Q: And universal basic income?
A: As opposed to universal income, I would favor Milton Friedman's idea of a negative income tax. You are given some amount of money every year to provide essentially a basic wage, and if you get a job, for every dollar you earn you give back some amount, like 50 cents, or you forego some amount, which incentivizes people to seek ways to increase their income and encourages them to increase or improve their skills in different areas, and that sort of ties into job training and education.
Q: Talking about education, how might access to it be expanded?
A: I went to undergraduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. When I went there, it was a ghetto. We sat in a building that was cinder block with a brick face on it with linoleum tiles on the floors and these wooden paddle desks. The last time I went to Wharton, it was the frickin' Taj Mahal — marble sidewalks, the whole shebang. I am picking my alma mater to pick on so I don't pick on somebody else's. These schools have huge endowments, and why are they not focusing their endowment on advancing a cause of essentially free education or at least education that provides complete support for people below certain income levels? I think it's a travesty. I honestly won't give money to the school, because I don't want to see it going to bricks and mortar and making the place look better when people who would be qualified to come there can't afford to do it. And, of course, if we had more equal access to education, it would help address some of the issues around race and poverty.
Q: It's expected that a Biden administration will revisit the Trump tax cuts. Any thoughts on that?
A: I was the economic adviser for Howard Schultz in his attempt to run for president. One of the things we discussed was the corporate tax cuts that the current administration put through, and I made the case to Howard that it was a great idea because it encouraged investment and so on and so forth over time — which I now sort of recant because it encouraged stock buybacks and dividends.
Q: So are you saying we should hike corporate taxes?
A: The thing that Howard said to me that I thought was very interesting, and I totally bought into it, is if we are going to give a tax cut to a corporate America, what did we get back for it? Why do companies that don't offer health insurance pay the same tax rate as companies that do? It doesn't make sense. I think that government policy can be used as a tool to address issues like this. You want to keep your corporate tax rate? Condition it on providing healthcare for your employees, providing tuition assistance, providing job training, providing diversity. So you can have your tax cut, but we only want the tax cut to be for companies that are being responsible.
Q: How would any of this stuff you are talking about be possible with a divided government?
A: I would hope that both sides would recognize there are compromises and bridges to be built here that can actually work for both of them and support their agendas. While they might not get fully what they want, they can get a lot of what they want.(c)2020 Los Angeles Times Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC