This paper discusses how Universal Income holds up against dishonest behavior by citizens and politicians. It describes how the system handles laziness, fraud, and political machinations. Universal Income is NOT a cure-all, but it does not require perfect people to work.
Universal Income: Cheaters, Thieves, and Politicians
Universal Income is not a utopian “Magic Bullet” that will cure all social problems. And, like any other economic system, it must be robust enough to account for dishonesty and account for the selfish nature of human beings. It is this for this reason that Capitalism is superior to Communism—why the one succeeded and the other failed.
Universal Income will NOT eliminate crime, nor will it eliminate laziness. There will be people who try to cheat the system, and they will have to be dealt with. However, it will be easier to prevent fraud under Universal Income than under any of our current social programs. Also, enforcement becomes self-funding because the Universal Income of criminals could be redirected to pay for their crimes.
Finally, although Universal Income is operated by the government it would be less subject to corruption than other programs. The reason for this is its simplicity—everyone receives the same amount, the money is created digitally, and funds are direct deposited into the citizen’s bank account. Any attempt to siphon funds would be noticed immediately, leaving virtually no room for graft.
There are only a few ways to commit fraud under Universal Income. The first is to receive payment without fulfilling the minimum contribution requirement. This means that the individual does not work, volunteer, or attend any educational programs—in other words they are LAZY. Fortunately laziness is not a serious problem in the United States.
In the US people tend to work longer hours, take fewer vacations, and retire later than is needful. They would rather work than do most other things—in 2010 86% of males and 67% of women worked more than 40 hours per week. Of those NOT working full time, 16% were in college—this leaves 7% of men and 15% of women potentially in the “LAZY” category.
Are there lazy people, YES, but they are relatively few—11% at MOST. Thus peer-pressure works to our advantage. When those who create value for society see someone being lazy, they become angry and either encourage them to become productive, or report their fraud to the authorities. When three or more reports are filed against an individual, a criminal investigation begins.
Once convicted of fraud, from then onward, that person must prove that they meet the minimum requirements before they can receive Universal Income. They must provide pay-stubs, signed affidavits of service, or transcripts to the government as proof of value added. In addition, a portion of their funds can be withheld to pay for the overhead of processing their paperwork.
Under Universal Income, there are ways for people to steal others money. The most common method will likely be identity theft. A hacker might steal a person’s personal information and take funds out of their account. This can be solved by reporting the incident and creating a new account. When caught, these criminals can be sent to prison and have their own income garnished until they repay what they stole. Once again, Universal Income pays for its own enforcement.
Sadly, this is not the worst form of fraud to look out for. The most vulnerable among us—the young, old, and handicapped—are even more at risk. Parents are to manage their children’s funds until they are old enough to vote. The elderly and severely handicapped have caretakers who are responsible for their funds as well. This creates an opportunity for abuse. Once again, these cases can be handled by the courts. They can (1) Have that person removed from their care, (2) Be tried and sent to prison, and (3) Have their own income garnished to repay what they have stolen.
Because every citizen receives Universal Income, there is little incentive to steal from others due to the huge downside risk. It is easier for citizens to meet the minimum contribution requirements and work for additional income than risk losing it for theft. Unfortunately, this is not the case for criminals OUTSIDE the country, but there is nothing we can do about that.
Avoiding Pork-Barrel Politics
If set up properly, Universal Income can avoid much of the “pork” associated with many government programs. Pork results when politicians try to appropriate government funds for their districts, usually by inserting projects into other bills. They force other politicians to support their projects or risk losing a program they really want or need.
Universal Income could be implemented without pork because it could enjoy a great deal of support on both sides. This is because it would pour millions of dollars into EVERY district. Approval ratings would soar and every member of congress who voted for it would guarantee their re-election. To vote against it would end their political careers.
However, passing Universal Income is the easy part. The hardest part of battling pork is to ensure that the program is PERMANENT, so that partisan groups cannot hold it “hostage” every time it comes up for renewal. An excellent examples of this are the extension of unemployment benefits during the “Great Recession”, and the battle over raising the congressional “debt ceiling” which nearly caused the government to default on its debts.
Avoiding Political Manipulations
Once Universal Income is in place we must remain vigilant about potential manipulations. The key to its success is SIMPLICITY and UNIFORMITY. We cannot allow politicians to over-complicate it like they did the tax code. There are three ways in which in which they can potentially abuse the system: (1) The amount paid out, (2) The requirements to receive it, and (3) Regulating its use.
First, we must ensure that Universal Income is distributed EQUALLY. Everyone must be given the same amount regardless of their social status or position. Politicians should not be able to manipulate the amounts a particular class of people receives. The only exception should be dependent children, who should receive less because they are being cared for by their parents.
Next we need to make sure that the minimum contribution requirements are in fact minimal, and are not raised to the point of being oppressive. We also need to ensure that the requirements are UNIFORM and will not vary across social groups. The only exception should be young children, the handicapped, and the severely ill.
Finally, we need to ensure that politicians do not use Universal Income as a way to manipulate people’s buying habits. The government should not be allowed to dictate what The People can or cannot purchase within the boundaries of the law. There is no reason to implement regulations on Universal Income. There are already laws in place to prevent illegal activities, and taxes to discourage the use of unhealthy products and services. We have no need for further regulation.
Utopian Societies never work because they require perfect people to succeed. Unfortunately people are not perfect—they are selfish and dishonest. Universal Income will not solve these problems. However, the fact that most people in the United States are workaholics puts strong social pressure on those who are not to do their part. People who refuse to meet even the minimum requirements will be resented, and they will be reported by those who do work hard. Thus the system becomes self-regulating.
The only other way to cheat the system is to collect someone else’s income. Particularly vulnerable are the elderly, handicapped, and children. This is fraud, and can be punished under existing laws. They can be tried, sent to prison, and have their own income garnished to repay what they have stolen. Thus, the system is self-funding when it comes to enforcement.
Finally, the power of the system is its SIMPLICITY and UNIFORMITY. However, as with our basic rights, we will have to safeguard them if we are to keep them. We, The People, have to monitor our government to make sure they do not complicate, corrupt, and break the system. It is our duty as citizens to “hold their feet to the fire” and secure our freedom.