(American Prospect) -- Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is author of a new book, Raising the Floor, on the case for a universal basic income (UBI). As wage and salary income become less reliable and as technology replaces human work, the debate about how to distribute the fruits of technology becomes more urgent. In this edited conversation, Prospect Co-Editor Robert Kuttner and Andy Stern discuss the place of a UBI and its relationship to other strategies for defending worker rights, expanding other social protections, and improving wage and salary income.
Robert Kuttner: Andy, Congratulations on your new book, Raising the Floor, on the case for a universal basic income. Your prologue is that there are too few Americans working or looking for a job, that college is less of a good investment than it used to be, that wages are too low, and there is an accelerating shift to freelancing and on-demand work.
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The implication of all these workplace transitions is that we need to supplement labor income, with a guaranteed universal basic income. You also have a very nice chapter on what you call mitigator policies—the usual progressive list: infrastructure, innovation, higher minimum wage, shorter work-weeks. My first question is: Why can’t those policies, if taken to the right scale, solve the income problem?