If I were president, we’d have a modest BIG, which would be paid for out of the existing federal budget, as follows: $150b – elimination of safety net programs (TANF, EITC, and SSI) $150b – state matching funds related to the above $ 70b – half of SSDI funds $ 25b – half of the HUD budget $ 25b – budget reductions in some remaining programs (e.g., Pell/SEOG grants) $ 25b – elimination of redundant programs (guided by US Gov. Accountability Office) $100b – unemployment compensation

Ok, $545b budget. Long story short: all wage earners would have their BIG withheld for taxes as the default, but could tweak their withholdings to get more now/possibly pay more in taxes later. However, households in the middle quintile and above would essentially receive no net BIG after taxes. After all, taxes pay for the BIG – it’s not free money.

Under this scenario and budget, the bottom quintile would receive a net BIG of $800 a month (plus SNAP if they qualify); the second to bottom would receive, on average, a net BIG of $400/mo. Decreases in net BIG for the 2nd quintile households would be incremental as their income rises so as not to disincentivize work.

Pell and SEOG grants would be eliminated, as the BIG (worth up to $9600 a year) could be used towards post-secondary school expenses. An important psychological advantage of BIG compared to Pell grants and tuition waivers is that the BIG is a limited resource with alternate uses – and for someone with a limited income, the alternate uses are likely related to current necessities and for things that have long-term benefit (e.g., car repair, savings cushion for moving). As a consequence, the BIG would be experienced as “my” money – and I’m much more responsible and budget-minded when I’m spending my money than someone else’s. This is especially the case when the latter isn’t fungible – that is, it doesn’t have alternate uses – like with Pell grants or tuition waivers.

Less student financial aid would have the added benefit of reducing tuition inflation – many analysts have noted that increases in tuition rates track increases in aid amounts, especially in private schools. Don’t worry though: there will still be sources of financial aid: between scholarships, loans and state programs like Cal grants (which are currently up to $12,240/year for the University of California system). Also, under this BIG scenario, individuals who become unemployed could retroactively claim withheld BIG payments in the current tax year (i.e., not yet paid in taxes), which would help make up some of the rate difference between BIG  and Unemployment Compensation - the latter abolished to help pay for BIG.

What’s not to like?