Are pandemic relief checks making UBI inevitable?

How even many conservatives are learning to love universal basic income

A Treasury check.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

Major crises can effect rapid changes in public opinion that otherwise would have required years or even decades to develop. Among the permanent opinion shifts of the COVID-19 pandemic, I expect to see a new — and perhaps even bipartisan — move toward universal basic income (UBI) or something like it, an evolution influenced by Americans' experience with pandemic relief checks, both the fact of them and the drawn-out political fights surrounding their passage.

UBI is exactly what it sounds like: a government income program which is not tied to recipients' employment (like unemployment insurance), age (like Social Security), income (like TANF), medical care (like Medicare or Medicaid), or food purchases (like SNAP). It's simply a monthly cash stipend that goes to everyone. The stipend could be big enough to cover all basic expenses (this is called a full UBI) or it could merely supplement other income (former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang's proposal of a $1,000 per month "Freedom Dividend" is an example of this sort of partial UBI).

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