If the Republican Party bans the UBI, what the fuck is their plan?

Business Insider:

Republican lawmakers in Arizona are joining a chorus of conservatives across the country trying to ban basic income programs, which offer residents no-strings-attached payments.

Arizona state lawmakers introduced a bill that would ban any municipality or county from making payments to a person as part of a guaranteed basic income program. The law, House Bill 2375, describes a "guaranteed income program" as any program where someone receives payments that are "unearned" and can be used for any reason.

Numerous cities across the country are experimenting with guaranteed basic income programs either through local initiatives or nonprofits. The programs typically provide monthly payments of $500 to $1,000 to low-income residents or families to spend however they want.

In Denver, for example, a basic income program that gives some people up to $1,000 a month was recently extended after participants reported increased housing security.

Basic income programs have grown in popularity in recent years, spurred by a housing affordability crisis, a rising number of homeless people, fallout from the pandemic, and worries that AI will replace many jobs.

We are at a pivotal moment in human history. Artificial intelligence is transforming industries ranging from manufacturing to finance to transportation to the arts, automating jobs once thought impossible to replicate. Rapid technological change is nothing new – from the cotton gin to computers, technology has disrupted economies throughout history. But the pace and scale of intelligent automation today will impact society far more profoundly and violently than past innovations.

Up to 30-40% of existing jobs in the U.S. and other advanced economies will be vulnerable within the next 12 months. Entire categories of work face elimination through LLMs, generative AI, robotic fabrication, etc.

In the face of this AI-dominated job landscape, ideas like the universal basic income (UBI) aren’t a fanciful notion. They are an urgent, moral imperative for society. UBI, at its core, speaks to innate human dignity – by providing an unconditional economic floor for basic needs as a right of citizenship rather than through bureaucratic qualification. That foundation empowers people with agency over their lives, whether to invest in new skills, start a small business or pursue creative ambitions. Bootstrap-worshipping critics may deride basic income as a costly handout that dampens the work ethic. But thus far, they have failed to present any realistic, practical alternative.

Under a UBI system, all adult residents would receive a uniform basic income payment on a regular basis – likely on a monthly basis. The income level would aim to provide a livable floor covering basic needs, pegged at about 125% of the federal poverty line, while high enough earners would see some benefit clawbacks through the tax system. Crucially, the income would have no strings attached. Recipients could use the money however they see fit, whether covering living expenses or investing in education and business ideas.

The universal approach rejects conditional social welfare programs like food stamps that limit how recipients use benefits. It diverges from means-tested programs where recipients lose all benefits if they pass certain income thresholds. Means-tested approaches create strong disincentives against recipients taking jobs or earning additional income since that results in losing critically needed aid. UBI’s unconditional floor empowers people with greater agency over their economic lives.

The concept of basic income has supporters across the political spectrum. The history of the UBI in the United States can be traced all the way back to Richard Nixon’s enthusiasm for the concept. Tech executives see UBI as cushioning against upcoming AI-driven unemployment. Progressives argue it will reduce inequality and strengthen the social safety net. Libertarians make the case for basic income as a leaner, less paternalistic evolution of the bureaucratic welfare state. Pilot studies of basic income experiments in places ranging from Finland to Kenya to Stockton, California, have shown promising results as well. Recipients of guaranteed income tend to use funds productively on necessities like food, utilities, education and for starting small businesses.

If Republicans’ only response to the coming AI apocalypse is trying to stamp out basic income as a socialist boogeyman, they are ignoring the real factors driving this policy debate. This should come as no surprise. The Party of Lincoln has a long and storied history of choosing corporate interests - in this case, likely the prospect of a desperate, cheap, bountiful and beggared workforce - over any policy that alleviates human suffering.

Banning policy experiments limits data-driven discussions on responses to poverty and job loss. Basic income may not be the magic bullet solution, but neither is ignoring the coming disruption from technology and automation. Reasonable people can debate the pros and cons of basic income programs. By reflexively banning the concept outright, Arizona Republicans close off a needed debate and ignore their constituents, who are already struggling today. Good governance involves planning ahead and having a vision beyond just attacking things you ideologically dislike.

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