The bulk of new policy demands from the Black Lives Matter movement are economic demands--not moral pleas for people to stop being racist or stop purveying or facilitating violence against people of color (although those demands are necessary), but demands for economic security, because economic insecurity makes historically disenfranchised communities more vulnerable to violence and exploitation. These demands include a Universal Basic Income--a policy increasingly embraced by everyone from technology experts to economic justice advocates.
From the FastCoExist blog:
In this age of automation, globalization, and stagnant wage growth, the concept that everyone should have a guaranteed minimum income has been gaining some policy momentum recently. Finland and Canada are running small pilot experiments, and Switzerland recently held a referendum on the idea (it failed, but did better than expected). A charity is conducting a large-scale test in Kenya and Uganda, and Silicon Valley, whose products may one day drive more and more workers out of a job, has also latched onto the concept.
The latest backer of the "universal basic income" concept is the Black Lives Matter movement.
A strong endorsement is included in a wide-ranging policy platform released this week by more than 50 organizations affiliated with the movement, in a section about reparations for "past and continuing harms."
"No other social or economic policy solution today would be of sufficient scale to eradicate the profound and systematic economic inequities affecting black communities," the platform states.
The groups endorse a basic income for everyone, noting that patterns and norms of "work" (quotations are in the document) are changing.
After talking to longtime advocates of a UBI, Chris Weller of Tech Insider explains that basic income is an innovative policy leap over other forms of poverty relief needed in minority communities:
The current solutions to uplift poor Americans — welfare, food stamps, earned income tax credits — are inherently flawed . . . because they ocus on the historically unjust system of work. Basic income ignores how much a person works or how much they get paid; it hands out the same amount of money to everyone.
The federal government hasn't heard a basic income proposal since Richard Nixon's plans died in the Senate in 1969. Today, the biggest experiment comes from Y Combinator, Silicon Valley's largest start-up accelerator. The company will provide 100 families of Oakland, California with monthly payments between $1,000 and $2,000 ahead of a larger five-year study involving thousands.
If the BLM movement has any hope of getting a basic income policy before the federal government, Y Combinator's experiment is poised to be its greatest ally.
This embrace of UBI by Black Lives Matter comes just after President Obama, forever thinking inside the box, rejected the idea through one of his top economic advisers, Jason Furman. Furman mocked the idea that we should fear the economic displacement resulting from automation and artificial intelligence.
The issue is not that automation will render the vast majority of the population unemployable. Instead, it is that workers will either lack the skills or the ability to successfully match with the good, high paying jobs created by automation. While a market economy will do much of the work to match workers with new job opportunities, it does not always do so successfully, as we have seen in the past half-century. We should not advance a policy that is premised on giving up on the possibility of workers’ remaining employed. Instead, our goal should be first and foremost to foster the skills, training, job search assistance, and other labor market institutions to make sure people can get into jobs, which would much more directly address the employment issues raised by AI than would UBI.
In saying these things, Furman ignored the conversation that had just taken place at the White House on UBI--a conversation that included a great many arguments for the policy. Martin Ford, author of the popular books Rise of the Robots and The Lights in the Tunnel, "described himself as a supporter of introducing a guaranteed income “eventually” (i.e., when it becomes necessary due to automation), although he consented that it is “pretty much off the table” in the current political climate in the US."
Whereas Robin Chase, co-founder of Zipcar,
. . . spoke strongly in favor of a basic income in the immediate future — presenting a string of arguments in response to McDonough skepticism of the need for such a policy. For one, she argued that the country’s current safety nets are not adequate to a society in which many people are freelancing or working in multiple part-time jobs or contracting ventures. (To use a line she quoted, “My father had one job in his lifetime, I had six jobs in my lifetime, and my children will have six jobs at the same time.”) In contrast, as Chase emphasized, a guaranteed basic income would enable individuals to diversify their work opportunities by “building more resilience” into their incomes.
Another major talking point for Chase was the need for a basic income to enable more people to pursue their “passion jobs” (jobs which, as she and Ford both stressed, might not always be financially profitable). Early in the conversation, Chase made the point that much labor presently done by humans not only can but should be automated, in order to unlock the creative potential of those who are currently trapped in jobs that simply don’t need to be done by humans.
No surprise that both Black Lives Matter and leading technology experts have a better understanding of the economy, and human needs, than White House economists. No surprise at all.
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