Basic income experts say Trump could be the radical change America needs

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For many Americans, President Trump’s appeal lies in his radical departure from how traditional politics is 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, 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 are as optimistic.

“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.

Bregman’s scepticism is partly rooted in Trump’s commitment to creating jobs. The president has stayed silent on the looming threat of automation, one of the key topics at this year’s World Economic Forum. As economists have noted, millions of jobs could get displaced in the coming decades, leaving old-school thinkers searching for solutions.

To Pugh’s mind, that’s precisely why Trump has every incentive to cosy up to basic income. 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.”

Santens adds that Trump’s maximalist attitude might make basic income more appealing. The president is no incrementalist.

“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,” he says. “And it may just include many of those who just voted for Trump if Trump is unable to increase their incomes, and therefore their perception of prosperity, in the next four years.”

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