A Proposal for Universal Basic Income from the Former President of SEIU
Andrew Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and author of Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream, believes a universal basic income is the best way for the United States to deal with massive changes in our economy—changes that will only be exacerbated by increasing automation. “If we wanted to appropriately rename the country, we would call it the United States of Anxiety,” said Stern. “Only 21 percent of people think the economy is excellent or very good, despite the numbers to the contrary. Only 47 percent could find $400 in the case of an unexpected bill.” Stern says the purpose of Raising the Floor was twofold: to identify the problem on the horizon, and to ask what we’re going to do about it if the worst should come to pass. He talked about the historical origins of universal basic income, and shared specifics on his own plan, which would involve giving every individual age 18-64 one thousand dollars each month.
When it comes to the sharing economy, Stern believes that individuals should have the right to use their assets as they fit—within reason—and that legacy institutions shouldn’t create barriers to entry in their industries. Stern believes that, in the end, “customers should make choices about where they want to stay, not the government.” While ride-sharing platforms like Lyft and Uber employ drivers in the gray zone between employees and contractors, Stern believes these problems—along with many jobs, including over three million truck driving jobs—will disappear with the advent of self-driving cars. He sees two diverging paths for the future: people moving up Maslow’s hierarchy as it becomes easier to meet basic needs, or some version of the Hunger Games. “I think young people are the answer here,” Stern said. “If it was about the people who are in power today, I wouldn’t be optimistic at all.”