Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Negative income tax (wikipedia.org)
31 points by dmmalam on Feb 18, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 11 comments

I wonder if this is a better alternative to the guaranteed minimum (basic) income.

It's much simpler. https://youtu.be/xtpgkX588nM

"the idea of a negative income tax is to treat people who are poor the same way we treat people who are rich"

... BS ...

There is nothing the same about taking a significant amount of money from one group and giving a significant amount of money to another group, even if you use a unified mechanism to accomplish it. Regardless of how you feel about the issue, let's at least keep the discourse honest.

I'll be honest: although most people around here are fans of basic income, negative income tax, etc., I am not for one simple reason: the second that more than 50% of the population is on the 'receiving' end of things and not on the 'paying' end, the motivation of society as a whole to enforce responsible governance and efficient use of government funds diminishes significantly. The pain of waste just doesn't sting so badly when it's not "your" money being wasted.

As a nation, we already pay a disgusting portion of our total income tax revenue toward interest (over 25% if you exclude FICA income). As painful as it may be, at some point our country is going to have to own up to the credit binge we've been on and either significantly raise taxes & keep spending the same, or keep taxes the same & significantly reduce spending to keep our debt problem from getting further out of control. Alternatively, the federal government could reclaim control of the money supply from the federal reserve and inflate its way out, but this is also really a form of tax; if the assets & income you had yesterday are worth less today because the government printed itself some funds ... you have been taxed, my friend.

All of these things, however, would be political suicide and I don't expect to see it happen any time soon.

So what is your solution to inequality that can explode at any time into riots? People have better standards of life and are on the whole less violent, but this outcome is not unthinkable...

It is easy to criticise ideas unconstructively. And circuses can only do so much.

I don't think that inequality in itself is a problem - it really doesn't matter how rich the super-rich are, as long as the vast majority of the people can afford basic housing, food, and transportation with an entry level job. Currently, the standard of living for the poor in the US is still much higher than the vast majority of the world. If that changes in a significant way, we'll have to become more competitive with the rest of the world, and that's not something we should do until we absolutely have to: although the relatively regulation-free manufacturing environment that exists in places like China has worked wonders for creating jobs and increasing wages, Chinese cities are not pleasant places to be. I DO think there is room to relax a lot of regulations (across the board - environmental, employment, and financial ... sarbox comes to mind), and I do think that this would help to bring back jobs, I just don't think that we should go as far as allowing the kinds of things that folks in 3rd and 2nd world economies get away with.

As an anecdotal example, I live in the midwest and have a couple of friends who have bottom-of-the-barrel jobs, making maybe $10/hr (which is what you get at McD's around here). That's enough that with careful management of their funds they were able to buy a very small house, eat modestly, drive a car, and cover the expenses for their child (we don't have smog laws here, so you can get a serviceable car for < $1k). They're not particularly motivated people, and haven't put any effort into getting better jobs, but they're also OK with living in the bad part of town in a postage stamp house. Nonetheless, their standard of living is dramatically higher than that of the vast majority of the rest of the world, and even though they're by far on the bottom end of the income scale, they're doing just fine.

We have fairly permissive zoning laws and building codes here, and people pop up houses like it's going out of style, so housing is very cheap compared to other parts of the country (the downside being that we have huge neighborhoods of small, cheaply built houses). Even though I don't particularly enjoy the look of these neighborhoods, they do serve a purpose, and I'm glad that we let people build them because they enable people like my friends to live on a very tight budget (and quite honestly, what somebody wants to build on their private property isn't anybody else's business, unless it's dangerous to people outside of the property in some way). True story: I needed a hay barn and I needed it to be extremely cheap, so I bought the ass-end of a cube van and plopped it on the back of my property. No flak from the township :). The chassis of the cube van is now living a happy life as a septic pumping truck.

So to put it simply, we should never strive for something more than 'on or slightly above the breadline' for everyone?

Your view of the world and how it should be is incredibly depressing and defeatist to me.

Quite to the contrary - I feel that we should strive to provide excellent opportunities to all. I feel no need to provide a comfortable life straight-away, though - if we've provided the opportunity, the walk between being poor and living comfortably is something that I'm fine with leaving to individuals.

And the fact that you think my friends are living 'just above the breadline' is somewhat interesting to me; I would disagree. The own, not rent, a home. They have and cashflow a child (a very expensive thing these days, and considering the cost to society and the planet, it should be a privilege). Not only do they have food, but they never want for it (granted, they can't spend $15 on fast food for the family whenever they don't feel like cooking). They have a car. If that's 'on or slightly above the breadline', then we might not even be using a common vocabulary.

I feel like this argument boils down to 'The poor will hold us hostage to unsustainable government spending'. Which seems like a very dark view of humanity.

Isn't it just a specific way to implement basic income?

Basic income is unconditional on (lack of) earned income.

But if the extra income is taxable, then this is an equivalent way of delivering the net amount.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact