The COVID-19 pandemic has brought rampant racial and income inequalities to light while also exposing deep societal fragmentations.
Now is the time to introduce new social contracts that will guarantee a Universal Basic Income (UBI) for all before these problems get even worse.
The case for a UBI is a simple one. In the ideal scenario, a UBI would pay a tax free and unconditional basic monthly income to every individual as a human right – irrespective of how much they earned or their work status.
It would aim to replace social security programs that often have a heavy reliance on means testing. A Value Added Tax coupled with a modest Wealth Tax on the top earners in the U.S could help pay for the program.
A UBI provides us with an opportunity to create a more inclusive social contract that ensures that the fruits of liberalism and the free market are enjoyed by all people.
It is time for a UBI to reinforce the idea that all people are created equally – which is the fundamental pillar of liberalism that has never been fully realized.
According to the Census Bureau, African Americans earn barely three-fifths as much as non-Hispanic whites. According to a study by Patrick Bayer of Duke University and Kerwin Charles of the University of Chicago, a stunning 35% of young Black men are unemployed or out of the workforce altogether, which is twice the share of whites.
A UBI would fundamentally shift the narrative that questions African Americans' deservedness to receive public assistance while simultaneously empowering the community to catch up after years of economic disenfranchisement.
The changing nature of work in high-income countries like the United States demands that social protection systems evolve with the times – but the reality on the ground illustrates to us that the rise of automation has yielded stagnant wages and no real change in safety nets.
Data shows that approximately 25% of U.S employment will face high exposure to automation in the coming decades. Technological development in the working world could result in a small group of high earners standing opposite of a growing number of unemployed people – and this concerning scenario will only deepen already serious income inequalities between citizens. A UBI would ensure a social rebalancing.
A UBI would also help repair a fragmented body politic. The left could see such a scheme as a way of securing a robust income floor that would suppress poverty and promote a equal distribution of wealth.
Those on the right could see a UBI as minimising state action and promoting personal responsibility. This would ultimately help quell enthic antagonism between groups and provide a democratic and egalitarian alternative to populism.