Make Congress vote on the Freedom Dividend
Make Congress vote on the Freedom Dividend
In the next 12 years, 1 out of 3 American workers are at risk of losing their jobs to new technologies—and unlike with previous waves of automation, this time new jobs will not appear quickly enough in large enough numbers to make up for it. To avoid an unprecedented crisis, we’re going to have to find a new solution, unlike anything we’ve done before. It all begins with the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income for all American adults, no strings attached – a foundation on which a stable, prosperous, and just society can be built.
It would be easier than you might think. Andrew proposes funding the Freedom Dividend by consolidating some welfare programs and implementing a Value Added Tax of 10 percent. Current welfare and social program beneficiaries would be given a choice between their current benefits or $1,000 cash unconditionally – most would prefer cash with no restriction.
A Value Added Tax (VAT) is a tax on the production of goods or services a business produces. It is a fair tax and it makes it much harder for large corporations, who are experts at hiding profits and income, to avoid paying their fair share. A VAT is nothing new. 160 out of 193 countries in the world already have a Value Added Tax or something similar, including all of Europe which has an average VAT of 20 percent.
The means to pay for the basic income will come from four sources:
1. Current spending: We currently spend between $500 and $600 billion a year on welfare programs, food stamps, disability and the like. This reduces the cost of the Freedom Dividend because people already receiving benefits would have a choice between keeping their current benefits and the $1,000, and would not receive both.
Additionally, we currently spend over 1 trillion dollars on health care, incarceration, homelessness services and the like. We would save $100 – 200+ billion as people would be able to take better care of themselves and avoid the emergency room, jail, and the street and would generally be more functional. The Freedom Dividend would pay for itself by helping people avoid our institutions, which is when our costs shoot up. Some studies have shown that $1 to a poor parent will result in as much as $7 in cost-savings and economic growth.
2. A VAT: Our economy is now incredibly vast at $19 trillion, up $4 trillion in the last 10 years alone. A VAT at half the European level would generate $800 billion in new revenue. A VAT will become more and more important as technology improves because you cannot collect income tax from robots or software.
3. New revenue: Putting money into the hands of American consumers would grow the economy. The Roosevelt Institute projected that the economy will grow by approximately $2.5 trillion and create 4.6 million new jobs. This would generate approximately $800 – 900 billion in new revenue from economic growth.
4. Taxes on top earners and pollution: By removing the Social Security cap, implementing a financial transactions tax, and ending the favorable tax treatment for capital gains/carried interest, we can decrease financial speculation while also funding the Freedom Dividend. We can add to that a carbon fee that will be partially dedicated to funding the Freedom Dividend, making up the remaining balance required to cover the cost of this program.
The idea of guaranteeing every citizen an income from the government was first recorded during the Renaissance. In America, it was picked up by founding father Thomas Paine, who referred to the payments as a “natural inheritance.”
UBI and similar cash programs began picking up steam in the mid 20th century during the industrial revolution as early as 1918. With developed countries producing more than ever, the idea resurfaced with intensity being backed by numerous Nobel Prize winning economists such as Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek.
In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. gave his support, alongside over 1,000 economists from over 125 universities who signed a letter to President Nixon requesting income guarantees.
The idea of a guaranteed income was pushed into a bill under President Nixon in 1970 where it passed the United States House of Representatives. It died in the Senate because Democrats sought a higher guaranteed income.
Today the idea has gained support from Mark Zuckerberg, Robert Reich, Elon Musk, Bill Gross, Richard Branson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Noam Chomsky, and many others. Even more have expressed interest in studying the idea, from former President Obama to the libertarian Cato Institute. Universal basic income is not new – it is an old idea whose time has come.
Here are some of the people who have supported Universal Basic Income over the years:
Martin Luther King Jr., 1967: “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”
Richard Nixon, August 1969: “What I am proposing is that the Federal Government build a foundation under the income of every American family . . . that cannot care for itself–and wherever in America that family may live.”
Milton Friedman (Nobel-winning economist), 1980: “We should replace the ragbag of specific welfare programs with a single comprehensive program of income supplements in cash — a negative income tax . . . which would do more efficiently and humanely what our present welfare system does so inefficiently and inhumanely.”
Bernie Sanders, May 2014: “In my view, every American is entitled to at least a minimum standard of living . . .There are different ways to get to that goal, but that’s the goal that we should strive to reach.”
Barack Obama, October 2016: “as AI gets further incorporated, and the society potentially gets wealthier, the link between production and distribution, how much you work and how much you make, gets further and further attenuated . . . we’ll be debating unconditional free money over the next 10 or 20 years.”
Elon Musk, February 2017: “I think we’ll end up doing universal basic income . . . It’s going to be necessary . . .There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better. I want to be clear. These are not things I wish will happen; these are things I think probably will happen.”
Mark Zuckerberg, May 2017: “We should explore . . . universal basic income so that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”
This is proof the Freedom Dividend would be very popular and is the way to go forward with fixing our economy.