Welcome to another installment of Swamponomics: Liberty Nation’s dive into the week’s morass of top news stories and the stream of economic fallacies that have been accepted as conventional wisdom by swamp creatures for years.
Taking Stock(ton) of the UBI
Stockton, California launched a universal basic income (UBI) pilot project earlier this year. Under the Stockton Economic Empower Demonstration (SEED) program, Mayor Michael Tubbs gave families $500 per month via debit cards. From the very beginning, Tubbs was confident it was going to work, choosing to refrain from taking a wait-and-see approach. Although the official data will not be released until 2021, the mayor wanted to hear from 25 recipients, described as “storytellers,” and how the no-strings-attached cash contributed to their lives.
Sukhi Samra, head of SEED, told The Los Angeles Times that she hopes these anecdotes will influence voters and their support of certain political decisions.
This is nothing more than political theater. If you give a random person money for nothing, then of course they’re going to sing your praises. With the possibility of no longer being given a pot of cash, it would be against their interests in outlining the negatives of such a policy. These people will now probably consider basic income a human right. In an Ontario jurisdiction that scrapped the experiment, hundreds of people sued the province because the government took away their benefits that reached as much as $2,000.
Since the bankrupt municipality is the first U.S. city to move ahead with the UBI, there is likely a lot of pressure on progressive policymakers and the beneficiaries to ensure it looks as successful as possible. Whatever happens, it is likely that policymakers in Newark and Chicago are paying close attention. These cities are thinking about handing out cash for breathing, too.
Billionaires to the Rescue
The world watched as the 12th-century Notre Dame cathedral was on fire. This building represented the art and culture of Western civilization, and now the greatest society in history is mourning. But not all hope is lost as donations are flooding in to help rebuild and restore this architectural wonder. French billionaires have already contributed nearly $700 million, a whole host of businesses have pledged as much as $100 million each, and Apple even vowed to do its part in repairing Notre Dame.
You would think that this act of goodwill and charitable giving would be universally celebrated. Not quite. As usual, leftists had to grieve about social justice and tax policy, railing against the affluent for doing a generous thing and not concentrating on what they deem to be more important.
Philippe Poutou, a politician and trade unionist, called the influx of donations “a contest of tax evaders,” adding that a proper tax system would establish a fund for these types of issues. Author Kristan Higgins complained about people not donating to the causes of her choosing, such as Puerto Rico, Flint’s clean water crisis, and children in cages, noting that “Jesus didn’t care about stained glass. He cared about humans.” Huffington Post writer Mike Stuchbery reminded donors about “giving aid and comfort to the poor.”
There are two issues at play: philanthropy and the so-called Sackler effect. Whether it is the devastating fire that destroyed Notre Dame or a hurricane that decimates a city, there are always people ready to step up to the plate and do the right thing. This is achieved without any government coercion. Every year, Americans donate billions of dollars to a wide array of causes, from soup kitchens to opera houses to educational facilities to religious institutions.
However, if the rich keep getting bashed by society for doing the right thing, then why bother to assist with specific causes? Forbes reported that the Sacklers, a wealthy American and British family who formed Purdue Pharma, have suspended donations to tackle the opioid crisis. Because the company made money from OxyContin, the public is whining about their major financial contributions to charities that fight the crisis.
Perhaps the public thinks billionaires never contribute to anything except their own bank accounts. This is untrue. There are entire wings of hospitals that are dedicated to a billionaire family because they provided the funding for renovation, technology, staff, and everything that helped erect this part of the building to help patients.
Can we ever just stop and be grateful for once?
Going Green for Green
The left likes to feign outrage about corporate welfare and millionaires and billionaires. Their primary argument is that big business and the wealthy should not receive a penny of tax money. This is a correct and sound philosophy. But the left will shelve this idea if it turns out that you want to sacrifice your soul to the cult of global warming. Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been handing out millions in public funds to the well-connected in the name of going green.
Ottawa signed off on a $12 million grant to Loblaw Companies, a supermarket chain that posted $3 billion in profit last year, because the company is retrofitting their refrigerators and freezers. This will cover the grocery giant’s $36 million investment in the green project. It doesn’t matter if this contradicts the handwringing against corporate welfare because, according to Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, “Canadians want to reduce their emissions.”
Soon after, the federal government announced it is subsidizing purchases of electric vehicles, acquisitions that are mostly completed by the richest of consumers. Taken from a pool of $300 million over a three-year period, the government will give customers either $2,500 or $5,000 to buy an EV or a hybrid, like an Audi A3 or a Ford Fusion – these vehicles can cost as much as $60,000. Surprisingly, Tesla is not on the list.
The purpose is to achieve a national goal of 100% zero-emission car sales by 2040. While the hypocrisy of Trudeau’s Liberals is easy and fun to point out, the real story is the social engineering and complete disregard for the market. Are consumers interested in EVs? All the data suggest that motorists worldwide want these types of cars – with or without a push from the state. The drawback is that the price-tag is too high, but that’s only temporary.
Like solar technology, the prices are falling, which means soon everyone will be able to afford an eco-friendly Chevrolet, Honda, or Nissan. Right now, it is predominantly high-income households that buy the EVs, not Willy Loman who is relying on a beat-up 1932 Ford Roadster to get to his sales jobs.
It’s easy being green on somebody else’s dime.
Why is handing out free money for breathing and buying a new car celebrated but donating your own money to a worthwhile cause is vilified? It just shows how our priorities are all out of whack. Cognitive dissonance, chronic nagging, hypocrisy, and blind political adherence could explain our absurd behavior. Perhaps society would be a lot happier if billionaires bought everyone a car because they woke up in the morning and the government gave the population a check for breathing. Did we just find the Democrats’ 2024 platform?