To fix income inequality, we need more than UBI — we need Universal Basic Assets
By Marina Gorbis (Executive director, the Institute for the Future)
”Open a newspaper — or, more likely, click on a Facebook article on your phone — and there will be a story telling you that income inequality is at the root of America’s problems: 0.1% of the US population is worth almost as much as the bottom 90%; CEO-to-worker pay ratios have increased thousand-fold since 1950; and wages have been stagnating for 35 years.
But while the wages we are paid are vital to the success and comfort of our lives, economic returns have been going increasingly to investors rather than wage earners. The real affliction America is suffering from isn’t income inequality: It’s asset inequality.
The popularization of income inequality
Since the Occupy protests of September of 2011, the subject of America’s large and growing income inequalities has become fodder for media stories, policy discussions, and a growing body of academic studies. Hardly a day goes by without some new research pointing out how dire the situation has become. The Institute for Policy Studies most recently stated that “America’s 20 wealthiest people — a group that could fit comfortably in one single Gulfstream G650 luxury jet — now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households.”
Makes you want to storm that Gulfstream.
To counter gaping economic inequality, many organizations and thought leaders are offering solutions that tackle this issue. These include everything from Universal Basic Income (UBI), whereby money would be given unconditionally to every individual regardless of their income levels or employment status, to investing in employee training that upskills workers (thereby saving them from the robots) or lowering tax rates.
But these solutions treat income inequality as a symptom rather than a disease. Income inequality is born out of something deeper and more fundamental: asset inequality.