We are ending our month-long discussion about the evolution of COVID with a conversation with Andrew Yang this week on What We Don't Know; Basic Income. Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur, founder of Venture For America, and a former 2020 U.S. presidential candidate. Yang is most known for his campaign of Universal Basic Income (UBI).
UBI is government-supplied funds dispersed periodically to citizens to aid in basic needs like food, shelter, general well-being, and contribution to the economy. It's a cash amount with no restrictions and isn't in the form of a voucher or housing.
There has been much opposition to this idea that seems like a far-fetched idea. Some people see this no-strings-attached money to Americans as merely a handout, but with the pandemic came stimulus checks through The Cares Act, leaving some to change their opinions. Yang explains, "We've lost 36.5 million jobs that we know about based upon filed unemployment claims. Economists are saying that 42% of those jobs will not come back."
History Of UBI
Though Andrew Yang has become the face of Basic Income in current times, Thomas Paine was the first well-known advocate for UBI throughout the 18th Century. Paine was a philosopher and political theorist who often supported revolutionary causes. His writings primarily pushed for financial support for people at the beginning and end of life; the young in their prime starting families, and the old unable to work.
Paine believed that with properties owned by the state and clergy, everyone's natural rights to resources freely were denied. In a sense, basic income would rectify this by being a form of reparations to citizens. He wrote Agrarian Justice in 1797, which endorsed distributing taxed land money to those without such assets.
Paine's words got lost in the shuffle of fights between revolutionaries and socialists of the time.
By the 19th Century, the industrial revolution grew, including jobs, suburbs, and city governments. Socialist-leaning French writer, Charles Fourier, called for basic income due to industrialization and the fact that people no longer could live off the land as well.
By the 20th Century, more consumerism, factories, and the baby boom came with higher living standards. Also, there were even more low-paying labor workers and migrant farmers at this time, and the nation faced extreme poverty by 1964 amid The Civil Rights Movement. Calls for basic income came to life again by more activists like Martin Luther King who wrote the following:
The poor are less often dismissed from our conscience today by being branded as inferior and incompetent. We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty."
Richard Nixon passed a plan for basic federal minimum payments called Family Assistance Plan (FAP) in 1969. He tested it on seven states to determine if the country could afford these programs and if it would hinder people's work ethic. What was found is that it was affordable, and it did not lessen individuals' drive to work, but the plan ceased when Nixon's advisor, fearing it would hurt the free market, convinced him out of it.
Through the years, the 'American Dream' became reserved for few as many bought into the 'Pull yourself from your boot straps' theory ushered in simultaneously through the Regan era and 80's indulgence.
Click here for an interesting article by Huffington Post about the origin of 'Pull Yourself Up By Your Boot Straps'.
Today, the proposal for UBI has landed on the political doorstep of the Left. Still, Andrew Yang sees it's appeal for all parties, especially in this time of the global pandemic, high unemployment rates, and the rise of automation, and he's not alone.
The future of A.I. doesn’t necessarily look like a robot from a sci-fi movie (although that isn't too far off as you’ll see in the video below). Automation is generally a computerized workforce. It isn't only an implementation of large machinery to build cars replacing warehouse workers, but it also affects all sorts of businesses, big and small.
From low-waged labor jobs to highly skilled office administrators, automation is taking over. Yang explains The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the top industries we see being affected the fastest due to the pandemic. "E-commerce, drone delivery, contactless digital payments, video conferencing, autonomous vehicles, 3D manufacturing, online learning, abd smart robotics.", Yang says," That's the fourth industrial revolution."
Watch this video by CNBC International for more about The Fourth Industrial Revolution
The idea of talking to a human after powering through several prompts on customer service calls has become a joke. Still, it's a growing trend that consumers and business owners have become accustomed to. “Bots” also run chats online and text advertisements and updates. Specific software also allows businesses to remove humans from repetitive and redundant tasks like mass email marketing, accounting, and payroll.
We are already in a world where Millennials find actual phone calls intrusive, and a pandemic has sent people to hide in their homes. Hence, people are even more willing to usher in automation due to its convenience. Sitting at a restaurant is replaced with ordering food on an app with a delivery driver without physical contact with the recipient. Amazon has almost eliminated the need to even enter a store. Self-service options are popping up, such as with parking attendants replaced with auto ticket booths and cashiers replaced with checkout machines in grocery and retail stores.
Software and machines are only getting smarter, so where will jobs be in the future?
Yang believes UBI is needed now more than ever due to technology and the Coronavirus' impact on the economy, and he's not alone. With the future leaning towards more advancement in automotive software and machinery, tech moguls and creators at the forefront of this evolution know more than anyone that basic income is necessary.
Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group, and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar openly endorse UBI. Omidyar donated $493,000 to an experiment taking place in Kenya this year, offering basic income. Elon Musk said in an interview with CNBC, "There's a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. Other Silicon Valley names promoting UBI include; Chris Hughes, founder of Facebook. Hughes also wrote the book Fair Shot; Rethinking Inequality. Slack CEO, Steve Butterfield, and CEO of his own media company, Tim O'Reilly, have also jumped on the Basic Income boat.
Hughes reflects on his financial success in an interview with Business Insider, "As much as people might want to see the American dream in that, I actually think it's indicative of the fact that a small number of people are getting extremely lucky while 99% of everybody else is working hard and is having a harder and harder time to make ends meet. And we have the power to change it."
This video gives insight into the technological viewpoint of UBI by people like Elon Musk
America got a taste of what UBI was through the much-needed stimulus that many received in March 2020. Government assistance with basic living came into realistic focus to naysayers. Simultaneously, the tech visionaries leading the enterprise's future that affects us all remind us that change is near no matter our political stance.
Andrew Yang explains why it's not just a "liberal" goal. He believes UBI is pro-business and pro-entrepreneurship. "What conservatives hate is, not people having money; what conservatives hate is having a bureaucracy make everyone's decisions. In this case, if you're putting money into individual families' hands, then it's up to the family to allocate it how they see fit," said Yang.
Andrew Yang started Humanity Forward, and it has currently distributed over $1.5 million in cash relief. The non-profit also works to engage voters and helps to promote political candidates endorsing UBI. Andrew Yang and his non-profit work to help reshape our economy and to implement the change needed now more than ever.
To learn more about Humanity Forward, go to https://movehumanityforward.com/ and for more about Andrew Yang, visit www.yang2020.com.
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