Obama Floats Support for Universal Basic Income

July 18, 2018

Former President Barack Obama voiced his support Tuesday for a universal basic income, which would ensure every citizen received a minimum income from the government annually.

Addressing the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in South Africa, Obama bemoaned the obstacles facing workers in the 21st century, where technology has supplanted traditional labor as the driving force of economic productivity.

"The biggest challenge to workers, in countries like mine, today is technology," the president said. "Artificial intelligence is here and it is accelerating. And you're going to have driverless cars and you're going to have more and more automatic services and that's going to make the job of giving everybody work that is meaningful tougher."

The president declared a "fundamental reimagining" of society's social and political structures was in order to ensure the protection of "economic security and dignity" in this new age.

"We're going to have to be more imaginative and the pace of change is going to require us to do a more fundamental reimagining of our social and political arrangements to protect the economic security and dignity that comes with a job," Obama said.

To meet the new requirement that a job provides "dignity," "structure," and "purpose," on top of financial sustenance, the president asserted "new ways of thinking" would need to be tread. To that end, Obama endorsed a universal basic income and a "review" of the 40-hour workweek.

"It's not just money that a job provides. It provides dignity and structure and a sense of place and a sense of purpose," Obama said. "So we're going to have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income, review of our workweek, how we retrain our young people, how we make everybody an entrepreneur at some level."

He added that economics would be vital to getting "democracy back on track."

"We're going have to worry about economics if we want to get democracy back on track," the president said.

Since the 2016 election cycle, the notion of a universal basic income has picked up steam within the Democratic Party.

Obama's endorsement of the policy, however, puts him in direct contrast with Joe Biden, his former running mate and vice president. Biden, who many believe is readying a 2020 run for the White House, lambasted the idea in March of this year as one that would "strip people of their dignity."