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The Universal Basic Income Is The Safety Net Of The Future

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Live Transcript
  • Chairman Robert Rosenkranz introduction on universal basic income

    Clip: Chairman Robert Rosenkranz introduces the topic, and highlights the issues to be discussed on universal basic income

  • Does the math add up?

    Clip: debaters discuss the economic feasibility of a universal basic income.

  • Will the poor be better off?

    Clip: Debaters discuss whether a UBI will actually help the poor more than the current welfare system.

  • How would a universal basic income impact the social fabric?

    Clip: Debaters discuss what would happen to the social fabric if a universal basic income was implemented.

Debate Details

The Universal Basic Income Debate

Imagine getting a check from the government every month.  $600 guaranteed.  It’s happening in Finland, where a pilot program is being launched to test what’s known as a “universal basic income.” As technology transforms the workplace, jobs and income will become less reliable. The idea is that a universal basic income could serve as a tool to combat poverty and uncertainty in a changing society, and provide a cushion that empowers workers, giving them latitude to take risks in the job market. But some argue a guaranteed income would take away the incentive to work, waste money on those who don’t need it, and come at the expense of effective programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Is the universal basic income the safety net of the future?

The Debaters

For the motion

Charles Murray

Charles Murray

W. H. Brady Scholar, American Enterprise Institute

­­­Charles Murray is the W. H. Brady Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. A political scientist, author, and libertarian, he came to national... Read More

Andrew Stern

Andrew Stern

Former President, Service Employees International Union & Senior Fellow, Economic Security Project

Andrew "Andy" Stern is the former president of the Service Employees International Union and is currently a senior fellow at the Economic Security... Read More

Against the motion

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein

Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities & Former Chief Economist to Vice President Joe Biden

Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Bernstein was the chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President... Read More

Jason Furman

Jason Furman

Fmr. Chairman, Council of Economic Advisers & Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute

Jason Furman joined the Peterson Institute for International Economics as a nonresident senior fellow in 2017 following his tenure as the 28th chair... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • As industries become more automated, the need for human workers will decrease. In the face of such disruption, a guaranteed basic income would be an effective way to ensure economic stability for everyone. 
  • In the face of growing inequality, a universal basic income would substantially reduce poverty and address a spectrum of social issues including food security and access to health care and housing.
  • Without the pressure to earn a basic income, people would be able to pursue their career interests, leading to greater societal innovation and professional satisfaction. 
Against The Motion
  • A guaranteed income would disincentivize work and stifle productivity. Automation in the workplace should be met with innovation in worker training and education rather than financial handouts. 
  • Rather than giving money to those who are not in need, the government should direct federal funds to successful existing programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
  • We can’t afford it: according to CBPP, if everyone received a UBI of just $10,000 a year, it would cost the federal government more than $3 trillion dollars.

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The Research

The Research

What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money?

Andrew Flowers
April 25, 2016

Basic income challenges our notions of the social safety net, the relationship between work and income, and how to adapt to technological change. That makes it one of the most audacious social policy experiments in modern history.

How to Protect Workers from Job-Stealing Robots

September 21, 2016

President Obama’s chief economist argues that, with the right policies, artificial intelligence can be boon to the labor market, not a threat.

A Guaranteed Income for Every American

June 3, 2016

Replacing the welfare state with an annual grant is the best way to cope with a radically changing U.S. jobs market—and to revitalize America’s civic culture.

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