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United States: Democrats add basic income to a climate change addressing plan

It started on Tuesday, 13th of November 2018, with a 200 large committee of environmental activists (Sunrise Movement) crowding Nancy Pelosi’s office premises at the Capitol Building. The activists called upon Pelosi, the Democrats House speaker, to push for a real, ambitious and wide-reaching plan to curb climate change. That alone would probably amount to little as far as media coverage was concerned. However, the event was mediatized by recently elected Democrat MP and young political leader Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who stepped in and weighted her support, attracting lots of media attention.

What first seemed to be the aftermath of yet another Democrat internal dispute over climate change issues, turned out to be a positive reinforcement between Democratic leaders to start pushing for a deep strategy which can eventually set real policy to solve the climate crisis. Recent Pelosi efforts to revive energy independence and global warming related issues in the Househad turned out inconsequential, which only made the new Resolution presented by Alexandria stand out even more.

This Resolution aims to have a so called “Plan for a Green New Deal” ready by no later than January 1st 2019, and a final draft legislation by April 1st 2019 (with a proviso that it should not be extended, under any circumstance, further than March 1st 2020). This plan, supported by both the Sunrise Movement activist group and the Justice Democrats (a pioneering partnership), ambitiously aims to completely decarbonize the US economy, ramp up renewables to 100% and eliminate poverty in all United States within a 10 year timespan.

The ending poverty part of the plan starts with the provision of a job guarantee, coupled with training and education opportunities for all Americans, to assist in the transition to abetter (for most people), decarbonized economy. The concept of a job guarantee had already been given attention by Democrat “heavy-weights” like former President Obama and his Vice Joe Biden, putting an emphasis on its (alleged) non-monetary advantages (at least in the United States context) – e.g.: dignity, sense of purpose, recognition. However, basic income has appealed to Democrats in the last few years (adding Bernie Sanders and even Hillary Clinton into the pot), and so it appears under number four of Alexandria’s plan, after the taking care of disadvantaged communities affected by climate change, and reducing deep inequalities – racial, regional, gender-based, income and access to infrastructure – within the territory. However, and according to basic income activists such as Guy Standing, Scott Santens and Annie Miller, basic income could have an important role precisely in addressing these last two issues.

The Resolution clearly states that environmental issues cannot be separated from social/economic problems, hence the focus on both. Such deep connection has already been considered and analysed by several thinkers of our time, such as Phillipe van Parijs, André Gorz and Charles Eisenstein. Therefore, the moment in time, the nature of the document and its content seems to be aligned with the demands of today’s crisis, particularly in the United States. Finally, on the financial side of the Resolution, the idea is to use Federal Reserve funds, the foundation of a new public bank and/or theuse of public venture funds to cover for the Plan’s expenses, hence focusing on public finances and asset management. That certainly appeals more to a Commons-oriented solution to environmental and social issues, rather than a private-donor type of approach such as a few coming from Silicon Valley recently.

 

More information at:

David Roberts, “AlexandriaOcasio-Cortez is already pressuring Nancy Pelosi on climate change”, Vox, November 15th 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez websiteGreen New Deal

KarlWiderquist, “Obamaspeaks favorably about UBI but stops short of endorsing it (for the secondtime)”, Basic Income News, July 18th 2018

AndréCoelho, “Joe Biden believes thatjobs are the future, rather than basic income”, Basic Income News, September 23rd 2018

Phillipe Van Parijs, “PoliticalEcology: From Autonomous Sphere to Basic Income”, Basic Income Studies, December 2009

Daniele Fabbri, “Douglas Rushkoff Warns That Universal Basic IncomeIs Just Silicon Valley’s Latest Scam”, Basic Income News, November 25th 2018

About Andre Coelho

André Coelho has written 216 articles.

Activist. Engineer. Musician. For the more beautiful world our hearts know it's possible.

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The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

One comment

  • Max Ghenis

    A few issues in this article:
    * The 13th of December hasn’t happened yet.
    * Obama and Biden have not endorsed a job guarantee. They’ve praised the virtues of work, as all politicians do, but that’s entirely different from a program which would add tens of millions of Americans to the government payroll.
    * This wasn’t “Democrats,” it was Ocasio-Cortez. The Green New Deal is not Democratic Party policy.
    * UBI was in AOC’s Green New Deal from the start; it wasn’t added after the fact.

    I’d also add that the job guarantee is clearly the crux of the Green New Deal, given AOC ran on a JG and it’s being embraced by DSA and other organizations that clearly favor JG over UBI. Sunrise also now opposes a carbon tax, which could lead to a small UBI via carbon dividend. A hidden bullet point about UBI that she’s never spoken of doesn’t change that.

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