Basic Income Should Be Part of a Robust Social Safety Net

In this moment, we must commit ourselves to defending programs that protect people and their communities.

By Connie M. Razza and Steven Kest

In the wake of the election and on the eve of an aggressive assault on our social safety net by the Republican Congress and soon-to-be President Trump, support of the long-term goal of basic income — a form of social provision that guarantees a reasonable standard of living for all people — must be coupled with an unswerving defense of the social safety net and labor protections we already have.

At the core of our support for basic income is the insistence that all people have the right to dignified lives, with the resources to sustain themselves and their families. On the country’s current path, working people will face increasing challenges to meeting that standard:

  • Employers are increasing the precarity of paid work, with low wages that do not come close to sustaining working people and their families, and uncertain and inadequate hours.
  • Government at every level is failing to keep up with the regulatory need of the new structures of employment and the resource needs to adequately enforce wage and other employment laws.
  • Corporations strip wealth from the working people who create it, increasing inequality to toxic levels.
  • The slack labor market reduces workers’ opportunity to find jobs and their bargaining power when they do.
  • The rules of the economy have been rigged by Wall Street, corporations, and the wealthy.
Photo by John W. Iwanski licensed under CC-BY-NC

We can expect an unchecked Trump presidency to exacerbate each of these challenges. Furthermore, Donald Trump and his Republican Congress plan to eviscerate the social safety net programs that prevent Americans from falling into destitution when confronted by these phenomena.

In this moment, we must commit ourselves to defending federal programs and expanding city and state programs that protect people and their communities — for instance, healthcare, food stamps, child-care subsidies, education, and housing provisions.

As we defend our current safety net, we keep our eyes on a vision for a future that lives up to the spirit of age-old aspirations for a nation committed to protecting the rights of all people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As part of a robust social safety net, basic income will: enable all people, regardless of whether they work for pay, to share a basic standard of living; allow people to work free of coercion and to exercise true control over their time; and ensure that all people are able to enjoy some amount of leisure for pursuits outside of obligation.

Connie M. Razza is Director of Campaigns and Steven Kest is Senior Advisor at the Center for Popular Democracy and CPD Action. CPD/A is a network of high-impact base-building organizations that work in cities and states to create equity, opportunity and a dynamic democracy.