Every now and then a think piece shows up from conservative writers considering whether providing a Universal Basic Income (UBI), or a fixed payment to everyone, no strings attached, might be a positive alternative to Great Society-type programs.
I urge all of those considering these arguments to take a look at the cautionary tale of Alaska. As a condition of statehood, Alaska has no private oil and gas rights owned by the state, and the state invested the royalties in a Permanent Fund. Eventually, the money flowing in was so much more than state expenses that the state income tax was rescinded, and a dividend on the fund earnings are paid every year to every resident (depicted here in the Simpsons movie). This Permanent Fund Dividend, or the PFD, is essentially a UBI. The Permanent Fund has ~$60 billion in it, and historically the PFD has been in the $1-2K range. With the natural gas boom going on in the contiguous U.S., royalties on current oil production in Alaska plummeted around 5 years ago, so the previous governor (a left-leaning independent) reduced the dividend, expanded Medicaid by fiat, dipped in to the state’s savings to make the state budget, and proposed reinstating the income tax. Last year, the current Republican governor was elected promising to restore the full dividend (and more), cut nothing of significance, and have no new taxes.More