Universal basic income, an idea whose time has come

By Bryan Dean Wright for the San Francisco Chronicle

Two recent studies from the Pew Research Center confirm what many in the U.S. have long suspected: The great economic engine of America — the middle class — is in full retreat, with its children stuck living at home.

As we look for answers, it’s become clear that there are none to be found in the boorish 2016 presidential campaign. What we hear are government solutions that are too expensive (free tuition), too fanciful (a big wall) or too much Uncle Sam (single-payer health care). While liberals and conservatives bicker, the middle class burns. They want their jobs back, along with the security that comes with them.

But those jobs aren’t coming back. Not because we can’t build a wall or levy a huge tariff on imports. No, the jobs aren’t coming back because automation, machine learning and robotics are fundamentally changing the nature and future of work.

So what might we do to revive the middle class?

There’s increasing support here and in Europe for the universal basic income movement, which promises citizens a guaranteed annual revenue.

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