One Paycheck Away

Written by Kaylin Kaufman

Americans are concerned with a variety of issues today, both politically and socially. Whether the focus is on the President, government shutdowns, or the recent stock market crash, Americans enjoy debating on current issues and which actions should be taken. However, Americans can occasionally become distracted by smaller issues, instead of focusing on the bigger picture. One large and complex problem Americans are living with, but rarely discussing, is the issue of mass poverty. According to CNN, almost three-quarters of Americans are living from paycheck to paycheck, with little to no emergency finances. How can America be the best superpower in the world with so many of its own citizens risking bankruptcy? Housing is too expensive in most cities, wages have fallen, healthcare is incredibly expensive, and more senior citizens have to put off retirement. Finland, Germany, and France, along with many other countries, have taken many measures to prevent large-scale poverty, including the controversial Universal Basic Income (UBI). As Judith Schulevitz argues in her op-ed “It’s Payback Time for Women”, implementing UBI in America would “…reduce the ill effects of poverty and therefore the cost to society of bad public health, crime, and incarceration” (Schulevitz 1). Providing all Americans with a small annual stipend, even just $500, will help America progress. Allowing Americans to add to their savings, pay off a debt, have an extra month’s rent, or even just extra spending cash will help the economy and lessen the stresses of many Americans. The benefits of creating a UBI in America are too great to ignore. Implementing a small annual stipend, perhaps an amount between $500 and $3,000 a year could be paid for through an increase of taxes to the wealthy. However, this idea presents problems. Almost every attempt of increasing taxes for the ultra-wealthy has been fruitless, partially due to lobbying efforts to block legislation. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett do not pay their fair share of taxes, which not only includes their lower income taxes, but also their completely untaxed investment funds. Enacting higher taxes for billionaires could provide poor Americans with a potentially life-saving amount of money, while hardly causing a dent in a billionaire’s bank account. Warren Buffet himself wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece that the rich elite should pay more in taxes, prompting President Obama to include the “Buffett Rule” in his tax proposal, which would have increased taxes on people making more than 1 million dollars a year to 30% (Buffett 1).



Americans need to realize how little a billionaire’s bank account would be affected with a slight increase in taxes for both income and investments. A billionaire losing $20,000 in taxes would make that back in a minute. According to Business Insider, the top six billionaires in 2013 made an average of $22,000 per minute (Business Insider 1). The elite 1% have the means to provide America with a UBI, benefitting the people who need those few hundred dollars the most. Americans should not have to worry about choosing either food or rent money. The addition of a Universal Basic Income will not solve the problem of mass poverty, but it will help.


Works Cited

Shulevitz, Judith. “It’s Payback Time for Women.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 8 Jan. 2016,

Buffett, Warren E. “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 14 Aug. 2011,


Roche, Julia La. “Here’s How Much 10 Of The Richest People In The World Made Per Minute In 2013.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 19 Dec. 2013,

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8 Responses to One Paycheck Away

  1. Anonymous Student says:

    I agree with your sentiment that the UBI is not a cure for poverty here in the United States. The Buffet model is useful, since it provides an updated tax increase for the the wealthy that can afford it. On the case of wages being increased, I believe that that there should be initiatives taken by the states in order to implement this change. A recent minimum wage ballot initiative in Arizona have helped drive wages without the need for the state legislature’s approval. It also would tailor this policy for each state’s cost of living, where wage increases can be adjusted for standards. Overall now more than ever, state action is necessary to acquire some means to these issues.


    Wiles , Russ . “Arizona’s minimum wage just increased by 50 cents.” AZ Central . December 28, 2017. Accessed February 16, 2018.

  2. Anonymous Student says:

    I agree with the sentiment…unfortunately, they also have the means to flee to Lichtensein, Monaco, or the Caribbean. Also, a UBI would simply become the new definition of poor. Another answer might be increased access to employment opportunities, education and free daycare for working mothers.

  3. Anonymous Student says:

    The UBI certainly sounds good in theory but might not turn out well in the long run. UBI, I understand will be accumulated through taxation and In order to accumulate taxes, people have to work. The problem with the UBI is that it might disincentivize people from working. We already have a similar problem in the US where many welfare recipients rather stay on welfare than find a job. Or work fewer hours to avoid reaching the maximum threshold to be eligible. The point is that once there is a guaranteed stream of income the incentive to find employment decreases or completely disappears. This might create a ripple effect because fewer people in the workforce means fewer taxes collected to support the UBI. In the short run, it might work great but it will slowly turn unsustainable.

  4. Anonymous Student says:

    An Universal Basic Income would allow those struggling financially to have a rebound or some sort of safety net, and the fact that billionaires can recover their loss in taxes within one minute speaks volumes on the power of money in America. industrialized nations that are said to emulate the United States because of its democracy and treatment of its citizens are taking care of their constituents at a better standard than us respectively. Americans pride themselves on not just what we are, but on what we can be and what we symbolize, however at what point does this illusion become apparent since nearly three quarters of its citizens does not have a safety net in case of an emergency. Hopefully we will see some leadership from congressman to have an initiative that will reflect somewhat this idea to help ensure a safety net to their citizens.

  5. Anonymous Student says:

    Kaylin; I cannot emphasis enough how much I love the argument’s made in your post. The article by Schulevitz proposing a universal basic income, as mentioned in your discussion board, was the recipient of major backlash. However, I do not find the proposal to be outlandish or unwarranted, especially given the financial status of a majority of American’s. It is virtually impossible to save money when a dollar earned must be a dollar spent towards necessity. It is beneficial to individual’s of all financial class to promote financial security to all; as this would pave the way for those formerly impoverished to stimulate the economy-as opposed to being woefully dependent on governmental assistance.

  6. Anonymous Student says:

    Kaylin, I was very pleased to see that you decided to write about Shulevitz’s piece because it was a fairly heavy debate in out class room. The points you made about the difference in the earnings of the top percent of Americans and the bottom really interested me as I fell as thought the raw numbers are somewhat more powerful than any other argument that can be made in regard to wealth in America. Although I do agree with you that the income discrepancies that have become more and more obvious over the years are extreme and need to stop, I am not so sure that UBI is a way to solve it. To call something “universal” implies that the money will go to everyone, not just the poor, and therefor the rich will be putting money back into their own pockets if this income came about from taxing them. I truly enjoyed reading your blog post and could tell you researched the topic a lot and had the data to back up your claims, quite impressive.

  7. Anonymous Student says:

    You make a lot of great points. I think your argument is hard civic republican based. The needs of the many rather than the few is without a doubt the only way a world with our population can be sustained.

    I’ve always been a proponent of UBI, and as an Alaskan citizen who gets his Pennant’s Fund Dividend (as well as shares in my local native corporations) I can say that these yearly funds greatly help the people in the state with one of the highest costs of living. If something similar were to to be executed on a national stage, I would wager it would be a net positive effect with most people using the money sensibly for their needs.

  8. Anonymous Student says:

    I agree with your conclusion that the UBI is not the universal end all cure to poverty in the United States. I think the income gap and the growing amount of poverty in the US is a multi-faceted complicated issue that really doesn’t have one clear solution, especially when you examine the demographics of people in poverty and realize that when certain groups are affected more than others (women, racial minorities, etc.), we realize that it becomes more of a civil/humanitarian issue than just a financial one. The implementation of a UBI, however, as you said would definitely be a step towards bettering the conditions of those who are so strongly affected. $500 dollars doesn’t seem like a significant amount, but when you think about a consistent, reliable, secondary source of income, and how much freedom and opportunity that could provide for a single mother or for a student putting themselves through school, the difference is astronomical.

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