A Basic Income Should Be the Next Big Thing

A Basic Income Should Be the Next Big Thing
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 22: A stack of U.S. one dollar bills is photographed Wednesday, November 22, 2006, in New York. (Photo by Stephen Hilger/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

This may be happening with the concept of a universal basic income.

Bernie Sanders says he’sSympatheticto the theory behind a universal basic income but stops well short of advocating it.

Marco Rubio, for example, proposed the beginnings of a basic income in his 2015 tax plan.

Ontario, Canada, will conduct an experiment with a basic income later this year.

In May, a nonprofit group will start giving 6,000 Kenyans a guaranteed income for at least a decade and follow the results.

Dozens of social-welfare programs now costing U.S. taxpayers about $1 trillion a year could be folded into a basic income program, they argue.

In the 1960s, a basic income was part of the mainstream political discussion.

President Richard Nixon even proposed an income floor, based on ideas developed by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then a domestic-policy adviser.

The earned-income tax credit, a form of basic income, took its place, but only to supplement the earnings of the working poor.

One of his aims was to end theEarnings cliff,” in which government aid disappears once income exceeds a cap.

The idea of a universal basic income is enjoying a renaissance today, not only inWashington think tanks but in Silicon Valley, as my Bloomberg View colleague, Justin Fox, has written.

The fear that people with a guaranteed basic income would become slackers may be unfounded.

By excluding 45 million retirees who already receive a basic income through Social Security, the cost falls to $2.7 trillion.

Now we’re getting close to the $1 trillion cost of all those unemployment checks, tax credits, food stamps, housing vouchers and myriad other means-tested benefits that a basic income could supplant.

They don’t like that a basic income would replace the safety net, even when assured that some programs, including education, job training, and entitlements like Medicare, would be maintained.