Op-Ed; Opinion

Clearing the Playing Field: Trump’s Crisis Creates Opportunity for Universal Basic Income in the United States

With Donald Trump in charge of the executive in the United States, Republican majorities in the House and Senate, and a conservative judicial system, the time seems to have come for serious reorganization of American social welfare programs. House speaker Paul Ryan’s proposed 2015 budget cuts 3.3 trillion over a ten-year period from programs (Pell Grants, SNAP nutrition assistance, Medicaid, Section 8 housing) designed to assist those with low incomes.

Since the Reagan administration conservatives have pushed the notion that removing these programs will reduce the “culture of dependency” and removes the incentive for low income individuals to participate in the free market. They believe simply removing these programs will be a stimulus to income growth. Sadly, this is contrary to research on the effect of reducing assistance to low income populations. Much more likely is greater income disparity and real suffering for lower income populations.

Tim Widerquist

Tim Widerquist

This leaves us with a rather bleak situation, greater poverty and less infrastructure in place to assist the poor. At that point America will desperately need to act. Will we choose to rebuild a system like what we have now — a mixture of housing, education, nutrition, and health programs — or is there a single program that would quickly provide support for those in need? Is there a program that would go directly to each person’s greatest need? Luckily there is. It’s getting a little bit of press now, but you’re sure to hear more about it in the future: it’s called The Basic Income Guarantee.

The adoption of BIG may be closer now than if Clinton had won. The unfortunate, desperate situation that Republicans are likely to create over the next two-to-four years effectively clears the playing field for new ideas. When progressives take over the Democratic Party they may find BIG an attractive policy; it is the sharpest tool available for slicing into the income inequality and income inequality that is coming. The midterm election is only two years away. BIG is a winning issue in this political environment. The future could be exciting.

Dark clouds

Dark clouds

About Tim Widerquist

Tim Widerquist has written 1 articles.

Tim Widerquist is the CEO of Widerquist Development (which he co-owns with his brother Karl Widerquist, the chair of the Basic Income Earth Network). He has 25 years experience as a public school teacher and a teacher of English as a foreign language. He lives and works in South Bend, Indiana.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

One comment

  • Sheldon A Cobbler

    Again, race will be a central point of this issue with regards to who gets it and how much. When FDR toured the country after the Great Depression, he was convinced that impoverished (white) Americans needed help from the Federal Govt. He was also aware of those ‘other’ (Negro) Americans who were also in dire straits. So the objective was to get the New Deal passed in a way that would exclude Negros which succeeded by using racially neutral language in the legal framework. For instance, when the New Deal was passed, it excluded sharecroppers which was a title held by 75% of working Negros in the south. It was not until the late 1960s when the New Deal finally came to Negro communities but with a steep cost to the Negro nuclear family. To qualify for welfare, a Negro household must consist of a single parent household (mother) with no father present. Again, there was nothing in the legal code to suggest this provision was expressly for Negros but it created a situation that effected Negros in a way it did not effect any other group. As a result, black women opted out of marriage to their black male partners in exchange for Govt subsidies which created the broken, fatherless households in many of America’s black communities today. So here we are, talking about the UBI or BIG and the how ripe the conditions are for passage of legislation that makes it a reality – but for who exactly???

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