I thought he was cool—he stood out in the crowd of candidates that were all trying to outdo each other, and there he was smiling, authentically himself. He told us we could trust him, he told us he wasn’t like the other Democrats. He thought my favorite economists and authors were cool too, which was a major plus. It turned out to be another election year fling, however, and I should have known better the moment he started talking about being America’s sugar daddy and giving us all $1,000 a month, no questions asked. Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang wants to be America’s sugar daddy, but his Universal Basic Income proposal is too good to be true.
I’ll be the first to call myself a fool because here I was, expecting there would be no strings attached to what seemed to be the perfect policy.
As a libertarian, I believe the welfare state is an immoral parasite that sucks away the human spirit while at the same time, always coming up with excuses for the theft of the people’s hard earned money. Much like my economic role model Milton Friedman was back in the 1980s, I was enticed by the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI), or even a Negative Income tax; both solutions which would please progressives by providing a guaranteed safety net, and satisfy conservatives by eliminating a large chunk of government in the process. Like most ideas that sound nice, I thought it was good on paper, but the darker side of humanity would never let such an interesting opportunity come to fruition.
The Trojan Horse Policy
The concept of UBI is good in my personal opinion, but human nature is not (just pick up a history book). When Yang showed up in 2018 along with other candidates and announced his plan to run for president on an almost strictly UBI platform, I was intrigued, to say the least. This was a topic I hadn’t heard in years and something almost no one in a mainstream outlet or politician ever talked about. UBI was a topic for random economic Reddit threads and drinking with politicos and economists, a topic no normal person on either side of the aisle would ever take seriously. Was Yang the UBI messiah? It sure seemed that way as he was dropping names like Milton Friedman and Thomas Paine on the Joe Rogan Experience. Would he be the one to understand the true libertarian principles behind this utilitarian concept so that we could craft a plan that pleased people across the political spectrum? I for one thought so, and I know other libertarians that did and still do. The thing about ”free money” though is that it always comes with a catch, and Yang’s cost is the apple that spoiled the cart. Progressives in both major parties always make great promises while at the same time demanding great sacrifice from the people they need in order to put them in office, and Yang is no different.
We Aren’t Cleaning the Slate
While a majority of federal and state employees will be displaced by the implementation of UBI since many of them would no longer be necessary, Yang’s hypothetical administration would not cut a single federal agency, not even the IRS. He even has pledged to support Medicare for All, which would cause another steaming pile of problems all on its own. This is potentially the worst form of UBI implementation because it takes the current welfare state we have, trims the edges, and then creates a new entitlement program for all Americans, replacing one problem with another. On top of this situation, he has also come out in favor of abolishing the Federal Income Tax which many would celebrate, however, his substitute would be a European style Value Added Tax (half of the current rate of Europe’s). Several issues come from this tactic upfront because we’d be expecting the same Congress that passed ObamaCare without reading it to create an entirely new tax code that adds a consumption fee to all goods and services in the United States. A hypothetical 2% tax on all dairy products might not affect someone living in an upper-middle class community, but that could impact lower-income communities as a whole. The U.S. is fifty individual states with their own primary economies, culture, and challenges. A hypothetical 5% tax added to vehicles might not affect someone in Virginia but you can guarantee it’s going to hurt people in Missouri, Alabama, and other states where poverty is a large issue. The VAT is far too complicated and we are far too short-sighted to construct a brand spanking new tax system that is going to be implemented in every state at the exact same time.
The Free Money Carrot
Lastly, the true cost to Yang’s proposal is civil liberties. The bro might want to give America his HBO Go password, $1k a month no questions asked, and legalized weed, but the cost of that is a surveillance state straight out of Big Brother’s fantasies from Orwell’s 1984. Yang has not only stood for unconstitutional actions against gun owners but also supported the creation of a Social Credit Score system similar to that of the current Chinese model which is already preventing their people’s ability to leave the country. If you thought the Patriot Act was intrusive, wait until you get a bad grade the one month you were late on your student loan payment, and you’re deemed a bad person by an administration run by a president you didn’t even vote for. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Am I turned off entirely by the concept of UBI? I can’t say I am, but I have come to a realization by being burned by the dictatorial policies of a man seeking power. UBI is a good idea in my mind, but it is a utopian fantasy, like bringing back banana flavored Twinkies or a better concept for a better people which don’t exist because greed, envy, and lust for control will always dangle the money carrot in order to get you to walk into a cage. So no, Yang’s plan isn’t libertarian-friendly, and neither is the rest of his platform that demands more than it gives.