International columnist and author Gwynne Dyer spoke at Burman University Sept. 28th on how a universal basic income could be key to solving the world-wide job crisis which has led to the rise of nativist-populism throughout the world.
The talk, entitled ‘The Trump Era: Surviving the Populist Wave’, focused on how Donald Trump was elected in the United States through making promises to the unemployed working class of the United States’ rust belt of Ohio, Pennsylvania and other working class states which voted for Trump in last year’s election.
“The people I spoke to were very angry,” Dyer said. “Angry enough to send a message.”
Dyer attributed Trump’s surprising victory to his populist appeal to emotion, rather than intellect.
He said that Americans. particularly white working-class Americans, feel discouraged, ignored and very angry.
Dyer attributes this anger to the humiliation of chronic unemployment.
Currently, American unemployment hovers around 4.5%, however Dyer suggests the actual number of people who are unemployed, under-employed or no longer looking for work could be as high as 17%.
The unemployment rate during the Great Depression was around 25%.
Trump, according to Dyer, was elected because he attributed American job losses to corporations moving jobs overseas and illegal immigrants willing to work for less wages in the U.S.—thus focusing on nativist sentiment.
Dyer said the real culprit of job losses in the U.S.—and throughout the world—is automation, which he said has cost as many as five million jobs in the United States mostly in the manufacturing industry.
“Automation is the phenomenon destroying American jobs,” he said, warning that automation will begin to take jobs from other sectors as programs become more sophisticated.
Dyer said as much as 47% of jobs in the developed world could be lost to automation.
He explained this includes any job that is somewhat repetitious, using the example of self-driving cars taking over driving jobs like taxis and long haul trucking.
“This will produce Trump-like results if we don’t do something to alleviate the pain,” Dyer said. “There is a huge amount of anger with being unemployed.”
Dyer suggested a universal basic income (UBI) could be the key to solving the job crisis without humiliating those who take from it.
“I won’t sell you this because no one knows if it will work but it ticks the right boxes,” Dyer said.
The UBI would be a benefit provided to all citizens that would provide them with a basic, no-frill living.
The benefit would go to all citizens and could not be clawed back ever, regardless of added income or receiving other government benefits.
While it would be costly to provide a country of over 30 million people with a basic income, Dyer suggests covering the cost could come the removal of previous social benefits like welfare and old-age pension—as well as the added tax revenues from so many people climbing tax brackets.
He added taxing companies who lay off employees for machines could also alleviate the burden.
Dyer added while this may not work he is, “Optimistic if not for this than something like this.”