My Case for Universal Basic Income (i.e. The Andrew Yang Plan)

Andrew Yang is proposing providing a Universal Basic Income funded primarily by a value added tax (i.e. a tax that makes everything more expensive). For an average earner with average spending, the increase in prices will roughly offset the amount of money received. For a high earner with high spending, the increase in prices will cost them more money than what they will receive from the government. And for low earners with low spending, they will receive more money from the government than they will have to pay through increased prices. Note that even though the 2018 median per capita income was $33706, mean was $50,413, so if you make less than $50k a year you will probably see financial benefit from the Yang plan.

Aside from that, my #1 favorite reason for this plan is that it creates a “rock bottom” that is still livable. Mentally ill homeless people generally do not receive social security disability checks from the government because of the bureaucracy which intentionally makes it difficult to get said checks. There is a process where a psychiatrist has to convince a disability determination officer that the person in question is totally disabled (i.e. not able to do any job in the economy) due to mental illness. It’s actually a fairly difficult process – there is a severe lack of psychiatrists, many mentally ill people (especially those exhibiting manic symptoms) don’t believe that they are crazy, the process is slow and beauraucratic, and the majority of applications are rejected. The crazy homeless people you see on the street generally aren’t receiving any money from the government (with the exception of possibly food stamps, but in some areas it’s impossible to get food stamps without working, and mentally ill homeless people generally fall into the crack where they can’t work and also can’t get disability checks). Basically the current “rock bottom” that exists is sleeping on a bench begging on the street for money to buy food. A universal basic income will provide a rock bottom that is a little higher than that, reducing human suffering. Even a small universal basic income (too small to cover the cost of rent) would allow people to live more comfortably, for example by allowing them to get a rain proof tent, decent food (most grocery store food requires cooking and homeless people don’t have a kitchen), a gym membership which they can use to shower in the locker rooms, etc.

My #2 reason for the Yang plan is that it would ever so slightly deter illegal immigration. Illegal immigrants wouldn’t have the documentation necessary to get government benefits, so they wouldn’t receive UBI checks. What they would get if the came over illegally is higher prices through the value added tax which is necessary to raise money for universal basic income. Basically, the UBI with the accompanying VAT would make it less desirable for people from poor countries to come here illegally because it wouldn’t be as much of an improvement for them in terms of quality of life.

My #3 reason is the practicality of this progressive tax (as opposed to the impracticality of the wealth tax that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are proposing). The VAT with UBI will cause high spenders to pay more in taxes, while giving more money to people who spend less. In that sense it is a progressive tax. In addition, as has been shown through Alaska’s “oil checks“, repealing cash that people expect to receive from the government is “politically suicidal”, so politicians don’t do it. In contrast, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have proposed an annual wealth tax on total wealth, which in the majority of cases does get repealed and also has serious problems. A wealth tax is basically an estate tax, but broken up into annual chunks and applied to people who are still alive. The estate tax has been a total failure – “the estate tax raised $8.5 billion in 2012 — less than 1% of the $1.2 trillion inherited that year. Only 1 out of every 700 deaths results in paying the federal estate tax today.” In addition it’s not uncommon for rich people to take measures to avoid the estate tax, as they will do with the wealth tax. History has shown that the wealth tax raises far less money than expected, causes a “capital flight” (where people leave the country to avoid it or cancel plans to become citizens so they will never have to pay it), it usually gets repealed, and is messy to implement due to the speculative and rough values of certain forms of wealth like certain businesses. For this reason the VAT which Andrew Yang is proposing (along with ending the favorable tax treatment for capital gains/carried interest) is a more practical tax plan than the wealth tax that Bernie and Warren are proposing.

Some conservatives think that a Universal Basic Income will disincentivize people from working, but in practice “universal income study finds money for nothing won’t make us work less“. People will still work if they get checks from the government. All in all the positives outweigh the benefits and I am in favor of the Universal Basic Income plan.

Why I Really Want To Help The Homeless

Because giving to them makes me feel happy and I feel bad for them. That’s it. When a homeless person asks me to take them out to a restaurant, saying “no” makes me feel sad and saying “yes” makes me feel happy. Also, I like homeless people. I like strangers in general but most strangers don’t want to chat for long. Homeless people are totally down to tell me the whole story about their descent into alcoholism. I like homeless people and I feel bad for them and that’s why I want to help the homeless.

Do I want to eliminate all homelessness? Not necessarily. Maybe someone likes the freedom. I wouldn’t want to get in the way of that. The majority don’t like it, though, and at the very least I want them to be healthy, happy, and comfortable. If they’re going to sleep outside or in a park I want them to have good camping gear so they don’t freeze or get soaked. I want them to have a doctor so that they don’t die prematurely. And I don’t want them to get harassed by police. I think there should be a right to sleep on the sidewalk because I don’t think people should be put in jail or targeted just because alcoholism or mental illness landed them into an unfortunate spot.

– John

Why Homelessness is Immoral

I have no cognitive empathy, but I do have morality, and I believe that homelessness is morally wrong. It is morally wrong because it is unfair. I have never been homeless, but I have never done anything special to deserve that status. I never did anything special to receive upper middle class parents. I never did anything special to receive a private school education. I never did anything special to receive a six figure salary. In fact, according to Amazon’s statistics, they actually lost money on me – they paid me more money as a programmer than I produced for the company. The reason that I receive a six figure salary is for the most part by chance – I enjoyed writing computer code and writing computer code happened to pay a six figure salary. I’m not and have never been a particularly good employee or team member – it’s just luck.

Everything in this world is luck. You don’t choose what country you are born in. You don’t choose who your parents are or how much money they have. You don’t choose what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy. There is nothing about me that makes me more deserving than anyone else.

This world is not a result of God – it is the result of luck and chance. There is nothing that has ever happened that couldn’t have happened because of luck and chance. Over time as science developed, the number of “seemingly impossible and unexplained” things in this universe went down – things that would have been explained by God. Famines and floods and diseases used to be acts of God. God sent the famines and floods and diseases. When hurricane Dorian was approaching Florida, people on Facebook use phrases like “God turned hurricane Dorian away from Florida – God blessed us by not having that hurricane hit us.” No he fucking didn’t – there was a pocket of low air pressure North of the hurricane that made it go North. That’s not fucking God. Nothing is fucking God. It’s all luck. Everything from the Big Bang to the first organic molecules to the first cells to the evolution of dinosaurs to you sitting in a chair reading this sentence is a result of things that happened by luck and chance. And luck and chance isn’t fair.

Morality is a human creation. It’s based on the golden rule – not doing to others what you don’t want done to you and doing to others what you want done to you. Do you want to sleep on a thin camping mat over hard concrete outside where everyone walking by can watch you sleep? Me neither. I personally wouldn’t even be able to sleep – I bought a camping mat and tried on the floor in my apartment and even inside my apartment I couldn’t sleep. Homeless people aren’t homeless because they are less deserving than me. I don’t work harder than them. In fact I am a terrible employee and team player – I wouldn’t even hire myself and I am fortunate that there were people out there dumb enough to hire me.

Mental illness isn’t fair either. I am stricken by both psychological issues like lack of cognitive empathy and narcissism as well as psychiatric issues like ADHD, bipolar, and symptoms of schizophrenia. I have tried many medications, most of which have not worked at all (such as the mood stabilizer lithium) or have helped a little but have had worse side effects than the thing that they were helping with (like many antipsychotics). I’m a fucking basket case, but so are a lot of homeless people, and I didn’t work any harder than they did. All I have that they don’t have is luck and chance and luck and chance isn’t fair. It’s up to people to make things fair because things won’t be fair on their own. It’s not like some magic flying man in the clouds is going to come out of nowhere and fix everything without humans lifting a finger.

  • John Michael Reed

The Case For Abortion

I will start by saying that souls aren’t real and that a person isn’t really alive unless it has a functioning brain. Without a functioning brain, a person’s body is just an inanimate object. When abortions happen, they happen well before a fetus or embryo has a functioning brain that is capable of thinking or feeling. There is some debate about when pain can be felt, but that number is somewhere in the 18 – 28 week range. “Only 1.3% of abortions occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy in the US.

Basically, abortions happen when the fetus or embryo isn’t actually a person in the sense of a mentally thinking feeling person. The people who do have abortions tend to be single poor women who aren’t ready or willing to be parents, and I don’t think those people should have kids. Their children will be fatherless and disadvantaged and ultimately they will contribute to the cycle of poverty. Black women and women on Medicaid tend to be much more likely to get abortions and if they don’t, they will pass on the poverty to the next generation. I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe that people deserve to be born into poverty. Money might not buy happiness past a point, but researchers found “$105,000 to be the ideal income for life satisfaction in Northern America. Earnings past that point tended to coincide with a lower levels of happiness and well-being, researchers found.” Extreme poverty leads to less life happiness and I don’t believe that people deserve to be born into extreme poverty with only a single mother if they can avoid it.

I Am A Loser by John Reed

I am 25, unemployed, single, and I live at home with my parents. I am a loser. Now, I could justify being a loser by saying it’s because I have a mental health problem and if I didn’t have it I would be “normal” and probably employed, but that’s besides the point. In the US, the political right talks about hard work and lifting yourself up by the bootstrap and the left talks about equality. To be honest – I don’t work that hard and to be honest – I am a straight, White, cis-sex male with upper middle class parents who are willing to support me. About a billion people on Earth don’t even have access to electricity. I don’t have it that bad. I am not super disadvantaged, so I can’t say it’s because I come from a disadvantaged background. I am just a loser.

There are countless other losers out there, and nobody hears their stories. White men who have nothing to cry about. They can’t cry about racism or sexism. They are maybe unmotivated and/or they have a mental health problem. They aren’t justified. Right now, I am one of these people.

If I could wave a magic wand and have anything I could ever want, I would have a beautiful wife, a home in an urban area, two beautiful kids, and a stable job that I love. Instead I can’t hold a job, I struggle mentally, and I can’t get sex or a relationship regardless of how much effort I put in. I am one of the left behind people. Left behind by the left and the right.

But I don’t have it that bad. On the streets there are other people with mental problems who are homeless. There are people with real problems. Then there’s me. I can’t do much right now other than wait for a job interview (trust me – I applied to almost everything), so I might as well be happy.

What is the point of life?

I hit rock bottom when I was involuntarily detained into a mental institution. I wanted nothing more than to be free. I was so unhappy when I was trapped. I naturally gravitated towards happiness from there.

If you listen to an evolutionary biologist like professor Robert Sapolsky, he says something along the lines of that the purpose of life is to pass on genes. Some animals form colonies and packs based on kinship because of shared genes (“I would lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins” is a quote referring to the shared genes and kinship based on genes from kin selection). Now, let’s take a moment to assume that the purpose of an individual’s life is to pass on their genes.

You run into a big honking problem when you run into gay people. What is the purpose of a gay man’s life if he can’t or won’t pass on genes? In this simplistic view of the world, the purpose of a person is to get married and have kids. What if they don’t want to? Would they be going against their purpose?

I would argue that you shouldn’t look at people or yourself this way. It leads to all sorts of dark paths, like the notion that gay people have no purpose and that certain genes can be removed from the human population. I would argue that a better way is to say that the purpose of life is human happiness. You would be treating people as people if you believed that the purpose of life is human happiness. Like the kind of happiness that a prisoner experiences from freedom. That’s why prison is a punishment – nobody wants it and in a perfect world nobody would be no prison.

People naturally gravitate towards this higher form of happiness. People do it through self-actualization and being and perfecting themselves. The deprivation of it to a sufficient extent can make a person suicidal.

Oh my God I just realized I don’t give a fuck about other people. That is why I am single – who wants to be with a totally selfish person?

YouTube video:

“Trans” Explained For People Who Aren’t Trans

Where do the words “trans” (short for “transgender”) and “cis” (meaning “not transgender”) even come from? Why, chemistry!

In chemistry, “cis” means that the CH3’s are on the same side of the carbon bond and “trans” means that they are on opposite sides of the carbon bond, or across from one another. The first drawing of a chemical is cis and the second one is trans.

That was chemistry. Now, in women’s studies type classes, sex is short for “biological sex” and gender is not the same as biological sex. A trans woman wants to be called a woman to avoid gender dysphoria (I’ll explain what that is in a sec), but her sex is not on the same side as her gender, so she is referred to as a trans woman. She is a woman whose gender is on opposite sides of or across from her biological sex. Look at it like this:

So a biologically female woman is a cis gender woman (see the line that goes straight from “Female” to “Woman” in the above image) and a biologically female man is a trans gender (“transgender”) man (see the line that goes diagonally from “Female” to “Man” in the above image). A trans man is a man who was female at birth but (typically) does things like take testosterone and work out to get a male physique. Example before and after photos:

In contrast, a biologically male man is cis and a biologically male woman is trans, as in the below diagram.

Taking what I just said and flipping it, a biologically male man is a cis gender man (see the line that goes straight from “Male” to “Man” in the above image) and a biologically male woman is a trans gender (“transgender”) woman (see the line that goes diagonally from “Male” to “Woman” in the above image). A trans woman is a woman who was male at birth but (typically) does things like take female hormones and wear women’s clothing. Example before and after photos:

Sex refers to things like chromosomes and gender refers to your state of being a man or a woman (like “he” or “she” pronouns, being referred to as “sir” or “ma’am”, etc). In woman’s studies class, sex is biological (like your genitals) and gender is a social construct (like whether people refer to you as “sir” or “ma’am”) and they are two different things.

Anywho, a transgender woman wants to be a woman and a transgender man wants to be a man. It makes them experience positive feelings and the opposite makes them experience negative feelings in the same way that you being called the wrong pronoun makes you feel negative feelings. My name is John, so imagine someone said “John, she went to the park”. I felt irked – I am not a “she”. That is exactly how a trans person responded when I used the wrong pronoun for them. They said “I am not a she regardless of what other people think”.

Okay. That feeling of a negative emotion when someone calls you by the wrong pronoun is a form of gender dysphoria, or a negative emotion associated with one’s gender (what they consider to be the wrong gender with respect to their internal sense of gender). The opposite of “dysphoria” is “euphoria”, where gender euphoria is a positive emotion (like if you feel good because people are getting your gender right). So imagine that now people are saying about me “John, he went to the park”. I don’t feel euphoric or dysphoric (because being referred to as “he” is just normal for me), but maybe I feel gender euphoria if I get the nice arm muscles that I have always wanted from going to the gym. It’s self-confirmation. According to a trans YouTuber who I watched, the main types of “-phorias” that trans people experience are from their physical appearance (like the muscles) and their pronouns (like when I got irked at the thought of being referred to as a “she”). The former would be good, self-confirming gender euphoria and the latter would be bad, annoying gender dysphoria.

I am not trans, but that’s my best understanding as a cis man.

“A Redistribution of Wealth” or “Libertarian Communism” by John Reed

In a previous article, I talked about how all people are created equal. I will go further and say that all people are equal, although some people have more money than others. I will not fight capitalism because I don’t believe that is necessary. I will say though that people should receive from their government what they need to succeed in life (such as an education and healthcare).

In the USSR, they had this sort of pipe dream of Communism where the government owned everything and gave everyone a job. I don’t believe that is necessary in order to establish that all people are equal (although they have different amounts of wealth). I don’t believe in cash handouts – for example there are countless tragedy stories about lottery winners, and people can just waste their winnings. People don’t need cash – they need things that can be purchased with cash, like an education. Ultimately I envision a global redistribution of wealth such that every person gets what they need to succeed in life, but no more. Every person receives an education and healthcare. Every person receives a “safety net” to catch them after they fall in life – after catastrophic failure. Ultimately, the human race is one species – one race, and there is one Earth, and we are all one team.

Imagine four different versions of me. Version #1 has no money and no wealth and continues on that trajectory, Version #2 has no money and no wealth but becomes wealthy, Version #3 has plenty of money and wealth and continues in that trajectory, and Version #4 has plenty of money and wealth but becomes poor and wealth-less. Regardless of which one I am, I deserve the basics. We are all created equal. Fundamentally, when I am born, I don’t know if I am going to be a person who makes a fortune or is constantly poor, but either way I should get support. Some people have a very supportive or wealthy family, and that is great, but not everyone does. The people who don’t should receive that support from the government. For example, not everyone has parents who are willing and able to pay for higher education or re-education. But everyone should have those sorts of opportunities. That is why I envision a massive transfer of wealth (i.e. taxpayer dollar spending) that does not significantly interfere with capitalism and that does not naturally interfere with free trade or the conducting of business transactions.

I envision a redistribution of wealth. For example, something like Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax that takes money out of billionaire families and puts it into the hands of working families for things like childcare. Simply put, just because someone is born with parents who have a lot of wealth doesn’t mean that they deserve or ought to have lots of wealth. That being said, even if someone is born to parents who don’t have a lot of wealth (or who don’t have supportive parents), they still deserve support. Morally, there ought to be this sort of redistribution so that all people on Earth are supported. We are one people, one team.

I call this Libertarian Communism because it seeks to keep government as small as possible and protect freedom while simultaneously eliminating class barriers and giving all people what they need. Not socialism. Even billionaires like Bill Gates have realized how unequal things are and put their money into charitable causes, like for example fighting malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, one of the best ways to make sure that people are supported is to raise the status of women. When women make money, the entire family is uplifted. Just another reason to have a woman president like Elizabeth Warren.

“Human Life is Intrinsically Valuable” by John Reed

Continuation of:

I am an atheist, and at one point while growing up I thought that gay people or trans people were less valid as people because they can’t or don’t reproduce. This notion goes contrary to the notion that all human beings have intrinsic worth – that they are valuable regardless of whether they can attract the opposite sex, marry, or reproduce.

First I would like to say that even if you think that trans people are weird, creepy, gross, or anything like that, trans people are a legit category of people and they actually appear to benefit from a transition process that involves hormones, something that I have seen both in real life people and in people online. Example (fast forward to 0:37) :

“For me, I have absolutely no regrets about transitioning and it has made me a million times happier.”

But here is the thing. Imagine that these hormones weren’t invented yet or that they did not exist and that this transition process weren’t possible. Should these people be persecuted? Absolutely not.

Every single person ought to be valued not for what they have, how they identify, or who they are, but just for being a person. Every single one. Failing to do so leads down some very dark paths. For example, a disproportionately high percentage of trans people attempt suicide. In my opinion, suicide implies not valuing yourself as a person because if you valued your life, you wouldn’t take it away. Believing that human life doesn’t have intrinsic value means that people have to justify their existence in order to receive basic human decency like love, compassion, or care. This leads down some pretty dark paths. For example, the Nazis believed in a sort of quasi-scientific racism, one that does not value human life but rather puts different races or types of humans on a pyramid. This leads down some dark paths indeed, such as towards genocide. In the second formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative, it says “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.” I think that treating people as an ends in and of themselves implies that they have inherit value or worth.

Remember that whoever you are, you have intrinsic value. You don’t have to identify a certain way, attract the opposite sex, or do or be anything special in order to possess value. For example, maybe a trans person feels that a transitioning process is right for them, but that doesn’t mean that they should commit suicide if that process isn’t available to them because regardless, they themselves have intrinsic value. We all do.

In a perfect world, I don’t think people should have to fight for human rights. In a perfect world, all humans would just get them without having to fight. Unfortunately, that is not the real world.

  • John