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Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream Hardcover – June 14, 2016
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"[Stern] does a solid job of making his case without waxing too wild-eyed....This is a book eminently worth talking about." --Kirkus Reviews
"When a veteran labor leader like Andy Stern argues that we're not going to survive an increasingly jobless economy without a universal basic income, then it's time for the rest of us to listen up. Raising the Floor rests on Stern's long experience fighting for economic justice as well as his years of studying job trends...and it makes an irrefutable case for what might at first seem like a wild idea." --Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickle and Dimed
About the Author
Andy Stern is a senior fellow at Columbia University's Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy. He was formerly president of the 2.2 millionmember SEIU, the union of hospital; health-care; nursing-home; food-service; home-care workers; janitors; and public employees. SEIU played a major role in getting Barack Obama elected President of the United States in 2008, and it also is credited with being the driving force behind securing passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Stern was one of five Presidential appointees to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Simpson-Bowles), where he authored a minority report on deficit reduction and promoting economic growth. He has served on numerous boards, including those of the Aspen Institute, Broad Foundation, Council on Competitiveness, Economic Policy Institute, Council on Foreign Relations Trade Task Force, Kaiser Coalition, Open Society Foundations, and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights."
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Stern has done us a big favor with this book. I never really bought into the "automation will be the death of us" line until reading Stern's arguments and evidence carefully. Now I believe it. And I didn't really ever understand the mechanics of a Universal Basic Income, thinking it bizarrely unreasonable and political kryptonite until reading Stern's analysis how its appeal to the Right as well as the Left. Now I think it' should be at the top of our progressive agenda. Kudos to Stern and this terrific, readable, persuasive book!
Your children will study Andy Stern as the most important labor leader in the 20th century. Cesar Chavez got the postage stamp, but Andy built a far bigger, stronger, and better labor union. He was not afraid to make enemies in doing this -- and he has acquired more than a few here in Southern California. This is the book that anyone who knows him would expect him to write on universal basic income: methodical, impassioned, with a clear point of view.
1. If you know the debate, you can just read Chapter 8, which is worth the price of the book. The first 2/3 of the book is prelude to this -- not a great structure. Andy probably made his kids wait for dessert, although in this case, chewing through seven chapters of broccoli is worth it.
2. Tasty though the veggies are, the prelude makes arguments that are not vital to the solution. Will technology create more jobs or wipe out more? Is employment becoming more fractured and contingent? Does college matter or not? There are intelligent people who support UBI on both sides of these debates. You may have a view, but you don't need one to engage in the UBI discussion, which attracts adherents and detractors left and right, optimist and pessimist, globalist and nationalist, labor market traditionalists and radicals, etc.
3. The book makes a stronger case for basic income than for universal basic income. Why, precisely, should the children of Bill Gates get $1,000 per month from taxpayers? "Because it is too complicated to do it any other way" is not a super convincing answer.
4. As you might expect, Andy is at his best campaigning for bold new ideas. He runs a close second best when making the moral case for his policy. Third would be economics, which he uses instrumentally: a crutch not a flashlight. Fourth, by quite a bit, is technology, where he is easily gobsmacked (not always without reason, but always uncritically).
5. Like many public figures who have taken a deeply personal beating or ten, he really cannot write about himself, which is too bad. He has had a consequential and interesting life, played a key role in shaping Obamacare, built SEIU into America's biggest union, depending on how you keep score, and had the huevos to break with his mentor and split the AFL-CIO for good reason. Will unions take up the cause of UBI? Will Democrats? How does someone go from the Simpson Bowles commission on entitlement reform, to proposing a multi-trillion dollar entitlement? WTF was the point of the fight with UNITE?
Waiting for the memoir.....