What’s Right (and What’s Wrong) With The New Calif. UBI Plan

What’s Right (and What’s Wrong) With The New Calif. UBI Plan


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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Entrepreneur and quixotic presidential candidate Andrew Yang may have finally exited the race, but one of his top supporters in California has laid groundwork to very much keep Yang’s signature cause very much alive.

California state Assemblymember Evan Low, who served as a co-chair of Yang’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, has introduced legislation which would enact a universal basic income (UBI) scheme on the state level which looks very much like the Freedom Dividend which propelled Yang’s race–particularly in its early going.

So the good part of this is that it would implement a plan, in real life, very much on the order of what Yang preached: offering Californians $1,000 per month, paid for with a state value-added tax of 10 percent on goods and services, with exemptions for groceries, medicine, medical supplies, clothing, textbooks and some other items.

Okay, so we covered what’s great about this new plan.

Now for where it goes terribly wrong.

Recipients of several programs, including the state’s Medicaid plan, would be ineligible.

Here’s where this is bad:

  1. Why are you going to put those who rely upon the safety net off-limits from UBI? It would seem to be one more chance to stigmatize and criminalize the poor. And those relying on the safety net are often the working poor. Don’t they deserve the same consideration? If UBI is to be a give-away to only the middle and upper middle classes, how can we say that we are genuinely addressing income inequality?
  2. Even if the authors of this legislation could point to legitimate reasons to keep those Californians who rely on safety net programs away from this UBI, Medicaid is a particularly lousy example to use. Why? Because post-Obamacare, the Medicaid expansion allows coverage for not only the poor but those who–depending on circumstances–might even be considered lower middle class.

All-in-all, California legislators are taking what is supposed to be a broad help across the economy, and fashioning it as another giveaway to those who may need it the least.

Is this really what Andrew Yang intended?

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  • comment-avatar

    Nope, doesn’t look in the spirit of Andrew’s Yang’s proposal, because it stacked with Medicaid and social security. In addition, it wouldn’t work as well on a state level. UBI really needs to be done on a federal level too avoid many many pitfalls.

    • comment-avatar

      The bill as written does stack with social security, but not Medicaid unfortunately. Indeed UBI would be best implemented on the federal level, but I do think more trials are needed here to probably convince the country. I’m more concerned that the studies/bills in other states with low monthly UBI will show adverse effects. I think we should push for it to be amended to stack with Medicaid, but still worth it as a proof of concept if not…If it doesn’t stack with Medicaid, it’d help lower middle class most, and would help those on Medicaid about the same as avg middle class. If someone previously on Medicaid used part of their UBI on health insurance, say $300, they’re essentially netting $700. Lower middle class typically has private insurance so they net $1000, but as one’s income increases, the impact of $1000 decreases (as seen by relative spending to income). Therefore, a low income individual netting $700 would benefit about as much as avg middle class netting $1000. Upper middle class, and the wealthy would benefit the least since that $1000 is near meaningless for them, their spending wouldn’t increase significantly. Lower middle class would benefit most, but since upper class benefits least, it still does shrink wealth inequality, just not as progressively as possible.

      • comment-avatar

        Hi Max,

        The real problems with a state level implementation are – 1) possibility of financial failure, 2) not stacking with Federal programs that don’t obey state laws, and 3) the non-isolation of this system which violates universality.

        I don’t mind starting with a small amount and growing from there. Some help is not no help. However, I see ahead how opponents will spin the story later, and make it harder to implement the correct version later. So if I were in California, I would be probably still vote for any version of the UBI, BUT I would also do what I’m doing now, vocalizing the real problems with such a plan, and trying to keep everyone focused on the real limitations of this plan.

  • comment-avatar

    Nope, if you actually listened to what Andrew Yang had to say you would know that that isn’t what he wants. He wants UBI AND Medicare for all. Those were 2 of his top 3 policies. It would have taken you such a small amount of research to figure that out.

  • comment-avatar

    10% VAT on goods AND services? Get that commie crap the f*** outta here and keep it out. I thought repealing prop 13 would be the death of California but it turns out Sacramento has plenty of other tricks to put that final nail in quicker.