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.
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.