Recently, we lost a basic income champion: Gerald Huff. Huff was a technologist, entrepreneur and, at the end of his life, author of Crisis 2038, a sci-fi novel that has basic income as a central plot element. Huff died of pancreatic cancer on November 17th. His daughter, Jane Huff, and basic income advocate Scott Santens joined the podcast to remember Gerald and discuss his novel and basic income advocacy.
Crisis 2038 is available now as an ebook on Amazon, and the paperback version is available for preorder.
Much of the momentum around basic income is at the municipal level: Stockton’s trial will start soon, Chicago is creating a basic income task force, and a handful of other American cities are exploring basic income or other cash transfer programs. For many mayors and city council members, basic income is an unfamiliar concept. That’s why the Stanford Basic Income Lab created a toolkit for cities interested in basic income. This guide covers everything from past basic income research to managing expectations and media narratives. Catherine Thomas, a PhD Candidate in the Stanford Psychology Department and Graduate Fellow in the Stanford Basic Income Lab joined the podcast to discuss this exciting new resource.
In 2010, Iran replaced their energy subsidies with a cash transfer program, which was originally intended only for poor Iranians, but was expanded to go to everyone. We now have ample data to examine the effects on labor supply and a handful of other social metrics. Much of our knowledge of Iran’s program comes from a study co-authored by our guest this week, Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, a professor of Economics at Virginia Tech, and a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. Dr. Salehi Isfahani explains both the economic impact of the program and the public reaction to it.
A recent example of the power of unconditional cash is the My People Fund, launched by the Dollywood Foundation in the wake of the 2016 Kentucky wildfires. This program provided people who had lost their homes with monthly cash support to help them recover. Dr. Stacia Martin-West from the University of Kentucky analyzed the impact of this program and came on the podcast to discuss what she found.
We often talk about the desire for more trials and programs that give people unconditional cash, but one has been going on for decades: per capita payments in Sovereign Native American Nations. Under these programs, the nation is provided a revenue source–typically but not always from a casino–and this may be used in a number of ways, including “per-capita” payments to everyone in the nation. Payments vary in size, number of recipients, and duration. Thomas Klemm of the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi Indians, who is conducting qualitative research on per-capita payments, joined the podcast to discuss these programs and the impact they’ve had.
News broke recently that the city of Chicago has formed a task force to examine the future of work and a potential basic income pilot study. Alderman Ameya Pawar joined the podcast to discuss the motivation behind this initiative, who will be on the task force, and its current status.
Basic income pilots are ongoing or starting soon in Finland, Ontario, Stockton, Jacksonville, East Africa and two other U.S. states to be announced. These represent some of the most exciting developments in the basic income space, but it’s worth taking a step back to think about why we invest the considerable time, energy and money it takes to run a pilot. In this discussion episode, Owen and Jim delve into what pilots have meant so far to the basic income discussion, and where they might take us in the future.
A big open question around universal basic income is how the policy would relate to organized labor in the United States. While Andy Stern, former President of SEIU, the country’s largest labor union, is very supportive of basic income, others in the labor world are far more skeptical. To hash out some of the concerns there, Jim spoke with Ed Wytkind, President of EW Strategies and Senior Advisor to the AFL-CIO.
As listeners of the podcast will almost certainly know, Stockton, California is planning a basic income trial for 2019. Jim spoke with Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs and project leader Lori Ospina about new details regarding how the program will be structured, how recipients will be selected, and the challenges and responses so far to the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration. For more information, you can go to StocktonDemonstration.org.
One of the leading ideas on how to implement a basic income is a social wealth fund, similar to Alaska’s Permanent Fund, in which a government maintains a fund of various assets and provides dividends to everyone who lives within its borders. Matt Bruenig, President of the People’s Policy Project, recently designed a detailed proposal for implementing a social wealth fund in the US that would be financially and politically stable. He spoke with Jim about how he crafted this design and how he plans to advance it.
GiveDirectly has been doing some of the biggest, most groundbreaking work in basic income and cash transfers. One of the first episodes of this podcast featured GiveDirectly CFO Joe Huston, and we invited him back on to discuss their village-wide basic income trials in Kenya, their work with Ugandan refugees, a new project in Liberia and with hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Puerto Rico. Joe discusses the promises and challenges of working in these different contexts.
The history of our social safety net, government benefits and anti-poverty programs are inextricably tied up with race. Racial narratives are embedded in the public discourse around these programs, and in many cases, into the laws themselves. The basic income discussion in the U.S. must inevitably include a conversation about race and racial narratives. Anne Price, who studies race and public policy as President of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, joins the podcast to discuss these issues and how they relate to basic income.
For so many people, including both hosts of the podcast, the entry point to basic income was concerns about automation and how it could create an economy that requires many fewer employees. In this discussion episode, Owen and Jim delve into the pluses and minuses of automation’s primacy in the basic income discussion, and what a more rounded rationale for basic income looks like.
It’s easy to forget that one U.S. state administers a universal cash dividend and has for over thirty years. Alaska came into a windfall from leasing its oil lands in the late seventies and early eighties, and made the bold decision to invest the revenue in a sovereign wealth fund, which provides cash dividends to every Alaskan on an annual basis. Alaska State Sen. Bill Wielechowski joins the podcast to discuss the past, present and future of the Alaska Permanent Fund, and if it could be a model for the entire country.
Recently, as our listeners will know, the new administration in Ontario, Canada, announced that they will cancel the ongoing basic income trials there. In response, Jessie Golem, a photographer and basic income recipient, started a project called Humans of Basic Income (@HumansBasic on Twitter). Golem takes portraits of other basic income recipients in Ontario holding up handwritten signs describing what basic income has meant to them. The project both humanizes the basic income program and argues for it to continue. Jim spoke with Jessie Golem about the Ontario program and the Humans of Basic Income project.
Recently, we got a very exciting announcement from Springboard To Opportunities and the Economic Security Project: the two groups are collaborating to create the Magnolia Mother’s Trust. This program will provide an unconditional basic income to a small group of low-income African American mothers. Owen spoke to Aisha Nyandoro, who works with low-income women in Mississippi and will be leading the program.
In this unusual episode, Owen takes a break from cohosting and becomes a guest. Owen ran for California Assembly in this election cycle, and Jim interviews him on his experience. Owen goes into the surprises and challenges of being a first-time candidate, and offers advice for anyone considering a similar move.
How has the economy changed over the last generation, and what do today’s workers have to contend with that previous eras did not? Jim and Floyd Marinescu, CEO of C4Media, discuss these issues and more on this episode, which focuses on basic income from the business perspective.
Recently we got the unfortunate news that the new administration in Ontario plans on cancelling the current basic income trials. At the time of publishing, the program is still happening, and political pressure on the Ontario government may be quite valuable right now. Jim talked with Basic Income Canada Network Chairperson Sheila Regehr about what’s happening with the pilot and what people can do to push back against its cancellation.
Basic income and jobs guarantee are often juxtaposed as two policies that are mutually exclusive, politically or policy-wise. Alyssa Battistoni, writing for In These Times, suggests that both are worth fighting for, and that the two policies could work in concert. Battistoni, a PhD student at Yale in Political Theory and editorial board member of Jacobin, spoke with Jim on how these two policies might work together.