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Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream
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Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  317 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Advances in technology are creating the next economy and enabling us to make things/do things/connect with others in smarter, cheaper, faster, more effective ways. But the price of this progress has been a decoupling of the engine of prosperity from jobs that have been the means by which people have ascended to (and stayed in) the middle class.

Andy Stern, the former presid
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by PublicAffairs
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Clif Hostetler
Jul 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: current-events
The author, Andy Stern, is the rare person of a labor organizing background who agrees with the business types who proclaim unions will be a dead concept in the future. After losing faith in the ability of unions, which represent only 11% of American workers today, to effect economic change, Stern set out to study the impact of globalization and technology. His conclusion: we can't fight the machines.

In this book Stern articulates a persuasive story about a rapidly emerging economic order in whi
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Automation scares have arisen from time to time but this one looks pretty credible. Already we have seen technology begin to hollow out the middle class and there is no reason to think this trend won't continue. If anything it will accelerate. Maybe it is time to provide a guaranteed income for the large numbers of people who are going to be dislocated by the coming economic transformation. Maybe we should redefine our relation to work because the conditions of the near future will not be anythi ...more
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
One of the most frustrating books I've read. Spends 80+% of the book diagnosing the problem (or name-dropping the individuals he's met, worked with, or interviewed) and very little on the actual implementation of the basic income. There is perhaps a chapter and a half of this book that actually gets into the nitty gritty of basic income and even then doesn't really take arguments against the basic income very seriously. Questions like incentives, inflation, funding, political obstacles are large ...more
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I really wanted to love this book. I am already a believer in the idea of universal basic income and was hoping this book would answer critical questions I still have about how we as a society will survive and thrive in a work-scarce or even work-free world. I'm also curious to know how we can possibly pay for a meaningful UBI (the author's suggestion of $12k/year is not realistic in many states). And how do we avoid disincentivizing work? But this book is really short on content and very long o ...more
Feb 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Fascinating stuff, but almost unbelievably naive considering the political realities laid bare by the 2016 election. Written about 6 months too early, I think.
Travis Tucker
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
I picked up this book hoping to get some good insights on Universal Basic Income -- including some of the more nuanced aspects, including proper sizing, optimum timing and funding as well as the effect it will have. This book did a poor job of addressing these issues.

The bulk of the book (first 150+ pages of a 220 page book) are devoted to the author talking about his background, the current of jobs and the potential for robots to take jobs in the future. I'd recommend that a reader skip these p
Otto Lehto
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Andy Stern's book, Raising the Floor, joins the chorus of progressive voices in favour of Universal Basic Income. What sets this book apart is the personal story of its author, which is prominent on its pages and which gives me hope. The author's point of view feels very refreshing, since it's so rare to find a union guy - let alone a big league ex union boss! - who understands how obsolete the old labour markets are in responding to rapid structural changes.

Stern isn't afraid to challenge many
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I strongly recommend Raising the Floor to anyone interested in learning more about the idea of a Universal Basic Income and its place in today's political conversation. In it, Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union, one of America's largest and most influential unions, describes his journey from championing more traditional labor politics and policies to believing that a UBI is an urgent and necessary solution to the continued success of American workers. This ...more
Nigel Linton
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Stern builds an excellent case for the introduction of a Univsersal Basic Income (UBI).

The main focus of the argument is based around fighting the eventual jobloss which next wave of automation and technology will bring. Stern manages to discuss how this will impact a broad range of job types whilst keeping the examples relevant and understandable.

This is well worth a read for anyone interested in reading more about how create environment that will improve all our lives, not just the super rich.
Lowell Paige Bander
Dec 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Labor unions used to be the most effective means with which to ensure the livelihood of the working class. However, in the face of forces such as globalization, automation, and the gig economy, which undermine the collective bargaining power of unions by centralizing power in the hands of the ultra-rich, this is no longer true. In an eminently readable and succinct text, Stern thoroughly examines the pros and cons of the available solutions and makes the case for a Universal Basic Income (UBI).
Aj Greenman
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Automation is about to displace millions of American workers. The only 2020 candidate taking this issue seriously has been Andrew Yang. We can either brace ourselves against the rise of AI or learn to reorient ourselves around it. This book makes a lot of great points, and I'm glad we have Yang really bringing these ideas out into reality and letting them breathe.
Tony Canas
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great look at an interesting topic, but left me unconvinced. I'm a big fan of UBI, and this book gave me a lot of tools, but it didn't quite give me a killer argument.
Jesse Richards
Feb 26, 2018 rated it did not like it
I think UBI is one of the strongest contenders as the most efficient solution to address our nation's core critical problem: economic inequality. It's urgent that everyone gets to know the concept. But this is a terribly-written book. Only the last chapter is about UBI. The rest of it namedrops every person on earth as the author meets with them to confirm the obvious over and over.
Sep 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Overall good and glad I read it.

Initially (and I know Stern is a big deal but) I felt that the author came off a little too arrogant in the opening chapters. I understand the need to establish your credentials in a space and on a topic, but this was kind of off-putting as it was a brag fest that didn't always seem relevant to the point of the book. But it leveled off as you got in and I don't know the man, so perhaps I'm being too harsh.

The data and information on automatization and how our jobs
Jul 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you don't understand how many jobs will be lost by Artificial Intelligence, robots, technology, the gig revolution, or software - you need to read this book! If you are not aware of the ways that Business replaces full time workers using software - you need to read this book. If you haven't thought about how many jobs will be lost by driverless technology (answer: all cab drivers, delivery personnel, truck drivers, etc) - you need to read this book. Inside you will find one answer to the grow ...more
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Even if you don't agree with the idea of Universal Basic Income, this book is worth a read. If nothing else, it provides some great insight into where the economy is heading and why we should all be worried. He doesn't use this example, but when I was in charge of translations at UnitedHealth Group, I saw first-hand how software is transforming how we think about work. It used to be you hired an actual foreign speaker to sit down and translate, no more. Now a computer does the heavy lifting and ...more
Karel Baloun
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Andy Stern has been America's most successful and important labor leader, and he is moving beyond just Unions. He advocates for Universal Basic Income in a way that even conservatives and libertarians should applaud.

Stern is a gifted story teller, and he calls for UBI through the lives and heartfelt human experience of dozens of people.

He shows a clear and pretty deep understanding of technical trends, and of course labor markets and labor policy.

I really hope this starts a very important conver
Andrew Bacon
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Universal Basic Income is the sort of thing I should hate: it's a government handout. Or is it? This is the question I keep asking myself, and the question becomes louder as the issue of automation looms ever higher over the American people. Self-driving vehicles are by all accounts here already, McDonald's is investing in "McDonald's Go" locations which only need one or two employees, manufacturing jobs are vanishing (a plant in my state closed only a few months ago and hundreds of people lost ...more
Joel Foster
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Before reading Raising the Floor, by Andy Stern, former head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), I had little reason to support the idea of a Universal Basic Income. It seemed a politically impossible idea fraught with the same risks of abuse that plague our current welfare system. But by the end of the book, I came away with a much more positive view towards an idea that not only seems possible but, in a lot of ways, inevitable in our job-scarce future.

For those new to the conc
William Nist
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
With the advent of robotic workers and artificial intelligence, the time for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has arrived. Fewer and fewer jobs with less satisfaction and meaning will be available to people of every advanced country as this era fully develops. UBI is the best way to distribute the fruits of human effort in a time when human effort is not needed to produce the fruit! This is the thesis of this book and it is compellingly argued.

UBI would allow for the elimination of 126 welfare pr
Alexis Cook
Feb 28, 2018 rated it liked it
As I'm researching a debate about whether or not the United States should implement a universal basic income, I was enticed to read this book and learn more about the benefits of a UBI (universal basic income). I was disappointed to find that he didn't discuss more than the mere argument that a UBI would reboot the economy. I expected this book would cover other arguments about implementing a UBI and I even had the expectation that Andy Stern would mention some of the cons to implementing such a ...more
Tiffany Nakamitsu
Jan 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very Compelling - “Why a Universal Basic Income (UBI)?” Author Andy Stern’s supporting arguments span from a solid macroeconomic logic and his thorough understanding of the “Future of Work” that involve ‘replacement of workers’ and an increase in inequality due to what is the natural trajectory in technology, globalization, power of the elite, and etc in the 21st century.

This book is a leading 21st century bipartisan thought-leadership piece on how we can solve poverty in the United States. As
Aug 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was very interested in learning about the ideas about Universal Basic Income.

The author spends a significant part of the book, setting up the need for the UBI. The idea that AI (largely in the form of machine learning), robotics and even the culture behind Uber/Ebay/Air BnB breaks down the idea of a 'job' that people do on a daily basis - and breaks it up into a series of 'tasks' which can be competed for by freelancers around the world working for less and less money. He writes about the grad
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: rational-reading
Five stars for the idea of universal basic income, but only two stars for Stern's handling of it. He spent waaaay too much time describing the problem (to the point that I felt he was beating a dead horse), and not nearly enough time describing how we would implement UBI. I also felt like he didn't know who his audience was - some issues he spent too long explaining to the layman, and other topics (like post-scarcity, etc.) he glossed over as if you were expected to already know what that was. I ...more
Eileen Breseman
May 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a well written book on the argument that we need a Universal Basic Income in the U.S. to meet the evolving world of industry, workers, and the societal basics for the American people in the 21st century. Andy Stern builds a case for his own changing perspective over the years with numerous interviews, experience in the labor unions and in the political realm of the Obama Administration. His last chapters outline how that would work, and from where he sees funding such an endeavor. I high ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
A convincing but shallow look at a intriguing idea that is just starting to emerge as a topic of serious political discussion. Stern makes a good case for the whys of universal basic income but doesn't delve too deeply into the hows, which is where the heart of the discussion about this potentially paradigm-shifting idea and is at time dismissive of some of the key points against the necessity and utility of a guaranteed-payment system. Still, the diversity of voices brought into the narrative t ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
Former SEIU labor boss Andy Stern explores the current and future state of work and employment, looking at technology, innovation, automation, AI, globalization, and the shortcomings of organized labor. By the numbers, the future looks bleak. As a solution, Stern argues convincingly in favor of a universal basic income (UBI), and lays out a thoughtful model of his own, deftly addressing many of the common objections. In fact, Stern's version of UBI was used as the initial template of 2020 presid ...more
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Unions and union leaders are scary. Priest on the top of the pyramid cutting out hearts levels of scary. Author claims he and not the American public elected Obama and I believe him.

The book itself makes some interesting points and predictions but since it lacks any backing to the claims it makes beyond arguments from authority I'm not going to treat it as anything other than self serving backing to preconceived opinions. Coincidentally, I support universal income, I just don't find this book co
James Scheid
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting look at a way to relieve poverty at present and in the future. A suggestion loved by some conservatives and liberals a like. The suggestion is to provide everyone with a universal basic income (UBI) with no strings attached. Administrative costs of welfare programs would be eliminated. Everyone would just receive a check and spend the money as they sit fit. The idea is to provide everyone enough money to meet the basic expenses of life. With technology set to eliminate more and mo ...more
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Stern sets up the situation in a thoughtful, pragmatic but also empathic way. His proposed UBI solution seems to have a lot of merit. This is a very persuasive piece regarding the real possibility of a working UBI to help relieve the increasing poverty and inequality in our country. Thought provoking... I look forward to researching and discussing UBI more as our modern technology continues to evolve and change every aspect of our lives. I especially like that he talks about work from an ideolog ...more
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Andy Stern former president, Service Employees International Union (SEIU); senior fellow, Columbia University's Center for Business, Law and Public Policy.

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