Joe Biden Slams Universal Basic Income: ‘A job Is About a Lot More Than a Paycheck’

Those who support the idea of a universal basic income are "class clueless," former Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview Wednesday.

Universal basic income, a program that would guarantee a minimum income for all Americans, has been gaining popularity as job displacement due to advances in technology continue. A recent Gallup poll found 48 percent of Americans support a universal basic income for workers who are replaced by artificial intelligence.

But Biden, who is rumored to be eyeing a presidential run in 2020, said he does not believe that’s the way “America is built.” Instead, it’s a concept created by Silicon Valley executives who are missing the point, he said on Crooked Media’s Pod Save America, which is hosted by former Obama staffers.

“Every time someone would lose a job, my dad would say, ‘You know, Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity, it’s about respect.' It’s about your place in the community. It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and saying, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK.’ That’s what it’s about. Dignity,” he said. “Getting an annual wage, you sit home and do nothing. You strip people of their dignity.”

GettyImages-873668164 Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks onstage during Glamour’s 2017 Women of the Year Summit at the Brooklyn Museum. Biden has said that he does not support the idea of a universal basic income. Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Glamour

Biden is not alone in expressing concern about what universal basic income would do to Americans' sense of purpose. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has come to similar conclusions. "If there's no need for your labor, what's your meaning?" Musk asked at the World Government Summit in Dubai last year. "Do you feel useless? That's a much harder problem to deal with."

Biden clarified that if there were no alternative, he might be able to get on board with the idea. “It’s like a rational welfare system. But I don’t know anybody on welfare that says ‘Boy, I’m really proud I’m on welfare,’” he said. “So the point is we don’t pay enough attention to what really is at the core of class cluelessness. We mean well, but we’re divided into a professional class now, and everybody else.”

Biden also took a jab at Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a former Democratic presidential contender. “It’s not just the millionaires and billionaires,” Biden said.

Sanders, who has said he’s considering a 2020 presidential run, has indicated that he supports universal basic income, though he’s kept his answers fairly vague. “If we replace a dangerous job with a machine, that’s a good thing,” he said during a Michigan town hall in 2017. “But that doesn’t mean you simply displace the worker and throw him or her out on the street. That raises the question of basic income for everybody. It’s an issue that’s not gotten the attention it deserves, but it’s hovering in front of us and has to be dealt with.”