Strangely enough Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson might make basic income an issue in the 2016 presidential race.
This could be a game changer because Johnson is polling well among some demographics, The Washington Post reported. A Pew Research Center Poll found that the Libertarian was receiving more support among voters under 30 (22%); than presumptive GOP standard bearer Donald Trump who was supported by 21% of Millennials.
In the past Johnson has publicly endorsed the Fair Tax; a scheme to replace the current US federal income tax with a 23% national sales tax. The Fair Tax proposal includes a tax rebate; that is effectively a universal basic income for the poor.
Week contributor Jeff Spross estimated that the Fair Tax would give a family making $31,020 a year; a basic income of $7,135. The Fair Tax contains a rebate in order to be fair to poor people that would have to pay it. Under most common version of the Fair Tax, each family that’s under a certain level income, would get the 23% of their income they paid in sales tax back.
Johnson has given speeches on behalf of the Fair Tax, which he calls the FT in the past. Back in 2014, he made several statements on behalf of it in Communities Digital News.
What is interesting is that Johnson; the former governor of New Mexico, does not mention either the Fair Tax or Basic income at his official campaign website. Instead there is only a vague statement about fixing our tax code.
It looks as if he wants to duck the issue, possibly because it will be a hard one to sell to mainstream audiences. Johnson and his running mate; former Massachusetts Governor William Weld, are trying to rebrand their party to appeal to moderate Republicans who might dislike ideas such as basic income.
Libertarians and Basic Income
Interestingly enough basic income has long been a hot topic among Libertarians. The most influential American libertarian thinker; Noble Prize Winning Economist Milton Freidman, advocated a variation of Basic Income called the Negative Income Tax.
Freidman’s idea was that simply paying people whose incomes were below the poverty level a lump sum of cash would be more efficient and effective than the social services bureaucracy. The lump sum would theoretically make up the difference between their income and the poverty level.
The negative income tax is part of the Fair Tax making it a basic income scheme. Basic Income is popular with Libertarians because it would eliminate something they hate bureaucracy. Basic Income would also limit government power to impose values or standards on the poor.
Freidman outlined a negative income tax in his classic book Capitalism and Freedom. Since then the idea has been revived several times although never implanted on a large scale.
Would Donald Trump Endorse Basic Income?
It remains to be seen whether Johnson or somebody else will inject basic income into the presidential race. It is possible because such previously forbidden topics as single-payer health care and government funded college are being widely discussed because of the agenda of failed candidate US Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont).
Interestingly enough; Republican candidate Donald J. Trump is a strong supporter of Social Security, which is essentially a basic income scheme for the elderly. He opposes even limited cuts to the program and sensible reforms like raising the retirement age to 70.
Trump has also proposed putting a 14.25% tax on persons worth more than $10 million and putting that money into the Social Security Trust fund. So it sure sounds like the Donald likes the idea of basic income.
The question remains would Trump back the idea of expanding it to all Americans? That’s hard to say, but remember this is Donald Trump we are talking about there. He loves crazy, off the wall ideas and big bold plans.
Basic income is crazy, off the wall and potentially very popular. Look how much traction book Trump and Sanders got during the Presidential race with comments on Social Security. Millions of seniors are listening to Donald, because he talks about expanding Social Security; which is their only source of income.
Basic income is likely to appeal to many of the Trump voters who have been hard hit by wage stagnation and income inequality. Trump is likely to go for it after his other economic ideas; like the tariff, get exposed for the nonsense they are.
My guess is if Trump thought basic income would get him a few million votes he’d endorse it in a heartbeat. That isn’t saying basic income is good or bad, Trump would endorse cannibalism if he thought it would win votes.
The question we will need to ask then is would the Republican Party go along with a Trump basic income plan. The answer to that is nobody knows, because the idea is so new.
An even more interesting question is whether Hillary would endorse basic income? Nobody knows the answer to that question either; although both Hillary and Trump may soon have to face it, because of our dysfunctional economy that is no longer meeting the needs of many Americans. In that environment, basic income; and candidates that endorse it like Gary Johnson, will become a major force in the political debate.