Our economic system will never eliminate poverty. Even in our triumphant economy, over 45,000,000 Americans are officially poor (PovertyUSA.org). 14%, 1 in 7. Think it can’t happen to you? From Andrew Yang to Forbes to Elon Musk, there is an emerging consensus that artificial intelligence will be released from the lab and eliminate humans from a wide spectrum of jobs. Yet, you say, surely our system will self-correct, creating new jobs to replace the old. Really?
That has not been the experience in many places across the US where jobs have been lost to global competition. Some have called it “flyover country” as if we can ignore the interior of the United States. Take a look at Youngstown, Ohio. This steel town never recovered from the closing of its steel mills. Today it is still the fastest shrinking city in the US. Chris Hedges wrote that “Youngstown, like many postindustrial pockets in America, is a deserted wreck plagued by crime and the attendant psychological and criminal problems that come when communities physically break down.”
Way back in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King organized his last crusade, called the “Poor People’s Campaign”. He was assassinated in April 1968, before they could march on Washington. During the campaign, he spoke about the need for universal basic income. He said that poverty was a society-wide curse that affected all people. He said that American capitalism can never sufficiently eliminate poverty. He said that past attempts to eliminate poverty were ineffective. He said civil rights depended on broader equality.
The power elite, our Big Brother state capitalism, seems to be against this idea. How did they react to Dr. King’s mobilization of poor people to march on Washington? Gerald McKnight, in his book about King’s “last crusade”, offers a chilling account about how our domestic security apparatus treats our democratic process:
In 1967 Hoover and his top internal security chiefs escalated their political warfare against King to a new level of intensity when the SCLC announced its intention to bring an army of the poor to Washington to pressure the government to address the pressing needs of the politically unrepresented and the economically dispossessed. In light of the SCLC’s projected Washington campaign, FBI elites decided to single out King for special attention. According to bureau ideological standards, King was now no longer viewed as a troublesome “racial agitator” but as the most dangerous radical in America and a diabolical threat to Hoover’s way of life, his bureaucracy, and his vision of a white Christian racial state where blacks knew their place.(Gerald McKnight, The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People’s Campaign, Westview Press, p. 3)
Assassination is perhaps not necessary these days. The social Darwinists at the Heritage Foundation will dominate the media with views on UBI experiment in Canada like the following:
For example, a UBI might create a mindset that income is rightly derived from someone else’s productivity. This would likely result in people using the political process to vote themselves higher incomes rather than work to improve their own standard of living by creating a better world for others to live.https://www.heritage.org/international-economies/commentary/canadian-experiment-quickly-shows-failures-universal-basic
In other words, the poor, who are lazy losers, should quit expecting freebies from productive people, get off their asses and start working hard, like the winners. The winners deserve their wealth, while the poor deserve their poverty.
By the way, the Canadian experiment was terminated by a conservative government. Later, an economist from the University of Manitoba analyzed the results and found dramatic improvements in many quality of life measurements, AND, people did not work less. (Yang, The War on Normal People, p. 173)
Andrew Yang has proposed a modern version of UBI. While he has qualified for all the debates, and generating increasing support, he is generally ignored by corporate media. His version of universal basic income guarantees an economic floor to every adult in the country. He proposes a $1,000 a month, or $12,000 to everyone, with no strings attached. He makes the excellent point that it is not really an expense, but a transfer because much of it will be paid for by a VAT which requires that corporations pay their fair share which they have been able to avoid through current tax measures. In other words, some of our $20 trillion GDP will be transferred to the 99%. As Andrew Yang says, it will help get the boot off their neck. Martin Luther King, Jr. would approve.