Forget social security, medicaid and WIC, today’s progressives have moved well beyond discussing such entitlement relics of the past and nowadays dedicate their efforts to the concept of a “Universal Basic Income” for all…call it the New ‘New Deal’. You know, because having to work for that “car in every garage and chicken in every pot” is just considered cruel and unusual punishment by today’s standards.
Of course, it should come as little surprise that the progressive state of Hawaii, which depends on easily automatable jobs tied to the tourism industry, is among the first to pursue a Universal Basic Income for its residents. And while the idea of passing out free money to everyone seems like a genius plan, if we understand it correctly, as CBS points out, there is just one catch…figuring out who will pay for it.
Driverless trucks. Factory robots. Delivery drones. Virtual personal assistants.
As technological innovations increasingly edge into the workplace, many people fear that robots and machines are destined to take jobs that human beings have held for decades–a trend that is already happening in stores and factories around the country. For many affected workers, retraining might be out of reach —unavailable, unaffordable or inadequate.
Over the past two decades, automation has reduced the need for workers, especially in such blue-collar sectors as manufacturing, warehousing and mining. Many of the jobs that remain demand higher education or advanced technological skills. It helps explain why just 55 percent of Americans with no more than a high school diploma are employed, down from 60 percent just before the Great Recession.
Hawaii state lawmakers have voted to explore the idea of a universal basic income in light of research suggesting that a majority of waiter, cook and building cleaning jobs — vital to Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy — will eventually be replaced by machines. The crucial question of who would pay for the program has yet to be determined. But support for the idea has taken root.
“Our economy is changing far more rapidly than anybody’s expected,” said state Rep. Chris Lee, who introduced legislation to consider a guaranteed universal income.
Lee said he felt it’s important “to be sure that everybody will benefit from the technological revolution that we’re seeing to make sure no one’s left behind.”
But taking billions from hard working Americans to “spread the wealth around” has never been all that difficult before so presumably this too should prove to be a relatively minor issue.
In all seriousness, where does Representative Lee and CBS figure Hawaii will get the funding for their guaranteed income plan? Well, as it turns out, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes made a very generous $10mm donation to support programs just like this…the only problem, of course, is that Hawaii would need about 1,000 times that amount to fund Chris Lee’s plan for just one year.
For now, philanthropic organizations founded by technology entrepreneurs have begun putting money into pilot programs to provide basic income. The Economic Security Project, co-led by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and others, committed $10 million over two years to basic income projects.
Tom Yamachika, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, a nonprofit dedicated to limited taxes and fairness, has estimated that if all Hawaii residents were given $10,000 annually, it would cost about $10 billion a year, which he says Hawaii can’t afford given its $20 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.
That said, it’s difficult to argue with Karl Widerquist’s argument that Hawaiians deserve a “beach dividend” for their heroic efforts in being born and continuing the difficult task of breathing day in and day out.
Karl Widerquist, co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network, an informal group that promotes the idea of a basic income, suggests that Hawaii could collect a property tax from hotels, businesses and residents that could be redistributed to residents.
“If people in Alaska deserve an oil dividend, why don’t the people of Hawaii deserve a beach dividend?” he asked.
And while we have little doubt that Widerquist has fully thought through his suggestion that Hawaii just raise an incremental $10 billion every year via a tax on hotel stays…we thought we’d run the math just to make sure his plan holds water. As it turns out, roughly 3 million families visit Hawaii for a little R&R every year which means each family would only have to pony up an extra $3,400 per hotel stay to cover Hawaii’s Universal Basic Income plan. Seem more than reasonable, right?