While the conversation around a universal basic income - a government program which provides every adult with regular cash payments - has gained traction in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic turned the fringe experimental program into a reality for millions of people around the globe. Facing skyrocketing unemployment and an impending economic crisis, some governments decided to act swiftly and without conditions: they transferred cash directly into the hands of all their citizens - regardless of age, income, or geography. Proponents of UBI see the pandemic era handouts as proof that the program works. COVID-19 exacerbated income inequality and sped up technological innovation which disproportionately hurt lower wage earners and marginalized communities. Direct cash payments offered financial security to society’s most vulnerable and helped transform the broken relationship between individuals and the labour market. It bought precious time and resources for those seeking new economic opportunities in a rapidly-changing workforce. Critics worry that UBI disincentivizes work and rewards indolence. They point to pandemic recovery rehiring difficulties as proof that getting cash handouts without strings attached encourages people to stay out of the workforce all together. Re-positioning government into the role of economic provider threatens individual aspiration for self-reliance and betterment. Furthermore, the already well-off do not need to benefit from cash handouts. If the government wants to address racial and economic injustices it would have much more success by enriching already existing social welfare programs that target those most in need.
Arguing for the motion is Scott Santens, Senior Advisor to Humanity Forward and Editor of Basic Income Today.
Arguing against the motion is Oren Cass, executive director of American Compass and author of The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America.
“Basic income is an acknowledgement that everyone has basic needs, and we should make sure that those absolute most basic needs are being met at all times.”
“It has always been an American tradition to value reciprocity, and a universal basic income runs directly against that.”
Sources: ABC News, Global, Yang Speaks, CNBC, Newzroom Afrika
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