forced component. That should be no surprise, it’s what we have been enduring for decades. So legislation would likely have to be implemented to limit profit percentages or for direct cost control. The difference between us and Venezuela on that? Nobody is going to invade us.

Effects on taxation. Some may claim that UBI would result in less income tax revenue. Any initial loss of income tax revenue would be offset in the longer term by higher wages and business profits (assuming cities and states don’t give it all away, which they probably would). Of course, sales tax revenue would skyrocket with no increase in the tax rate being charged. Federally, we all know the tax cut for the rich is a disaster and should be repealed.

The Revolution will not be televised. Of course, none of this is going to be discussed on corporate media. Look who their advertisers are. The same companies that thrive by keeping wages down, keeping people terrified. Including the MIC. How would they convince you we need more bombs or convince young people to die in foreign countries if there was nothing to fear? If there were no enemy raging at the gate “taking away your living”, you may realize there never was an enemy, other than those at the top.

Lastly, with automation expanding with no end coming, UBI is the only way that capitalism is going to survive. If people have no income, they have nothing to spend and capitalism will collapse.