With coronavirus ravaging the nation, now is the time to fight for universal basic income.
Universal Basic Income (UBI) emerged in the modern American spotlight during Andrew Yang’s 2020 Democratic presidential primary campaign.
A crucial part of Yang’s policy platform was UBI. The policy would pay American citizens over the age of 18 a nontaxable payment of $1,000 a month every month. Even though Yang dropped out in mid-February, his policy proposals won over many people.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, a Hill-Harris X poll found that 43% of registered voters supported UBI. Fifty-five percent of registered voters aged 18-34 and 53% of voters aged 35-49 supported it. Only 21% of voters aged 65 and above supported UBI.
These figures showed that younger generations saw something inherently wrong in a system where 63% Americans can’t afford to cover a $500 emergency and wanted to do something to mitigate it.
Now with the American economy in a freefall and over 30 million people filing for unemployment since mid-March, many politicians are rethinking what they can do to help.
In a recent interview with MSNBC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress needs to find ways to guarantee income for Americans until the pandemic is over.
“Others have suggested a minimum income, a guaranteed income for people. Is that worthy of attention now? Perhaps so,” Pelosi said.
This pivot is important coming from Pelosi. It took a global pandemic and a near economic collapse for the Speaker to start talking about a basic income. Just a few months ago, UBI was considered a fringe idea in Congress, only supported by the far left. But now with the pandemic leaving many out of work, its appeal has gained significant traction.
The onetime $1,200 stimulus payment sent out by the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act was a band-aid trying to stop a bullet wound. What happens when those funds are spent to pay living expenses? What happens to the people who didn’t get a stimulus check, like many of our fellow college students?
At this moment we don’t need people to work. We need to stay at home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but people still have to pay their bills and other expenses. In a country where most people are living paycheck to paycheck, UBI would give nonessential employees a way to stay at home to stop the spread of the disease and be able to live.
The idea of UBI still has many critics who will argue that it is too expensive of a policy and that we need to have certain means tests to be able to send out money to people.
Providing people with a basic income can help alleviate the stressors of having to pay bills, feeding their families and any living expenses they don’t see coming like car repairs and hospital bills. Offering people basic income can be effective, especially during an unpredictable crisis like this pandemic.
Right now, there is no clear right answer to the economic problems that COVID-19 has brought, but people are suffering. If we can get money into the hands of people that need it the most, it will only yield positive results.