Nobody is claiming it's scarce now. But who is going to work the jobs to provide those things if the incentives to work are practically nonexistent? 16 hours of labor a week by someone who just kind of wants to be working the job isn't enough to meet demand for even the basics. Who wants to work in a factory when they could be chasing their dream of playing the banjo? Who's going to educate the next generation if work is optional and the tax on those who do work is 50%? And even if they do teach, how is 16 hours a week sufficient to accomplish anything in any career?
I already mentioned that the tax for everything Ruby wants, save housing, is 10%. Not 50%.
The mean wage is $100k per year, roughly. The sum total of all of the benefits Ruby is requesting, save housing, is $10k per year, roughly. There are genuine issues regarding ownership and responsibility when it comes to housing - but the rest of it is a pittance.
Keep in mind, we already provide everything in Ruby's list to the nation's poorest.
Everything. Free cell phones. Free health care. Extremely cheap housing (for as little as $5 a month). Free clothes. Free food. Free books. Free Internet access.
There is no vehicle in Ruby's list. You want a car? You want fuel for it? You need to work for it. We could probably provide a free bicycle though.
There is no dining out in Ruby's list. No entertainment budget. No social budget. I find the claim that people in general would be content to sit and rot to be rather specious.
The only reason for hiking taxes to 50% would be to pay down the debt, really. And when that's done they can go back to 30% or so (defense + social security + other general government functions).
We'll need more workers than ever in all sorts of basic service industries if we provided those things. Plumbers to maintain the piping in these houses,
No we wouldn't, the houses already exist.
government bureaucrats to oversea the dispersing of all of these amenities,
Why? Just attach the clothing and food vouchers to your state ID. The free cell phone program already exists.
doctors and nurses to help with the new patient load,
We need more general practitioners and fewer specialists. This is a function of the way our health care system is currently broken, not an actual shortage of medical specialization.
people to do hard manual labor on the farms,
Hardly, this would just replace food stamps, and gut some of the bureaucracy.
truck drivers to transport all of the newly consumed goods (not to mention gas to fuel the transit),
Like what, twenty? A hundred? Again, for the millionth time, these programs already exist for the poor.
factory workers to make the clothing
Yeah, more work for Americans, that's -such- a problem.
Somehow I don't think a 25% increase in demand is going to break the Pharma industry.
so on and so forth. Upping the need for basic labor force while at the same time reducing the incentives for working (by making it not necessary for basic survival) is a recipe for famine in the long-term.
Name one famine the United States has undergone since the introduction of food stamps in 1939.
Name one nation whose universal health care system has collapsed it.
Name one nation whose universal education system has collapsed it.
Do homeless shelters encourage homelessness?
The rest of the goods are trivial in comparison - the idea is to make sure people have phone numbers, an address, and an e-mail address, because employment often requires these things.
In order for it to work we'd have to be able to raise the standard of living of the majority of the country. It wouldn't matter if you were working poor, a welfare queen, or struggling middle class, society would have to give you more than you already have in order for this system to be at all sustainable. There may be money for this on paper, but I highly doubt we have the labor for it.
There is money for it in reality, because, you know, we already do it.
I've mentioned this before, but part of the problem with many forms assistance for the poor is that they do in fact work, and actually make too much in order to get the benefits.
Ruby's solution gives no additional benefit to those who actually refuse to work most of the time - they already get it all
. It's the people who make more than $10k a year (roughly) who get screwed. You can't live on that - but you don't get the free health care, cheap housing, etc.
You may think, "That CEO makes 3 million a year. If he gave 2 million of it to charity in a month we'd be able to provide for 50 families." It seems to work out, 2 million divided by 50 is about 40,000. However, this assumes that simply because the money would then be available the goods and services would be as well. In reality, if we started a grand program like this the skyrocketing demand for all of these goods and services would increase their value exponentially. Going by today's standard we can probably afford this, but the question is for how long and after the shift in the economy we would cause, would it really be a viable program?
Your argument only holds for goods that don't already have a comparable amount of demand already. Cell phones, clothing, and food may increase slightly in demand, but for the most part, it won't increase too much, because nearly the entire population already has these things.
Similarly, sometimes providing a good universally can actually reduce the overall cost. When I went to ER for my hernia, I took up the time of a lot of good doctors, whereas a general checkup would have sufficed if I had gotten it checked earlier, and taken up the time of all of one doctor. For a more graphic example, one member here spend five days in an ICU because she could not afford $100 for antibiotics for an infection. Another member here has spent three years
in chemotherapy, for want of surgery when the first symptoms of cancer appeared.
We -all- pay for that.
This is to say nothing of the cost of rescission workers and the medical staff time they take up, the cost of bankruptcies - not just for the people going through them but the hospitals stuck with the costs. The cost of frivolous testing - not just in terms of the expense in medicare but, you know, the woman in my signature would be alive today if her overworked doctors didn't miss it.
Now, I'm not skeptical about our ability to provide all of these things. The whole food thing isn't terribly shocking, as you've said we basically already provide that. Housing is another story however because you can't just provide someone with a framework of wood, electrical wiring, bricks, and carpeting and viola. Houses require a ridiculous amount of resources to maintain, especially if we're trying to keep the property intact and the people in them above the poverty line.
This is actually an argument for providing more housing - seizing unused, run-down homes, and auctioning them off to the impoverished and giving them a voucher to help fix it up. House prices aren't just falling because of the economy. We have two million homeless... and nineteen million empty, unused
homes. These aren't homes being rented out or used as vacation homes. They, simply, aren't used.
The issue is you want to make sure the people acquiring a home have a sense of ownership of and responsibility for it. That's non-trivial.
And the more you pile on in terms of rights the more expensive it gets. Internet? I guess everyone needs a computer. Then they need electricity for it, the physical infrastructure, we'll have to beef up our national network to compensate for the additional traffic, provide education on how to use it for the computer illiterate, and tech support for the vast majority of people. Cell phones are a whole other nightmare.
Let's see, a typical nettop cheap laptop draws about 40 watts. Not even a kilowatt hour per day if somehow used 24/7.
Compare that to say, heating assistance.
And don't get me started about 'upgrading the national network'. There's a reason why I said we could pull the funds by legally seizing them due to antitrust violations. It is not that expensive.
And we already are providing free cell phones.
I think it's fairly non-controversial to say that if we give people too much for doing nothing not enough people will work in order to sustain the burden. I will admit that how much is too much is a question that is horrifically complicated and would require such nuanced knowledge in order to draw the exact line.
It's pretty clear that providing enough food to eat fairly well is not too much.
It's pretty clear that providing a cell phone with limited minutes is not too much.
It's pretty clear that providing housing assistance is not too much. This includes utility assistance programs.
It's pretty clear that providing clothing assistance is not too much.
It's pretty clear that providing education is not too much.
It's pretty clear that providing universal health care is not too much.
The only thing that remains, from Ruby's argument, is actually providing the housing directly and not just assistance (because $5 per month is apparently too much for some people, and they will bitch and holler about paying even that, according to one friend who's worked in low income housing).
There probably is a point where you have to identify and prune outright leaches, and maybe something like that will suffice.
I am not qualified to make this determination. I do however think that if you provide people everything that they need to survive you're giving too them too much. I simply can't wrap my head around why people in dead-end careers would continue to work at all in this system.
Because they'd work on something else. And those dead-end careers would either evolve into non-dead-end careers, or get replaced in some manner. I think you have a bit of a static conception of the status quo.
Take, for example, what broke the Soviet Union. It took more than just the general inefficiency of a planned economy. They actually had to be goaded into overinvesting into heavy industry, which actively took away from less glamorous but no less critical industries.
Why not work, save up a bit of cash for leisure, then return early and then live under mommy & daddy government's roof until the day you die?
Inflation. To say nothing of - isn't this what happens anyway?
Regardless, I don't have a single grandparent that hasn't done some form of productive labor since retiring. I don't think I'm alone, by a long shot, in that department.
If you like to read, just live in your government provided house, eat your government provided food, and go to the library to check out government provided books. Or better yet: spend all day on the internet doing nothing while those who are stupid enough to work foot the bill for literally everything you do.
The thing is, people can already do this. Oddly enough, it only really gets bad when there is actually no work available - during the Great Depression and to a lesser extent now. Part of the idea is making sure the labor is available.
It's like asking why do government workers who know they can't be fired still work? Some certainly don't, but the majority, in fact, do.
After all, who needs a job when you've got flash games, porn, and wikipedia.
EDIT: And none of this speaks to the incompetence of organization bureaucracy. I just don't have faith in a government that can't even manage to solve problems in a capitalist framework for the fortunate (ignoring the lower 10% of the population's struggles) to do the same for damn near everyone.
Reminds me of something my dad once said: every time I go to the DMV I'm reminded of why socialism will never work.
Yet no private enterprise has created a network to rival the Internet. Despite trying. Repeatedly. Don't know about where you live but the DMV up here tends to be pretty efficient compared to say, my bank.
Regardless, a part of the reason I think that, save for housing, Ruby's ideas are good is that they remove a lot of bureaucracy from the programs they're replacing. No approval process, you get a couple of vouchers attached to your state ID. Simple and elegant. If you don't get food stamps normally, you can either use it to supplement your income, or if you're feeling particularly generous just forget about using it. Same with the clothing voucher.
And there's nothing like removing the 'you must make less than $10k per year to get free health care' bullshit. The opposition to universal healthcare is -not- about providing it to the homeless. They already get care. The opposition to universal healthcare is about preventing the working poor and self employed from getting health care.