In the beginning of 2017, Finland started an income experiment. The government’s social-security institution planned to hand out free income (around $590 for every jobless citizen) each month. This is what is known as universal basic income, or as Business Insider explains, “Under universal basic income, people receive a standard amount of money just for being alive. By handing out the money to everyone, regardless of their income status, UBI advocates say, the system prevents people from falling through the cracks.”
The experiment was meant to not only clean up Finland’s social security system, which is extremely complex, but to also analyze how citizens would use the free money. Would they waste the money and continue to slack? Could it help them solve the issues creating their unemployment? Would they take that money and use it as a platform for starting a business or getting a job? This premise is what Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes in, explaining that, “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.” Many Silicon Valley CEOs believe that universal basic income will encourage people to innovate, and start new businesses. Has this worked?
An article on NBC analyzed Finland’s experiment a year later. Further explaining the merits of this concept, the article writes that, “They see universal basic as a cushion for workers whose jobs might be replaced by automation or robots. Advocates argue free money could provide workers with flexibility to retrain for a new career, pursue creative interests, or start their own business.” Finnish author Antti Jauhiainen explained that an unanticipated result has been encouragement to instead pursue easy low wage jobs. He believes that, "Our path shouldn't be to create low-wage jobs but to really improve education and to improve people's skills." With this in mind, I ask a few questions to the Caucus…
1). Drawing upon some research, what are your thoughts on universal income? Can it help close the global income gap?
2). Do you feel as though this premise could actually drive people to search for jobs given that they have a financial cushion? Does it create innovation?
3). Could an experiment like Finland’s be replicated in Michigan to test whether or not it would help close the state-wide income inequality issue? How would you go about doing this legislatively?
Clearly, the state has a problem. While lobbying for an increased minimum wage could help close this gap (as well as some of the other solutions), this could serve as an innovative solution that has never really been tested in the United States. I am interested in hearing the thoughts of the Caucus!