Two Democrat Senators, with their eyes on the 2020 presidential race, have thrown their support behind an initiative for “basic income” – an idea that would provide free money to low-income families with no strings attached. The plans endorsed by Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are not as extensive as the “universal basic income” programs that some on the far left have proposed – programs that would give free government money to literally everyone in the country – but they are an expansion of the welfare state and could leave millions of Americans with little or no inventive to work.
That’s the argument coming from the Heritage Foundation, which said in a report this week that any kind of basic income plan was bound to fail. The think tank’s Vijay Menon wrote last month that basic income plans had been tried under controlled state-level experiments in the past, and all of them ran into the same problems. He notes that libertarian writer Charles Murray did a review of basic income plans rolled out in six states between 1968 and 1980, only to find them wanting.
“In ‘Losing Ground,’ Murray concluded that the effect of the negative income tax on reducing work was ‘unambiguous and strong,’” wrote Menon. “If recipients lost their jobs during the experiment, they experienced significantly longer spells of unemployment compared with non-recipients — more than two months longer for husbands, almost a year longer for wives, and longer still for single mothers.”
It isn’t only conservative writers who have their doubts about the basic income plans proposed by Harris and Booker. Some left-wing pundits believe that while both plans have their merits, neither of them will do quite enough to really help America’s struggling families.
Harris’s “LIFT the Middle Class Act” would give tax credits of up to $6,000 to families earning less than six figures a year and a credit of up to $3,000 to those earning less than $50,000.
“Middle class families deserve to know that one unexpected cost won’t lead to a financial emergency,” the California senator wrote. “The LIFT the Middle Class Act that I introduced would help address the rising costs of housing, tuition, childcare, and more.”
Booker’s plan revolves around “opportunity accounts” for American children that would supply nearly $50K for young men and women by the time they reach adulthood.
“Today, nearly one in three American families have zero to negative wealth, and it’s hard to get ahead if you begin life behind the starting line,” Booker said.
Harris’ plan would, according to government watchdogs, add nearly $6 trillion to the federal deficit. Booker’s program would take at least $60 billion from taxpayers every year.
And yet, liberals like Bryce Cover of the Nation magazine say that these plans aren’t enough. He recommends that the government instead set aside “at least $250 a month for each child” in America – a plan that would cost taxpayers at least $200 billion a year.
Menon, of the Heritage Foundation, says there are better ways.
“Policy should be designed to reward work, rather than replace it,” Menon writes. Therefore, a better alternative to a universal basic income would be to expand the earned income tax credit.”