Krugman is not a UBI guy.
He told CNBC on April 22, 2019, “The reason is, basically, it’s a lot of money.” This trusted op-ed writer, and Nobel-prize winning economist thinks the political constraints would make any initiative unfeasible.
Many of his economic views are shaped by what is politically possible. Later in the interview he mentions that America skrinking union membership was a response to political choices we have made in the past. Demark and Scandinavia are just as open to forces of globalization, he says, yet nearly two-thirds of their work force is unionized.
It’s true that in the past couple of decades, America’s political thinking hasn’t been directed towards bolstering the working class or shrinking the largest wealth gap since the roaring twenties. Even before Trump’s tax cuts, which Krugman refers to as “completely pointless,” there was quantitative easing, which had the great effect of feeding the stock market, but not working class Americans.
Krugman believes that if for the amount of money that could be directed towards a substantial UBI program, or even “for the amount of money this republican congress just blew on pointless taxcuts,” we’d be better served establishing a strong progressive agenda.
He thinks “Medicare for America (which would provide health insurance for everyone, while maintaining private plans for those who chose) and universal pre-K are realistic targets, and would cost “substantially less than UBI.”
Part of his reasoning is that though we’re at record low unemployment, this hasn’t translated to wage growth. People are still having trouble paying for their necessities. This is especially worrisome, given the “smorgasbord recession,” looming over us.
While he admits that economic forecasting is a black art, Krugman believes we’re heading for a great social upheaval.
UBI, Krugman says, “Would only make sense if we were right on the verge of the point where the robots take all of our jobs. And that doesn’t look, pretty much there’s no sign that that’s actually happening.”