by Paul Moomjean
paulmoomjean@yahoo.com 

On New Year’s Day I took my buddy to lunch. We walked up to a popular chain restaurant at 1 p.m. in the afternoon. On the door was a sign saying, “We will not be open at 11 a.m. today. No one showed up to work. We hope to open soon. We are sorry.” 

This wasn’t a fast food place where tips aren’t made. This was an Islands in Santa Clarita with endless resources and quality food. Yet no one showed up to work on the first day of 2022. Talk about a literal “New Year; New Me.” 

Of course, this is happening all over the country. Based on the most recent data, a record 4.5 million Americans left their jobs in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After years of revolution lingo in colleges, the people are rising up, which philosophically is great, but pragmatically awful. With workers unmotivated to make money, especially at low wages, businesses are facing employment shortages. And instead of the government looking for solutions, they are putting the burden on the businesses, causing a whole new set of workplace animosity. 

What we need now more than ever is a universal basic income supplement attached to worker schedules to encourage people to stay at their jobs and maintain businesses. 

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is the idea that the government supplies its citizens with a monthly income on top of what they earn. In 2020 we had a basic UBI structure with the unemployment benefits plus $600 weekly as the coronavirus spread across the world. When Andrew Yang was running for president with his major issue being UBI, many laughed. When the economy came to a screeching halt, it was the best solution offered. Yang’s mistake was making UBI a God-given right, where a better approach would be like Social Security, where people pay into the system and get approximately $1,000 a month based on working hours. If employees show up to work, then they get their supplemental check. If they don’t show up to work, then they don’t. Why do we only offer the unemployed money? Why not reward the people paying into the system while they can enjoy it? 

What we are seeing is that workers are quitting their jobs or not showing up because they see no reason to. Minimum wage jobs get a minimum effort. Chris Rock said it best in a comedy bit: “I used to work at McDonald’s making minimum wage. You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? ‘Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.’” 

CNN reported, “Workers were most likely to quit their jobs in the hospitality industry, which had by far the highest quits rate at 6.1% in November, as well as those in health care. The numbers in transportation, warehousing and utilities also increased.” (“A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November,” Anneken Tappe, CNN Business, Jan. 4, 2022.)

“Workers continued to quit their jobs at a historic rate. The low-wage sectors directly impacted by the pandemic continued to be the source of much of the elevated quitting,” Nick Bunker, director of research at the Indeed Hiring Lab, told CNN. 

Jamal Mecklai of  Financial Express recently wrote about the struggles in having a UBI, but there are practical methods to implementing it (“Universal Basic Income: UBI’s Time has Come,” Jan. 3, 2022). “Implementing it will require both sensible planning of existing benefits and higher taxes to ensure sustainable government surpluses. Many governments are already grappling with effective ways to raise taxes; and while there could be many models, the best way to do this without harming growth is to increase taxes sharply on assets (capital) and capital-based income while actually reducing direct and indirect taxes.”

To an older generation that was paid wages that allowed for them to buy homes and cars and pay for college, this seems ridiculous. But to younger workers who don’t see home buying or a better future ahead, they’d rather stay home trying to become TikTok famous. America no longer promises a better tomorrow if you work a job you hate, and raising the minimum wage won’t fix that. All that will do is force business owners to make cuts in other areas and not hire more employees. 

But if our leaders want people to go back to work, then entice them with a UBI system that rewards hard work. The days of company loyalty are over. Either adapt or die. And right now we are dying.