A panel of welfare experts discussed the current welfare state Monday and the merits of replacing it with a universal basic income.
A universal basic income would mean every citizen would get an unconditional payment on a regular basis. The American Enterprise Institute hosted the panel to discuss whether the idea would be a better alternative to our current welfare system.
AEI Scholar Charles Murray argues a $10,000 basic annual income would be more cost effective and could better serve workers displaced by automation. He released a book in June in support of the idea.
“We can implement the plan, that I present in the book in our hands, for less money in transfers,” Murray said during the panel discussion. He adds welfare costs are “going to get worse because we have rising entitlement costs.”
The basic income is unique from our current welfare system in that it would be available to everyone. Economist Jared Bernstein, however, opposes the idea of replacing the welfare system outright. He agrees the current system has issues but argues many of the programs are yielding positive results by investing back into people.
“These are investment payments,” countered Bernstein who previously worked as chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. “These investments are in areas we can agree we don’t want market failures leading to the elderly living on the streets.”
AEI’s Murray noted the basic income would better serve workers displaced by the rise of automation.
“The obvious example is truck drivers and the advent of driverless cars,” Murray noted. “But actually the scarier example in terms of the numbers and the nature of the changes is in white collar jobs.”
Murray notes changes in the economy have phased out a lot of skills and professions. He says the changes are going to lead to more displaced workers. Those workers would at least have their basic income to fall back on instead of going through the process of getting employment welfare.
Bernstein warns people could find themselves without any protections. While recipients would be encouraged to spend part of their basic income on healthcare and their retirement, they won’t have to.