Chase Dean is a political science senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
The United States of America is hurtling toward two major economic crises. The social security trust fund is projected to be tapped out by 2034. In addition, continual growth in automation is leaving Americans without jobs. According to some reports, manual labor-intensive jobs won’t be the only victims. With the growing uncertainty surrounding employment and social safety nets, a solution must be implemented.
There is one solution that addresses both crises: Universal Basic Income (UBI).
UBI is a social program through which all working-age individuals receive a cash payment unconditionally on a regular basis. In other words, regardless of employment status or other characteristics, each American would receive enough money to stay above the poverty line.
Both those on the left and right have worked to reduce the number of people trapped in poverty. Conservatives, such as economist Milton Friedman, tend to be hesitant with welfare programs due to the government spending often attached and concern with the “free-rider” problem. However, individuals on the left, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, end to support more generous welfare programs.These individuals point to inequality and poor job prospects as the issue, making welfare programs a necessity. UBI, however, is a possible feasible bipartisan solution to welfare policy concerns and growing
With the introduction of UBI, funding for other anti-poverty programs like social security could be condensed. This would only be possible if the UBI eliminates the need for older generations to work and is sufficient to buy basic necessities so that the original purposes of the other programs are upheld.
UBI might be able to satisfy conservative policymakers by allowing the individual to have more purchasing power while cutting government spending through the consolidation of all previous welfare programs. For liberal policymakers, this would provide an income for every working-age individual in the United States that would be sufficient to keep most out of poverty. This policy clearly wouldn’t directly solve many structural issues such as job discrimination and the ever-increasing wealth gap, but it would alleviate some in poverty.
With reports projecting that as many as half of the jobs held by humans may be replaced by machines in the foreseeable future, many tech leaders like CEO of SpaceX, Tesla and Neuralink Elon Musk seem to think UBI could be necessary.
A UBI program would allow the United States to recover from this inevitable unemployment spike in a timely manner. With a UBI program in place, individuals won’t have to worry about quickly falling into poverty because they lack the tech-orienated skills necessary for new jobs. That being said, those workers should still be given the opportunity to train in the skills deemed necessary to be competitive, regardless of the implementation of UBI. The program would simply give them the financial security and time to obtain those skills.
As time goes on, fewer unemployed individuals would be dependent upon the program and many would be able to re-enter the workforce with newly obtained skills while those unable to obtain in-demand skills can live comfortably.
The subject of time is something that I think makes UBI such an immensely important policy. While UBI solves many political and economic issues soon to be facing the United States, it also establishes a precedent for the country by establishing that free time to pursue hobbies and various other personal activities is something of value. Hopefully, when UBI is implemented, many individuals will be able to work fewer hours with more time for personal activities.
Regardless of how a majority of individuals choose to spend that new time, some will most certainly engage in political action. With more time for political action, citizens of the United States will be able to fight back against systems of oppression through voting
UBI may not be the answer to all of the United States’ economic and social problems, but it’s a step in the right direction. With favorable traits for both conservatives and liberals, UBI is a bipartisan program that can help fight poverty and unemployment caused by further machine-based industrialization. It will also increase constituents’ free time, creating a country that will see political activism like never before.
If policymakers are serious about eliminating poverty and creating a more politically engaged constituency, UBI should be taken seriously.