Annie Lowrey – “Give People Money” and the Case for a Universal Basic Income | The Daily Show
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Annie Lowrey – “Give People Money” and the Case for a Universal Basic Income | The Daily Show

My guest tonight is
a contributing editor for The Atlantic,
and author of the new book, Give People Money:
How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty,
Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World. Please welcome Annie Lowrey. -♪ ♪
-(cheering, applause) -All right.
-Welcome to the show. -Thank you for having me.
-This is a book that will get some people
really orgasmic and some Republicans
nightmares for years. -Hopefully.
-Give People Money. -Yes.
-Not Let Them Earn Money. Just Give People Money. -Give it to them.
-On a basic level, what does
“universal basic income” mean? So, the idea would be
that a government– in this case, our government–
would give everybody the equivalent
of a social security payment. So you would just get $500 or a
thousand dollars a month, maybe, just for living and breathing
and being in the United States. So you would just get paid
to just be? -Yes.
-That’s it? That’s it. It’s a very,
very simple, revolutionary idea. -Right. Okay, so simple idea,
complex in execution. -Yes. You know, because as soon as you
say “universal basic income,” immediately, people jump
to communism, socialism, -Right. -you are going
to give people money, then your first question is,
why would people bother working? Right. So, the idea is that
it wouldn’t be enough money to stop people from working. So if you had $500 a month
from the government, it’s very unlikely
that you would quit working. We have, actually,
a lot of studies that have shown that even with more money
than $500 a month, people don’t stop working, And the people
who do stop working– there’s not that many of them– -tend to be the parents
of young children, -Right. they tend to be young folks who
are staying in school for longer and then they tend to be
older folks who perhaps retire, take it easy
a little bit earlier. So you have groups of people
who may be using universal basic income
to improve their lives, you know, to raise children,
to earn an education. In the title, you say:
How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty,
Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World. Why revolutionizing work? So, the idea is that
if there were a future in which a lot of jobs
started to be replaced with A.I. and automation, how would a lot of people
support themselves? It’s a really pressing question. It’s one that people
are really worried about. And the idea is
that the government would kind of have to step in
to help keep… keep people’s heads above water -Right.
-in that kind of circumstance. But there’s also an argument for doing something
like this now. So if you had
a thousand dollars a month to fall back on, you might not
take a job with poverty wages. You might ask an employer -to actually improve
working conditions. -Right. So it could be
really good for workers. And we’ve seen
just a remarkable reduction in the power of the labor force
versus their employers. And so this would be
kind of a solve for that. When you speak
about the labor force– I mean, you’ve gotten a lot of
pushback on this book, you know, The Wall Street Journal,
for instance, saying: Why give people money? Why not focus
on giving people jobs? Isn’t that more important
than just giving them a handout? Yeah. I mean, so,
people want to work, and it’s not necessarily
a bad idea, but imagine having
the government run a giant jobs program that
was designed to employ, like, 50% of the labor force– that would be a really hard
and expensive thing to do. And the great thing
about giving people money is that you give them a choice,
and you support the economy, and that way you
don’t have to come up with -30 million jobs.
-Right. -How do you pay for it?
-(chuckles) ‘Cause that’s the big question
you have here. -I mean, like, if you look
at the numbers… -Yeah. I mean,
if I understand correctly, -$1,000 per person, per month
-Yeah. -would cost $3.9 trillion
per year, -Right. which is about one-fifth
of the GDP. So how do you,
how do you pay that? Even if you take away all of
the Republican’s tax cuts. -Let’s say you overturn that.
-Right. That’s still gonna be
five percent of paying for it, so where do you get
the money from? Well, the United States
is a low-low tax country by OECD standards. -I heard it’s the highest taxes
in the world. -It is not. It is not even close to it. And the government does
less redistribution than other similar
economies do. It’s part of the reason
that we have the kind of wage stagnation and
inequality that we’ve had. It’s why we have more poverty
than other countries that are equally rich as us. So I think that the idea is that
you would probably get rid of some government programs, and then you would raise the
money maybe through something like raising the estate tax, financial transactions taxes, things like carbon taxes,
maybe a VAT. But this idea that there isn’t
enough money for really big ideas– it might not be popular,
it might not be easy to pass– but the money it out there,
that’s not the problem. If you look at people who are
already paying tax, there are many people in America
who would say, “I pay my fair share of taxes. “There are already programs
that help, as you said, “social security– there are
people who get grants “from the government–
why should they now “also get another level of
assistance in basic income while I have to pay more tax?” How would you respond to that? So it probably wouldn’t be
everybody who would be paying more
in tax, right? It would be very rich people
and perhaps corporations that would be paying more
in tax. But the thing that this would do is it would really give more
help to low-income families. The United States, over time,
has actually given less money to people who are
extremely poor. The United States has a rate
of child poverty that is two, three,
even four times as high as in similar countries. And so the idea here is that,
you know, right now, we have a safety net
with gaping holes in it. We allow and we choose for
people to be in poverty. Even now, with the good economy
that we have, one in seven Americans
is in poverty, more than 20% of children. And so the safety net
that we have isn’t working in
a lot of cases. And so I think that you’ve seen
a lot of, you know, political strife and concerns
about inequality in this country, and this, like,
feeling that there’s a need for bigger solutions if the
problem is going to be so big. It’s a powerful issue that, uh,
I mean, everyone is debating. You have many tech leaders
joining in and saying, “I think we need
to look at this.” President Obama,
in South Africa, in his speech actually
just said the same thing. He said maybe we should
be looking at universal basic income. There is, I guess, one question
that would always loom over it, and that is, historically,
in America, you’d be naive to propose any idea involving
giving people money, if we don’t acknowledge that
race will always come into it. -There’ll be a factor,
and that is race. -Yes. Yes. Do you think it is a program that could be passed in America? Thinking of how ,like, welfare
has been attacked, etc., etc. Yeah, it’s a real challenge. So the reason that we don’t have
the kind of safety net that you see in sort of
similar countries, whether Canada or Europe, is largely because of race
and racism, right? We, as a country, have just
really hated the idea of giving money to people,
and then, you know, we judge them
for how they use it, right? You see this embedded in the
programs that we already have. You know, if you have
food stamps or SNAP benefits, we say you can buy this kind of
food but not that kind of food. And we have a lot of
requirements for programs that very low-income people use. And so this would be a
counterbalance to that, but I do think it’s right that,
you know, you would have a large group
of people in the United States, and we have a culture that
really valorizes work that would object to this
and say, you know, like, “I’m just not okay with that.” I do think that it’s a very big
challenge to it, but it’s not a reason
not to do it. It’s a challenge,
it’s exciting, it’s fascinating, and, uh, it’s one of the reasons
I enjoyed the book. Thank you so much
for being on the show. -Thank you.
-I really appreciate it. Give People Money
is available now. Annie Lowrey, everybody.


  • Max Ramos

    It's easy, Just a demand a couple of billionaires we have to give money. They live in Multi billion dollar houses. They'll be fine

  • Pedro Rodriguez III

    The biggest obstacle to such a program is the large inability of many people to be selfless. Lately I've been frustrated by having conversations about UNIVERSAL benefit programs because people fail to accept that they would in fact benefit you too! One friend said he didn't believe in universal education because he didn't want to pay for other people's kids to go to college….I was like, BUT YOU COULD GO TOO! We are the obstacle. We'd often let others starve to save ourselves a sandwich we might not even finish.

  • Stephen Cotton

    A combination of UBI and a new Green Deal – Universal healthcare – Low cost education – would actually spur the economy. The US puts too much money into the military budget and has too many loopholes for corporate tax.

    If you have infrastructure jobs that cooperate with corporations to build high speed rail, green energy, insult homes, upgrade energy grids. AND you make it affordable for people to re-educate themselves – and make it affordable for them to stay healthy… then you will have a vibrant and health economy too.

    You have all been programmed to fear all these changes and who is teaching you to fear these changes? The banking and fossil fuel industries. Because if the US tools its industry to move away from fossil fuel then they will lose money. But if we don't move quickly away from a fossil fuel run economy; then when we are forced to do so – by oil running out – we will suffer more and be weakened more. We will be at the mercy of the OPEC.

    From a position of strength we need to start moving to a renewable energy economy and it can be a 10 year shift – and at the other end of 10 years we will be in a much better place.

    Or you can listen to the fear mongers and the fossil fuel industry lobbyists and continue living the same way… and when you are forced to change it will result in more pain… and some say – mass starvation – civil war etc.

  • Sever Just

    I'm not American, but I do relate to your Democrats. That being said, this idea of a "Socialist Democrat"… I never feel satisfied with their ideas on HOW the system will be funded.the answers always feel good, but at the same time naïveI really want them to succeed though.

  • eismar5

    People who don't support a universal basic income should really consider the duning-kruger effect in relation to advances in the field of AI development … unless they own a drone/robot factory.

  • Robo Mop

    It's VERY possible. Alaska (a deep red state) has had a dividend since 1982 where every citizen gets between 1000-2000 dollars per year. Richard Nixon (Republican) almost passed a form of UBI in the early 70s. Milton Friedman, Martin Luthar King, Thomas Paine, and people from all over the political spectrum supported some form of UBI.

  • Robo Mop

    UBI =/= Socialism
    Under socialism, the government controls the means of production. Under UBI, they would still be privately owned and operated.


    My personal thought, ensure everyone has the best education and make it mandatory rich or poor then after that give them that idea..Also all job should be well paying and even if it means taxing more. everybody will be willing to work for her/his own country knowing very well when you are down the same country will lift you up..her reasoning is more of like rich family that help their kids with capital to start their own business. who would not have loved that..

  • Jhcom

    So her idea is to tax companies, remove freedom from them and give it to the poor in the hope they make the right decisions? 1/5th of the GDP which is being used for a lot of good to give money to everyone. She put it a little too simply, but I have not read the book. A global basic income is no new concept and it has too many unanswered questions. Will people work for less salary in that case? Are you going to make people uneducated, why study when you don't really need it. Will people study something they like over something which provides a good salary. People always try to find meaning in things and try to exceed others, this will limit that I think. The topic is too unknown, they should test it out on a small village or city and see what happens over the span of a year. It also depends on culture.

  • Betty Giles

    What about the people that are on drugs real bad….do you give them money to continue their drug habits….how do you regulate that?…I'm all for getting money….but at what cost.

  • Ste Frost

    I'm so glad this concept is no longer dismissed out of hand. Studies keep showing it works. I've supported it for a while now and I'm so so delighted that The Labour Party (here in the UK) has just announced intention to trial this if they win the next election.

  • Hollins23

    I was against it, initially, but I was ignorant about it. I did a lot of research, and now, I am so for it!!! This is an incredible idea!!

  • Hollins23

    5:41 Awww! Poor thing! I just noticed that she gets red from a nervous rash, or a heat rash, or a clothing rash, or the lights, or Trev???

  • Norman Isaacs

    Employ a Tax on AI where it clearly shows that it has replaced humans. Also use a ratio system(based on employment) with UBI in order to encourage them to keep working this way people coming out of college are discourage from only living off UBI.

  • The Rickest Rick

    Capitalism only works if corporations have competition but companies are merging into one giant corporation. Along with automation what are most workaholic humans going to do with no job?

  • Renita Broken Rope

    Maybe we don't get paid enough or often enough, but our Tribal government pays us every 3 months for being enrolled. I can tell you that it does not work in anyway to help get the majority of our population out of poverty. That's partially due to people being poor too long and developing poor financial habits and the overwhelming drug and alcohol abuse across the reservation also holds some responsibility. I believe, some people will use the money for good but there will be those who won't. Possibly the majority of those that this aims to help.
    My opinion doesn't really matter though

  • Lucky Goodrich

    Now please explain how this wouldn't cause inflation. I mean, if it is guaranteed for everybody to have at least, say $500, wouldn't prices/rents continuously go up until 500 eventually becomes the new 0? For instance, if I was a landlord, why wouldn't I just drastically increase the rent because I know for sure that the tenant has at least $500 at hand. Same thing applies to products and services. Why wouldn't you increase prices?

  • Amanuel Daniel

    And this is why democrats keep losing, Libtards like this mess it up for moderates! She is soooooooo D U M B ! or she's a Marxist
    piece of shit

  • Avram Pitter

    The big problem for UBI in the US that I have the hardest time getting past in my mind is the politics around it moving forward. Upping the amount given as UBI would likely become a very popular position for getting elected. We could essentially vote in people to give us a raise over and over and over again until UBI is way past maintainable. Rather tempting, isn't it. Sounds oddly similar to Congress being able to up its own wage currently. Also something I have a problem with.

  • Coop Cooper

    First, USA is not a low tax country, Second, Taxing people at higher rates would just mean taxing the working people more in order to redistribute money to those who do not. How will this help the economy or motivate people who are not even working now when there are repercussions is beyond me. UBI is only viable when mechanical work becomes autonomous.
    She just wants to sell her stupid book to get some undeserved recognition and money.

  • Coop Cooper

    She wrote a whole book about this and still can only answer in the form of "THE MONEY IS OUT THERE". Pathetic.
    "Culture that valorises work" …nice

  • Starpool Videos

    The U.S. economy is based on keeping poor people poor. Not mandatory vacations, Healthcare, basic salary rate, etc…Profit maximisation


    I believe it needs to be enough to cover rent, food and basic clothing. Not luxury. A person should be able to say no to an employer.


    This would force the business class to treat employees like human beings. It would make them need us and not the other way around anymore.


    This country needs to be exposed to Scott Smith an Independent that ran for presisdent in 2016. He is the creator of The Foundation For A Better Economy. and has a book out as well.


    Scott Smith wants to give 24,000 a year to everyone 18 to 64 and 30,000 a year to 64 and over. I say 30,000 flat 18 and up but you know. LOL!!!

  • El hadj

    this woman does not know a damn shit about economy , this idea is not " REVOLUTIONARY " , it is fucking stupid !
    it is not about republicans , Obama had 8 years and he didn't do it because when you actually become in power you start realizing that those Utopian ideas is impossible to implement .

    also ,don't you realize that by giving everyone a 1000$ , then the 1000$ will become the new 0$ ? that's how economics work !

  • Terry Turner

    … another way to pay for it is to end all these wars and use some of that money to fund it. Peace is cheaper than War!

  • Kate

    Curious idea but as a social worker I’ve seen way too many addicts who’d just spend this on drugs and alcohol. We’d need to lower our addiction rates and drug use first

  • Oxford Trenter

    When you have a city, Any city or country in the world. And you have all people working always continues. Thats when i will not basic income. The truth is no city or country had all people working always. So some people will always not have the chance anyway. There is so much good comming from UBI, most people just cant see it.. They are ego and thats why problems in the world never solves..

  • A M

    How come illegal aliens come to the USA can find work/job? Duh.. So your for illegals coming here to take jobs that do not exist? WTF are you thinking?
    There will be less jobs? So why are you for Open Borders on Immigration? Isn't someone telling the illegals there are no more jobs? WTF?

  • Shovel County

    People think if they take free money; it won’t cost anything. Free money will give the government more control over people lives, and eventually your liberty and freedom. There are not many things in this world without a price. Better of eliminating the fed and get rid of taxes. If you steal 1/3 of my check and give it back to me, thats crazy, it was mine from the beginning. (But most likely this will just be helicopter money)

  • qposton25

    I think ubi will just make everything more expensive. a better solution to me is not allowing companies to pay poverty wages. that may promote automation , but when we reach the wall-e level of machines doing all the work we should be evolved enough as a species to abandon the concept of money all together

  • Sailor Barsoom

    One thing that would help is that everybody gets it. White people wouldn't be able to say "When I needed help I didn't qualify, but I bet if I'd been black I would've got that welfare!!"
    Nope, white guy, you get the UBI too.
    And the black guy gets it.
    And the Asian guy and the lady who just moved into your neighborhood who's half Jew and half Sioux.
    And all your white friends.

    Something I wish had been mentioned (it's in her book, which I'm currently reading) is that a goodly number of conservatives have supported this idea or some version of it: Milton Friedman, Sara Palin, Richard Nixon, the Republican governor of Alaska Jay Hammond and others. It isn't just a lefty liberal idea, though there are lefty liberals who also support it.
    How many policies have the support of both Sara Palin and Barack Obama? Of both Richard Nixon and Martin Luther King, Jr.?

  • Laurie Bolles

    Does the monthly payment also include children? So a family of 5 two parents, three children would recieve $5000 a month. So what would prevent adults from having large families just to collect the monthly payments, we're already dealing with overpopulation already.

  • seal869

    "So we'll give everyone money?" "Yes." "The same amount of money for everyone?" "Yes." "So how will race affect it?" JFC dude, way to get the point.

  • Arunava chakraborty

    Commissum always a right choice… economy always give poor or rich person..and inequality ..why ppl accepted need to have some kinda mix economy or commissum mixture program to survive..make all ppl equal not different..

  • blah blah

    Get rid of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and you'll find more than enough money. 52% of tax dollar go there:

    Then after that, defense spending is 15%. Therefore all 4 combined are a whopping 67% of tax spending. Then you add "Income Security" whatever that is at 13% and that gets you to 80%. Payroll insurance? UBI would replace that too. Therefore replace Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Income Security with UBI. Move to a government regulated health care system where costs are relatively fixed overseen by an unbiased committee that sets prices according to actual cost and market conditions. We want free market healthcare but not one where big pharma, bio tech and other companies lobby to gouge citizens unfairly. There needs to be caps on costs.

  • Tino Rozzo

    $12,000 a year will not be enough. I disagree. If you don't want tom work you shouldn't too.

  • Mlogan11

    Why UBI is better than tax cuts in boosting the economy: Tax cuts benefit mainly the rich, as middle and lower classes earning levels are not high enough to get a big tax cut bonus. The rich are the least likely to spend that extra income and most likely to bank it as they already have all their needs met. As a consequence, tax cuts don't generate much boost to the economy. UBI given to the poor and middle class will result in most if not all of it being spent into the economy to pay for the things they need rather than being banked. This will drive up consumer demand and result in more business growth and demand for more workers to handle the demand, a definite boost to the economy.

  • Candace Williams

    Hi All,

    If this video is interesting to you, take your interest into the real world. ,

  • Lilly Taylor

    Our $20 Trillion dollar economy CAN pay for UBI without inflation.

  • David Wade

    Ever heard of how the NFL shares revenue with its players and teams? A version of that would be great for us citizens.

    I agree with the goals of the UBI but question the efficacy of it’s mechanics. Won’t inflation quickly erode the benefits of a UBI? And won’t American’s hatred of welfare also make it politically venerable even if it is passed? My guy tells me that a different model would work better. One that isn’t based on providing a fixed amount and one that isn’t welfare. What I see is something more akin to own stocks. Let’s give citizens dividend providing stock in the US, with the amount of the dividend increasing or decreasing depending on the economic health of the country. That would create a virtuous feedback loop that would reward all of us for financially for collaborating to strengthen the economy.

  • Heath Watts

    Each day that a worker does eight hours of work and is paid a fraction of what will be gained from the sale of their labor, that worker is giving money to the capitalist for whom they work.

    In addition, when a worker who makes $30,000 per year pays a 10% tax and the idle owner of their company who makes $30 million per year pays a 10% tax, the former is left with $27,000 and the latter with $27 million. The rich don't work and they don't pay their fair share for the civilization that allows both their opulence and their shiftlessness.

    Capitalism is the problem; implementing practices such as basic income is a short term and ineffective solution. People need to take control of their workplaces and the rich need to fall. We can't fix capitalism, because it is broken by design. We need to end it before it drives us to extinction.

  • Syklone

    I was on benefits a few years ago here in the UK. I had to trawl my arse in to the Council offices every time they wanted to "check" something. Even when I became self employed I still needed Housing Benefit, and I spent a lot on printer ink and paper becasue they'd want endless bank statements, and I had to spend hours going through invoices that they'd want to see. I felt like a criminal for just wanting a roof over my head.

    We don't need this overbearing parental type of means testing where grown adults are treated as naughty children. A basic standard of living – something to eat and a place to stay – should be a given right of every man, woman, and child, paid for as a dividend from the country's collective wealth…a wealth that was acquired mostly due to our ancestors.

    It's not "free money" or "money for nothing". That implies that the individual as a human being is worthless and only their labour is of value. A basic income would have removed all the stress, all the worry, and all the inconvenience out of my previous situation, and allowed me to look for meaningful work without having the fear of destitution looming over my head.

  • Ken Royall

    She wrote an entire book on UBI and when asked how it would be funded she list a few new taxes and says "the money is out there". Sorry, that answer doesn't cut it. If we haven't figured out by now there is no such thing as a free lunch we are doomed.

  • Harish Venkataraman

    The Freedom Dividend of Andrew Yang is not "free money". It's essentially saying that regardless of your contribution to the economy, you are worth $1000 a month. We need to recognise people for the value that they bring rather than pitting them in a struggle from the moment they're born.

  • Paul Webb

    There is ONE, and ONLY ONE candidate that's offering Universal Basic Income. And I hope you all consider voting for him in the primaries.

  • Rees Davidson

    I love Annie Lowrey! If you like UBI, Check out Ezra Klein's interview with Andrew Yang (Annie Klein is Ezra's wife and they actually discuss this book) Andrew Yang is a candidate for POTUS and wants to institute a UBI of 1k/mo. For adult US citizens!

  • dennis saller

    My wife is from Costa Rica and she made about $1000 a month for a sales job that would pay at least $45,000 a year with decent benefits here. The average income there is about $600 a month!! It is insane. I would fight any movement like this trying to come to our country. Democrats need to wake up.

  • Ruth Crofut

    Wow! This is awesome. This woman is worth paying attention to! I hope Andrew Yang puts her on his cabinet. UBI isn't a crazy idea, people.

  • Eugene C

    Yang Freedom Dividend 1000 dollars per month. Google #Yang2020 to learn more
    UBI also recognizes the value of caregivers and child rearing people.

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