With rising inflation, stagnant wages, deeply rooted inequalities, and increasingly concentrated profits, the American economy is broken. More than 37 million Americans live in poverty, and although work is supposed to provide a route to a better life, 53 million people are stuck in jobs that pay low wages. Over the past 50 years, the balance of power between employers and workers has increasingly skewed toward employers. Workers have few opportunities to shape their working conditions and are too often trapped in dangerous, low-paid jobs. The United States faces a job-quality crisis. To reimagine the economy, restore a balance of power between workers and employers, and share prosperity today and for generations to come, we need bold, broad solutions.
One solution gaining momentum is guaranteed income. At times understood narrowly as a replacement for income for jobs lost to automation, guaranteed income has a much longer history, with support at the nation’s founding, during the New Deal, throughout the civil rights movement, and more. This brief explores guaranteed income as a tool for the unique and urgent economic challenges of today; it focuses on guaranteed income’s impacts on work and job quality. How might guaranteed income rebalance power and dismantle the inequalities that plague our current labor market? Can guaranteed income restore, rather than replace, the promise of work in America?