By CRAIG RHODES
We are fast entering an era in which there's going to be a chronic shortage of jobs for millions looking for employment. That trend is only going to accelerate. Everyone's job is on the line now. If we don't begin to address this problem then we will suffer the consequences of long term, mass unemployment and political alienation of millions because jobs are fast disappearing primarily due to automation.
I believe that a Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a viable solution for many of our nation’s problems as well as those problems on the horizon. Several nations and states are already beginning to experiment with a UBI in recognition that its time has come. There have been many suggestions as to how to fund a UBI and I think I have one that could help solve the funding problem.
Here's a proposal which is but one of many. It's strategic not tactical. The details can be worked out in committee negotiations.
Corporations are stealing or "data mining" nearly every piece of online data that we as individuals produce and then selling it to the highest bidders including the NSA and other government agencies for hundreds of billions if not trillions per year. It's an unregulated modern day gold rush happening under our very noses without notice.
There’s a reason we aren’t billed by Google, Facebook free apps and more. We’re not their consumers, we’re their product. The lion’s share of profits made by Google, Facebook, AT&T, Verizon, Cambridge Analytica and scores of other corporations no one has ever heard of are from the data we individually produce daily. Facebook’s billion plus users are the largest unpaid workforce in history.
And if you think you’re immune then you’re wrong. If you use a credit card, shop at Krogers, use a wifi router at home, use an Android device, have a smart tv, have cable, a home computer, use a smartphone, have a smart device in your home such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Home, or smart thermostat, then they’re stealing your data and profiting from it.
Google was taken to court in 2013 by 38 state attorney generals over its Google Streetcar. The purpose given by Google for the Streetcar was for mapping purposes but Google acknowledged in court that instead it was stealing data from unencrypted routers in homes and businesses. Passwords, emails, pictures, contact lists, medical information and more were stolen from unsuspecting computer users. Google was fined $7 million, which is a pittance considering that its profits are more than the next 6 corporations combined. And since we don’t pay Google for their services, from where do those profits come? It’s not from advertising but instead the sales of our data.
Another example is Facebook. Few people read the Terms of Service Agreements when they agree to use online products like those offered by Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Buried in Facebook’s multi-page, fine print agreement amongst the legalese and jargon is a passage that gives Facebook the right to commandeer the camera and/or mic on your smartphone without your knowledge. They can theoretically see and hear everything you’re doing in real time and upload it. Facebook paid $1 billion dollars for Instagram. At the time Instagram had 13 employees. What made Instagram so valuable for FB to have paid $1 billion? Instagram is valuable because it owns all of the billions of pictures and videos uploaded to its site according to its Terms of Service Agreement. They can use it however they see fit including selling it. Now Facebook owns that data.
If a corporation profits from our data, whether it be browsing history, emails, buying habits, contact lists, pictures, medical histories etc. then they should have to pay us for it just as we have to pay for their data in the form of movies, music, software and more. Such compensation might go a long way toward alleviating our chronic employment problems as well as help the working class who are losing jobs faster than any other demographic. It would not be welfare nor would it involve raising taxes. It would be payment for services rendered in the form of a subsistent guaranteed income similar to the Alaskan model.
Copyright law should protect us in the same way it protects corporations and as such should be amended or rewritten.. Terms of Service Agreements should be outlawed. Data mining should be called what it is…theft.
The royalties could be paid into a government administered fund similar to Social Security or Medicare. Or they could be paid to a non-profit private organization like ASCAP which oversees royalty fees for musicians.
Manufacturing jobs are not going to come back. Driverless vehicles including cabs and long haul trucks will soon eliminate the need of human drivers. And in time automation will begin to affect the professional class as well including lawyers, accountants and more. Those who depended on such jobs will have to be dealt with or our nation is going to suffer catastrophic consequences.
It’s time to begin to consider a Universal Basic Income.
Craig Rhodes is a retired teacher who lives on the edge of the Shawnee National Forest in Massac County, Ill.