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Leonid Bershidsky

Obama and Bezos Could Make Basic Income Work

The ex-president should persuade tech billionaires to fund universal pay plans. That’s the best way to see whether they’d work.

Food for thought. 

Food for thought. 

Photographer: Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

This week, former U.S. president Barack Obama tentatively endorsed the idea of a universal basic income. The fortune of another American, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, reached $150 billion. Could Bezos and his peers make the UBI dream work? 

“It’s not just money that a job provides,” Obama said in his Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg on Tuesday, after mentioning the threat new technology poses to jobs. “It provides dignity and structure and a sense of place and a sense of purpose. So we’re going to have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income, review of our workweek, how we retrain our young people, how we make everybody an entrepreneur at some level.”