If ever there was a political figure that had the absolute right to say something both as simple and biting as “I told you so”, it’s Andrew Yang. He was mocked and derided for advocating Universal Basic Income (UBI), something that was the flag-ship policy of his recent Presidential campaign.
How times have changed in just a few short months. Those who were previously laughing up their sleeves at the idea of UBI now suddenly seem to be all in favor of if not UBI, then something extremely close to it.
Yang is quite the forward-thinking individual. He has a wealth of experience in any number of fields, including law, business, politics and, most importantly, economics. Yang foresaw a massive upheaval in the make for the American economy, with ever accelerating technological change displacing tens of millions of American workers from their jobs, causing huge economic dislocation.
To ensure that the economy didn’t grind to a halt (sound
familiar?), Yang proposed that every American over 18 received a guaranteed government check (sound familiar again?) of $1,000.00 a month by way of supplemental income.
Now the US finds itself in the middle of the biggest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression courtesy of a global pandemic, with unemployment sky-
rocketing, and lo! Look what has happened – the government has paid out billions of dollars, public money, our money, to ensure that the economy doesn’t collapse because of tens of millions of displaced workers.
Consequently, we now find ourselves raising our eyebrows at the spectacle of so many of Yang’s critics of his UBI policy now jumping on board the government stimulus train. The hypocrisy is staggering and my-oh-my, how short these memories have suddenly become.
The United States is mind-bogglingly wealthy, but it is heavily skewed in favor of corporations, the super-rich and the billionaire classes. Trump / GOP tax breaks have ensured that the already disgustingly rich are set to get even more rich by colossal amounts day after day. Add to that, when it wants to, the US can afford anything it wishes. American defense spending alone is reaching
mind-boggling heights. For the period of October 2019 to September 2020, the US is on course to hit $989 billion for defense – that’s just a fraction under a trillion dollars and represents nearly a quarter of all government spending.
By re-directing financial resources to the people, such as with Yang’s UBI, the US would reap a whole host of economic and societal benefits. First, it would recalibrate the scales of a wholly imbalanced society to something way more equitable. (The wealthiest 1% of Americans currently account for a staggering 40% of the country’s wealth). It would be a highly effective way to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.
It would also ensure that at times of economic woe, such as the Coronavirus pandemic, people would still have consumer spending power – vital to the vibrancy of any economy.
UBI would also drastically reduce the number of Americans who are crushed month on month, year on year, by medical bills. Over 600,000 Americans go
bankrupt courtesy of medical bills every year. Likewise, UBI would massively improve educational achievement, removing any number of barriers to academic achievement and dealing a mortal blow to the outrage that is runaway student levels of debt.
So yes, Yang was ahead of his time and yes, Yang was right. It is ludicrous to cast your mind back to how his UBI proposal was slammed by the GOP, and some Democrats too it has to be said, as being “nonsense”, “unworkable” and even the dreaded “socialist” word too.
Yet where are we now? Suddenly, big government spending to help the people, not corporations or billionaires, is no longer a dirty concept. This kind of pandemic stimulus spending is suddenly perfectly acceptable. How very strange and how very, very two-faced.
The reality is, even if we put the pandemic on one side, the US economy is already fundamentally changing by way of automation and headed for further crisis. We need to learn very real lessons from the pandemic and one of the main ones is that at times of crisis, the nation’s wealth, the people’s wealth ,needs to be re-allocated and re-aligned.
Yang’s UBI is the perfect way to do just that. FIGHT FOR UBI.