Why I Hate GBI

Because it’s inhuman cruelty under the guise of caring. 

Nearly half of all prime working-age male labor-force dropouts—an army now totaling roughly 7 million men—currently take pain medication on a daily basis. . . In our mind’s eye we can now picture many millions of un-working men in the prime of life, out of work and not looking for jobs, sitting in front of screens—stoned.

Of course, it’s so easy not to notice any of this and instead self-congratulate and preen. 

And yes, there already is guaranteed basic income in the US:

Of the entire un-working prime-age male Anglo population in 2013, nearly three-fifths (57 percent) were reportedly collecting disability benefits from one or more government disability program in 2013. 


62 thoughts on “Why I Hate GBI”

  1. I don’t read the quotation the same way you do. For example, unemployment insurance varies in length by state from 12 to 26 weeks. The amount it pays varies from $235/week in Mississippi to $742/week in Massachusetts. Illinois pays $449/week for an individual, and $613/week for a family with dependents.

    After 26 weeks, there’s Medicaid for health care, food stamps for food, and a homeless shelter. Is that what you meant by guaranteed income?


          1. Maybe the disability is defined too much largely in this case.

            But it’s way worse in Québec. Even Aspergers is recognized as a form of disability (or more precisely, as a total constraint for work) in many cases here.


      1. My wife collects Social Security disability — a whopping $880 per month. You know how far that goes in NJ? If she weren’t married, she’d me in a homeless shelter. We know a woman in Nevada also on disability who is in a public housing. She gets $400/month and food stamps for food, transportation and all of her other expenses. Really lavish.


  2. Oh yes, there have been fraudulent claims for disability. That’s slowed the processing of all claims, and people are being investigated and jailed. Roughly 7% of initial applications for disability are approved. The remainder have to be appealed.


    1. It’s not fraudulent in the sense that these are people who are legitimately unable to work because they have been pushed out of work and productive life by robotization. The question now is: do we want to do something for them or do we prefer to keep them stupefied with Oxy and hidden from view? This is the only question here.


        1. No, not all. It’s one thing to provide job training for people who have been rendered unemployable by automation and quite another to pump them full of Oxy and park them in front of a TV.


              1. Teaching can’t be automated. Statisticians at David’s level can’t either. (Big Data is a scam, like Rosetta Stone or MOOCs). Economists, I don’t know. Depends on the level. A guy like Picketty obviously can’t be automated.


              1. This is such an enormous transformation in the very concept of work that we are witnessing. There should be a wide-ranging, complex program to address what’s going on. And instead people are thrown a few dimes and a prescription to shut them up.


    1. How very convenient for Gates and Musk. I’m sure they’d be all for upping the opioid dosage to make sure the displaced sit very quietly and don’t get in the way.


  3. We have 12% of American adults who never completed high school or achieved a GED. We have another 55% who never completed college. Almost any job for which you could train these people is on the hit list for automation. What do you do?

    Our society sends them to Iraq to get killed, or denies them healthcare so they die earlier.

    That’s the context for the opioid discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suggest that this should at least be discussed. But nobody is doing it right now.

      There can be a variety of things. There are places with crowds of immigrants who don’t speak English. The only way to teach them is to pair them with English speakers. That’s a job that will never be automated. Plus, it gets people away from the screens, gets then interacting, gives them a purpose.

      There’s ton for stuff we could come up with. Real, working, meaningful stuff.


      1. Economics and crime go hand in hand in the US. Remember when Marx referred to religion as the opiate of the masses? It’s been replaced. Crime also solves the problem of long term care for the elderly. A 73-year-old woman was just arrested for killing a 60-something male with a baseball bat. Now she gets Long Term Care.


  4. I was a student in the former East Germany in the 90s. Unemployment in the former east was massive and there was lots of political pressure to get it down. One of the ways they did that was to declare any middle-aged worker with a half-way serious injury to be permanently disabled. The father of one of my good friends got caught up in this and it almost killed him.

    He was in his 50s and had a job installing large machinery. He fell at work, hurt his leg, and needed surgery. He legitimately couldn’t work for many months, but he was declared permanently disabled because that took him out of the labor market and his company could hire someone younger for his job. Within two years he was a total mess, he developed a serious problem with alcohol and would get drunk and call his children threatening suicide on a fairly regular basis. He was eventually able to stop drinking and to realize that he had to do something for his own sanity. He got a bunch of chickens and started selling fresh eggs to all of his neighbors, he also got some under-the-table jobs working for farmers in the area, and started doing all sorts of errands and odd-jobs for legitimately elderly and disabled people in his town. As a permanently disabled person he was busier and doing harder work than many healthy people. He was lucky to have found a solution to the problem of feeling useless, but he could have very easily drunk himself to death or carried through with one of those suicide threats.


    1. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Human beings need a purpose, an organizing principle. Without one, they self-destruct, join racist organizations, erupt in violence. People are not cows. It’s not enough to get fed regularly. (Except if you are that tweeting broad from Sweden).


      1. I totally concur with the need for purpose. Unfortunately, virtually none of the programs in the “social safety net” focus on that. The current administration seems committed to doing less and less for these people.


        1. Yes, there needs to be something entirely new, a completely fresh approach because the situation is so new. This should be the #1 conversation we are having as a society right now. Instead, we are wasting time re-fighting outdated battles and inventing fruitless fantasies.


  5. I wouldn’t worry… I’m sure after a few years of the current administration, there won’t be any sort of social safety net here. Social Security disability? I’m guessing that’ll go away along with Medicare and Medicaid.

    The quote from Commentary magazine. As conservatives, of course they’re clever about framing their opposition to welfare in any form. They make it sound like they’re being compassionate.

    I looked around their “magazine” and here’s what I found what they had to say about one of their heroes:

    When William F. Buckley Jr. died in 2008 at age 82, conservatives were deprived of his wit, his intelligence, his charisma, and his panache. But they also lost something more important than their leader’s charms. They lost his authority. And they need it now more than ever.


    1. No, it won’t go away. If anything, there will be more of it.

      And it bores me to tears when people reject information just because the medium doesn’t pass their ideological purity test. Are this author’s numbers wrong? If not, then that’s all that matters.


      1. I don’t know how things are done in Ukraine, but here in the U.S. conservatives rarely say what they truly mean. For the past thirty or forty years, they’ve been hiding their motives behind “compassionate conservatism” because they know their views are unpopular. It’s how they win elections. And they won big in 2016.

        And yes, I believe in checking the source. You quoted a conservative publication. They want you to get good and mad about the social safety net. It looks like they succeeded. They didn’t come out and say “We don’t believe government should provide any support for disadvantaged citizens.”

        Ronald Reagan (another one of their heroes) tried kicking a bunch of people off of disability in the 1980s. The suicide rate went up.

        Vic Crain above explained how difficult it is to qualify and how little it pays. But that isn’t enough for our friends at Commentary. They want the New Deal gone. And with a republican congress and president, I don’t see GBI being a threat to them anymore.


        1. I’m not discussing conservatives in this post. I’m discussing a specific text. I’m glad you found an easy way to interpret the universe by applying the good guys versus bad guys mentality. Some of us, however, are not all that into this cowboy worldview.

          Have you ever wondered whether the world might be a bit more complicated than “Boo! Evil conservatives!”?


          1. I don’t know… the purity test, the good guys vs bad guys…

            If I came here and said “I hate [X] or [Y] and provided a link to a magazine, and you visited the magazine and saw them call Putin a great humanitarian and charming person, would you take my opinion or my link seriously?

            That’s sort of how I feel when I see a source call Buckley “charming”.


            1. The article I linked is not about Buckley or Putin. Do you disagree with the quotes I gave? Do you have information that they contain falsehoods? If not, then what are we arguing about?


  6. Taking care of elderly is also a possible job.

    Btw, I have always known nursing homes are a horrible place to be in and it’s better for old people to live with their adult children in majority of cases. The current case in Israel proved me right, again:

    Following a video recording of caretakers abusing the elderly people under their care, and the findings of a national police investigation, which revealed this to be a widespread phenomenon, many public figures have come out against these occurences and have called for a healthcare reform to deal with this reality.


    I do not believe it will be changed.


    1. But it’s not better for elderly people to have to live with younger family members just because neither group have the money for any alternative! Elder abuse is significantly underreported.


      1. \ If you are away at work all day, how can you provide care to an elderly person?

        In Israel, a country helps by paying for X hours a week of a caretaker coming to home.

        Adult children sometimes pay for another person (usually a foreign worker) living together with the old parent 24/7. It can be done whether the parent stays alone in his flat and children live in another place, or if they live together.

        Also, older grandchildren may help when they return from school.

        Not all old people are in horribly bad condition requiring hospital level of care.


        1. Imagine sitting there alone all day, locked up like a dog. At assisted living, elderly people have the company of their peers.

          I know a fellow in this town who brought his mother to live with him. She’s completely alone all day. It’s a terrible life.

          As for a live-in caretaker, there are many more chances for abuse and a lot less accountability when an old person is alone with this stranger than when there is a system in place and many people around.


          1. “As for a live-in caretaker, there are many more chances for abuse and a lot less accountability when an old person is alone with this stranger”

            But that is one of the most common entry jobs for immigrants now, especially women (and ads for people to do that in Germany or other countries advertised in Poland).

            I’ve known a few people that have done it, they described it as boring but stable (and in the best circumstance can tremendously aid in learning/perfecting the language).

            Ideally there should be regulation and oversight, but for many low-income and/or low education immigrants, willingness to cut bureaucratic corners is one of their biggest selling points.


          2. This thread has a kaleidoscopic quality to it, touching on a number of very important issues. If we go back to the original quote, there’s a bit of a tautology. Some of those on disability are legitimately in pain, so the fact that they pop pills simply reflects a lack of other ways of treating nerve damage. That’s what my wife has. Her optic nerve was damaged due to a fall on ice, her eyes don’t converge, and she has severe head pain that goes beyond what any available pills can handle. So she has monthly injections. There is no method at present for curing her damage.

            There are some who may be malingering on disability, but CMS has made a concerted effort to identify them and deny them benefits.

            My argument is that there is no real income guarantee as benefits are less than poverty level in most areas and are limited in duration. Even Social Security, with an average payment of about $1600 per month, doesn’t provide enough to insure a secure old age.

            What is happening now and the roadmap forward was explicated in a white paper that Ryan published in 2015 and the bill introduced in January for Social Security reform. Benefits under Medicare and CHIP will be reduced, and people will be encouraged to buy supplemental policies from private insurers to cover the new gaps — basically more out of pocket for healthcare. Retirement age will move to 70. (The fact that low income consumers have a life expectancy in the US of 72 basically solves the trust fund shortfall. They won’t live long enough to draw much from the fund.)

            The interesting questions for me are:

            (1) Why do so many people make bad choices about not finishing high school or not doing at least an Associates Degree?

            (2) Why don’t we migrate to a four day work week, as much of Europe has, in order to allow current companies to absorb more workers?

            (3) How do we change how people think about themselves and their relationship to work?

            (4) How do we create new jobs for those who inevitably will be displaced?

            Step-daughter was a restaurant manager in St. Louis, and she found that the only employees willing to work hard for her were immigrants. Motivation and attitudes toward work are major issues.

            Finally, the government has no clue how large the gray economy in the US is, or how many people work in it. This economy includes all under the table payments as well as illegal jobs (drug dealing, sex work, etc.). We’d have a better understand of how to fix things if we really understood what is happening now. (Of course, people in the gray economy have no interest in educating anyone about what they do, since if it were public knowledge, the IRS would be calling on them.)

            The gray economy issues ties into calls to legalize drugs and sex work.


            1. These are very good questions. Let me provide some possible answers.

              “Why don’t we migrate to a four day work week, as much of Europe has, in order to allow current companies to absorb more workers?”

              • The problem is that the workers that are prized in the knowledge economy are not fungible. My sister, for instance, would love to work 4 days in her own business. But she can’t find somebody who can do what she does. And she’s a highly successful professional recruiter. If she can’t find anybody, it means they are very very scarce. Or take me. Who can share my work load with me, realistically? I can’t even use a research assistant because I literally don’t have anything for them to do. It all has to be me. Even a teaching assistant would not be helpful.

              “Step-daughter was a restaurant manager in St. Louis, and she found that the only employees willing to work hard for her were immigrants.”

              • Oh yes. That’s definitely an issue in this region.

              “Finally, the government has no clue how large the gray economy in the US is, or how many people work in it. This economy includes all under the table payments as well as illegal jobs ”

              • Also true. I only recently had a chance to find out how extensive the gray economy is. And I’m not talking about drug dealing or prostitution. I’m talking about respectable middle-class people working off the books.


      2. Or if it’s an extended family situation with several non-working adults. That requires more money and more house than most people can afford. Mother-in-law apartment setups are zoning violations in many places. Good luck finding a house that has everything on the ground floor.

        Sometimes I wonder if nursing homes and the like are popular in part because many elderly had such poor parenting skills. It’s a cultural thing to be sure, but you can hardly expect good intensive care from your children if you were bad at it when they were dependents. And in any event, elder abuse occurs with family members too.


        1. And I agree with Shakti, too. My great-grandmother died alone with full blown dementia. Every time we tried to remove her from her home and take her to live with us, she’d wail and tear her hair out in clumps. She might have been old but she was not a piece of furniture. She wanted to be in her own environment. And if we had forced her to come with us, short of locking her up, I don’t know how we could have kept her from wandering off.


    2. What’s best for the elderly is not the only thing to consider. Two of my grandparents were taken care of by my parents. What’s rarely talked about is how resentful the elderly can get – their bodies are failing, they are moved away from an environment they are familiar with and in control of and into one where their motions are of necessity controlled by other people. Dealing with a person whose mental and physical faculties are shot is hard, and it’s even harder when both you and them are trying to politely pretend that’s they’re still fully capable. They rage at the situation they’re in and lash out at whoever they perceive to have power over them, which is sometimes going to be their adult child, but more often the spouse or the children.

      I respect my parents for taking care of theirs a lot, but having the routines of a home be mostly about waiting for a person to die as politely as we could was horrible.


      1. +100 what DWeird is saying. I have a friend who tried taking in her elderly mother. And it was a disaster for everybody involved. With all of the best intentions in the world, she was lost as to what to do about precisely this rage and crankiness. After this almost led to her getting divorced, she had to place mom at an assisted living facility. Mom had always been a very powerful, dictatorial woman and seeing herself as her own daughter’s child was intolerable.


  7. Have just seen:

    Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen sparked controversy on Tuesday when she refused to wear a headscarf to meet with Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim cleric.

    Islamic dress is a hot-button issue in France, where the full-face veil is banned in public places.

    The Islamic headscarf known as the Hijab is also banned in schools and public buildings, but Le Pen has said she wants to extend the ban to all public places.

    Her stance however may open her up to accusations of hypocrisy as she regularly tells her supporters at rallies that foreign migrants in France should either adapt to French rules and culture or go home.

    Should she have adapted to the cultural norms of where she was?


    Btw, I am against banning Hijab everywhere since religious Jewish women cover their hair too.


    1. “Marine Le Pen sparked controversy on Tuesday when she refused to wear a headscarf ”

      Good for her! There’s no reason for wearing hijab to be a precondition for meeting a religious figure.

      I can see an exception if the meeting were to take place within an actual mosque but if it was elsehwere then the requirement that she wear hijab is basically invalid.

      ” I am against banning Hijab everywhere since religious Jewish women cover their hair too.”

      Would you cover your hair with a wig to meet a rabbi (outside a synagogue?) Would you expect non-Jewish women to do that?


  8. All these articles just focus on prime working age men, which I found suspicious. Why are women being excluded from these unemployment stats? So I looked around.

    Counterpoint: http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/yes-folks-david-brooks-is-making-up-his-own-facts-again

    While fewer prime age men (ages 25-54) men are working today than in 2000, the share of prime age women has fallen by almost the same amount. Furthermore, the percent of prime age women working had been rising prior to 2000 and was projected to continue to rise by most economists.

    The fact that women’s employment rates have fallen as well is important because it indicates that, contrary to what Brooks tells us, the problem is not a gender specific moral failing. The problem is most likely a good old-fashioned shortfall in demand in the economy.

    This matters a great deal because we actually do know how to create more demand. It’s called “spending money.” This means that if the government spent more money on things like education, health care, and infrastructure, we could get more of these prime age men and women employed. There are other ways to create demand. For example, if we got our trade deficit down by reducing the value of the dollar it would also generate more demand and employment.

    If we are troubled by the large number of prime age workers who are not employed there are policies that we could pursue that would address the problem. In other words, we should be more worried about the moral failings of people in a position to make economic policy than the moral failings of the folks not working.


    1. The article I linked says all this about female drop in employment. And yes, of course, it’s all about automation. The reason why men are discussed so insistently is that for men, being outside the workforce, endangers their gender identity. And for women it doesn’t. This isn’t to say that women enjoy being unemployed and poor. Of course not. But gender identification is the strongest one of all. When that is threatened, people tend to react in all sorts of bizarre and often violent ways. They start looking for substitute identities – for instance, the racial identity. Where that leads, we can all imagine.

      If my job gets automated out of existence and I can’t get employed ever again, that would be very bad. It will be a blow to my feeling of importance as a professional, as a taxpayer, as a citizen. But it won’t make me feel as less of a woman. And that’s a huge difference from what my male peer will experience in an identical situation.


      1. Of course not. But gender identification is the strongest one of all. When that is threatened, people tend to react in all sorts of bizarre and often violent ways. They start looking for substitute identities – for instance, the racial identity. Where that leads, we can all imagine.

        But you’ve also said that marriage is how a lot of women fulfill their gender identity, along with having children. By that rubric, for example, shouldn’t have many English women right after World War I gone bonkers in more dramatic and bizarre ways? Everything I’ve seen about spinsters is rather quiet and peaceful in comparison.


        1. “By that rubric, for example, shouldn’t have many English women right after World War I gone bonkers in more dramatic and bizarre ways? ”

          Do we know they didn’t? And before they had a chance to act out too much (besides changing the world by starting to support themselves) there was the depression and then WWII – big outside stresses tend to drive out smaller internal ones.


        2. Men externalize rage while women internalize or turn it against children if children are available. For example, in the post-war, post-stalinist USSR where men were scarce, the child abuse reached enormous heights. And it can still be felt all these generations later. This was the women’s revenge for having to play “male roles.”


          1. Men externalize rage while women internalize or turn it against children if children are available
            That’s what I mean. It’s NEVER contextualized as “this is the result of the female role/gender identity being frustrated (and we need to do something about it for these women for society’s sake.)”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.