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lawyers, and tax preparers are being replaced by remotely controlled automated services, the way travel agents have been replaced by online booking, and teachers and college professors now compete with online courses.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
April 08, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic
Eve Ottenberg
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic
Bill Quigley
Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana
Joyce Nelson
BlackRock Takes Command
Geoff Dutton
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
Richard Moser
From Strike Wave to General Strike
Gary Leupp
Could COVID-19 Kill Capitalism?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Corona, Capital and Class in Germany
Tom Crofton
Aspirational vs Pragmatic: Why My Radicalness is Getting More Radical
Steve Kelly
Montana Ballot Access Decision Suppresses Green Party Voters
Jacob Hornberger
Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against the Pentagon
Phil Mattera
The Rap Sheets of the Big Ventilator Producers
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
Rick Baum
When “Moderate” Democrats Lead the Ticket and Win, Down-Ballot Candidates Soon Suffer Losses
Jake Johnston
Tens of Millions Will Be Pushed into Poverty Amid COVID-Induced Recession
Kim C. Domenico
Healthy and Unhealthy Fear in the Age of Coronavirus
John W. Whitehead
Draconian Lockdown Powers and Civil Liberties
Binoy Kampmark
University Bailouts, Funding and Coronavirus
Luke Ruediger
BLM Timber Sale Increases Fire Risk, Reduces Climate Resilience and Harms Recreation
John Kendall Hawkins
Slavoj Žižek’s Virulent Polemic Against Covid-19, and Stuff!
Nyla Ali Khan
Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
Matt Smith
Amazon Retaliation: Workers Striking Back
Kenneth Surin
What The President Said (About The Plague)
Patrick Cockburn
The Chaotic Government Response to COVID-19 Resembles the Failures of 1914
Marshall Auerback
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Opened the Curtains on the World’s Next Economic Model
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Trump Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly Pandemic
Jeremy Lent
Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next?
Dean Baker
The Big Hit: COVID-19 and the Economy
Nino Pagliccia
A Simple Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela: End All “Sanctions”
Colin Todhunter
Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order
Robert Fisk
Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Enough Information’ on Iran to Have a Vew. How Odd, He Negotiated the Nuclear Deal
Wim Laven
GOP’s Achievement is Now on Display
Binoy Kampmark
Boastful Pay Cuts: the Coronavirus Incentive
Dave Lindorff
It’s Spring and I’ve Turned 71 in a Pandemic-Induced Recession
Steve Brown
FLASH! Trump Just Endorsed Bernie’s Medicare-For-All Health Plan
Marc Haggerty
Class and COVID-19: Those Who Can and Those Who Can’t
Manuel García, Jr.
A Reply to Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”
George Wuerthner
How Fuel Breaks Fuel Fires
Marshall Sahlins
Election 2020
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail