Michael Simm

Executive Director @ The Logical Foundation
Working (0-5 years experience)



Michael Simm is a disruptive systems expert and nonprofit founder focused on fighting homelessness and poverty. He earned his Bachelors in Political Science and Minor in Innovation in Society from ASU’s honors college in under two years. During his time at ASU, he published a peer-reviewed paper about how a Universal Basic Income would brighten the future of our economy and society. Having come to the undeniable conclusion that guaranteed income is the most effective way to fight poverty, he envisioned a nonprofit that could unleash the massive anti-poverty potential of guaranteed income.

In addition, he is a generalist in understanding disruptive policy, technologies, and their implications for the future. He knows a medium amount about most topics in the realms of politics, and finance, and a great deal about renewables, guaranteed income, and complex system analysis.

How others can help me

I am looking for funders for my nonprofit as well as a co-founder with experience in fundraising. 

I invite anyone who thinks they can help me (through volunteerism or philanthropy) to reach out!

How I can help others

Reach out if you have questions about guaranteed income and how it will transform our society and economy.

I also can provide insight into other disruptive technologies such as autonomous technology, EVs & clean energy, reusable rocketry, and other topics of technologically enabled disruption.


Thanks for reading this 30-minute thing. I first wanted to make a short 5-minute read but I realized that many of you would probably really want all of the evidence laid out clearly, and our plan explained in excruciating detail. - so you can point out the super obvious reason why this has a 0% chance of success, that I've completely overlooked  -  despite my search for fundamental issues since I came up with the idea, and asking all of the experts I can find

The EA community is probably the most knowledgeable community in the world about helping people. Considering the world-changing impact potential I've outlined, even a 1% chance of success would justify spending millions to make this happen. Unless of course, someone can find a problem.

Please find a fundamental, first-principles problem with my plan, and, if you can't, please help us succeed. My challenge for you: Find an insurmountable problem, or help us change the world.

  I think our odds are more like 40% without support from EA organizations and as high as 75% with your support. The faster we can grow (but not too fast), the faster we may be able to end poverty. Time is very much of the essence.

Hold up. That $1T number originated from this peer-reviewed study that I cited. I'd be happy to see your strong evidence that the $1T number is overblown, or perhaps even off by 10X. The goal here is to be less wrong.

But this is the EA forum, my friend. You can't just claim something's "a fake, made-up number" without any evidence. Especially when that source is a peer-reviewed academic study.

ignoring the huge genetic confounding that accounts for a very substantial part of the correlation between child poverty experience and worse adult outcomes. 

If anything, this seems to me like an extremely dubious claim. The idea that 'genetic confounding' has anything to do with why impoverished childhood experiences lead to worse adult outcomes absolutely needs a strong RTC Study cited. Actually, it would need several gold-standard studies and a meta-review.

At first glance, 'genetic confounding' (especially in the context of poverty) also seems like a slippery slope to the idea that poor people are poor because there is something wrong with them, ignoring the multitude of ways the cards are stacked against them.

However, I'd really like to give you the benefit of the doubt. What were you trying to get at?

Cite your sources, this isn't Twitter.

  • Approach disagreements with curiosity

It is true that the 'poverty line' is an arbitrary number that doesn't necessarily equate to life experience not being 'in poverty' if you're above it. It is also true that UBI puts every person, universally, over a certain amount of income. If you define poverty as people living under the poverty line, then a UBI reaching the poverty line would abolish poverty by definition.

Regarding the welfare system, almost everybody is in favor of dramatically reforming the welfare system because a lot of it right now is actually harmful to people. The one program most people approve of, social security, already functions (sort of) as a UBI for the elderly. 

I struggle to see who, after looking at the numbers, would be against spending <10% of America's budget ($539B) on a UBI that would pay for itself several times over & make it so the government can delete a ton of less effective welfare programs. Do you know that child poverty alone (only one small part  of the damage of poverty) costs over $1.03 Trillion annually?

I think the idea that UBI would 'massively increase taxes' could do with some solid numbers. Taxes would increase moderately, but it's not nearly as high as you think:

Research by Karl Widerquist of Georgetown University shows that it would cost only $539 Billion, less than 3 percent of the U.S. GDP, to permanently end poverty with Universal Basic Income. Widerquist says the $539 billion per year is 2.95 percent of America’s GDP & about one-sixth of the cost of commonly circulated estimates, and that this amount is less than 25 percent of current entitlement programs.

Widerquist’s research used U.S. Census Bureau data for 2015 to examine an estimated poverty-level UBI of $12,000 per adult and $6,000 per child. It also found that some 43.1 million people (including 14.5 million children) would benefit from this increased income, reducing the poverty rate from 13.5 percent of the population to zero.

The additional $539 Billion would account for less than 10% of the U.S. federal budget, even though proponents think it would be far more positively impactful than... well... pretty much everything else the government does put together. Creating a stable foundation for society is the function of government.

What I have in mind would be a refundable tax credit, which also applies for people who do not pay excess amounts in income taxes. (i.e., it would be like receiving a $X check if you have not paid any taxes)

I think this is the same idea as a Negative Income Tax. As mentioned before UBI and NIT are functionally identical and only differ in accounting terms.

I want to make it clear I'm not attempting to stretch the definition of UBI to include NIT. A Universal Basic Income is a very different mechanism from a Negative Income Tax, my point is that both policies achieve the game-changing impact of a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG).

UBI is a government policy that distributes funds to all people equally

My point here is that the government distributes those funds equally, establishes that baseline of economic stability, and that does not include how it's being paid for. GiveDirectly is running a UBI experiment where every person in Maryland Liberia will receive UBI for 3 years. The UBI is not being paid for by taxes, but by philanthropy & international aid money. Whether something is UBI or not depends on the disbursement mechanism, not on the means of funding.

From what I've seen it's incredibly likely (logical economically) that direct cash transfers - or funding guaranteed income - is the most cost-effective way to help almost all people in need philanthropically. If we can prove this claim with rigorous RTC trials, it could substantially blur the lines between paying taxes dedicated for UBI & spending money on high-impact philanthropy.

Wouldn't a rich person or organization in Maryland Liberia also want to support GiveDirectly's UBI program?

You provided a sketch of a cost-benefit analysis in this post (the four bullet points) and it does not include any costs.

Thanks so much for pointing this out! You're totally right. I just went and added one, and this is what I added: 

What about the downsides?

  • The primary losers of UBI policy would be (extremely) wealthy people and people with very high incomes as they will get higher tax rates.
  • In 2022, 34.4% of American households saw a $100,000+ income. It would be reasonable to say households with over $100,000 annual income could probably be negatively affected by increased taxes. 
  • 34.4% * 332M = 115M Americans
  • They will likely lose some amount of WELLBYs as their lifestyles will be harder to maintain. Increased taxes, the resulting stress, and a slight decline in living standards could likely contribute to, (spitballing again because living with slightly less affluence isn't the same as living in poverty), a loss of 0.05 WELLBYs per year. I think this could be a massive overestimation though because although some people would have higher taxes, they would also benefit from their friends, family, and neighbors being much more economically secure. 
  • I think it's more likely only people with over $500K in annual income would be negatively affected (and only as long as their family & friends are also in the same tax bracket). 1% of American households make 500K+ annually. The 1% comprises 1.32 Million Americans. 
  • 115M * 0.05 = 6M less WELLBYs/Yr
  • 1.32M * 0.05 = 66K less WELLBYs/Yr

Based on this back-of-the-napkin cost-benefit estimation, it seems like the benefits by far outweigh the costs 

  • 33M - 6M = 27 M net positive WELLBYs annually

Regarding Sentience Factories:

I very much agree with your point that UBI goes totally out the window the instant we give rights to sentient computers or uploaded humans because they can infinitely copy themselves into new beings (and that we don't know when or if that will happen).

At that point though, I think pretty much everything else normal about the world will go totally out the window as well, including currencies. We could end up in some kind of star trek situation + the TV show Upload. I agree that from a longtermist perspective that this possibility is directionally negative. Good point!

I don't think you can in good faith call a program that adds a new special tax that only applies to the UBI and thus deposits money in rich people's bank accounts only to immediately yank 100% of the money back a "UBI," as that clearly goes against the spirit of the "Universal" characteristic.

I don't think the 'Universality' of UBI has ever meant that every person will benefit from it. The universality thing points to the fact that no-one will ever go below it. It is a minimum base income that is universally applied, and that universality has nothing to do with the tax structure used to fund said program.

A program would still be a UBI if it was funded entirely from government oil profits or some other source than taxes. It could even be funded by wealth taxes not income taxes. The source of funds is irrelevant to a UBI being a universal income floor.

However, I doubt this is an accurate interpretation of Milton Friedman, and I have only ever heard him talk about negative income taxes.

I feel like we're going in circles with this one. I already described how NIT is functionally identical to UBI after all is said and done. It just depends on how people feel about accounting.

"A NIT is like giving someone $50 and asking for nothing back, and a UBI is like giving someone $100 and asking for $50 from their next paycheck. Both result in the person getting an extra $50. The question of which is better depends on the details involved and how the person feels about them."

Milton Friedman used guaranteed income and NIT interchangeably, and I would guess (although I can't confirm) that he understood NIT and UBI to be two sides of the same coin. Maybe we can ask an AI language model to pretend to be Milton Friedman.

A UBI would not save rich people from losing >90% of their income if something catastrophic were to happen to their business/etc., and it does not act as a better social safety net than alternative policies such as negative income tax or other means-tested/emergency assistance (e.g., TANF).

You're completely right, it would not save them from losing all of their money &/or job income, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm saying that they will never fall below a certain level, and that level is enough to help a person recover at least part of their dignity & wealth over time.

Imagine you're a rich person - something goes horribly wrong - now you're bankrupt and have $0 in your bank account. Would you rather have to wait until the next April to get a big NIT check (you'll have to wait a year for your income to go to 0), or get your $1,000 check at the beginning of the next month?

I've spoken to people on TANF and means-tested emergency assistance. It sucks and is absolutely awful for everyone involved. It's especially rough because these people are in great need and it makes them jump through so many unnecessary hoops.

I think we are not understanding UBI to mean the same thing. UBI is a government policy that distributes funds to all people equally, through redistributive taxes that are high enough for the wealthy to pay for the full amount. I don't think there's any bait-and-switch in that everybody should  know from the start that people making 120+ per year will make net-less income.

The breakeven point should be somewhere around 50-70K I think.

The fundamental issue (unless I'm misunderstanding) with tax-credit is that if you're poor and have not made a high income, you can't get any benefit from them. It doesn't accomplish the fundamental BIG (Basic Income Guarantee) like UBI or Negative income tax.

A program which simultaneously adds a UBI and a special tax specifically designed to take away the UBI from richer income groups is a UBI in name only, if even that; it is functionally just a more complicated form income-adjusted welfare (e.g., a negative income tax credit but with extra steps). 

UBI has always been a fundamentally redistributive policy proposal and is what people like Dr. Luther King Jr. and Milton Friedman meant back in the 60s. A special/additional tax specifically designed to transfer some wealth from richer people & distribute it to poorer people is most certainly what the name UBI means.

One thing I love about it is that it should benefit wealthy people a great deal as well. Not only would it reduce homelessness and petty crime drastically (as they are almost entirely caused by poverty), but rich people would know there is a limit to how far they can fall. Wealthy people are constantly afraid of losing their wealth, and UBI would meaningfully reduce that fear. A few rich people have told me it would make up for the higher taxes.

Finally, I find it much simpler actually than a negative income tax. My perspective is somewhat altered by the fact that I speak with a lot of homeless and impoverished individuals, and they would much prefer a simple check each month as it would be far more stable than a once-a-year thing.

I have no idea what's going on in this comment thread ^

But I had one tiny comment about this footnote:

2. There are longer debates to be had whether this is actually "basic" (sufficient for living), but that can of worms need not be opened here. 

"Sufficient for living" is one way to interpret the word basic, but basic can also be interpreted as simply "the size of the base income" or floor. It doesn't necessarily have to be a livable amount. Most of the benefits of UBI come from the substantial amount of power that people can leverage even with only $1000 or even $500 extra per month.

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