Andrew Yang’s Universal Basic Income Plan Sucks

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If there’s one welfare state proposition that makes Libertarians reconsider their anti-government position, it might be UBI (Universal Basic Income). The concept of UBI is simple: every person in a given country gets cash from the government every month. Rather than rationing food, energy, or clothes like a purely Socialist society, a nation with UBI allows those on the receiving end to decide which of their needs should be met the same way people who earn their own money do.

Andrew Yang is a businessman running for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and UBI is his signature issue. I hadn’t heard much from Yang until his recent appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast, but have heard that he’s a refreshing voice in the Democratic field. While he seems like a nice enough guy, Andrew’s justifications for implementing UBI are easily discredited.

A phenomenon Yang hones in on to promote UBI is the supposed automation of jobs which, he says, is not only on the horizon, but in its midst right now. There are many problems with this claim. The first is that manufacturing jobs, a main source of concern regarding automation, are on the rise and had been for several years even before Donald Trump was elected president:

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With Trump doing a laudable job of deregulating the domestic economy and signing corporate tax reductions into law, there is no reason to expect this trend to reverse in the near future.

Another job Yang fears will be automated is trucking, one of the most common sources of occupation in the country. Yang is dead wrong here as well, and on two counts. First, there is no shortage of trucking jobs. Conversely, there is a shortage of truckers to fill trucking jobs. As Mark Allen and Chris Spear wrote in May of last year:

“In the next decade, we’ll need 890,000 drivers to keep pace with growth and demand for freight transportation. Americans are used to getting what they want with the click of a button, but this expectation of door-to-door service will be increasingly difficult to fulfill if we can’t get more drivers behind the wheel.”

I have two cousins who are truck drivers. It’s not exactly a glamorous occupation. They spend weeks at a time away from their homes and families, and they sit at the helm of a big rig on the same wide open roads day after day after day. Sitting idly for so long is detrimental to a person’s health, and 5,000 people die in trucking accidents every year.

The other problem with Yang’s trucking claim is that it is based upon the false premise that self-driving vehicles are in the fast lane and ready to run drivers off the road. On the contrary, self-driving technology is nowhere near ready to take over the world as it is developing at an even slower rate than predicted. And even when driverless cars and trucks are ready to hit the road, it’s not as if people are going to ditch their manually operated vehicles at the drop of a hat. People don’t trust AI, and they also love being in control of what they’re doing. Driverless vehicles will have to compete with traditional ones, and winning that battle will be a traffic jam of a fight.

Even if we imagine that an earth-shattering breakthrough occurs tomorrow, and consumers widely decide they’re ready for an AI escort, trucking jobs are not only safe, but might even reap unseen rewards. Self-driving vehicles are not exactly as the name suggests. For the most part, a human driver will need to be present in case of emergency or for any number of other reasons. This will be especially true of self-driving trucks, so at least one occupant will need to be inside the vehicle at all times. The negative aspect of this is that the wages truck drivers earn could be diminished via the less demanding workload. But as mentioned earlier, driving a truck is a pain in the butt. Instead of being zeroed in on the road for so long, drivers will be able to stretch their legs, read a book, talk on the phone, or even search the web for a new or additional job. And since the labor will be so much less strenuous, many unskilled individuals looking for work may reconsider taking  stab at driving trucks. Young people still finding their way could spend a few years earning some money and getting an up close and personal look at the US of A. Driverless trucks would create jobs without killing them, and keep goods at the low prices every American desires.

In the portion of the two-hour interview I watched, Joe Rogan does a solid job of pushing back on Yang’s ideas. One of the most important questions Rogan asks is how much UBI is going to cost and who is going to pay for it. Yang gives a straightforward answer, saying that UBI would cost $3 trillion a year. He then explains that it would not really amount to $3 trillion a year as individuals already receiving roughly $1,000 per month in government benefits would not be entitled to any more money. An individual getting $700 in benefits would get $300, and one receiving no benefits at all would receive the full $1,000. Yang estimates that the added cost would amount to under $2 trillion.

This is a seemingly moderate proposal with an extreme consequence built into it. On the bright side, Yang’s iteration of UBI could actually encourage people to get off the government breadlines and take care of themselves enough to get onto the government dole. In a perfect world, people would take more responsibility for themselves to such an extent that Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and unemployment benefits would wither away as a cost to taxpayers. This could be a boon to human capital while also making way for consumer-driven market forces to improve the conditions of healthcare, insurance, and job markets.

Milton Friedman, whom Yang calls a supporter of UBI in the interview, did indeed flirt with the idea. But unlike Yang, Friedman’s plan, dubbed the Negative Income Tax (NIT), would immediately replace the rest of the welfare state. Friedman did not want the NIT to become an addition to the alphabet soup of bureaucracy already in Washington, but rather a simpler, cheaper, and less intrusive way to provide a safety net to those unable to care for themselves. When Friedman realized support for his version of UBI was not what the rest of its promoters had in mind, he rightfully abandoned it.

One of Friedman’s wittiest quotes is that there is “nothing so permanent as a temporary government program.” The problem with Yang’s intention to implement UBI without eliminating other programs is that all are bound to expand. Once the UBI can is opened, the worms will crawl. And there is nothing stopping the amount of money UBI recipients demand from reaching impossible depths. UBI would be certainly be permanent, and certainly permeate.

Yang’s answer to the funding part of Rogan’s question is even worse. This is mainly because of Yang’s proposal to implement a Value Added Tax (VAT). The way a VAT tax works is by taxing exchanges at every level from production to wholesale to retail and everything in between. Simply put, a VAT tax is an all-encompassing sales tax.

While some Libertarians like me might jump at the idea of replacing the corporate and income taxes with something like a VAT tax, Yang’s VAT fails to relieve us of other taxes and contradicts an alleged benefit of his UBI plan. Yang, in a claim common among the anti-supply-side crowd, says that putting money in Americans’ pockets will be a boon to business and job creation because recipients will spend the money and keep the economy rolling. Regardless of whether or not this claim has any merit, the VAT tax would undermine consumer spending like nothing before. When a tax is levied, the cost of paying it is passed on to the next guy in line. If you tax bread sales at 10%, bakers will charge sandwich artists some of that rate by increasing bread prices. And consumers will see the price of their lunch go up at the deli counter too. The individuals who incur cash from UBI will not be as willing to put their money back into the economy when everything around them is becoming more expensive.

Yang is certainly not stupid and not all of his ideas and analyses are wrongheaded. He points out the futility of having the government tell displaced factory workers to #LearnToCode, and also highlights current injustices taking place in our criminal justice system (though the way he ties this to UBI is far-fetched). But all-in-all, Yang’s plan for UBI is just as bad as any other government scheme to turn the race of life into a walk in the park. Our country will be far better off if Yang forgets about politics and goes back to creating jobs on his own.

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Andrew Yang’s Universal Basic Income Plan Sucks

Candace Owens Has a Point

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I have published 132 blog posts on HowToCureYourLiberalism.com (this one is number 133). But I have failed to complete or decided not to publish at least 100 others. Sometimes I lose my train of thought, sometimes my research persuades me to disagree with my initial thesis, sometimes I fear my words could come back to haunt me if ill-intended people come across them, and other times I simply can’t find a way to express my thoughts in a way that I feel comfortable sharing with my readers.

One topic I have attempted to write about several times, but all in vain, is Candace Owens, the conservative firebrand and communications director of the advocacy group Turning Point USA. On these previous occasions, my intention was always to criticize Owens and to warn right-wingers against elevating her. My feeling is that Owens may do wonders for Republican Party recruitment, but, in the process, morph the Conservative movement into little more than a meaner and more reckless version of Progressivism. As Michael Malice often remarks, Conservatism is simply Progressivism driving the speed limit. In my opinion, Owens’ version of Conservatism already has the pedal to the metal.

On this occasion, however, I aim to defend Owens from an undeserved media and social media onslaught. A video of Owens and her colleague Charlie Kirk (whom I hold in the same regard as Owens) recently surfaced. The video documents the two answering audience questions at an event in the UK. What the left, media, and squishy Conservatives pounced on were comments Owens made that referenced none other than Adolf Hitler (pro-tip: unless you are actually talking about him, caution against bringing up Hitler under any circumstances because you are likely minimizing his atrociousness and/or leaving yourself open to slander—Owens is probably guilty of the former and definitely suffering the latter). Check out Owens’ comment for yourself:

Many attempted to portray Owens as simply criticizing Hitler’s foreign policy while remaining indifferent to what he did inside of Germany, as if she only disagrees with the Holocaust because it went beyond German borders. That seemed wrong to me when I first encountered tweets and headlines, wronger when I watched the clip for myself, and absolutely wrong after Owens posted a video clarifying what she meant:

The truth is that Owens is, with shades of grey, correct. Hitler was a Globalist (or at least a Continentalist).

Globalism and Nationalism are not finite political philosophies with a single iteration. The same can be said of Liberalism, Libertarianism, Conservatism, Socialism, and so on. This is why there are caucuses and disputes within political parties and why Hillary Clinton can be criticized for being too Progressive and for being too much of a Neocon by people in the the same party at the same time.

Hitler’s globalism and, say, the UN’s globalism are obviously not the same. Hitler’s version centered around his race dominating or outright exterminating the others. The UN’s globalism, according to their website, is nearly antithetical to Hitler’s:

 The United Nations is a global organization that brings together its member states to confront common challenges, manage shared responsibilities and exercise collective action in an enduring quest for a peaceful, inclusive and sustainably developing world, in conformity with the principles of justice and international law and with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

What Owens should be criticized for is shitty rhetoric. Lumping Nazism and modern Globalism together is exactly the kind of false logic that causes me to shake my head at Conservatives who support her (even though I’m not a Conservative myself). She is technically correct in saying that the UN and the Nazis are both Globalists, but these versions of Globalism are so diametrically opposed that associating the two is simply a dishonest smear.

The thing is, in the context of the question being asked, Owens was engaging in I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I politics. By this I mean that it’s not necessarily Owens who is launching the first attack, but that her words are still petulant. The gentleman she was responding to, at least according to Owens, was expressing concerns about the baggage that comes with being labeled a Nationalist when all you want is to promote the sovereignty of your State. When Brexit supporters and Trump supporters call themselves or are called Nationalists, they are often lumped in with Hitler by the left and the media. But any semi-rational person can see that what they advocate for has nothing to do with genocide, imperialism, or even National Socialism.

When Candace Owens associates modern Globalists with Nazis, she’s sinking to the same low level as her opponents. This is commonplace among the MAGA insurgency that has taken the Republican Party by storm. They veer away from National Review Conservatives in preferring to win by playing dirty than lose while preserving their dignity.

On Nationalism, Hitler’s and Trump’s versions are dramatically different. The term nation, when used by Trump, is synonymous with country. To Trump, the USA is his nation and his country interchangeably, and I imagine this to be the case for the vast majority of Americans. Personally, I only make a distinction between the two when attempting to be technical as I am doing now. But off the cuff, I might refer to the USA as a nation, even though it isn’t one. The United States of America is exactly that: 50 united states.

When Hitler used the term nation, he was referring to the supposed Aryan nation, his ethnic group. This is why Hitler called the US a “mongrel nation” for being home to people of myriad nationalities. It was the ancestral makeup of a people that Hitler focused on, not policies, philosophies, or religion. Keep in mind that the Nazis attempted to exterminate the Jewish race, not the Jewish religion, which was irrelevant to their cause.

Hitler’s nationalism was not bound by the borders of the country called Germany. The globe (or at least Europe), in his mind, was his ethnic nation’s for the taking. Aryans living in greater Europe were his allies; non-Aryans living in Germany were to be eradicated or subjugated.

While there is an infinite number of critiques one can make of Trump’s views and policy preferences, referring to his Nationalism as Hitler-like is not one of them. Trump is as politically blind to race and color as any other mainstream politician. The same cannot be said of Trump’s views on culture, but that is independent of our ethnicity and other immutable characteristics. The friends I grew up with have last names and skin tones originating from all corners of the Earth, but we all love baseball, beer, and Billy Joel.

If your takeaways from reading this are that I support Trump’s Nationalism or that I am a lackey for Candace Owens, you are being feeble-minded. What I intend to put across above all is that we stop attempting to make demons out of our political rivals. We should hear each other out, and respond with honest and measured disagreement if we feel it necessary. While Candace Owens may not deserve the benefit of the doubt, the principle remains. C.S. Lewis said it best:

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Candace Owens Has a Point

Welcome to the Constitutional Upside Down

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If you’re not familiar with Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things, don’t worry, I won’t reveal any major spoilers. A central theme of the show is that a portal into a parallel dimension has been opened, and the terrors that lurk there are spilling out into a small town in ours. Once this is discovered by the show’s main characters, they begin to refer to the parallel universe as “The Upside Down.”

A bipartisan majority of US Senators has recently decided that the US needs a taste of The Upside Down too. By a 68-23 margin, the Senate has affirmed a resolution to block any attempt made by President Trump to remove American troops from both Syria and Afghanistan.

The vote comes amid repeated announcements and tweets by the president that he will fulfill one of his central campaign promises by ending some of the US’s endless wars abroad, particularly in Syria. In the spirit of his America First slogan, bringing our troops home would make it easier for the government to focus its attention and resources on the country it presides over as well as respect the autonomy of the globe’s many nation-states.

When the president began talking withdrawal, establishment members of both parties and a hostile mainstream media scoffed and presented lame justifications for our presence in both countries. Many claimed that Turkey, our NATO ally, would “slaughter” our Kurdish allies if the mere 2,000 US troops still in Syria were sent home. Although the Kurds and the Turks have their differences, this would be a first in their shared history, not to mention the fact that Kurds are rough and tough and won’t be slaughtered by anybody.

By the way, many of the same people who claim we need to protect the Kurds from Turkey lost their minds when Trump suggested the US leave the outdated and useless bureaucratic leviathan known as NATO. In a transparent display of idiocy, they simultaneously claim (1) we can’t leave NATO because it would be a betrayal of our NATO allies and (2) we can’t leave Syria because it would be a betrayal of our Kurdish allies who would be slaughtered by our NATO allies. Talk about Stranger Things…

Other purported reasons to remain in Syria and Afghanistan are that leaving these aimless 10 and 17 year mission creeps, respectively, would be “precipitous” and, of course, something, something, something, Russia.

Despite the contradictions and hollow fear mongering, the real reason the situation is so upside down is that the wars Trump is trying to end were not authorized by congress while the commander-in-chiefs power to withdraw troops from foreign lands requires no congressional authorization at all.

Article I Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power “to declare war” and Article II Section 2 names the president “commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.” To me, “commander in chief” sounds pretty self-explanatory. Perhaps that Founders would have had to have written “Total Super Ultra Mega Boss of the Military” to help get it through the thick skulls of today’s Democrats and Republicans.

It is true that congress authorized former President George W. Bush to use military force against those responsible for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center, but he was not given permission to occupy Afghanistan indefinitely for whatever reasons he and his successors could conjure up along the way. The language used in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists is admittedly vague, so it might be fair to say that congress and a gullible public are to blame just as much as our executive administrations since then.

On the other hand, President Barack Obama was outright denied authorization to invade Syria in bipartisan fashion, but he did so anyway. Nice one, Barry.

Going to war should not be this easy, and ending wars should not be this hard. Our Founders were right to warn against entangling alliances and sticking our noses in other nations’ business. Engaging in either of these endeavors drains American lives, liberty, and treasure and prevents our neighbors abroad from learning to develop themselves. Neoconservatives can spend hours explaining why dependency upon welfare programs undermines an individual’s ability to develop, but for some reason they are too blind to see that dependency upon a foreign militia has the same result on nations.

However upside down our government is, the truth is that President Trump cannot blame the potential failure to end the wars in Afghanistan and Syria on congress. He has unquestioned authority to command the armed forces, and no one can stop him from exercising his constitutionally granted powers but himself. Playing politics by waiting a little while to accomplish this goal could be deemed a forgivable strategic maneuver. But Trump will deserve total and complete blame if this promise is broken.

Mr. President, it’s time to grow a pair and order things right-side up.

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Welcome to the Constitutional Upside Down