Biden opens the back door to universal basic income
Long before the onset of COVID-19, the luminaries of Silicon Valley began advocating for the implementation of universal basic income (UBI). This is the idea that governments should issue checks to all citizens regardless of work, regardless of need, just for being alive — in other words, true and direct socialistic redistribution of wealth, completely disconnected from merit and creation.
Today, it is clear that UBI proponents, along with advocates of job-killing $15-an-hour minimum wage policies, are using the economic destruction wrought by poorly thought out COVID-19 lockdowns, coupled with the psychological effects of constant fearmongering, to try to slip their policies in through the back door. And the effects of their efforts are likely to be lasting and damaging to the most disadvantaged in our society.
When they first started making the argument for UBI, tech oligarchs likely viewed it as a way to distract from an inevitable onslaught of stories about the people and jobs to be displaced and eliminated through automation driven by Silicon Valley’s artificial intelligence products. But with the pandemic, and the economy-derailing policy missteps that accompanied it, investment in the automation of jobs has only increased as labor has become increasingly scarce.
Leaving aside increased automation, government-induced wage increases also are causing some small businesses to close altogether, thereby eliminating critical creators of wealth and jobs.
The scope and permanence of these changes could be enormous. Over the course of 2020, the amount of global work lost was likely equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs. Ultimately, economists at the University of Chicago predict that between 32 percent to 42 percent of COVID-19-related layoffs may end up being “permanent.” And the leftist policies of the Biden administration and the 117th Congress are only helping to speed this process along.
For example, President Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” extended additional federal unemployment payments of $300 a week, on top of state unemployment payments, through September. In doing so, government set a “wage floor” for millions of Americans, who since have opted to stop looking for work that is not enticing enough to cause them to halt the unrestricted and inflated unemployment checks.
As a result, in April the National Federation of Independent Business reported that 44 percent of American job openings went unfilled. Meanwhile, 16.2 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, a number that is 6.5 million greater than the 9.8 million Americans who are actually termed “unemployed” (i.e., actually seeking work while between jobs).
With this government-decided “wage floor” in place, liberals have fanned the flames of fear that have encouraged many to continue to stay at home, even though effective COVID-19 vaccines are available. After all this, leftist politicians and commentators — including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki — have stepped in to summarily declare that certain categories of private-sector jobs simply do not pay enough for workers to bother to show up.
In so doing, Sanders and Psaki lay bare the fact that they view COVID-19 as an opportunity to artificially boost certain private-sector wages that do not meet their arbitrary targets ($15-plus hourly minimum wages), while also introducing long-term government checks (UBI) as an alternative if their demands are not met.
Yet, while market-driven wage increases are a positive indicator of the increased value of labor, government-induced wage increases can have catastrophic effects on employees and businesses alike.
Beyond the expedited automation and elimination of jobs, Biden’s artificial attempt to drive up the cost of labor is also spurring inflation. Consumer prices were up 4.2 percent in April of this year over April 2020. Larry Summers, former Clinton administration Treasury secretary and Obama administration economic adviser, recently noted: “Higher minimum wages, strengthened unions, increased employee benefits and strengthened regulation are all desirable, but they, too, all push up business costs and prices.” The increased costs and prices that Summers mentions — what most economists would call “inflation” — hit the most disadvantaged and price-sensitive Americans the hardest.
Therein lies the rub. As the left has been building their socialist bona fides by advocating for “giving out cash with no strings attached,” they are — in real time — destroying real opportunities to earn wages, start careers, gain skills, climb the ladder, and live the American Dream. Simultaneously, the chain of events set in motion, if left unchecked, will drive up the cost of living for those the left claims to want to help.
Further consider the fact that America’s national debt now sits at $28 trillion and growing, troublingly larger than our country’s 2020 GDP of $21.48 trillion. The money dispersed by the federal government today is literally borrowed on the backs of future generations who will struggle to pay it off.
Beyond that, were UBI advocates to get their way with the installment of never-ending cash payments issued from the government to individuals, how would a republic such as the United States sustain itself? Can you have a self-governing country in which a majority of the citizenry is to some degree dependent on government officials for the issuance of a monthly income check?
No, of course not — since such policies would ensure that masses of Americans are beholden to the government in a manner that is not congruent with a self-governing people. And, yes, the advocates of these policies know this.
To spur real, market-driven wage growth such as that America experienced during the Trump administration before the pandemic, our economy must be fully opened, with no restrictions. Growth must be coaxed through low and consistent tax rates that encourage sound investment on the part of the American people and American businesses. Unemployment insurance must be temporary and issued to those who are truly looking for work, and UBI needs to be dropped into the dustbin of failed socialist ideas.
Wages will grow and workers will prosper when our economy grows and prospers. But for that to happen, the Biden administration and Congress need to get out of the way and stop destroying opportunities for real growth and advancement.
Kevin Nicholson is volunteer president and CEO of No Better Friend Corp., a conservative public policy group in Wisconsin. He is a combat veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps (Iraq, 2007 and Afghanistan, 2008-2009) and was a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2018. Follow him on Twitter @KevinMNicholson.