While the White House recommends education and job training as key solutions for workers at-risk of automation, they do not support a universal basic income
Tech automation is eliminating jobs. While this is part of any major industrial age — and largely contributed to Donald Trump’s rise — many tech and government officials admit that it may be a long time until the market is able to create new jobs for all the workers being displaced. In the meantime, one popular idea in Silicon Valley has been to give a universal basic income to supplement this loss of employment, an idea that Y Combinator is pilot testing in Oakland, California.
However, there’s one very influential body that disagrees with a universal basic income as a solution to job automation: The White House.
WIRED wrote on Wednesday that the President’s Council of Economic Advisers’ new report warns of massive job losses from artificial intelligence technology and automation generally. While they recommend education and job training as key solutions to equip at-risk workers, they explicitly do not support the idea of a universal basic income (UBI).
“We should not advance a policy that is premised on giving up on the possibility of workers’ remaining employed,” the paper states. “Our goal should be first and foremost to foster the skills, training, job search assistance, and other labor market institutions to make sure people can get into jobs, which would much more directly address the employment issues raised by AI than would UBI.”
I happen to agree with the White House on this. While I am not opposed to a universal basic income being a less-strings-attached form of welfare, I do not like the idea of tech creating two classes of people: Those who are able to work, and those who cannot.
The White House’s approach to deal with job automation
Interestingly, though, the current White House does support increasing investment in existing social safety net programs such as welfare (TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and unemployment insurance, as well as creating “new programs such as wage insurance and emergency aid for families in crisis.” It appears that the White House recognizes the need for increased monetary support from the government, but disagrees with the philosophy behind a universal basic income. Also, while it does not provide hard numbers for its investment in these forms of social welfare, the US government would likely be spending far less money on these systems of support than what a universal basic income proposes to offer.
Beyond putting more money into the social safety net, the outgoing Obama Administration recommends increasing support for education and job training to prepare at-risk workers for jobs of the future, as well as AI research.
All that said, it is hard to imagine a Donald Trump administration increasing support to social safety nets or education, though. Also, his campaign largely gained support from arguing that trade, not automation, stole most American manufacturing jobs, even though automation is the reason behind 88% of lost US jobs, according to the AP.
So far, President-elect Trump hasn’t expressed a clear policy position on how to address artificial intelligence eliminating work. But who knows? Maybe he could promise a $7 million tax break to a company claiming that they kept jobs rather than automated them.