Bill de Blasio. Picture credit to: UPI.
Bill de Blasio, New York City mayor and Democratic Party candidate for the United States 2020 presidential elections, is firmly against Universal Basic Income (UBI). According to him, UBI is “woefully inadequate”, fearing it will replace existing (complex, inefficient, stigmatizing and conditional) welfare programs while failing to put people to work. As Joe Biden, the Democratic Party preferred candidate according to all polls, de Blasio believes that UBI “overlooks the intrinsic value of a job, believing the financial life support of a monthly check can substitute for meaningful employment”. He thinks, therefore, that UBI will prevent people from working, rather than the opposite (despite the evidence). That also equates to thinking that people need to be forced to work, which translates into believing that some sort of fundamental laziness afflicts the human species.
In order to engineer his vision of a “work-filled future”, de Blasio proposes a Robot Tax, applicable to large companies able to automate jobs and not inclined to compensate their displaced workers with new jobs. This new tax would be conjured and managed by a newly created organism called FAWPA (Federal Automation and Worker Protection Agency), which would, in practice, act as deterrent companies’ initiatives, turning it harder to invest on automation. Specifically, the Robot Tax would be collected by the state into a special fund. That fund would finance, in practice, an effective Federal Jobs Guarantee scheme, such as the one defended by Bernie Sanders.
More information at:
Adi Robertson, “New York City mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Bill de Blasio wants a robot tax”, Basic Income Today, September 9th 2019
André Coelho, “United States: Joe Biden believes that jobs are the future, rather than basic income”, Basic Income News, September 23rd 2017
It’s called the Workers Strength Fund, and is financially and operationally backed by Commonwealth, Google.org, the Rockefeller Foundation and Prudential Financial. This new organization is unconditionally giving $1000 to 500 (randomly selected) precarious workers living in the cities of Dallas, Detroit, San Francisco and New York. The cash is intended as a one-off payment, much like an emergency package to face unexpected expenses that many Americans cannot afford (the Federal Reserve estimates that 40% of Americans cannot face an unexpected 400$ cost).
This particular unconditional cash transfer pilot project, running since July and going through the end of this year, is collecting data on how subjects spend the money, as well as trying to understand how their feeling of security is affected by knowing they can draw on an emergengy 1000$ if the get the need for it. Proponents of the pilot are convinced people will feel less burdened and hence better able to make informed decisions, if their feeling of security increases.
Not being an Universal Basic Income experiment, since, in this case, it doesn’t provide a regular payment, nor covers monthly basic needs, nor the beneficiaries sample covers the whole of American society (but only a small subset of precarious low-wage workers), it is nonetheless an experiment on unconditionality, hence trust.
Rachel Schneider (economy expert, author of “The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty”) and David Weil (Dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and the Worker Strength Fund’s Lead Policy & Research Advisor) are two of the main thinkers and movers of this project.
More information at:
Sarah Holder, “A Free $1,000 That Isn’t Andrew Yang’s UBI“, Citylab, September 2nd 2019
In this video from MSNBC, Democratic candidate for the United States presidency Andrew Yang answers some direct questions about racial issues and economic inequality.
According to him, racial issues get diluted if communities are economically better off, of course with the Freedom Dividend which is central to Yang’s candidacy. That would be because poverty is one of the greatest causes for racial exclusion, while also a consequence of it, in a social degrading feedback loop. So, the rationale is that with less poverty, people respect each other more, irrespective of their skin colour.
On economic inequality, Yang reminds us that 1000 $/month for someone like Jeff Bezos is irrelevant, while crucially significant for millions of people living on the lower end of the income scale. That means that, according to him, the distribution of a Freedom Dividend immediately reduces inequality. Moreover, financing the Dividend might also further reduce inequality, by imposing a 10% Value Added Tax which naturally will weight more on relatively richer people, due to their higher levels of consumption.
Echelon Insights has developed a poll where, amongst other issues, has questioned 1006 registered voters about Andrew Yang’s universal basic income (UBI) policy (to be implemented if he’s elected). It turns out that, globally, support for UBI is tightly close to opposition to it (40% support vs 43% opposed), within the surveyed sample.
However, further questions in the poll reveal exactly who is in support and in opposition to the UBI idea as proposed by Yang. Supportive are younger, Democratic voters with lower incomes. Less supportive are older, richer and politically inclined to the Right voters. Breaking down the numbers, the following charts clearly show these trends.
More information at:
Tyler McDonald, “Andrew Yang’s UBI Has The Most Support From Democrats, Voters Under 50, And Earners Under $50,000”, Inquisitr, July 13th 2019
Mike Dunleavy, sitting on top of an oversized Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check. Picture credit to: Anchorage Daily News.
Basic income yes, but not at any cost. The alarm comes from Alaska, where governor Mike Dunleavy has announced cutting his 2020 state budget by as much as $410 million, one-third of which will fall upon the University of Alaska. To the University, that represents 41 percent of its own annual budget, which means that, if applied, these cuts would render the state’s university unrecognizable. Dunleavy calls this move a “policy choice” linked to his professed promise to increase the Permanent Fund dividend Alaskans benefit each year.
Arguably, consequences for the Alaskan economy, and particularly for the state university, would be devastating.
The University President, James R. Johnsen, has stated that this “will strike an institutional and reputational blow from which we may likely never recover.” And the implications for the wider Alaskan economy and even throughout the world may be far reaching since research has shown that investing in universities has considerable positive effects on the economy, and also because the University of Alaska is a core centre of research for Arctic issues. This is particularly important these days, in the middle of a climate crisis).
These budget cuts from Dunleavy’s Office are, however, rooted in a deeper rationale and tradition. That is because politics in Alaska of late have been largely tied to oil money, and the collection of taxes has been scarce, or nonexistent.
Michael Howard, professor at the University of Maine and specialist in basic income related policies, has stated on Facebook:
“A better framing of the problem in Alaska would include Alaska’s lack of an income tax, reliance on oil revenue to fund state government, and the steady decline of the oil revenue. Alaskans don’t have to abandon the dividend in order to fund the University. They just need to pay income taxes like people in most other [US] states. However, this story does vividly illustrate that universal cash payments in practice always need to be evaluated in comparison to the competing policies for government spending and the budget constraints. Slashing the university budget by 41% ought not to be an option.”
More information at:
Cas Mudde, “Alaska’s governor is trying to destroy its universities. The state may never recover”, The Guardian, July 6th 2019