Basic Income and Jobs
The debate about the effectiveness of a universal basic income (UBI) program has been fueled by concerns over job displacement due to increased automation. Several studies have shown that a number of jobs from several industries — including transportation, manufacturing, finance, law, and even IT — are going to be affected by this trend. This has generated support for UBI from a number of economic experts and tech industry giants, including Elon Musk.
Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) proponents also see UBI as a better alternative to current social welfare programs. Brad Voracek, who holds a degree in Applied Mathematics in Economics and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s in Economic Theory and Policy from the Levy Institute at Bard College, shared his thoughts on how proponents of BIG and Job Guarantee (JG) shouldn’t be at odds with one another.
“Supporters of either of these policies should be working together to get either one implemented and we can debate adding the other later,” Voracek writes in The Minskys. “Today, we need to move beyond our current disjointed welfare system to one that will help Americans, and either policy (or both!) seems like a step in the right direction.”
A Better Alternative
In the article, Voracek also tackles several of the arguments against UBI.
Contrary to what some critics say, he doesn’t see UBI as incentivizing not having a job. “I haven’t seen any proof an income stops people from working,” he writes. “It’s all speculation.” He also points out that many of the jobs that are available to those who qualify for the current welfare system aren’t beneficial to society.
“We have to keep abject poverty as a social option so that people keep working at McDonalds making the McObese, and keep stocking the Wal-Mart shelves so that Wal-Mart can pay starvation wages which allow people to be eligible for the [welfare] in the first place,” says Voracek. “I’m not really sure those are the jobs that need to be done.”
Voracek has a plan on how we should pay for a new system as well. He argues that the total cost of the welfare programs currently in place is higher than the potential cost of UBI, so we could get rid of all of those programs (with the exception of the complicated Medicaid) and apply all of that money to a singular UBI program.
At the moment, it’s all about trying it out. “Let’s see what happens when everyone has some cash on hand,” Voracek writes. “BIG and JG proponents, let’s not quibble. We’re on the same side. There’s work to be done. Get organized. Make it happen.”