Testing Universal Basic Income to Solve Cash Flow Problems

By Eva Barrows
How will monthly living expenses be paid for once robots and computers take all the jobs? The nature of work has been evolving for years, most recently fueled by increased automation. A 2017 Ball State University study found that 88 percent of job losses in manufacturing were due to automation making it easier for fewer people to produce more things. Understandably, people are worried about where pay checks will be coming from and government officials are starting to worry too.

The Universal Income Project, a think tank dedicated to the promotion of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), wants to make financial security a reality for everyone. Jim Pugh and Sandyha Anantharaman from the Project talk with Peninsula Peace and Justice Center, Other Voices host, Paul George, in the “Universal Basic Income – Simple Idea, Radical Impact” broadcast.

The concept of UBI is the simple part: a monthly cash payment that covers people’s basic needs. UBI will eliminate poverty and ensure everyone has what they need to survive. If a robot took your job UBI might help you go back to school to learn new skills, or allow you to start your own business. Since everyone receives UBI the hope is there won’t be a stigma attached to the payment like there is with welfare and other assistance programs.

Pugh and Anantharaman talk about UBI experiments going on in the U.S. and beyond. One study underway is being conducted by Y Combinator Research. They completed a feasibility study in Oakland and are working on enrolling 1,000 participants in two states who will receive $1,000/mo for 5 years and a control group of 2,000 people receiving $50/mo. Y Combinator Research will collect data from the study participants, looking at points like time use, decision making and effects on children. They will also record in-depth stories from participants to show how UBI makes a difference in people’s lives. The data and stories from projects like Y Combinator Research will serve to inform future policy efforts for UBI.

Other Voices’ guests note that experimentation is underway at government levels to implement basic income policies. Recently, the state of Hawaii concluded that the state government is responsible for ensuring financial stability for families after talks with unions and the chamber of commerce. Pugh thinks that dividend programs will be a likely starting point to distributing basic income funding. Like Alaska oil profits that are shared with the state’s population, revenue from carbon tax could be a shared profit source for states.

Find out more about Universal Basic Income and what can be done to ensure basic needs will be met in an automated work world. Watch Other Voices here.

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