The federal government is toying with the idea once again of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) program that would potentially see base income payments for all Canadians in the future. Did you get butterflies? So did I – free money is always a welcome prospect after all. But would such a program work? Does it make sense? Simply put: no.
There are two options with a government base income program. One is for it to be truly universal, where everyone receives a base payment every month regardless of their need for it. This payment could be $2,000 monthly, for example. The advantage of this method is that it doesn’t de-incentivise working. Payment is received regardless of current income level. Work more, get more money. Work less, get less money. There is no “replacement” of income for those who slack off. A disadvantage, however, is that scores of people are going to receive money that they don’t need.
We are unfortunately accustomed to excessive waste in government, but giving thousands of dollars every month to people who already live comfortably with six figure incomes is an idea that really takes the cake.
The other possible method for UBI is a payment program that is geared to income. The downside to this should be obvious – it gives people very little reason to work and contribute to society. Working less hard and making less money has no real consequences when the government promises to make up the difference.
I’m prepared to make a bold statement: No matter what method the government uses, a UBI program would be a firm step in the direction of communism. Take the “truly universal” implementation method as an example. My wife and I are fortunate to be in a financial situation where we wouldn’t need UBI payments, but would be receiving them anyway. We might therefore get excited and set our sights on buying a new boat or renovating our house, but if we back up a moment, the question remains… “who is paying?” We would have more possessions without increasing our contributions to society. That reality is not reality at all, it’s delusional insofar as it misses the point of society entirely.
Grateful to be receiving an extra $2,000 per month, would my wife and I be blind to the fact that as an upper middle income family, our tax dollars would also be expected to pay for other people’s benefits? In other words, in receiving our $2,000, would we notice the extra $3,000 a month that the government would manage to claw away in taxes? Ultimately, the whole proposal feels like a plan to give everyone the same finances without requiring them to provide the same level of work and benefit to society. I work 60 hours a week, and I don’t do it so that someone who works 20 hours a week can take my money when it’s confiscated as taxes and redistributed as basic income.
I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and I am not entitled. Like many, many others, I grew up poor, put myself through school using loans that I meticulously paid off with employment income, and I still work long hours in order to sustain the lifestyle that I enjoy. I am not “entitled” to more than anyone else, but I certainly do “earn” more than a significant portion of society.
There are benefits that work. The Ontario Trillium Benefit and the GST Credit are two examples of things my wife and I don’t receive, but I have no problem with the fact that others do. My wife and I receive a rather low payment for the Universal Child Care Benefit, and again, we have no problem with that. I know many hardworking people who need the much higher payments that they receive, and in this economy, I am glad that they receive them.
A UBI costing the government (i.e. the taxpayer) tens of billions of dollars is a recipe for governmental waste, total unfairness in the redistribution of wealth, and rising unemployment as unambitious people choose to ride the system instead of paying their own way. Keep the benefits and credits we have, and let income be up to the income earners. Canada’s economy may be struggling, but what we need to fix it is strong leadership, not magical remedies that fail the common sense test.