July 27, 2017
After a failed bid to start another social network following the campaign, Hughes tried turning The New Republic into a “vertically integrated digital media company,” with disastrous results. Now his book pitch looks to transform Hughes into the poster boy for the “universal basic income,” an economic scheme that amounts to cutting checks to every American by virtue of their drawing a breath.
The UBI has already gotten glowing praise in outlets ranging from Vox to The New York Times to the Cato Institute and The Wall Street Journal. What does Hughes hope to add to the mix? Besides the backing from his once-roommate Mark Zuckerberg, not a whole lot. His proposition, at least, is simple: Have Uncle Sam write a check for $500 to “all working middle class and poor Americans who make less than $75,000 a year.”
Why $500? Why is it for those making under $75,000 a year? What about inflation, recessions, and COLAS? None of that is clear, though I”m guessing Hughes cites some white paper out of the Brookings Institution to justify his endeavor.
Regardless of prescription and intention, Hughes” offering is humdrum virtue signaling and little more. Given the nonstop automation of low-skilled jobs and ever-increasing wealth gap between the rich and the poor, there are worse ideas out there than scrapping the entire welfare system and adopting the UBI. But a self-righteous, Manhattan-living, French-novel-enjoying moneybag excoriating his own kind for the sake of yet another wealth transfer program? Something just doesn”t seem right about it.
What happened to the good ol” days of robber barons refusing to self-flagellate, opting instead to fund the building of parks and libraries while quietly making their millions? Hughes may be better off looking to past philanthropic efforts to get an idea of how best to spend his time and money.
This generation of publicly conscious billionaires is a bore.