United States: Interview with Jonathan Herzog, Democratic Candidate for Congress in New York’s 10th District

by Dawn Howard 

Jonathan Herzog is a Democratic candidate currently running for US Congress in New York’s 10th District. He is attempting to unseat Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in next year’s election. 

Herzog is a former Iowa campaign staffer for US Presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who is currently polling in sixth place according to the polling average by RealClearPolitics. 

Herzog has adopted many of Andrew Yang’s policy positions, including Yang’s central campaign pillar – The Freedom Dividend – where all Americans above the age of 18 would receive $1000 each month, regardless of their income or employment status. 

Jonathan Herzog holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard, an MBA from NYU Stern, and a JD degree from Harvard Law.

Dawn Howard: When did you first become aware of basic income?

Jonathan Herzog: I learned about Universal Basic Income a long while ago, but first committed myself seriously to fighting to make it a reality when Andrew Yang launched his bid for President. 

DH: Have you been in touch with the Yang campaign or Andrew Yang himself since you announced? If so, what has the response been?

JH: Andrew and the entire Yang campaign have been so awesome and supportive! 

DH: Do you believe that others will follow your lead in running for office on a platform of Universal Basic Income because they were inspired by Andrew Yang’s campaign? 

JH: A number of folks in New York and across the country have already announced their runs for Congress on Universal Basic Income, such as James Felton Keith and Chivona Newsome in NY, as well as David Kim in Los Angeles. It’s incredible to see the momentum – 2020 is the year to bring it across the finish line. 

DH: Given that poverty is typically considered a bipartisan issue, how feasible would it be to implement a small-scale basic income pilot in one of the boroughs of New York City, given the state’s current budget concerns and overall political climate?

JH: We’re seeing a number of local basic income pilots arise in cities across the country, but they’re mainly privately financed. No single entity has the requisite scale or scope to pass basic income other than the U.S. federal government. It’s why I’m running for Congress. The goal is to implement Universal Basic Income nationwide in 2021.

DH: One of the things that has been so fascinating to watch as Andrew Yang’s campaign grows is the way that many Trump supporters and conservatives gravitate towards his message and ideas – particularly The Freedom Dividend of $1000 every month. Have you been receiving a similar response from conservative voters in your district? 

JH: The message truly is “not left, not right, but forward.” My district is heavily Democratic, but even so, the bipartisan appeal of the Freedom Dividend is resoundingly clear. 

DH: Many activists within the basic income community posit that our current economic system (capitalism) is inefficient and unsustainable and that eventually, we must transition to a system that better addresses the core needs of humanity and the planet’s ecosystem. Do you see basic income as a type of incremental step toward this transition?

JH: I think Andrew Yang offers us a meaningful way forward with what he calls “Human-Centered Capitalism,” which essentially refers to a more inclusive set of measurements to measure economic progress and growth, including environmental sustainability, mental health, and freedom from substance abuse, and other quality of life metrics. Basic income is part and parcel of this transition to a more sustainable, healthy, human-centered economy. 

If you would like to learn more about Jonathan Herzog, you can visit his web site: www.herzog2020.com

Follow him on social media:

Twitter/Instagram @jonathanherzog5

Facebook: facebook.com/Herzog2020

US Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Unveils Plan to Enter Democratic Debates

US Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang Unveils Plan to Enter Democratic Debates

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang, whose central campaign pillar is “The Freedom Dividend” (a re-branding of Universal Basic Income, where all American citizens ages 18+ receive $1,000 per month), has unveiled his plan to enter the Democratic debates being held this June and July. On February 18th, Yang blasted out a call-to-action newsletter to his supporters, revealing exactly what it will take to get him onto the debate stage.  

“…we are going to leave nothing to chance,” he wrote. “We have to blow through both criteria to make sure we are in the top 20 and have the chance to speak directly to the American people.”

Yang went on to discuss the new criteria released by the DNC. In addition to a candidate’s polling, the committee will prioritize accepting candidates who have shown they can raise grassroots money from individual donors.

In order to qualify for the debates, candidates will need to:

  1. Receive at least 1% in 3 polls, either nationally or in early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina) between January 1 and mid-May
    or
  2. Receive 65,000 individual donations, including at least 200 from 20 different states.

As of February 4th, Andrew Yang is already at 1% in at least one national Monmouth University poll. Yang has revealed that he’s also reached 200 unique donors per state in over 20 US states.

“We’ve received donations from approximately 16,000 people to date,” Yang wrote. “Our new goal is to have 65,000 people donate at least $1 by May 15th. Across our social media platforms, we have over 130,000 followers and friends, so we know we can do this. Simply put—if everyone on this list donates $1 and gets one friend or relative to donate $1, we’re on the debate stage. Period.”

Since the newsletter was released, the Yang2020 campaign has received an additional 4,000 individual donations. However, Yang still needs approximately 45,000 individual donors to meet the 65,000 unique donor mark.

According to the DNC, they are currently preparing for a scenario in which there could be 20 or more qualified Democratic candidates for the first debate. If that is the case, the top 20 candidates will be selected using a method that favors candidates who meet both the polling and donation thresholds, followed by the highest polling average, then the most unique donors.

If you would like to learn more about Andrew Yang’s campaign platform or make a $1 donation, visit his website.

VIDEO: The Zeitgeist Movement Podcast “In All Seriousness” Round Table Discussion of Basic Income

The 3rd episode of the “In All Seriousness” podcast presented a casual but poignant round table discussion on UBI with Zeitgeist Movement founder Peter Joseph, Rob Dew, and Michael Jordet. Special guests included Larry Cohen, founder of The Economic Security Project and Build the Floor, as well as Scott Santens, an activist and columnist who has been a recipient of a crowd-funded monthly basic income since January 2016.

The group covered a wide range of topics, including the history of basic income as a concept, the ubiquity of automation and its destabilizing effects on the economy, the Left’s rejection of Nixon’s 1969 Family Assistance Plan, the nature of work and what it means to live a meaningful life, the popularity of the Alaska dividend, the effects of poverty on the cognitive development of children, stress and its relationship to political apathy, the role of “The State” in social progress, the blockchain as a game-changing technology, the notion of “the three pillars” (universal healthcare, universal education, basic income) and the “adjacent possible”, the disproportionate benefits of UBI on women and minorities, open-source resource and food management, and the greatest obstacles to the implementation of UBI present today.

You can read more at https://www.reddit.com/r/BasicIncome/ or engage with members of the panel on Twitter:
@tzmglobal @scottsantens @larrycohen

Interview with Topher Brennan, progressive candidate for US Senate in California

Interview with Topher Brennan, progressive candidate for US Senate in California

Topher Brennan is a progressive candidate from the state of California, currently running for US Senate. A self-professed “policy geek”, Brennan holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin and a master’s degree in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame.

Brennan recently put forth a plan for implementing a basic income with his timely essay “The case for a basic income guarantee”. In it, he provides various examples of failures within the current welfare system – specifically the SNAP (food stamps) program – and discusses replacing SNAP, as well as the group of programs known as OASDI, with a basic income.

You can read the full article here.


Dawn Howard: Please give our readers a little background into when and how you first became aware of basic income.

Topher Brennan: I’ve been aware of the concept of basic income for a long time, but I think I may have first heard about it in Robert Heinlein’s novel For Us, The Living, which I would have read back in in college, maybe even high school. I don’t remember what my initial reaction was. I may have thought “sure, that might make sense in the distant future, when everything is automated”—but by high school I was already a big fan of individual autonomy, so it wasn’t long before I figured out you could do something like that right now.

DH: Have you been following any of the current basic income pilot studies happening across the globe? If so, how do the design models and results of these pilots influence your own concept of its potential implementation?

TB: Most of the really exciting research I’m aware of is still ongoing. That said, I’m a huge fan of the charity GiveDirectly. I believe their basic income study hasn’t launched yet, but their research on one-time, no-strings-attached cash transfers provides strong evidence that when you give poor people money it really does lead to big improvements in their lives. It doesn’t all just get wasted on booze or anything like that.

I’m not sure I can claim this influenced my support for basic income—I was pro-basic income long before I knew about GiveDirectly, and the results of their research seem totally unsurprising to me. The reason the free market mostly works well is that (again, for the most part) people are pretty good at looking after their own interests. When politicians talk about creating jobs, no one retorts, “that won’t help, because the people who get the jobs will spend all the money on booze”. But when you talk about anti-poverty programs, suddenly everyone worries about that.

I should also say that when I was writing the article on basic income that I recently publish on Medium, a lot of the specifics were driven by looking at the current state of the social safety net in the United States specifically, and how it sometimes goes wrong. Basic income is a great idea no matter where you are, but I expect the implementation details will be somewhat country-specific.

DH: Given that poverty is typically considered a bi-partisan issue, how feasible would it be to implement a small-scale basic income pilot in California, given the state’s current budget concerns and overall political climate?

TB: You might be able to do it, but it would be tricky. Thanks to proposition 13 (an anti-tax ballot initiative passed when California was a much more conservative state), you’d probably need a ballot initiative to fund it. Also, because most current anti-poverty spending comes from the federal government, and the federal budget as a whole is just bigger (even in terms of percentage of GDP), I think you could shoot for a much bigger basic income right off the bat, working at the federal level.

DH: In your essay ”The case for a basic income guarantee”, you write: 

“Being poor means politicians will try to micromanage your life. Politicians like to say they support helping the poor, but only the deserving, and only for things they really need. Whatever you think of that in theory, in practice, the government is bad at telling who’s deserving. It’s also bad at telling what people really need. All that happens is that we make the lives of people we’re trying to help worse, with nothing to show for it.” 

Given that you recognize the desire for self-determination and autonomy among individuals living in poverty, do you feel that the government’s role is simply providing a monthly or yearly payment, or do you feel that some recipients would benefit from further education and/or government assistance in order to budget their money wisely?

TB: With education, if we’re talking about adults, people have the option of spending their basic income on education for themselves. A free $8,000 per year, for example, would make college much more affordable. The question of to what extent the government should be subsidizing college education, I think, comes down to somewhat technical issues of how much of the benefit of a college education is captured by college graduates, versus being a positive externality. I don’t actually know the answer to that question.

With K-12 education, there are some additional complications. In the United States, there are states where homeschooling is totally unregulated, and the result is some parents end up educationally neglecting their children. That’s not a win for personal autonomy—those kids didn’t make an informed choice to go without a decent education in their early years; their parents decided that for them. And basic reading and math are important skills no matter what you do with your life, so I’m pretty comfortable with the government insisting children learn them.

Which is not to say our current K-12 is perfect by any means. But when I think about things I’d hope to see fixed in the near future, I think about evening out the disparities in school funding so we don’t have supposedly public schools that are de facto private because you can only go to them if your parents can afford the absurd housing prices in the district. What the right thing to do would be, in an ideal world, if we were designing the system from scratch—I don’t know.
As for helping people with budgeting, I think most people who find themselves financially strained become pretty good at budgeting in a hurry because they have to be. You can add various caveats to this—supported decision making can be very helpful for people with intellectual disabilities, for example—but the idea that what poor people really need is help budgeting, at least the way it’s often meant, is a myth.

DH: Even though libertarians, greens and independents do not make up the lion’s share of registered voters in California, libertarians in particular might find certain aspects of your campaign platform appealing and consider voting for you. However, your stance on basic income might turn them off because of its distribution model – specifically that it puts more power in the hands of the federal government. How would you respond to this type of concern from voters who do not want the government running large-scale social welfare programs?

TB: I’d dispute the premise that it puts more power in the hands of the federal government. If it looks that way, it’s because the federal policies I’d like to replace (in part or in whole) are often designed to look smaller than they actually are. I really try to avoid that, because I think it leads to bad policy, even if it would be politically convenient.
For example, the federal government spends over a trillion dollars a year on so-called “tax expenditures”, where the tax code is written a certain way not because it’s the most sensible way to raise money for things the government wants to do, but in the service of some social policy or other.
Tax expenditures are popular because they let politicians say, “it’s not a spending increase, it’s a tax cut!” But they can have perverse effects relative to more straightforward approaches to the same issues. I’m not always sure these consequences are unintended. Because tax expenditures are confusing, they also make it easier to sell one policy to voters and another policy to donors.

Another example is means testing of government programs. It sounds like common sense—government programs should help only those who really need it. And it’s politically convenient, since it can make a program look much cheaper on paper. But means testing is functionally equivalent to combining a much larger program with a large income tax—the tax is just hidden. And because it’s hidden, it’s more likely to be designed in a stupid way where some people wind up with a 95% effective marginal tax rate, and have little reason to, say, try to get a promotion or take on more hours.

So I try, as much as possible, to avoid these policy mistakes—even if it means more work explaining a proposal to people.

DH: Many activists within the basic income community posit that our current economic system (capitalism) is inefficient and unsustainable, and that eventually we must transition out of it. Do you see basic income as a type of incremental step toward this transition – a kind of temporary “band aid”?

TB: That’s a big question! It depends both on what you mean by “capitalism” and what happens with future technological development. The former we can argue about endlessly, and the latter I don’t think anybody knows for certain. I will say this, though—I think most people underestimate how many features of our current economic system are not the natural order of things, or even “what happens under capitalism unless someone reigns the corporations in”, but are the feature of specific government policies, which are often not well-thought-out, or which are designed to benefit the powerful rather than the average person.

Take prescription drugs, for example. I recently heard someone put this very succinctly: if prescription drugs were a free market, you’d be able to order them from Canada. High prescription drug prices are sometimes justified on the grounds that they’re necessary to fund drug research, but I think it’s pretty obvious we could find better ways to fund drug R&D than what we currently have.

And there are lots of things that are like that. So I think we could have a better, fairer economic system that would look quite a bit different than what we have right now, whether you’d end up classifying it as a variety of capitalism or not.


If you would like to learn more about Topher Brennan, you can visit his web site: www.topherbrennan.com

or

Follow him on social media:

@TopherTBrennan

facebook.com/topher.t.brennan

Peter Joseph and David Pakman discuss UBI on The David Pakman Show

Peter Joseph and David Pakman discuss UBI on The David Pakman Show

Peter Joseph, founder of The Zeitgeist Movement and author of the recent book “The New Human Rights Movement” discussed Universal Basic Income (UBI) with David Pakman on The David Pakman Show recently.

The discussion begins at 17:08.

Joseph expressed his view that “UBI is a step towards the acknowledgement, at a minimum, that the system we have is inefficient in its distribution. UBI coupled with creating industries that become socialized through advanced technological means are two steps that could lead us to transforming this society in an incremental way.”

Joseph also described “one big flaw with UBI” and what he called “capitalist contradictions”.

“In order to keep money moving, you have to give people money – through credit expansion. When you provide people with UBI, what you are doing is satisfying a built-in inefficiency within capitalism, which will actually placate the capitalist system if you don’t have a larger view,” he said.

This is a point that many people often miss when discussing the merits of Universal Basic Income. It is important to keep in mind that, in the view of many advocates, UBI is only a Band Aid for a much larger, systemic problem.


Reviewed by Kate McFarland