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The left's case against Yang's UBI


5 months ago7 min read

It's taken an enormous amount of effort for me to analyse the political left's critiques of UBI. To the point to where listening to some of the talking points almost hurt. But for the sake of being fair, and as objective as I can be, which is difficult to do of course, I will try to break them down.

Critique: It's not truly Universal

So this point is one I can understand, at least I do get what they mean in reference to the UBI being proposed by Andrew Yang. The idea that you can opt in or out, and that you would have to elect between a current assistance program or UBI, does make it to where it's not truly universal.

If there's a part of the population that is not receiving UBI, either because they've opted out or because they've concluded that their current situation is better, then the critique is valid. I don't know how bad this makes UBI, but I do get it.

Rebuttal: Choice is always good

I don't think we can argue against giving people choices. Which is to say, that if we are allowing people to keep their current benefits, because they seem them to be superior to UBI, then we are not really robbing them of their quality of life.

It would be different without a doubt, if UBI was forced, and thus people that had government assistance of any sort, like it's the case with people with disability, would have to find ways to continue to make due with their $1000 dollars. (the amount being proposed)

It's not impossible to imagine scenarios to where $1000 a month would not be nearly enough, more so for people that are in very delicate health, since our health system is inefficient and hyper expensive to begin with.

Critique: Right wing Trojan horse

This ones comes from the fact that on the front of UBI, there are people on the political right who actually endorse it. In other words, it's policy that has bipartisan support. In an ideal scenario this would make it a good policy, but the distrust of the opposing political party always plays a major role in these conversations.

Of course it's not only that the other team likes it, that's the problem. It's the fact that the other team, at least in the eyes of the left leaning voices, has never had the best interest of the little guy in mind. I find that assessment to be somewhat unfair. Unfair at least in the sense that generalizations and demonizing and othering is hardly productive, nor it deals with policy in a practical way.

Rebuttal: Welfare is not all good

Anyone who deals in honesty can accept that fact that even though the core idea of having social safety nets is a noble one, we are currently dealing with a broken system that without a doubt is corrupt. It takes but a minute to research countless social programs that have been found to be used for the enrichment of the corrupt.

On top of that, there is also something to be said about the poverty trap. An idea that I don't think is deniable by any metric we can find. Which is to say that, the amount of people that end up in disability or social programs contrasted to the amount of people that leave them is alarming.

We seem to be dealing with a population that does not recover, and there is reasons to look into what's happening there. I've touched upon this subject before, and in my opinion is best understood when we look at it from a psychological perspective, incentives and deterrents.

Critique: They will gut Social Safety Nets

This concern is easier for me to understand than the others. The idea being that if there's a working UBI system in our country, then the case for shutting down other social programs would be easier to make. It does seem pretty obvious that if UBI is working, and it very much could, that other social programs would be weakened, since their function or the pool of people they serve would be significantly reduced.

The worry here is that a cunning right wing politician would not find must resistance when a bill to cut back on social programs would be proposed. This is very possible, but I think it's half of the reasoning.

Rebuttal: Social programs can outlive their usefulness

Let's consider this for a second, or better yet, let's look at some historic evidence. There's been more than one scenario when a social program was shut down because it actually outlived its purpose. It may seem like a bad thing at face value, but if the problem they were solving stopped being a problem, then it's actually a positive.

We can look back at federal programs that were there to bring electricity to rural areas for example, and confidently say that thankfully they are no longer needed. There may be an exception here or there, but for the most part there's an electrical grid everywhere you find an established population in America.

It's not entirely outside the scope of possibilities, that a UBI increases does a better job at improving the health of our society, and thus the concerns on budget cuts for underutilized health programs, something that sounds unicornian, would actually be reasonable to do. I can think off the top of my head the savings we could have just by reducing the amount of homeless people on the streets and the impact that would have on our health system alone.

Critique:VAT is Regressive

On face value this is completely true. Poor people spend most of their income, thus effectively pay more taxes. Which is to say that even though the dollar amount may be smaller, the percentage they are paying as compared to their wealth is much higher.

Rebuttal: Yes, but...

We are talking about a small VAT to begin with, but even I concede the fact that this is true, we might be failing to see the bigger picture here.

To my understanding the VAT being proposed is 10 percent, which means that a person would have to spend 120K a year in purchases to use up all of his YangBucks as they are being called these days. If a person is relying on UBI to live, this is literally a paradoxical concern.

Another consideration we can have for implement a VAT would be to have an exemption for primary necessity items. Products as milk, eggs, diapers, etc, things that are a foundational need for most of our population. In this sense VAT becomes more effective at collecting taxes on luxury items and not so much on working class Joe Blow and his spam sandwich.


As I said when I started writing this today, I'm trying to be objective and not dismissive of the critiques, but of course its one of those "easier said than done" kind of tasks. I do however don't believe that the left voices are entirely wrong here, but I do think that they are lacking some faith in humanity.

It's not anti-humanist of me to say that I'm concerned for the quality of life for our future generations, and more help and aid in along the same lines that we've been partking off, seems to not be moving the needle in the right direction. We are in the middle of an opiod crisis, life expectancy has decreased, and even though we talk about GDP and numbers all day, there's a considerable amount of people who dropped off the workforce altogether.

To do nothing is to me to by an anti-humanist, and to continue to bicker and fight with the opposing party is a sure way to keep us divided until our ineffectiveness to act becomes the gavel that dooms us.


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