The Last Main Street?

Universal Basic Income – Who Should Pay?

Recently some cities have implemented “universal basic income“. Some might argue that this has been coming ever since FDR created “The New Deal”. Others might say our hunger for consumption and efficiency created the need for UBI. For many years I have said that “It is possible to be so efficient you become ineffective.” UBI might just be proof of that thought on a macro scale.

What is UBI.

Simply put Universal Basic Income is a cash payment to people for doing nothing. It’s worse than welfare because it doesn’t even pretend to help people move up the economic ladder. When FDR created the new deal, the idea was to create programs that helped people get back on their feet and helped the economy create jobs for people. UBI simply hands out money for nothing and because of it we may be headed for dire straights.

In the 1950’s even the left was afraid of communism. I realize now that Marxism requires people to work. No one is ever going to vote to be forced to work, but many south american countries do exactly that. The lack of welfare in the socialist state and large work programs has a very different effect on the economy of a country.

The idea among the people who support UBI is that giving people a basic income will keep them from becoming homeless. That isn’t the case and in fact it enables some homeless to simply create a better “urban camping” lifestyle and nothing more. Instead of having a room and working in someones house where “service” would be beneath them, we leave them on the street? How is that compassion?

Where Did The Jobs Go?

For the past 50 years the US and the industrialized world have been improving the output of workers on a very consistent basis and yet the income of workers when looked at on a per capita basis has been flat.

Just about the time the United States came off the gold standard, workers income relative to output began to diverge. This has made corporations richer and workers poorer. Essentially the creation of a new two class economic system with the top 1% getting ahead. The “occupy movements” pre covid were looking down the right path but completely failed to make change. The protesters sat outside buildings using smart phones and ordering online. Two of the tools that lead to greater efficiency and less need for workers. They failed because success would be “inconvenient” for them. How is that for an inconvenient truth?

Tax to Create UBI

The sad part of this is that the Universal Basic Income has become the new welfare. Worse, that welfare is paid for by the remaining workers, not the corporations that have become more efficient and are making more money. In that increased tax has had the effect of reducing the workers usable income even further making the problem worse. The 1970’s might have been the beginning of the end of the middle class as we know it. We just couldn’t see it until now.

Some might argue that the republicans did this since Nixon is the one that took the US off the gold standard. The problem goes deeper into our political and economic policies. In fact if you look at the biggest and most “efficient” companies you will find the top brass to be predominantly members and supporters of the democratic party, the one that claims to be “for the workers”. Modern socialism supported by the democrats is neither. The truth is a move back to a clearly divided two class society.

The Grand Illusion

Some people might call it a conspiracy, others an opportunity, but the reality of where we are is the same no matter how you label the cause. Looking at the chart of productivity v income you can see the result we all have felt for years. There is the Hollywood ending like Logans run, where people are served by machines and have essentially nothing to do. We all get the same “utopian” living. The same apartments, the same living until we no longer belong. The reality is the homeless problem and shrinking middle class across the globe.

The effect is real. Technology has replaced humans allowing those that still have a job to buy more “stuff”. The quality is clearly different and we all have a lot more. Just look at the landfills anywhere in the world. Plastic is floating around in the oceans in huge dead zones. The problem is that there is a growing class of jobless, and partially homeless or homeless. That’s where the idea of the universal basic income comes in. Even the jobless and some homeless will have money to buy the stuff the super efficient corporations are making, and distributing.

The Fun House Of Mirrors

Big efficient companies like Amazon and WalMart spend huge amounts of money convincing us they create jobs. At the same time they cut profit margins razor thin and wipe out entire towns of small businesses. The human element is vanishing. Instead of saving for years to buy a hand made watch from Switzerland, we have a box of cheap plastic machine made watches.

In the 1950’s there were four people in the flight deck of an airliner. There was a Captain, First Officer, Navigator and Radio operator. Today there are just two. First the Navigator and radio operator became an engineer, and then the engineer went away in the late 1990’s. Computers replaced the radio operator, navigator and later the engineer. When you adjust the income for inflation, the two pilots in a modern airlines have incomes combined that are less than a 1950’s Captain used to make. Even the FAA is reducing staff by implementing new technology. Those cushy government jobs are no longer “safe”. In fact no job is “safe”. As long as corporations are incentivized by archaic tax codes and liability laws to reduce their workforce and automate.

The Mirrors Lie

The fun house is so full of crazy mirrors we don’t really see what is happening. One mirror says that jobs are being created. Another mirror shows jobs going away. Yet another mirror shows us a happy version of ourselves and right behind it is one that shows us as miserable over stressed Americans in need of medicine of some kind or another.

The big companies are “creating jobs” while wiping out main street America. Disneyland may one day be the only “main street” left. Everything has changed. On main street, milk was sold in sturdy wood and metal crates that could be used for all sorts of things. Now they are replaced by machine made plastic tubs. The high quality crates now decorate the walls of the local Cracker Barrel. Sometimes progress has a price we don’t want to pay but by the time we realize we are paying it, it’s too late.

Create Jobs, Tax Robots

Last week I was invited to text “Bard”. Googles answer to ChatGPT. While the output of both of these “bots” or “AI” systems was on par with 8th grade term papers, they lack the ability to create original thought that makes sense. In fact some of the output is down right comedic. The problem is that the AI is getting better. A sharp student could have the AI write a term paper and then just add some creative comments at the end and pull it off. I hear rumor some do.

Naive politicians say we can just keep printing money. That by definition creates inflation. Maybe the founding fathers had it right that citizens shouldn’t be taxed. Only businesses should be taxed. But then again they never thought there could be a Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates or a King Ranch. Companies should be incentivized to keep people working not letting them go. Maybe there should be a tax on highly efficient companies to pay for the Universal Basic Income. Maybe we shouldn’t tax the people that actually do the work?

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