Basic Income: Which class will be writing the legislation?

Since our Left supporters of universal basic income, like the working class in general, think they live in a classless society, it is no surprise that they forget there are two classes in society, each with antagonistic interests which will be dollarhandcuffsexpressed in whatever basic income scheme finally comes into being.

For our Leftists supporters of basic income, this interest may be expressed in a desire to see the end of poverty, to reduce the impact of unemployment on the wages of the employed, and to increase the capacity of the working class to fight against the other class, however, since there two classes showing an interest in basic income, we should not neglect the interests that stand behind the advocates of basic income on behalf of this other class and to examine basic income from the viewpoint of this other class.

@ArbitraryDesign has provided a link to a very interesting three part take on the issue of basic income from the standpoint of the capitalist class. The author of the paper, Ed Dolan, is a typical bourgeois simpleton economist and adviser to central banks.

While Left proponents of basic income see it as a means of improving the subsistence and fighting capacity of the working class, Dolan see it serving other purposes altogether. In Dolan’s view UBI is a means to replace existing “anti-poverty” handouts and middle class tax breaks with a cash allotment paid out to all citizens of the United States:

“A UBI would make sense only as part of a thorough overhaul of today’s tax and transfer systems. For the poor, the UBI would replace other transfer programs that now impose crippling disincentives to work while still leaving many households in poverty. For middle and upper income groups, it would replace many if not all of the existing deductions, credits, exclusions and preferences that are part of the personal income tax. If the tax and transfer system as a whole were properly restructured, say UBI proponents, it would provide income support that was better targeted toward the poor without raising marginal rates for middle class and wealthy taxpayers.”

According to Dolan then, UBI differs from the present alphabet soup of programs because it allegedly brings family income above the poverty level without discouraging them from seeking a job. Second, it will allow large savings in administrative overhead in the form of a massive bureaucracy devoted to policing the poor. Third, Dolan argues it can be constructed in a way that costs no more than is spent at present on the existing system of support and, most important, in contrast to our Leftists, who dream basic income represents the opening salvo in the class war against the capitalists, Dolan specifically argues it should not involve any encroachment on the wealth of the capitalists:

“My purpose here has simply been to show that a UBI at or close to the poverty level, as commonly understood, would, conceptually, be affordable without aggressively attacking the fortunes of upper income Americans”.

Thus, Dolan’s argument on basic income comes down to three propositions:

  1. Basic income should be constructed in a way that discourages existing workers from leaving the labor force.
  2. Basic income should allow the fascist state to dispense with the existing social spending bureaucracy.
  3. The cost of basic income should be met without any threat to wealth of the capitalist class.

Dolan’s goals are achieved in the following manner: The poverty level is defined in terms of what is already provided at present by existing social service programs. Dolan does not make an independent investigation into the problem of poverty, but accepts the present system in its entirety. Thus, for “the poor”, a basic income scheme represents no change at all: instead of getting food stamps, they would receive a monthly stipend to cover all expenses. In fact, so far as I can tell, in Dolan’s plan nothing that does not already go to “the poor” will go there in the future. For everyone else, basic income is achieved by taking existing “middle class’ tax breaks and turning them into a cash allotment paid directly by the state.

This is, of course, a shell game: total spending of the fascist state already targeted for “social spending” does not change, only the form. But, by changing the form, the administrative overhead of the fascist state can be reduced.

There are, of course, some problems at the margins — for instance, Dolan seems to believe the poor can’t be trusted to raise their own kids. To protect the interest of children from their parents, Dolan suggests the fascist state should serve as trustee for the portion of a families basic income allotment that is intended specifically for the needs of children. This trust will likely buy treasuries and the proceeds spent by the fascist state on trident missile subs. And when it comes time for the children to claim their “trust” they will be told, as are Social Security recipients are told today, that the money does not really exist.

Is the shell game outlined here by Dolan realistic? Perhaps not immediately but it raises a question the Left doesn’t want to face: both classes have their own reasons for backing basic income. It is unlikely David Graeber or Peter Frase will be in the room where the legislation will be written for basic income should it come to that. More likely, the legislation will be written by Saxby Chambliss, Harry Reid,  and that bunch.

Is Darryl Issa, with a net worth estimated around $700 million, likely to be writing legislation to increase taxes on the capitalists? What about Jane Harman (D-Calif), whose net worth is $500 million? Perhaps we can rely on Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) — a relative pauper compared to the above two, who clocks in at a measly $200 million in wealth.

In any case there are two classes with an interest in basic income and only one of them writes legislation, the other has to abide by whatever legislation is finally written. And, again, to be clear, David Graeber and Peter Frase are not going to be writing the legislation for basic income.

It does not fucking matter in the least what Graeber or Frase have to say on this issue in the Left press, nor why they think basic income might be useful to us. Basic income will be designed and implemented by the other class — your enemy — to meet its interests, not yours.

4 thoughts on “Basic Income: Which class will be writing the legislation?”

  1. I’ve been reading your blogs against UBI with interest, but I’m failing to find any real(istic) alternative proposed. Of course there’s a danger it could be hijacked by the right for its own purposes – which amount to making it not really unconditional – but also I’ve never heard anyone on the left side of the UBI arguments present it as a panacea either, only a first step. Of course there will be a struggle over whether it’s truly a UBI, or just a simplification of the current welfare nightmare with strings still attached.

    But what other first step do you propose? You can’t see the huge irony in capitalism having to accept UBI (and the de-coupling of work and money, not only in fact but in people’s heads) in an attempt to save itself?

    As someone who helps people through the Kafka-esque maze of our current welfare system, I can say that people are dying, anaesthetizing themselves, internalizing shame, externalizing violence in the course of dealing with it, to say nothing of the jobs ‘market’. As long as we are dealing with a money system with most not able to even conceptualize life without it, I want them (and myself) to have an income they can rely on and to be able to build better lives, think better thoughts, without needing someone like me to help them get it. I want an end to jobs like mine. For these reasons, I feel UBI is a good direction to go – it’s a practical measure of relief which could work on many levels, not the total prescription for revolution you seem to blame it for not being – although I do think that at in the course of time UBI could make the revolution you call for much more possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Reducing hours of labor for everyone is not a realistic alternative to taxing the now overworked portion of the working class and giving it to the now unemployed portion?

      How do you define realistic?


      1. re·al·is·tic
        having or showing a sensible and practical idea of what can be achieved or expected

        UBI does none of the things you mention above:

        *UBI would stabilize employment.
        Unemployment numbers would plummet and there could even be employment shortages; depending on the generosity of the program. Employment shortages are great for the working poor and poor. Unfortunately, because we cannot create a communist society (people are not ready to share to that extent) we need to take realistic action toward improving economic equality in a free market system, as well as introduce a culture of wealth redistribution.

        *To implement UBI, most nations wouldn’t have to change their tax code. The US can save hundreds of billions in tax dollars just by replacing non-medical social assistance programs with a guaranteed annual income of $15,000 for their poor. UBI would be best implemented with a tax code overhaul, but but that is true because the US tax system is broken not because of some flaw in UBI.


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