With the 2018 midterms approaching, the political climate in this country is going to be interesting to watch. Sometimes it’s hard to predict what issues could be of importance, or what politico’s should be looking out for – but if you pay attention, you can make a few guesses as to how politicians will campaign, and what they will pay attention to. After a crazy 2016 election, 2018 promises to be pretty divisive.
Universal Basic Income
As more jobs become automated, and the cost of social welfare programs soar, there has been growing support in the last few years to roll out a “Universal Basic Income” for all Americans. A UBI is pretty straightforward. Each American receives a set amount of money from the federal government each month to cover some living expenses. The idea is hardly new, and currently a UBI is being tested in both Finland and Ontario Canada. Now it’s gaining popularity in the United States; not only among progressives, but among some libertarians who see a UBI as a more cost-effective alternative to welfare.
Silicon Valley has become increasingly vocal in their support for a UBI; so much so that Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley based firm that provides “seed” money to startups, is experimenting with giving 100 families in Oakland California between $1000-$2000 a month as a way to cover expenses. Proponents like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk see a UBI as a way to combat automation stealing jobs, and income inequality. The issue gained further attention on June 17th when Hawaii’s legislature passed a bill introducing a UBI to the state budget. Although Alaska has been giving citizens oil money since 1976, if signed into law, Hawaii will become the first state to pass a UBI as a way to combat poverty.
The idea isn’t just popular among progressives. Some libertarians have argued that a UBI is more efficient than the current welfare state. Matt Zwolinski, of the Cato Institute, points out that we spend $668 billion dollars a year on social welfare programs that waste a lot of money. While a Universal Basic Income would not be ideal, writes Zwolinski, it would save the average taxpayer money. Zwolinski even points to Thomas Paine, who supported a “Citizen’s Dividend” that comes from taxing land.
The argument among progressives, and some libertarians, then seems to be “how much does everyone get?” and “what do we do with other welfare programs?” In order for a UBI to be feasible, the current welfare structure would need to end, and that may be the biggest issue of contention moving forward.
Over the last 5 years, social justice issues have re-emerged as a hot button topic in US politics. Incidents like the violent Berkeley riots, and the embarrassment at Evergreen State College show just how polarizing issues surrounding race, gender, and “privilege” can be. While groups like “Black Lives Matter” have encouraged other perceived disadvantaged groups to step up.
Over the last two years we have seen the uproar caused by the North Carolina bathroom bill that put limits on who can use what bathroom (parts of which were repealed in March). The bill cost the city of Charlotte the NBA All-Star game last season, and emboldened companies and universities are refusing to do business in the state. As other state legislatures consider similar bills, it is likely that we will continue to see protests.
Social justice issues are starting to make their way into more and more pieces of legislation. Canada, for example, added “gender identity or expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which means citizens can be prosecuted for expressing their displeasure of the LGBTQ community. At home, Senate Bill 1006 would federally ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Taking away the autonomy of individual states, the senate bill would be redundant for those currently debating similar legislation, and would disrupt the states from acting in their own best interest, even if outsiders find it controversial. While House Bill 1869, the “Paycheck Fairness Act” would eliminate pay differences for men and women, this bill is designed to “eliminate” the “wage gap”.
There was a time where Democrats had a solid hold on rural America. Rural America flocked to the polls to vote for democrats who cared about issues that would affect them; including trade issues, protecting social security, and workers rights. These Democrats were more centrist, and understood their constituency. Over the last decade democrats have been losing this vote at an alarming rate.
Representative Collin Peterson, of MN, is a rurally elected Democrat who claims that the democratic party has become “too liberal“. Focusing on urban areas and social issues at the cost of white america.
Peterson also explains that Republican gerrymandering efforts have helped “pack” democrats into urban districts. This means that even if the state may be evenly divided as far as party affiliation goes, redistricting efforts have helped one party gain an advantage over another. With the Supreme Court agreeing to hear the Wisconsin gerrymandering case Gill v. Whitford, it’s possible that redistricting efforts will change the makeup of the congressional districts, forcing candidates to run a more centrist campaign.
In addition to that, rural america became wary of the democrats for focusing on issues they either don’t care about, or are uncomfortable with. The Obama Administration did their part with the introduction of the “Trans-Pacific Partnership” which rural america felt would cost them their jobs. Democrats continued to alienate rural, white voters by focusing on social issues that don’t affect them, causing many in rural america to feel neglected. It will be interesting to see if the party tries to continue down this path, or make a major adjustment prior to 2018. It will be equally interesting to see how the Republican’s try and take advantage of this ideological shift.