FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Your Check is in the Mail

You might have heard of Andrew Yang. He’s running for president as a Democrat. A long shot, for sure, but he’s already generated considerable interest and support. Last month, he announced that he had received contributions from over 65,000 donors in over 20 states, enough to qualify him for the first round of debates by the Democratic candidates.

Yang, from a Taiwanese immigrant family, was born in Schenectady, NY, went to elite schools, and became a corporate lawyer working for startup companies. Later he served as the CEO of Manhattan Prep, a company which administers the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for business school applicants. He went on to run a non-profit, Venture for America, whose internship programs place graduates into startups across the country.

As a presidential candidate, Yang stands out for proposing what he calls the “Freedom Dividend,” a $1000/month payment, or guaranteed annual income, to all US citizens over 18 years of age. There’s a long interview on The Joe Rogan Experience explaining his ideas which has received over 2,600,000 views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTsEzmFamZ8

Yang’s campaign slogan is “Humanity First,” which reflects his big campaign issue: the fact that automation and robotics are displacing human labor throughout the economy. Jobs are a key issue across the country The solution may not be more jobs, but something entirely different, like Yang’s Freedom Dividend.

Cutting labor costs enriches investor/owners, but it’s catastrophic for workers. Self-driving vehicles are going to put truck drivers out of business, just as scanners have reduced supermarket checkout clerks, and online purchasing has devastated retail outlets.

Automation affects not just factory-line workers, but most wage-labor, even on a professional level. Doctors, lawyers, and tax preparers are being replaced by remotely controlled automated services, the way travel agents have been replaced by online booking, and teachers and college professors now compete with online courses. Certain service sectors–plumbers, electricians, contractors, waitresses–continue to resist automation, but they too are vulnerable.

There are still jobs, of course, but they no longer provide the economic security they used to for the bulk of the population. Traditional wage-labor is a shrinking proposition, ever harder to achieve, leaving most of the population redundant, less and less able to support itself. The jobs that remain are all too often low-skill and low-pay, insufficient to support a family.

Labor, Yang is telling us, is no longer the source of security and value it once was. His attempt to restore economic security–a basic guaranteed income–is a radical departure from the usual remedy of trying to “create” more jobs. The government simply prints and sends you the money, instead of trying to find you a job.

If you just give people money, they will spend it, and stimulate the economy. At least that’s the idea. Adding money to the economy–all other things being equal–means more dollars chasing the same goods and services. That’s inflationary, unless the new spending is matched by enough new production to satisfy the new consumption.

And that’s the problem. If money is continuously printed faster than the economy is growing, we will suffer inflation, perhaps hyper-inflation. Yang and other guaranteed income advocates have yet to explain how their schemes will avoid inflation.

There might be a clue, however, in his use of the word “dividend.” The word suggests an income from a share of ownership in corporate assets. Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend comes to mind. Since 1982 it has distributed an annual royalty share of corporate revenue from Alaskan public resources (mostly oil and gas) to all state residents. The amount fluctuates (up or down) with corporate profits (and losses) over time. In 2018 the payment was $1600 per person ($6400 for household of four).

A guaranteed national income could be modeled on the same idea–an individual dividend paid out of a permanent fund supported by corporations. That would add a measure of public ownership of the means of production. Instead of 100% of corporate stock being privately held, a certain percentage could be publicly held, and form the basis of a national dividend.

Unlike, say, the Green New Deal, there would be no government management, control, or bureaucracy. The permanent fund would receive its share of dividends straight from corporations, and, in a simple bookkeeping operation, send annually to each citizen their equal individual share of the total.

A national dividend would not only give regular citizens a stake in the economy, it would also ensure that the money distributed would be neither inflationary or deflationary, but an accurate measure of the value of the economy, fluctuating with the ups and downs of economic activity.

That’s not socialism–corporations would still be privately run for profit–but it is a way to share ownership more broadly. Call it populism.

More articles by:

Adrian Kuzminski is a scholar, writer and citizen activist who has written a wide variety of books on economics, politics, and democracy. 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
George Wuerthner
The Highest Use of Public Forests: Carbon Storage
Ralph Nader
It is Time to Rediscover Print Newspapers
Nick Licata
How SDS Imploded: an Inside Account
Rachel Smolker – Anne Peterman
The GE American Chestnut: Restoration of a Beloved Species or Trojan Horse for Tree Biotechnology?
Sam Pizzigati
Can Society Survive Without Empathy?
Manuel E. Yepe
China and Russia in Strategic Alliance
Patrick Walker
Green New Deal “Climate Kids” Should Hijack the Impeachment Conversation
Colin Todhunter
Encouraging Illegal Planting of Bt Brinjal in India
Robert Koehler
The Armed Bureaucracy
David Swanson
Anyone Who’d Rather Not be Shot Should Read this Book
Jonathan Power
To St. Petersburg With Love
Marc Levy
How to Tell a Joke in Combat
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail