Money, Money, Money. Worries, worries, worries. No more. Please. Universal Basic Income.

The sad truth is that you are only in your 20s and you are obsessed with money. It’s the center of your thoughts. How you don’t have any. How you are going to get a lot. And how you can lose it all because of some random technological innovation in the future. There’s a way out of this toxic spiral of thoughts and worries. It is called the universal basic income, and it is already being implemented in other countries. Even within the US, places like Hawaii and Alaska, which have the highest costs of living, are considering the idea. [0]

Despite all the distractions that come with summer, I bet you still fit a thought or two about eventually finding a job, and perhaps more importantly, a well-paying job. To be fair, you are at a point in life where you are making important life choices that are going to pave the path of your future. You don’t need to be a heartless, greedy utilitarian to understand that you can’t ignore it when making career decisions.

Sure, you don’t need to be rich to live comfortably or even to be happy. But you need to make a minimum amount to meet the basics: housing, transportation, groceries, something fun of course, because otherwise what’s the point of making money if you can’t spend a little of it on yourself, and perhaps leave some aside for savings.

The tricky thing is that a well-paying job means different things in different places and for different majors. As a good metric, STEM majors can be looking at average starting salaries of $60,000. Students in business, the natural resources and healthcare sectors can expect starting salaries of around $50,000. If you are in the humanities field you may be looking at something closer to the $45,000 line or even $35,000 if you are an education major. [1] (Find out more about starting salaries here:

However, you need to pay attention to more than starting salaries when choosing your major. You need to study the geography of the market for your profession. For example, if you are a computer scientist and you want a job in Sillicon Valley, you better hope you get a starting salary of $110,000. Recent rakings of cost of living in the US find large discrepancies between states and cities. Making $100,000 in North Carolina is hitting the jackpot, but if you are moving to DC or New York, this salary will make you feel like you have just enough to get by. [2]

If these two near-future considerations are not enough to keep you up at night, think about what will happen in 15 years with all the technological progress that we are now used to seeing. Despite being 20, you are old enough to know that computers, cell-phones, and the internet are a fairly new inventions that have revolutionized business across the world.

And today technological changes continue to dramatically reshape the way work is done in the economy. Should you be worried your profession will be obsolete in 15 years and you are going to have to go through all this again? (to learn about the percentage of jobs at risk to automation by sector and geography, visit:

Yes, you have money problems and reasons to worry about money in the future. However, in the bright side, at least you are now making decisions and have time to adjust and optimize. What about the fish that are already in the water? Some of them, are drowning. You know this from statistics shown just about everywhere.

Automation and trade, but specially automation, have taken a toll on the American middle class. Inequality in America is drastically increasing since the 1980s. Inequality on itself is not a terrible thing if it is just a case of the rich getting richer. The problem is that in America, the poor are getting poorer and poorer too. No longer should you aspire to a middle class salary if you are planning to live comfortably. The median salary is not rising fast enough to keep up with higher earners. (And in fact, the bottom 10 percent of households have actually seen significantly higher income growth than the median household. )[3]

So by now it is clear to you and to policy-makers in places with high living costs, like Hawaii and Alaska, and in places large newly unemployed populations with obsolete skills, like Ohio and New York, that some people need help paying the bill today, and some people are going to need help paying the bill tomorrow.

There are multiple ways to go about helping people adjust to rapid changes in the economy. For instance, since 1974, the Trade Adjustment Assistance program has been helping retrain workers who have lost their jobs to trade. Also, there are welfare programs like the Food Stamps program or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

(learn about the ups and downs of these programs here:, and here:

These type of assistance programs have been implemented at state and federal level with varying degrees of success since the Great Depression. However, there is a recent wave of support for an unprecedented type of welfare proposal whose actual first advocate was the American revolutionary Thomas Paine in 1795: The Universal Basic Income.

A universal basic income is a fixed amount of money given to all citizens regardless of their income or work status. (When eligibility is determined by citizenship, availability for the labor market, or willingness to provide community services, the welfare initiative is not truly universal. Most examples of basic income programs in the world are not of the universal type.) The amount of money that is given is subject to political debate. Average proposals are around $10,000 per year, but of course it varies by cost of living. For example, last year Switzerland was considering a $2,600/month, while this year Finland will be testing a $600/month UBI.

The UBI is an interesting policy that is consistent with the ideas of free market theorists. It turns out that being poor is quite expensive: you can’t buy bulk, you can’t get good interest on loans, you can’t get a driver’s license or a car to go to a better paying job, and since you don’t have money for a security deposit, you are likely going to take whatever rent that does not require one–probably an unfairly high one. Thus, the biggest benefit of a UBI would be the elimination of households living under the poverty line.

If you are not sure you like the idea of handing free money away, think about what the alternative would look like. Children from families that can’t afford basic needs are at higher risk of developing poor health conditions, dropping out of school, becoming imprisoned, and probably becoming heads of an equally poor family, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. If these families receive a UBI, members won’t need to put their lives at risk for pity money.

An additional advantage is that it is much simpler and more transparent that existing welfare programs. For example, under the TAA, workers that lost their jobs to trade are given money to go back to college. However, many of these workers are older people who have been out of the education sector for decades and who are not likely to be suitable competitors for current 20 year-olds. Hence, in the end the TAA ends up transferring a lot of money to a lot of people who can still not get a job at the end of their retraining.

Of course, this proposal is highly controversial and politicians from left and right are going to find arguments to shape their rhetoric and win votes. But let’s stay away from politics and just think about the economics of the UBI. In NC, handing $10,000 to every adult would cost around $70,000 million. The money would likely have to come from a combination of taxes, returns to investments, and budget cuts. The supporters of redistributive approaches would suggest the bulk should actually come from the disproportionate gains that accrue to tech companies and other research and engineering organizations that actually benefit from automation and technological innovation.

A UBI would bring financial security to workers concerned about losing their jobs to automation. A type of security much needed in a strongly manufacturing and agricultural state that has already reduced other forms of unemployment security. (In 2013, NC reduced the amount of weekly benefits and the total number of weeks that benefits are paid from 26 to 12 [4]) In addition, implementing a UBI would help address rising inequality and alleviate its consequences without adding new incentives that would distort otherwise “predictable” behavior of the recipients.

Finally, adopting this kind of welfare policy would certainly give us already sleep-deprived, money-obsessed millennials a little mental break from the never-ending anxiety over the future, and a little extra energy for … relaxation, actually.










A man with no plan: Paris, the story of hubris

Last week, we heard some breaking news on the environmental policy ground. On June 1st, President Trump announced he would withdraw from the Climate Change Paris Agreement but he also said he is willing to negotiate re-entering the agreement under new terms that are better for American businesses. Interestingly enough, American business were the first to advise him against such move, as they were actually looking at Paris as a way for economic growth.

Right now, Trump’s move to walk away from this historic agreement does not mean a lot in practical terms. But it will have important symbolic consequences for domestic policy and foreign affairs. For us, NC students, it means we better start supporting private businesses and companies that are leading the fight against global warming, and we better get on knowing our local politicians because the feds won’t be behind us in this issue. Curiously, it also means we can start strategizing about our vote for the 2020 election.

Trump said he was getting out of Paris because it was disadvantageous to the US economy. But, right after the President’s decision, Elon Musk and Disney CEO, Robert Iger, quit Trump’s business advisory council precisely for making a move that would hurt American businesses. Other corporate giants started using social media to openly criticize the President. Moreover, 70% of the American public actually likes the Paris agreement. Why is there such a disconnect?

To be clear, the Paris agreement is a voluntary agreement, where every country in the world–except for war-torn Syria and Nicaragua, a country that actually refused to sign the agreement because it considered it too soft– are going to work together to share technology, financing and deployment of climate solutions to unlock the largest wealth-creation opportunities in the planet. Unlike the 2009 framework established by the UN in Copenhagen, there are no penalties to the Paris agreement. Furthermore, countries set their own goals and pollution targets. Thus, it seems as if Trump just got out of a deal that would make it easier for American companies, the world leaders in innovation, to sell their goods and services to other companies all over the world.

Trump’s move is a sign that he did not understand what Paris was all about. Sure, he kept his word to supporters by saying good-bye to anything related to environmental regulations. He even, made an attempt to define himself a great negotiator who can strike an even better deal than Paris. Yet, he couldn’t have been serious about his decision if he had known the flexible framework that Paris had set, the enormous benefits that were being laid out for American tech companies, the detrimental and immediate consequences for the state of diplomatic relations, the implications for domestic politics in the coming 2020 election, and finally, he wouldn’t have decided to suddenly pull out of Paris if he had known that, well, the Agreement’s rules said he actually couldn’t (!).

In fact, the rules of the deal say that nobody can withdraw from the agreement until three years after it had been signed, which was last November. Furthermore, the process will take an additional year. This means that the US is not out of Paris, that Paris is not dead, and that Paris will likely become a campaign issue for the 2020 election. So, if you are planning to cast your future vote for the environment, stay tuned on what candidates have to say about Paris.

The consequences from Trump’s decision are still unclear. Luckily for the entire world and the generations to come, many countries have expressed their desire to continue their commitment to the voluntary restrictions outlined in the agreement. However, participation by the US,–the second largest polluter in the world, the largest polluter in per capita terms, the world’s largest economy, and largest exporter of technology– is key to sustain the momentum of this global deal on the environment.

For us, students, voters, future taxpayers, future engineers, scientists, businessmen and decision-makers, there is a lot to learn from this circus. We are here to become leaders and move the world forward. It just became ever more obvious that we must be prepared to face political obstacles in the future. It is not just engineering challenges. What Paris means for us is that we can’t count on the Feds to take one for the environment. We are going to have to stay engaged in the local political debate, and stay informed about what private industry is doing independently from the government.

Climate change is real, and in NC we are not new to the impacts of environmental stress. Trump getting out of Paris is a reminder that we must stay awake and alert, not just to the more frequent and more intense climatic events, but also to the similarly more erratic political moves. We must be more than skeptical. We must get ready because whether in Paris, in Washington D.C., or in Raleigh, someone is pushing an agenda in our name, the name of our planet, and the name of all generations to come.

Something for us to do is support advocacy groups that help disseminate important information and open channels for otherwise non-existent political dialogues. Another thing is to start learning about how policy is done here in North Carolina. (In NC, the House has a standing committee on the environment, and the Senate has a standing committee on Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources. Also, the NC Department of environment and Natural resources is the state’s chief environmental policy and natural resources agency.)

To see why this is important consider the following. Here in NC, they are considering a bill that would freeze progress towards renewable energy (HB 745), and one of the people who will have a vote on this bill is state legislator Larry Pittman, who said global warming happens because of the Sun. (Apparently, his words were “Our climate runs on a cycle. It goes up and it goes down and the Lord designed that way. And the main thing that causes global warming is the Earth’s relationship to a big ball of gas that’s burning out there that we call Sun. And it is the height of hubris for human beings to think that we can have any effect on that.”) Larry Pittman is the man also said Lincoln was comparable to Hitler earlier this spring.

Do we want chauvinist, anti-science, creationists, climate change deniers to make our environmental policy? Not me. One more thing to do: start thinking about your next vote, whether for 2020 presidential elections, the 2018 Statewide elections, or the 2017 municipal elections.


Here is a link to a list of environmental advocacy organizations in North Carolina:

Here is a link to start your search on Agricultural/Environmental/Natural resources policy in NC:,_North_Carolina_State_Senate.

You can first find out who is your representative here: or

And here is a link to the elections calendar:

Finally, this is a good place to start learning about NC legislation: