Can Basic Income create a Permanent Democratic Majority?

A basic income could create a permanent Democratic majority in the United States of America. Conversely, basic income could also build a permanent Republican majority in the USA.

To explain, I believe the political party that adopts basic income as a key tenet will own American politics for the 21st Century. In-depth, the basic political issues in America; and the world, today are economic. However, our culture warrior political elites cannot grasp this reality.

The key economic issues shaping 21st Century American politics include:

  • New technologies that concentrate wealth in the hands of a few smart or well-connected individuals. Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates, for example.
  • Increasing levels of automation and digitalization that eliminate the need for large numbers of human workers. In other words; technological unemployment.
  • Technologically-fuelled income inequality. For instance, MIT economists Juliette Fournier and David Autor calculate that the wages of workers without a college education have not risen in 50 years, The Economist reports. Meanwhile, wages for men without a college education are lower than they what they were in 1969.
  • A growing level of income inequality that breeds alienation, resentment, frustration, anger, and nostalgia for an imaginary past. For a good example of this see President Trump’s Twitter feed.
  • An economy in which traditional jobs will be history. Frighteningly, futurism consultant Mahrinah von Schlegel predicts that 40% to 45% of the workforce will be freelancers by 2025, in a 2069 Medium Magazine interview. That is just six years from now.
  •   The inability of existing social, political, corporate, legal, cultural and family structures to deal with these realities. For instance, unions’ failures to organize workers at companies like Amazon.
  • The refusal of our political and cultural leaders to see or adapt to these realities.

Basic income is the key to political victory and a permanent Democratic Majority in America

Simply put, there are three ways political leaders can deal with the new economic reality.

First, leaders can ignore the economic reality and pretend we are living in the past. Notably, Hillary Clinton tried this in 2016 by pretending it was 1996 and lost.

Second, politicians can practice identity politics. To clarify, politicos can make everything about race, religion, culture, country, ethnicity, gender, sex, etc.

However, Democrats, usually fail at identity politics because Republicans do it much better. For instance, Republicans can pick up the Bible, wave the flag, bash gays, and preach white supremacy. Hence, Republicans win at identity politics, because their version of it is simpler and more emotionally satisfying.

On the other hand, identity politics always comes up short because identity cannot put food on the table or pay the bills. Thus, the Republican identity politics will crash when it collides with the realities of a no jobs economy and income inequality.

Third, leaders can adopt new policies to deal with changing times. Notably, this is what President Franklin D. Roosevelt (D-New York) did during the Great Depression. In detail, FDR offered a package of new policies called the New Deal to help average people thrive in a changing economy.

A 21st Century New Deal and a basic income could create a Permanent Democratic Majority

In fact, FDR’s New Deal began a near-permanent Democratic majority that lasted from the 1930s to the 1990s.

The New Deal worked because it adjusted legal and welfare structures to a new economic reality. For instance, Social Security gave senior citizens the money to survive without traditional community or family support. In addition, unionized workplaces provided jobs with high wages and good benefits.

However, the economic realities that made the New Deal work have vanished because of changing times. For example, technology is wiping out the manufacturing, and office infrastructure that provided high-paying middle-class jobs for most of the 20th Century. Digitalization, in particular, is making the armies of middle-class office workers that were the backbone of 1950s suburbia unnecessary.

Additionally, most of the new income in America is coming from investment or technological progress, not wages. However, the New Deal welfare state is set up to transfer wealth between wage earners.

Social Security and Medicare, in particular, are intergenerational wealth transfers between today’s workers and retired people. Not surprisingly, such programs fail when most of the wealth is in the hands of a tiny technocratic elite.

Under these circumstances, a basic income financed by a tax on individual and corporate wealth is the logical underpinning for a 21st Century New Deal. Notably, a basic income could transfer the most wealth to the most people.

Simply put a basic income could be the best way for politicians to buy votes in the 21st Century. Hence, a basic income could form the basis of a 21st Century New Deal and a new Democratic majority.

Building a Permanent Democratic Majority with a basic income

Interestingly, there is one major Democratic politician that gets the potential of a basic income; U.S. Senator and probable presidential candidate Kamala Harris of California.

To explain, Harris’s awkwardly-named LIFT the Middle-Class Act will give every married couple with a household income under $50,000 a year a $6,000 “tax credit.” Importantly, the tax credit can be paid as a $500 a month payment. Hence, it looks like a basic income.

Thus, Harris understands the fundamental problem of today’s economy; most Americans are not making enough money. In-depth, Harris trying to solve the problem by redistributing the 2017 Republican tax cut as a tax credit.

However, I think there are some serious flaws in the Harris program. First, LIFT is not generous enough. In particular, it only pays $250 a month to singles, so a single mother with kids only receives $250 a month. That’s less than one monthly payment on a decent car in today’s America.

Plus, LIFT will pay a family with kids making $100,000 a year, $500. That is barely enough to pay for groceries for two or three kids for a month; if you shop at Costco.

My suggestion is to pay every individual making less than the median household income which was $61,732 a year in 2017, $500 a month. Additionally, there will be no age restrictions so families will receive $500 a month for each child. In addition, retired people will receive $500 a month besides Social Security.

I think the party with the brains and guts to promote a generous basic income will dominate American politics in the 21st Century. Notably, Democrats owned Congress for nearly 60 years because of generous welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Basic Income and a permanent Democratic Majority

However, when Bill Clinton (Arkansas) and his welfare-slashing agenda became Democratic gospel, Democrats quickly lost their majority. In fact, Republicans controlled Congress for most of the last 25 years.

Now Democrats have a historic opportunity to offer a 21st Century New Deal based on basic income and build a long-term majority. Here’s an example of how such a basic income could pull the rug out from under Donald J. Trump.

For instance, the median household income in West Virginia; a state Donald J. Trump (R-New York) carried, was $43,385 in 2016. A basic income plan like the one I outline will raise the median income in West Virginia to $67,385 a year or $6,000 over the national average.

Notably, a basic income could be the economic security system the 40% to 45% freelancers can fall back upon. To explain, existing workman’s compensation and unemployment insurance only help those with or seeking traditional jobs.

Unemployment insurance does nothing for a freelancer; like an Uber driver, who is having a slack month. A basic income could help the Uber drive pay the bills and put food on the table during slack times.

The political party that fights for such a basic income will carry West Virginia. No amount of flag-waving, Bible-thumping, and race baiting will be able to overcome the basic appeal of more money. At the end of the day, a full bank account and paid bills will always have more appeal than cheap jingoism and hate speech.

Basic Income is the key to victory in 21st Politics

Thus, Democrats have a historic opportunity here. A basic income could be the key to a 21st new deal and a permanent Democratic majority. If they want to win, Democrats need to join Kamala Harris on the basic income bandwagon now.

The Democrats must adopt basic income now because some smart Republican will soon grasp the notion. In the near future, Republicans will tire of following Trump to defeat and look for new strategies like basic income.

Democrats need to adopt basic income because basic income could also be the key to a permanent Republican majority. I think basic income is the key to victory in modern American politics.