For many Americans, President-elect Donald Trump represented a radical change in how politics was done.
For advocates of universal basic income, a form of income distribution that seeks to end poverty by paying everyone a standard salary just for being alive, it might just be the radical change America needs.
Basic income’s biggest selling point — at least in theory — is that it could directly lift people out of poverty.
Since people would no longer struggle to cover basic expenses like food, clothes, and home repairs, they’d have more money to stay active members of society, whether they worked or not.
Now that Trump is president-elect, advocates wonder what kind of administration Trump will run: Will he kill any momentum basic income proponents helped build over the last couple years, or will he embrace huge, sweeping reform?
“People feel uncertain and anxious about the future,” Jim Pugh, CEO of Share Progress and co-founder of the Universal Income Project, tells Business Insider. He adds that if Trump plays his cards right, he could actually use that uncertainty to his advantage by embracing basic income, saying that people are “hungry for big solutions right now.”
“Enacting a national basic income is still a ways off, but I expect we’ll see grassroots support for the idea grow more quickly in the months ahead,” he says.
Not all advocates left as much room for optimism.
“The election of Trump as president is probably no good news for the basic income movement,” Rutger Bregman, Dutch basic income expert and author of “Utopia for Realists,” tells Business Insider.
And with millions of jobs set to get displaced by robotic automation in the coming decades, Bregman could be right. As Business Insider’s Josh Barro argued, Trump doesn’t seem too concerned about the lack of manufacturing jobs in the future. That lack of clarity has experts like Bregman worried. The president-elect seems unwilling to acknowledge that humans could get booted from entire industries in a matter of decades.
That’s precisely why Trump has every incentive to cosy up to basic income, Pugh says. His fan base has serious fears about the future of the economy.
“Enacting basic income would help to revitalize parts of the country hit hardest by outsourcing and automation by spurring entrepreneurship in those areas.” Or as writer and basic income advocate Scott Santens put it, “Basic income is good for business.”
And unlike Clinton, who refused to endorse basic income because she viewed it as giving up on people, Santens says Trump might actually have it in him to take more drastic measures. He’s already proposed building a wall between the US and Mexico and banning all Muslim immigration.
Both of those proposals are racist and unfeasible, but they still signal that he doesn’t think in terms of baby steps.
“Trump likes to think big,” Santens tells Business Insider. And even by its initials, he says, a basic income guarantee is a “BIG” idea. “So maybe, just maybe, he might embrace it.”
If Trump doesn’t embrace it, however, and his administration confirms the fears democrats across the US have right now, Santens predicts whoever runs in the next election could stand an even greater chance at getting basic income on the ballot.
“There’s a good chance that after four years of Trump, the US may just be ready to embrace that vision. And it may just include many of those who just voted for Trump,” he says, “if Trump is unable to increase their incomes, and therefore their perception of prosperity, in the next four years.”
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