The Elite Hurdle to Universal Basic Income in the United States
The ruling elites' oppression of the United States working class is both the biggest reason for and the biggest barrier to Universal Basic IncomeNicole Furlan
Since Andrew Yang brought the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI) into mainstream conversation during the Democratic primary election of 2020, the policy position has gained lots of attention. Many view it as an opportunity to decrease poverty and homelessness, support entrepreneurs and socially beneficial members of society, provide an off-ramp from bull-shit jobs, and mitigate the effects of economic stressors like technological automation and crises like the coronavirus pandemic. Many view it as an enormous, unrealistic cost and worry that it disincentivizes people to work.
The problem I often see ignored, even by many on the Left, is that for the ruling elite class, UBI is a threat to their control over the working class, whose oppression makes their lifestyles possible. If the working class stays hungry, quite literally, we’ll never rise up. I don’t know about you, but I would be protesting in the street every day if I could financially afford to. The list of reasons to protest is certainly long enough.
The coronavirus pandemic, and the high likelihood that pandemics will continue happening, has created a strong case for UBI all on its own. Other countries have implemented UBI and have avoided the economic devastation we’re currently experiencing. However, the United States government and ruling elites, two groups which overlap greatly, have mostly ignored cries from the working class for financial reassurance. The U.S. government even actively worked against the working class citizens, who they swore to represent, to direct financial relief in the form of taxpayer dollars directly into the pockets of the ruling elites.
For the U.S. working class, our systemic corruption and oppression by the ruling elites creates what I think is the strongest case for UBI. It’s the best shot we have at avoiding being pulverized by our capitalist system, which the pandemic has accelerated into late-stage capitalism. But it is that very corruption and oppression that has created a country where UBI has absolutely no chance of being enacted.
Though the Overton window on UBI may have shifted, only major systemic change would allow the actual policies to be put into place to enable UBI for U.S. citizens. It is time for the working class to realize our power and leverage, particularly at this moment in time. Our lives literally depend on it.