Dec 9, 2016 · 2 min read

In the wake of the election of Donald J. Trump as the President of the United States, many people are caught between reading frightening news on their Facebook feed and curling up under the covers of their bed hoping it all will pass like a kidney stone.

Hope is not a strategy. It’s delusional, based on Trump’s appointments, the words he’s spoken, and the people he respects. We can’t expect that he’ll create modernized policies for how we’ll work and how we’ll live in the twenty-first century. The ideas we’re hearing — school vouchers, destroying the E.P.A., gold-plating the Lincoln bedroom — are the same ideas we’ve heard from Republicans since the first George Bush presidency. Well, everything except the gold-plated Lincoln bedroom.

Into this morass we offer a helpful suggestion. It’s time for America to commit to a Universal Basic Income for all of its citizens. You can read our statement here.

Go ahead. We’ll wait.

Ok. So why should we be giving people cash payments? Won’t we be like Britain giving the dole to every lazy American? There can’t be enough money in America to do this, right?

We can afford a universal basic income, we can do it with dignity, and it may just be the critical element to ensure economic and political stability in America. Here’s the thing; there just aren’t enough high-paying jobs to go around. And the problem is only going to get worse. We need to BOTH create more new high-paying jobs for humans and to make sure that those who don’t have one can live a life with dignity.

What’s the most commonly held job in America?

Truck driver. There are three million truck drivers in the U.S. All of them are under immediate threat of automation. It’s a certainty that there will be driverless trucks cruising our highways in the next decade. A universal basic income provides a backstop for the the massive changes in the economy that are coming right now.

It could take a lot of different forms. One idea is to apply it first to people who work, like an extended earned income tax credit. Another idea is to give people regular cash payments. Research by has shown that people of limited means given unexpected lump sums can more efficiently spend the money than aid workers.

We could hope that the economy will reverse itself. We’d be back to making tools with hammers. But if you believe that the forces of modernization are coming for our jobs we’d better create a universal basic income before it’s too late.

Economic Security Project

The Economic Security Project challenges the status quo by catalyzing ideas that build economic power for all Americans.


Written by

Environmental activist & social entrepreneur. Co-founder, Yerdle. Sierra Club former President. Author, Strategy for Sustainability.

Economic Security Project

The Economic Security Project challenges the status quo by catalyzing ideas that build economic power for all Americans.

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