The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, is spreading more every day. There are now over 800 cases in the U.S., and there have been at least 28 deaths.
Many people are self-quarantining or being quarantined as we try to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and a lot of those people don't have jobs that they can do from home, so they'll be losing money while they're quarantined. Schools are closing, which means some parents are having to stay home with their kids instead of going to work.
Furthermore, many restaurants are losing customers as people are going out less, so shifts are being cut and tip-earners are making less money. Universal Basic Income (UBI) proponent and recent presidential candidate Andrew Yang is arguing that UBI would be helpful at a time precisely like this one.
While President Donald Trump has been suggesting that the Federal Reserve cut interest rates after the stock market suffered its worst day since 2008 on Monday. He believes this will help the U.S. economy.
Yang tweeted on Monday that lowering interest rates does "nothing for the wage worker losing shifts and tips, for the mom stuck at home looking after her child because the school closed, for the restaurant or theatre losing business because people are staying in. The only stimulus that would work is #UBIStimulus."
Yang tells Inverse how UBI could help people who may have to miss two weeks of work because of a quarantine.
"Too many people are heading to work sick because they can’t afford to miss a paycheck," Yang says. "If we had Universal Basic Income, people would do what is best for them and their community and stay home until they recover."
If people knew they had money they get every month no matter if they worked or not, that would be extremely helpful at a time when a lot of people simply aren't going to be able to work as much as they needed. Not only would that benefit them financially, but as Yang suggested, it would benefit the community because fewer people would be going to work sick and spreading the virus.
Yang made UBI the feature of his presidential campaign because he's worried about the number of jobs that will be displaced by automation in the future. He's right to worry about that, but situations like the one we're in right now make it clear that there are other reasons UBI could benefit a lot of Americans.
With Yang out of the presidential race, things aren't looking good for Universal Basic Income during this election season. Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders don't currently support the idea, but maybe that'll change when Yang's new political group gets his many supporters to start ramping up the pressure on them. At some point, we might have to adopt the policy because we have no other choice.
The Inverse analysis
There are many reasons we may want to try out a Universal Basic Income program. Not only are we at risk of losing a large number of jobs to automation within the next decade or so, but there are many other obstacles in life that can leave us unable to work and in need of a stable income. Furthermore, even those who can find work and aren't dealing with these types of obstacles may not be able to find enough work to live in a dignified, comfortable manner, and UBI could help them live without the terrible stress that comes with not making enough to meet their basic needs or live without a financial safety net many take for granted.