Jason Hertz

Multimedia Editor

Universal basic income is an inevitable necessity for a democratic republic. A government with equity and freedom as central doctrines must seek out innovative ways to improve the lives of its citizens. However, parties disinterested in equity or the well-being of others, especially at a potential cost to themselves, will naturally seek to stop such action.

America is now approaching the point when automation and power generation are advanced enough to harm job growth. But Americans are still having children. The population grows and opportunities to supply demands shrink. One solution to this problem is the proposed: universal basic income.

This is one version of how a UBI program would work: the government would collect taxes from corporations, which is justified by the fact that corporations profit from being members of the American economy.

Citizens whose personal wealth surpasses their own living needs would also be taxed on a marginalized income tax bracket. Those taxes would then be earmarked for the UBI social welfare system, making them untouchable by the current administration and ensuring fair distribution.

The amount taxed each year would equal the number of citizens, times the estimated dollar value necessary to provide an above-subsistence level income averaged across the current cost of living from all US cities. This means ensuring that each citizen has the income to provide a roof over their head, clean water, nutritious food, electricity and other utilities, access to healthcare, schooling, and the internet. Everything a person needs to live in the modern world bought at their discretion with the money they control.

UBI is not about giving away free money. It is about granting every citizen a guarantee of protection from poverty, disease, and starvation; which is the job of a government. Like public school before it, a government must acknowledge that citizens can be taxed to pay for necessary public services. Could these protections be provided directly? Absolutely, but our capitalist society is not ready for such socialist programs. Instead, UBI guarantees that each citizen has sufficient income to live.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness require a baseline income. The American government can no longer pretend to offer these values to its citizens without directly providing access to them. The free market only allowed for the free exploitation of those with less access.

Additionally, less apparent systems already exist which sacrifice up-front costs for the well-being of American citizens. The Federal Reserve increases the inflation rate of the US Dollar by about 2% each year.

In a vacuum, this would cause the Dollar to lose half its value by the year 2050. But, by making evidence-based predictions, experts are able to use that initial cost to drive the US economy forward.

Money is printed and handed out, without guarantee, to encourage investment and growth. So why is it okay to do so when money is at stake, but not when human lives are on the line?

Nearly every argument about UBI boils down to differing opinions on how money, once earned, should be used. But the term ‘should’ is a subjective one.

Objective claims to what ownership means, what is universally good, and what the citizens’ responsibilities toward each other are needed to move forward toward understanding UBI and choosing, together, whether it is useful to our present society and future goals.

So America needs to choose: individual freedom or mutual good.