Daily News editorial

Universal Answer: At TDN we have one universal answer for most questions – work harder.

If we have a great month in news reporting and ad selling, then we should work harder to make next month even better.

If we have a poor performance in any aspect of the business, we look to work harder to improve.

If “work harder” is the answer to good, bad or mediocre performance, you will tend to get better.

But a new universal answer seems to be gaining traction in places like Hawaii and San Francisco – it’s called “universal basic income.”

It seems Hawaii has decided to look into the possibility of providing all residents a paycheck for doing absolutely nothing. It seems the universal answer in Hawaii is – stop working altogether.

According to a story by the Associated Press (The Daily News, Sept. 3), Hawaii is researching providing every adult with a fixed income to meet their basic needs.

The idea isn’t new, but is getting a new look from tech leaders who say many jobs will be replaced by technology and robots. For example, if trucks of the future drive themselves all truck drivers will be out of jobs. Therefore, what will a truck driver do for income?

Recent research in Hawaii suggested that many of that state’s waiter, cook and building cleaning jobs — an large part of its tourism-dependent economy — will eventually be replaced by machines.

Supporters of universal basic income say workers displaced by technology could use universal basic income during times of transition.

The big question is where will the money come from?

Right now supporters of a universal basic income don’t know where the cash will come from, but have a few ideas. Our assumption is this will be pitched as something rich people should pay for, which is nothing new.

One idea that has been floated is increasing property taxes on hotels (in Hawaii), businesses and residences so the money could be redistributed.

Karl Widerquist, from the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network, was quoted in the AP story saying, “If people in Alaska deserve an oil dividend, why don’t the people of Hawaii deserve a beach dividend?”

All we can say to Wilderquist’s comparison is — wow. Using Wilderquist’s logic everybody deserves a salary for nothing.

Or maybe the people of Hawaii don’t “deserve” a beach dividend because the State of Hawaii didn’t permanently invest billions dollars from the oil boom and smartly set it up to pay residents a check each year. And to clarify the comparison a little more, residents of Alaska received a permanent fund check of $1,022 each in 2016 – a far cry from a universal basic income.

With a population of a little more than 1.4 million people Hawaii is not a big state. As of April 2017 the state unemployment rate hovered at 2.7 percent. Hawaii has state debt totaling about $14.4 billion dollars, which totals over $10,000 per citizen.

In a July 2017 George Mason University study of state financial health, Hawaii ranked 27th among states, just behind the State of Washington, who was ranked 26th, in overall fiscal health. The study concluded states like Hawaii and Washington are in average fiscal health.

So why does a state with a 2.7 percent unemployment rate and average fiscal health need to provide residents with a universal basic income?

It’s not clear why some in Hawaii think a permanent state welfare program is needed. Hawaii is much like San Francisco and Seattle, it leans way to the left. Sometimes people try to take their plans and ideas to sympathetic audiences with hopes they will gain momentum and spread.

Opponents say free money will attract huge throngs of new residents in search of a check. They also wonder how productive or willing workers will be to work if they can quit and receive a universal basic income.

It also begs the question, what should the minimum wage be if all citizens are guaranteed free money?

Hawaii reportedly has a very high rate of homelessness, and critics fear homelessness would explode even further if residents were given money for nothing.

We wonder how long it’s going to take the Seattle City Council to pick up on this and pass something similar.

Our only answer is – work harder.

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