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UBI: Not Without a Balanced Budget Amendment (if ever)

UBI is short for "Universal Basic Income." The typical idea is that the federal government should just write a $10,000 check to every adult in exchange for eliminating the welfare state's bureaucracy. It is championed by a broad ideological spectrum of folks, from Facebook's Mark Zukerberg to Charles Murray.

The debates over the concept typically focus on whether political forces would maintain the bargain - eliminating the welfare state for a guaranteed income - over time.

On one side, advocates say that the bargain can be maintained because of the shear cross-partisan/ideological nature of supporters. They also say UBI is the only politically plausible way to reform the excessive costs and inefficiencies of the welfare state. Some futurists say there is no other way to keep the peace when robots and AI start performing all low skill jobs.

On the other side, opponents say that the bargain cannot be maintained because the pressure to supervise the use of public funds will eventually lead to a return of the bureaucracy, and an overlay of essentially the same costly machinery of the welfare state. Opponents also worry that political pressure will mount to increase the UBI until its disincentives for work undermine the economy even more than those created by the welfare state. Moralists oppose conceding the premise of universal forced charity regardless of need.

Oddly, none of the debates seem to consider UBI specifically against the elephant in the room: namely unlimited federal borrowing capacity.

Although Compact for America Educational Foundation does not have a position on UBI, it is respectfully submitted that UBI should not be enacted so long as the federal government has unlimited borrowing capacity that it unilaterally controls.

The pressure on politicians from special interests and constituents to spend beyond our means by sending the bill to future generations is already immense. That pressure would only increase to a breaking point if suddenly every adult in the country became a coherent interest group pressuring politicians to spend more on UBI, while sending the bill to future generations.

Before UBI is ever seriously considered, whatever its benefits or flaws, there must first be a Balanced Budget Amendment to ensure that future generations are not sent the bill to provide current generations with a guaranteed income. Otherwise, UBI will be remembered as the tipping point of our nation into Third World bankruptcy.

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