Should Every American Have an Income from the Government?

While I won’t vote for Trump, I am wary of voting for Hillary Clinton.  She is qualified for the position, no doubt, but in terms of policy, she doesn’t bring anything bold. Ideas like raising the minimum wage are fine, but does it go far enough to improve the economic lot of millions of Americans?

Perhaps an idea the Democrats should float is the universal basic income (UBI), where the government guarantees every citizen a money transfer equivalent to the poverty line. This way, starving artists don’t have to work to support themselves. Rather, artists can spend that time going to auditions, writers can work on their stories and novels, and musicians can practice for their live performances. Workers who have been left behind by neoliberal globalization can live with some comfort while they train for the jobs that the current economy demands. Poor students in college won’t have to take out cost-of-living loans: their basic income will take care of that!

This all sounds good, but implementation has been a slow process. In terms of worldwide political action, there has been little policy movement. Switzerland held a referendum on having UBI, but it lost: 76.9% of voters decided against the idea. Finland will implement the policy on a local level as a means of experimentation. Beyond that, little is being done in the way of policy implementation.

However, there are various measures receiving wider and wider support from mainstream governments. Mexico’s constitutional assembly is considering including a provision in its constitution making it a right for all Mexican citizens to a basic income in order to live a dignified life.

There are groups of people working worldwide to advance this idea. Basic Income Earth Network, a network of people who are interested in the implementation of UBI around the world, considers itself at the forefront of this fight for providing people with a modicum of social support. They are steadily supporting the cause. They see the defeat in Switzerland as a “formal defeat” that only highlights that there is more support for the policy than anticipated.

What about US?

What I would like to see is more widespread discussion of a basic income in the United States. As of now, libertarians (the Cato Institute being a proponent of UBI) have suggested the viability of a UBI, but as a means to gut other public welfare programs like public housing, food stamps, and even Social Security. UBI can be implemented as a main source of income for American citizens, while public housing can be offered to those who are in more need.

Perhaps the progressive movement can adopt UBI as part of a new governmental policy alongside criminal justice reform and electoral campaign finance. UBI can be part of a new economic and civil bill of rights that all Americans deserve.

Note: this blog post is not a comprehensive discussion of everything UBI. Rather, these are my musings on the subject.