Following a devastating election cycle where the American voting public sent a sharp rebuke to the status quo and policies of the Obama Administration, the left is now preparing to push for a universal basic income (UBI).
Left-leaning Americans are largely opposed to President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks, all the way from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the president’s pick to lead the Department of Labor: fast food executive Andy Puzder. (RELATED: Big Labor Curtails Spending As It Braces For Trump Presidency)
Labor unions have blasted Puzder for past comments about the future of low-wage workers in the fast food industry. Puzder warned that the fight for a $15 minimum wage will hurt low-wage workers more than it can help, arguing that a better policy would be to encourage the private sector to create more middle class jobs.
Professors Mark Paul and William Darity, Jr. from Duke University, along with Darrick Hamilton from the Milano School of International Affairs, argued that the country needs a federal jobs guarantee in an article published recently in Jacobin Magazine, a self-proclaimed “leading voice of the American left.”
Supporters of a UBI argue that a government-subsidized wage guarantee to all citizens would stave off job loss from automation and advancements in technology.
“Why We Need a Federal Job Guarantee,” theorizes that “giving everyone a job is the best way to democratize the economy and give workers leverage in the workplace.”
Paul, Darity, and Hamilton argue that a UBI could successfully cover workers who have lost their jobs due to technological advancements. “Existing social insurance programs are insufficient,” the professors write. They offer five reasons in support a federal jobs guarantee, including the notion of preempting the problem before it is widespread. “Robots haven’t taken over yet,” they write, suggesting that getting ahead of the problem will reduce the number of “poor Americans.”
“A UBI would redefine the relationship between individuals and the state by giving government the role of provider,” said Orin Cass, domestic policy director for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, in June, 2016. “It would make work optional and render self-reliance moot,” he continued.
“An underclass dependent on government handouts would no longer be one of society’s greatest challenges but instead would be recast as one of its proudest achievements,” Cass warned in a piece published by the National Review.
Labor experts seriously question free cash as sound economic policy, but some experts, including those who do not identify left, are not completely opposed to a jobs program.
“Giving people cash is not the solution to improving opportunity,” Aparna Mathur, a labor policy expert with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Mathur did not rule out the idea of a federal jobs program but warned against unconditional handouts.
“If cash transfers are conditional on work or job training, they are much more likely to be effective in improving mobility than if we simply give everybody an unconditional cash transfer,” she told TheDCNF, refusing to rule out the idea of a federal jobs guarantee completely.
The professors said that a federal jobs guarantee could “build an inclusive economy,” and that it could “provide socially useful goods and services.”
The language fails to take into consideration the additional benefits that may compel a company to install automation for certain jobs.
“Some jobs don’t produce enough economic value to bear the increase [minimum wage],” Puzder said to the Wall Street Journal in 2014.
[dcquiz] “In the long-run encouraging people to work or acquire skills and training and education is the only way to help people move up in life,” Mathur explained, a statement that could comport with a federal jobs program.
“If we gave people the money without making it conditional on work, it might reduce their incentive to work,” Mathur concluded.
Finland experimented with a UBI, with some unemployed Finnish citizens taking home a salary regardless of whether or not they are working.
The nation’s largest labor union, The Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), said that the policy might reduce the labor force. SAK also asserted that a UBI makes it easier for potential prospects to turn down unpleasant jobs, opting to just take the government handout instead.
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