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Sorry, Mark Zuckerberg. President Trump will probably never embrace universal income

  • Facebook's Zuckerberg comes out in favor of universal basic income.
  • The "universal" part of universal basic income is the real problem.
  • President Trump has focused on job creation and would probably never embrace universal basic income.

Add Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg to the list of Silicon Valley elites and other global billionaires calling for a so-called Universal Basic Income, or UBI. The argument is that with a baseline income paid to everyone by the government, poverty can be alleviated and people can have more freedom to pursue more fulfilling lives.

This is a no good, terrible, very bad idea.

Sure, getting free money from the government might sound good to a lot of people. It might even sound charitable. But UBI is really an insult to every American and the human condition.

It's understandable in a way why Silicon Valley CEOs are very susceptible to falling into the pro-UBI trap. The biggest reason is that they're behind so much of the technology that people fear has and will shrink the need for human labor. Silicon Valley seems to believe jobs aren't going to be anywhere near as available in the future at least in part because of Silicon Valley's own success. That's despite a new Economic Policy Institute study that shows there is no evidence that automation leads to joblessness or even more income inequality.

"Why should someone without a home, income, and the educational or physical tools to provide for herself have her total potential assistance diminished by a massive fund that goes to all takers? In this way, a UBI actually steals from the poor instead of helping them."

That said, of course there are millions of people worldwide who do need significant help. That's where the "universal" in universal basic income" is so flawed. Instead of giving everyone some kind of minor handout, society's charitable wealth should be concentrated and focused on the truly disabled and poorest people who literally cannot help themselves adequately at all. (And kudos to people like Bill and Melinda Gates who seem to get that with their very focused efforts at getting vaccines and the most basic medical supplies to people who have almost no subsistence at all).

Why should someone without a home, income, and the educational or physical tools to provide for herself have her total potential assistance diminished by a massive fund that goes to all takers? In this way, a UBI actually steals from the poor instead of helping them.

No one should be excused for this kind of thinking. The fact that every human being needs to feel needed and valued and not just an entity to be pitied is something we've known since ancient times. And the Jewish philosopher Maimonides even explained in detail how the only righteous charity is giving someone a job that really needs to be done. You also don't need to be poor for this to be true. A recent study by the Institute of Economic Affairs showed that retirement increases the chances of depression by 40 percent and raises the likelihood of a person contracting a physical illness by 60 percent. Not feeling needed or economically productive is literally hazardous to your health. It's tough enough on our retirees, but now there are people who actually want to spread this notion to everyone over 21!

Some political observers have posited that President Trump is just the kind of populist type who could support the UBI. But that seems like a big stretch for someone who puts so much value in his image as a job creator and an icon of entrepreneurship. It was his promise of keeping and adding to American jobs that was his most persuasive message during the campaign.

The public needs more leaders in politics and among the corporate elite who push a message of belief in the value of the American people and all people on any scale. Ideas like the UBI aren't really ideas, they're a pre-emptive surrender to a problem that hasn't really presented itself yet.

It all boils down to the classic optimist vs. pessimist argument. The pessimist UBI supporters are convinced that society cannot continue without a permanent handout structure. The optimists believe the free market will always create enough jobs and wealth for those believing enough in themselves to get it.

For our own dignity and survival, Americans need to seize the optimistic side of this argument or our society is doomed.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.