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The Push for Universal Basic Income

Universal Basic Income (UBI), like most political platforms, is extremely controversial. While it’s an idea as old as the 16th century, its relevance in American politics and news hasn’t been as important as it is now. Not only did Mayor Ras Baraka announce that Newark will pursue a universal-basic-income pilot program, but entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who is running for U.S. President in the 2022 Election, is running on just that platform.

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According to Yang’s campaign site, UBI is “a form of social security that guarantees a certain amount of money to every citizen within a given governed population, without having to pass a test or fulfill a work requirement.” Every UBI plan can vary in amount — for example, Yang’s platform proposes guaranteed monthly payments of $1,000, totaling up to $12,000/year.

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Newark Mayor Baraka has yet to announce who will receive UBI and what the amounts will be, but he has said his administration will create a task force to study the matter.

Earlier this year, Stockton, California became the first to launch a UBI experiment, sending $500 debit cards, no strings attached, to select residents.

Although experts like Bernie Sanders, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg support UBI, the list of complaints is endless: “it’s socialism/communism,” “it’ll lead to inflation,” “it’ll discourage people from working,” etc.

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Proponents try to debunk these misconceptions — Yang’s website includes tabs titled “Wouldn’t that cause rampant inflation?,” “Won’t people stop working?,” “Will this lead to mass immigration to the United States?,” “Isn’t this Communism/Socialism?,” and “Wouldn’t employers just start paying less?”

His answers are clear and cohesive, discussing the definition of socialism/communism, showing support for immigration, explaining how the money used for UBI payments is mostly already in the economy, and how his plan, which provides is $12,000/year, is not enough for people to quit working in most parts of the U.S.

Additionally, there have been large-scale examples of the success of Universal Basic Income, most notably with Finland. Although experiment results don’t come out until 2020, preliminary results show that UBI made citizens both happier and healthier. It did not, however, decrease unemployment, but it’s important to keep in mind that the time frame was only a year.

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All in all, UBI is still hotly debated and results from experiments aren’t conclusive. Like other political platforms and ideas, it comes down to personal values and beliefs. Public opinion, which is widely divided, is harder and harder to sway.

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Andrew Yang has been credited for popularizing UBI, but his campaign is definitely one to watch. President Donald J. Trump made history with his iconic Tweets, but the Yang campaign is marked by memes, made not by Yang himself, but his supporters called the Yang Gang. The 2022 Presidential Elections only gets more and more exciting, bizarre, and worth keeping up with.


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Carina is a senior studying Economics + Psychology at Boston University. She is passionate about marketing, Sally Rooney, and caramel lattes.
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