Sunday, September 24, 2017
Hillary Clinton thought about campaigning on basic income
Jesse Walker has an interesting post up at Reason: Hillary Clinton considered making basic income one of her campaign proposals. (This was an idea Robert Anton Wilson was interested in, hence the attention I pay to it here and in other posts.)
Clinton talks about it in her new memoir:
Before I ran for President, I read a book called With Liberty and Dividends for All: How to Save Our Middle Class When Jobs Don't Pay Enough, by Peter Barnes, which explored the idea of creating a new fund that would use revenue from shared national resources to pay a dividend to every citizen, much like how the Alaska Permanent Fund distributes the state's oil royalties every year. Shared national resources include oil and gas extracted from public lands and the public airwaves used by broadcasters and mobile phone companies, but that gets you only so far. If you view the nation's financial system as a shared resource, then you can start raising real money from things like a financial transactions tax. Same with the air we breathe and carbon pricing.
Once you capitalize the fund, you can provide every American with a modest basic income every year. Besides cash in people's pockets, it would also be a way of making every American feel more connected to our country and to one another—part of something bigger than ourselves. I was fascinated by this idea, as was my husband, and we spent weeks working with our policy team to see if it could be viable enough to include in my campaign. We would call it "Alaska for America." Unfortunately, we couldn't make the numbers work. To provide a meaningful dividend each year to every citizen, you'd have to raise enormous sums of money, and that would either mean a lot of new taxes or cannibalizing other important programs. We decided it was exciting but not realistic, and left it on the shelf. That was the responsible decision. I wonder now whether we should have thrown caution to the wind and embraced "Alaska for America" as a long-term goal and figured out the details later.
Walker comments: "The basic income has libertarian fans too, but in liberland "cannibalizing" other arms of the government is a feature, not a bug. You replace a bunch of separate bureaucracies with a single, simpler, less intrusive, and (if the numbers work out right) cheaper program. That's the big draw. I don't suppose it's news that Hillary Clinton isn't Milton Friedman, but it's telling that she saw this as a dealbreaker."