Concept to provide residents with basic income explored by state leaders

Concept to provide residents with basic income explored by state leaders

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg and Tesla's Elon Musk believe someday everyone will need 'free money' to make ends meet.  State Rep. Chris Lee also agrees with that idea.

Lee and other lawmakers pushed a Resolution through the legislature calling for the forming of a working group to study the concept of "universal basic income."

"As automation takes over the economy, you're able to ensure that everybody is provided some basic means of living, kind of like a monthly Social Security check for everyone," he said.

Basic income isn't a new idea. Richard Nixon talked about it when he was president.

Lee believes it will eventually become a necessity in Hawaii, with our heavy dependence on service industry jobs that could be replaced by computers or machines.

"If it's done right it could actually save money and be cheaper than providing unemployment and housing assistance," he said.

But former state lawmaker and fiscal conservative Sam Slom and other critics think basic income is a bad idea.

"I would rather see us concentrate on a more balanced economy, better jobs, more paying jobs, getting the cost of living down so that local people, young people can afford it. This idea does none of that," Slom said.

Hawaii Pacific University economist and Libertarian Party committee member Ken Schooland fears free money could be counterproductive.

"You see how many homeless people there are and how many help wanted signs there are. People don't see the incentive to work if they can get what they need without it," he said.

Lee said the dollars for a basic income system could come from taxpayers or taxes on industries that replace workers with automation.

"It might provide other people with some basic income so that they can survive," said Punchbowl resident Trevor Ward.

"It sounds really wonderful but I wonder if it couldn't be spent better elsewhere,' Terry Reid said.

Some foreign countries are experimenting with universal basic income, and now, it's on the mind of Hawaii leaders.

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