We stand at a crossroads. Our great depression threatens to create a larger and more permanent underclass in the United States, as Congress loots the economic system for over $5 trillion in bailouts for the wealthy. Brave protestors and disaffected rioters have taken to the streets to speak truth to American white supremacy, even in the midst of a pandemic that threatens the lives of Black and working-class Americans the most.
George Floyd’s murder inspires unimaginable pain. We lost a soul, a neighbor, a friend, and for many—a brother—to the hands of injustice. Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, and Kalief Browder. Countless people have been stolen from their families. From every city in America. Because they were black.
To say that Black Americans live in a state of terror at the hands of unjust policing, vigilantes, and the criminal justice system is an understatement. To many, it is a militarized occupation of the cities built by their labor, in this century, and the labor of their ancestors dating back almost four hundred years.
If you name a disease in American society, whether it be heart attacks or COVID-19, poverty, or evictions, Black Americans are disproportionately brutalized. The underlying disease is white supremacy, in all its heinous and hidden forms. It hides in white systems. And it hides in white people’s hearts. The United States never achieved freedom for Black Americans. As Fredrick Douglass noted, as wage slavery and disenfranchisement replaced slavery after the Civil War, “Emancipation for the Negro was freedom to hunger, freedom to the winds and rains of heaven, freedom without roofs to cover their heads… it was freedom and famine at the same time.”
Universal basic income, an unconditional payment to all rooted in the belief that everyone has a right to natural resources and the economic fruits of our labor, represents a way to make economic freedom a reality. For Black and brown Americans, it will help counter many of the innumerable barriers to voting: the cost of voting documents, forced relocation, the inability to take off work to vote, intergenerational nihilism, and the economic insecurity that makes it impossible for poor Americans to run for office themselves. Universal Basic Income posits that an individual’s right to life, particularly in a world scourged by a pandemic, should not depend on the profit-driven interest of a corporate employer. Its philosophy contends that the more conditions put on accessing economic relief, the harder it is for people to use and access it — as any person who has received welfare or applied for unemployment benefits will tell you.
In his address to Stanford in 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that riots “are the language of the unheard” for those denied suffrage or recourse through the political system. Less appreciated is what he said immediately after: “Now one of the answers it seems to me, is a guaranteed annual income, a guaranteed minimum income for all people, and for all families of our country.”
Rooting his philosophy in a politics of hope, King called on us to implement policies that fundamentally transform government. Because millions have taken to the streets, the elite finally listens in fear, making this transformation possible. Universal Basic Income is fundamental for restoring democracy, a social contract that lays the groundwork for peace and justice. We need this compromise more than ever as inequality reaches record levels, authoritarian regimes strip ordinary people of their rights, and the destruction of our planet continues unabated. With more climate and pandemic crises on the horizon, how long will it take elites to realize that this economic system threatens the rise of violent populism?
As authoritarianism reasserts itself in the United States, Brazil, India, China, and Russia with mass surveillance and information warfare, the window for a peaceful resolution is fast departing. Now more than ever, Black and brown Americans and their allies have shown us that our only hope is taking action to demand our rights be protected. And we must be willing to risk our lives to ensure those rights are backed by transformational policies like Universal Basic Income.
Let us use this moment to demand comprehensive racial and economic justice for our nations. We owe George Floyd no less.
Article By James Davis
Picture Creator: Jesse Costa
Picture Copyright: Jesse Costa/WBUR
Alexander Solovev, Social movement “Basic income Russia Tomorrow”, has written several articles about what is happening in ex-USSR countries now on what measures governments are taking to protect the citizens of their countries during the coronavirus pandemic. These articles have already been published in Russia and Ukraine. Irina Soloveva has provided English translations.
For the most recent news from Russia, see the third article and its translation
The articles can be found here:
1) https://ubiru.org/2020/04/21/ot-kommunizma-do-garantirovannogo-osnovnogo-dohoda/ (in Russian)
https://ubiua.com/2020/04/21/vid-komunizmu-do-garantovanogo-osnovnogo-dohodu/ (in Ukrainian)
2) https://ubiru.org/2020/04/14/ispytanie-koronavirusom-covid19/ (in Russian)
3) https://ubiru.org/2020/05/17/osnovnoy-dohod-v-rossii-vy-serezno/ (in Russian)
An English translation of the first article can be found here, of the second article here, and of the third article here (translations by Irina Soloveva).
In 2010, Götz Werner and Adrienne Goehler wrote 1000€ für Jeden: Freiheit, Gleichheit, Grundeinkommen (1000€ for everyone: Freedom, Equality, Basic Income). Now Adrienne Goehler has written a new book, Nachhaltigkeit braucht Entschleunigung braucht Grundein/auskommen ermöglicht Entschleunigung ermöglicht Nachhaltigkeit (Sustainability needs Deceleration needs Basic Income | Livelihood allows Deceleration allows Sustainability).
To see further details, click here.
To read an interview with Adrienne Goehler, click here.
Adrienne Goehler has provided the following translation of the website page about the book:
If we had unrestricted basis income for everyone, what would the consequences be? Would it increase freedom and equality and so dim down the ever faster accelerating times? Would it help to save the environment with its restricted resources?
Over the last two years, Adrienne Goehler has been addressing these and other burning questions of our time while working at the “Institut für transformative Nachhaltigkeitsforschung” in Potsdam. In this book that presents the results of her inquiries, she embarks on a journey from research to politics to art. She invited people from the most diverse parts of society to contribute essays, interviews, stories, images, and artistic interventions concerning the relationship of sustainability, deceleration, and basic income. She constellated insights into the financial world with suggestions contributed by experts in agriculture, development policy, climate change, and ecology. Artists address the most important questions of our time: What do we need for a good life and do we have enough of it for all of us? How will “work” look like in the future, and who will be employed? If we learn to think of unpaid and poorly paid social work as equally important as other kinds of work, will that lead to more gender equality? How do we identify meaningful tasks that would fulfill our lives? And last not least: Would implement an unconditional universal basic income as a basic human right be in tune with the seventeen goals of sustainability, as declared by the United Nations? The book offers insights into the possibilities and contradictions of our actions. It presents all the important aspects of contemporary debates concerning universal basic income. A passionate wake-up call: We need to break out of frozen patterns of thinking and acting, strive for knowledge, and move around more freely.
Complaints about acceleration were already associated with industrialization, but in its present extent, its intensification and radicalization, it no longer concerns only working conditions, but the whole of life. Acceleration has totalized itself. The philosopher Byung-Chul Han, author of the book “Fatigue Society”, describes the most important change from capitalism in Marx’s time, when factory owners and workers faced each other in a clearly defined relationship of exploitation, to today’s self-exploitation relationships, in which people became entrepreneurs of themselves, caught in the illusion of self-realization. Thus neo-liberalism formed the oppressed worker into a free entrepreneur who worked incessantly on his self-optimization. We are constantly saving time through faster transportation, fast food, faster information media and tools, and therefore we are packing more and more into the day. Hartmut Rosa calls it, “quantity increase per time unit”. We believe that we have to be available 24/7, as if we were all on call at all times. The present with its unreasonable demands makes us pant, our fantasy lies idle under states of exhaustion and multiple fears. We find ourselves in a hamster wheel whose speed we cannot determine and which many believe we cannot leave. The significantly high increase of depression and burnout are symptoms of this too much, which is at the same time a too little. The time researcher Barbara Adam therefore states: “We need not only an ecological ‘footprint’, but also a ‘timeprint’. I remember with longing “Momo”, the character in Michael Ende’s novel. Momo realized that anyone who has the time of mankind has unlimited power. She brought back time stolen by grey ‘time thieves’ to the people, when she realized that by saving time people had forgotten to live in the now and enjoy the beauty in life. And I am thinking of John Franklin, the polar explorer, whom Stan Nadolny memorialized in his novel “The Discovery of Slowness”, because his perception refused everything fast and superficial and transformed slowness into calm. Time and the feeling of permanent acceleration, breathlessness, is the subject of many interviews. I also feel connected to the idea of deceleration as a further prerequisite for the chance to lead a sustainable life. Hartmut Rosa, who imagines the process of the great transformation as successful only in connection with a different way of dealing with time, is also connected to this idea. And with a basic income.
In addition to the immense challenges outlined above, there is another Herculean task: the comprehensive redefinition of life and work as a result of ongoing digitalization, with which gainful employment will change qualitatively and quantitatively in a variety of ways, some of them very fundamentally. In conjunction with the increasing importance of the service sector, a working society is emerging in which a growing part of the population does not have continuous, let alone lifelong, gainful employment, but instead works independently or on a project-based basis, often accompanied by poorer pay and greater insecurity.
With the start of the digital age in 2002, people were able to store more information digitally than in analogue form for the first time. Another ten years later, the term ‘Work 4.0’ came into circulation to describe the fourth industrial revolution.
Since then, there have been a large number of studies that look at the impact on working life to date. Many of them assume a significant loss of traditional jobs, which will in future be done by machines, and predict radical changes. A frequently quoted – and now also widely criticized – study by the scientists Osborne and Frey from Oxford University assumes that 47 percent of gainful employment in the USA is at high risk of being automated in the coming years. The Davos World Economic Forum estimated in 2016 the number of jobs that will be lost in the next five years in the 15 most important industrial and emerging countries as a result of the “fourth industrial revolution”, 5 million. Women’s jobs were particularly affected. Companies such as Siemens, SAP, Telecom and the big ones in Silicon Valley agreed with these forecasts, which clearly boosted the discussion about an unconditional basic income, because it was strengthened by a rather unexpected side.
In April BIEN’s Executive Committee agreed some plans to feature the growing public attention around basic income as a response to the Coronavirus crisis, in an informative and critical way. We launched the new BIEN Bulletin, which is up and running. We also agreed a BIEN zoom-cast to be anchored by Louise Haagh, Sarath Davala and Jamie Cook. Finally, BIEN’s academic blog the Navigator, will feature the Covid-crisis in its first edition, to be launched this Autumn.
We are pleased today to publish the first episode of the BIEN Conversations Zoom Cast, in which some of the general themes we envisage will run through the series of dialogues are sketched.
To watch the video, click here.
The Zoom Cast does not aim to generate BIEN positions, and does not reflect BIEN positions. The opinions of the anchors and guests are their own.
The aim of the Zoom cast is to fill a gap in the coverage of Covid and basic income, by reflecting critically on both the opportunities and risks which this new context for the discussion about basic income creates.
What is the relationship of a prospective basic income with other economic security schemes, such as Furlough in Britain? How does the existing labour market affect the need for cash grants and the government response? What can we learn from cases such as the US, where the government has extended what looks like a rich-tested temporary UBI, in the form of flat income grants to individuals of 1200$ (for anyone earning less than 125K$)? To what extent it this response a feature of the US labour market context, including the spectre of huge job losses? In India and parts of Eastern Europe, with large labour migrant populations being either stuck or forced to return to their home country without income security, the role of a potential temporary unconditional cash grant scheme addresses deeper problems of labour migration.
What about the preparedness for Covid in different countries? Are there lessons for basic income from the differences in state capacity and social organisation which country responses to Covid reveal? For example, countries which have been able to track and reduce instances of Covid have needed less extensive lock-down restrictions and in turn the economic outlook may be better. Contrasting examples show vividly how the need for and capacity to support basic income-like schemes and transitions may be at odds: greater need often comes with less capacity. What implications can we draw of relevance for the wider debate from this sort of scenario?
Other issues the Zoom cast series hopes to cover include the relationship of basic income debate, rationale, and prospects with larger questions affecting the conditions in which basic income be can be realised and be effective. Relevant background factors include post-covid servicing and potential restructuring or relief of public debt, and government-led choices about austerity versus social investment. Debates which pit basic income against other public policy measures will be more likely where short-term debt servicing trumps long-term social investment and planning. Some say that short-term recovery measures can be turned into a permanent basic income scheme. But is it that simple? How do administrative, political and funding logics intersect? What is already clear is that in the post-covid context the debates about what motivates basic income, and if choices need to be made, which features of a UBI matters most in a transitional context, will only become more urgent. Perhaps we need to accept these choices and their answers will look different in different places. A theme that has always motivated me however is the importance in general of emphasizing basic income as an institutional innovation, which is linked not only with unconditionality but also with the scheme’s permanency.
Permanency is key to a UBI’s impact on health and motivation, and thus the sense of freedom, and to the potential to support other public policies. Without permanency, the fit of basic income to other economic institutions and to development transitions such as towards a green economy, are harder to envisage.
Permanency of basic income is accepted as an inbuilt feature of UBI by most experts, but it is lost sight of in public debates in favour of short-term needs – understandably, and this tendency becomes naturally more prominent in crisis conditions. However, being able to maintain a long-term perspective, with an eye on the advantages of permanence can also be argued to be even more important at critical junctures such as these, including to avoid an impression that basic income is essentially a crisis or anti-poverty measure.
All these considerations, and many others, are harder to balance in moments of, respectively, opportunity and crisis.
In the Bien Conversations series, we hope to raise some of these and other issues through a dialogue that engages events, and their regional dimensions, whilst also brining the long-standing debates to bear on our reflections.
The format of the Conversations series will be a discussion of the news and events, combined with a focus on regional experiences and on topical issues, led by the anchors and with the presence of guests from around the world.
feature the growing public attention around basic income as a response to the Coronavirus crisis.
Louise Haagh, BIEN Chair
To watch the video, click here.
Time for a new story
A corona is the halo of light around the solar eclipse. The coronavirus crisis can ensure a more balanced economy. Care and solidarity must support our economy and society.
Under a crystal-clear sky and the chirping of birds, our economy glides into a state of slow motion. Foremost, the virus is a drama and poses a great risk for society and its people. Next to that, it is also a strange experience. It is quiet, mostly dogs with their owners populate the streets.
Only “vital functions” are fulfilled. Non-vital employees have to stay at home or work from home. They are not really necessary. Childcare is only available for people who work in healthcare, and other employees that we really cannot do without. The rest must arrange childcare themselves. Raising children is a vital function in society, and suddenly childcare is too.
This is remarkable. Our view of the economy and income is rapidly changing. Our values change. The term “Working Netherlands” takes on a different meaning than before. Our health is number one, and better-paid employees sit at home these days. We have traded shopping for a quiet walk. Nature makes itself heard, people no longer dominate everything.
And that new reality leads, next to all the illness and disruption, to crucial reflection. Considering how we have organized our society and our economy. We reflect on the value of well-paid, low-paid, and unpaid labor for the economy and our society. We reflect on the value of (working) time. And we reflect on what everything is all about.
Ever since the coronavirus spread throughout the world, there is great appreciation for the people who work in healthcare. Everyone now sees that these vital functions are worth a lot, but that at the same time they are not the highest-paying jobs.
It started with applause from balconies in Spain and Italy, followed by applause and flags in the Netherlands. A standing ovation. Professionals take care of the sick and are at risk themselves. This crucial interest is now visible and visibly appreciated.
In addition, there are care activities that are not paid. We also applaud all these unpaid people! Unpaid care activities, such as care for children, family, for the earth, the environment, social contacts, and culture, are vital as well. And this is more visible as well. In this time of crisis in the Netherlands, we are seeing more solidarity and more unpaid voluntary initiatives.
A different world
The current old economy is being hit hard, and we will soon have to deal with it when this is over. We are curious to hear what Prime Minister Rutte will say on behalf of the national government. Will it again be: “Buy the car you wanted for a long time”, trying to stimulate consumerism? Or does this crisis bring a different vision and a different world closer than ever?
Will there be a reflection on our incomplete society with our focus on rules and procedures? We need a vision of how we can organize society differently. A society where not money but people are completely central again.
Once again: paralyzing the current economy gives us time to reflect on this and think about a different economy. An economy in which we realize that it mainly consists of services and care. An economy in which solidarity and security of existence are paramount.
Making unpaid work visible
The crisis is a disaster, but it also shows us where we come short. And it brings up essential questions. How can we take better care of each other? How can we take better care of our Earth? How can we also make unpaid intrinsically-motivated care work visible in our economic model?
We should think about care credits. Some examples: a pension for unpaid caregivers, a universal global price for oxygen, better reimbursements for volunteers. And yes, we should consider a universal basic income.
These proposals and ideas can be a lever for changing values and appreciation for all the (unpaid) care work and solidarity that is now visible in this crisis. And these measures can be a safeguard to achieve a different society and a new economic model. Because there is no one who has never been taken care of, and everyone will ever take care of someone.
A corona is the halo of light around the solar eclipse. A fragile light shines behind the dark. The coronavirus crisis can provide a more balanced picture of the economy. It is not the banks and stock markets, but it is solidarity and care that support our economy and society.
It’s time for a new story.
Jan Atze Nicolai
Political thinker and poet
Member of the Board of Vereniging Basisinkomen (BIEN member)a
Cash-for-corona: why the current policy proposal being discussed in Spain has nothing to do with a universal basic income
This article was updated on the 19th April 2020
Since the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent social and economic lockdown, there have been numerous appeals from economists, journalists, public figures and policy makers, that the time was ripe for the implementation of a universal basic income. However, the media and public discussion of the imminent need for a universal basic income does not resonate with the measures which are currently being discussed for implementation to tackle the economic crisis derived from the coronavirus pandemic.
In Spain, there has been recent discussion to implement a minimum living income (ingreso minimo vital, IMV, in spanish) as a means of alleviating the economic downturn that is approaching. Some media outlets (see for instance the posts in Bloomberg, the independent, Business Insider, The Local, or Forbes) have used the concept of a universal basic income, instead of a minimum income, to repot the current policy proposals being discussed in Spain. The term basic income was even used by a Spanish journalist in an interview with the third Vice-president of the Spanish government, Nadia Calviño, when she asked her about the minimum income policy that is currently being discussed.
The media’s inaccurate portrayal of Spain’s minimum income policy is not only causing confusion amongst the general population or public opinion, but is also misleading political leaders. Some British members of parliament for instance have tweeted about the possibility that Spain will be introducing a universal basic income. See for instance, Rebecca Long Bailey, sharing the Morning Star’s news post, Douglas Chapman’s tweet, or Dr Philippa Whitford, sharing the Independent’s post.
Despite the media’s insistence in using the label of a basic income, the current policy in question is far from a universal and unconditional policy as such. Although the Spanish government is still considering the implementation details, Minister of Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivà confirmed in a recent interview that this policy is a minimum income to be targeted to vulnerable households, and the generosity will be dependent on the the family typology (mono-marental households will receive more generous quantities) and upon the number of number of children. In a recent article by La Vanguardia, the quantity has been stipulated as for 500 euros for individuals living by themselves, and up to 1000 euros for families with children. Currently, the ministry is working in the elaboration of household typologies and calculating how many households would be eligible for such benefit. However, although the generosity has not been defined still, it is known that this measure will not be temporary but permanent, as a last resort safety net that is more durable than other types of benefits.
This is a non-contributory cash payment, which adds to current policies in different ways: those who have exhausted their unemployment benefits can have access to it, and those who are not eligible for unemployment benefits will have access to it if they comply with other criteria. Very importantly, in principle this is a permanent measure, so it is not exhausted until the recipient is employed. Such a design is convenient to target particular vulnerable groups of people like domestic workers without contracts, or self-employed people who have seen their activity come to a halt. According to calculus made by the minister of employment, Yolanda Diaz, this measure could benefit a total of 5 million people, which is close to 10% of the Spanish population.
Although it adds to current policies in several ways, this is far from a basic income in various ways as it is not individual, unconditional or universal, which are three of the key characteristics of the so called universal basic income policy that some media outlets are are using to label the future policy that will be implemented in Spain. Quite on the contrary, the type of policy being discussed is a non-contributory last resort benefit that will go to the most vulnerable households, and precisely, will be given to households and not individuals, closer to current non-contributory pensions than a basic income, as summarised in the table below:-
IMV (current proposal being discussed in Spain)
No: the aid is conditional on the number of children, previous income, household typology
No: households; currently elaborating a household typology and calculating the number of households that will be covered
Not only a cash-for-corona policy
The minimum living income currently on the political agenda in Spain is not a unique response to coronavirus. The implementation of such a policy was part of the governmental agreement signed between the two coalition parties PSOE and Podemos, already in 2019, as specified in article 2.4.2. of this document. In this scenario, there was an estimation of 600 euros per person, with some households reaching to a top 1,200 euros and with an approximate cost of 10.000 million euros. During an interview in early April, in La Sexta channel, the third Vice-president, Nadia Calviño announced that the introduction of the IMV that is currently being discussed was intended as a pilot of the policy that was agreed upon in the governmental agreement in 2019. In this sense, regardless of the shape that this policy takes now, its implementation is intended to be structural and with a permanent character.
Yet another re-appropriation of the UBI label
Once more however, the media response has been to appropriate the name of universal basic income to label policies that are far from it. In fact, the whole package of policies that comprise the government’s emergency response to the coronavirus resonate with the same targeted and means-tested logic of welfare state comprised of a patchwork of benefits to cover different needs, with many individuals falling through the cracks. The government has already implemented the ERTEs (temporary regulation expedients of employment), in order to prevent mass unemployment, a moratorium on mortgages, a fiscal moratorium for self-employed workers, with benefits for those who have seen their activity massively reduced, and, which belong to the same rhetoric of a patchwork of programs rather than an effective safety net without any cracks, like universal basic income. due to the complexity of the different conditions’ individuals face and are not captured by the all the series of programs and administrative processes.
This emergency policy took speed yesterday, in ameeting between Pablo Iglesias, Yolanda Diaz -Minister of Employment-, Jose Luis Escrivà -Ministerof Inclusion, Social security and Mogration- and key interest group representatives in Spain, including NGOs like Oxfam, Cáritas, Facua or Cermi, trade unions like CCOO and UGT, although key business organisations like the CEOE did not participate. There is another meeting which has been scheduled for today (10th April 2020) with the Minister of Employment, in which the CEOE has refused to participate. However, Pablo Iglesias had been in contact telephonically with key business and banking sector figures who spoke positively of this measure, and had also been in contact with Antonio Garamendi, CEOE’s president, with whom he had exchanged some documentation.
Emergency minimum living income – latest update 19th April 2020
Given that the implementation of the proposed IMV would take around three months, the government has been working to implement a ‘bridge’ minimum living income (IMVP given its acronym in Spanish), which would be a temporal and emergency measure to be implemented as soon as possible, to be expected in May, as announced on the 16th of april . This emergency IMVP will consist of 500 euros per households, and up to 950€ depending on the number of children, for those with lower incomes than 200 euros if they live by themselves, and lower than 450 if living with one person or more. The benefit generosity will be higher for those with children under their charge. The government has announced that while this measure is temporary it will remain in place until the approval of the permanent IMV, which has been estimated to last for about 3 months.
In a recent interview, Escrivà argued that this policy would arrive to one million households, up to 3 million individuals, with 10% of the households being mono-marental (N.B.: he called them monoparental). Importantly, he argued that this benefit would not be lost automatically once the recipient finds employment, but rather, when their economic situation is stabilised, being compatible with the recipients’ wage for sometime.
The limitations of such a policy
Although the details are yet not clear, it is evident that this policy is far from a basic income, and much further away of combating poverty in Spain. According to the latest report by the European Network against Poverty and Social Exclusion, only in 2019, there were 12,3 million of individuals at risk of poverty or social exclusion. However, this measure will not be getting to more than 3 or 4 million of individuals.