In Solidarity with Black and Brown Americans: How UBI Offers a Path Forward

In Solidarity with Black and Brown Americans: How UBI Offers a Path Forward

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

United States: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls for basic income as a response to the corona virus crisis

United States: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls for basic income as a response to the corona virus crisis

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Picture credit to: Fox 32

As the corona virus crisis unfolds, the political atmosphere heats up in the United States. At the Capitol, a 2 trillion dollar bill is in the making, specifically to deal with the economic downturn caused by the epidemic.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), the Democrat Representative of the Bronx constituency in New York City, already called for measures like paid leave, debt relief, waiving work requirements, guaranteeing healthcare, universal basic income (UBI) and detention relief. She has recognized that the current bill under discussion is, indeed, partly unconditional (around 500 billion dollars), although she has shown concerns that this money may not reach those more in need of it, but go to large corporations which are seeing their profits plummet at this point.

AOC had already shown simpathy for the basic income policy in the recent past, although in an ambivalent manner. In the face of a “systemic [economic] shock” the corona virus crisis is creating, however, she has again reached for the UBI, at least as an emergency economic measure. That idea, in fact, has motivated more than 500 academics, public figures and (basic income) advocates to call for such a policy, which was manifested in a public letter.

Even on the Republican side of Congress, this kind of approach is getting support. Republican Senator Mitt Romney has said that “urgent action on additional coronavirus response measures [are] aimed at providing economic relief for working Americans and families.” Others, like Congressmen Tim Ryan and Ro Khanna, plus Tulsi Gabbard, have also very recently proposed legislation that will allow the distribution of (unconditional) checks onto people’s hands, resembling the idea Andrew Yang had been proposing for most of his Presidential Campaign. The Congress Financial Services Committee, as a matter of fact, is aiming to release legislation, as part of the 2 trillion dollar bill rollout, that would put an immediate 2000 US$ in the hands of every American, with an additional 1000 US$ for every child.

Even as the crisis unfolds, critics worry that the basic income policy, even applied over this context, maybe too expensive, while remaining senseless to pay a 1000 $/month for the duration of the contention/recession to billionaires. AOC replies to both those fears shortly and concisely: that (given the situation) it should really be more, and that there is no need to means-test when it can be taxed back (from the relatively more wealthy) in the next fiscal year.

More information at:

CNN Politics “AOC’s message to young people on coronavirus” video

MSNBC, “AOC on coronavirus rescue bill” video

AOC: We need universal healthcare, basic income to fight coronavirus“, Jerusalem Post, March 20th 2020

Soomi Lee, “Why an emergency Universal Basic Income makes sense during the Covid-19 pandemic“, London School of Economics (US Centre),

Abby Vesoulis, “‘I’ll Be a Very Happy Man.’ Will the Coronavirus Outbreak Turn Andrew Yang’s $1,000 Promise Into Reality?“, TIME, March 17th 2020

Why more than 500 political figures and academics globally have called for universal basic income in the fight against coronavirus“, Letter published by the Independent, March 18th 2020

United States: Andrew Yang steps down from presidential candidacy

United States: Andrew Yang steps down from presidential candidacy

Andrew Yang. Picture credit to: Inquisitr

Andrew Yang, the United States presidential candidate for the 2020 elections who most notoriously pushed (his own version of) a basic income policy to public debate in the country, has dropped out of the campaign for the Democratic Party setup. This has been reported in several news outlets, some of which had allegedly been deliberately underreporting his activities as candidate. On this issue, Scott Santens, a prominent basic income activist, has written on social media (Facebook):

Amazing how the #YangMediaBlackout ended the moment Yang dropped out of the race. Suddenly every media outlet is falling over themselves to cover the candidate they worked so hard for so long to hide. Congrats. You got the outcome you wanted. But this fight is far from over. The #YangGang has awakened.

Thank you to all of you for everything you’ve done, pouring your heart and soul into this campaign which has become a movement. The Yang Gang is incredible and important and we will change the world. I hope you all will continue fighting for the economic justice we all so desperately need.

Fear is a weapon used against us to keep us in line, but hope is a shield.

(…)

It will take the effort we’ve all put in for Andrew Yang and more. It will even require us running for office. Everyone in the YG who runs for office, we will need to support as we have Andrew. What happens next is up to us.

One of my main takeaways from this campaign is every one of us is now equipped for life with the skills to forge a new path. Democracy requires active not passive engagement, and the we just learned everything we need to know. Those tools are now ours to wield. Watch out world.

The Yang Gang is only getting started.

Andrew Yang himself has also written a message on this occasion (transcript from a post by Michael Howard, another long-time basic income activist):

Thank you for your incredible support these past months. You all have uplifted me and inspired me and Evelyn and this campaign at every turn. Your passion and energy. Your donations and hundreds of thousands of hours of calling and volunteering. Your enthusiasm, dedication and commitment.

We have accomplished so much together. We have brought a message of Humanity First and a vision of an economy and society that works for us and our families to millions of our fellow Americans.

We went from a mailing list that started with just my Gmail contact list to receiving donations from over 430,000 people and support from millions more across the country.

One of the things I’m most proud of — we gave $1,000 a month for a year to 13 families across the country.

We highlighted the real problems in our communities as our economy is being transformed before our eyes by technology and automation. We stood on the debate stage and shifted our national conversation to include the fourth industrial revolution, a topic no one wanted to touch.

Our signature proposal, Universal Basic Income, has become part of the mainstream conversation. We increased the popular support for Universal Basic Income to 66% of Democrats and 72% among voters 18-34.

And without a doubt, we accelerated the eradication of poverty in our society by years, perhaps even generations.

And that is thanks to all of YOU!

Though thousands of voters came out for our campaign tonight in New Hampshire, it is not the outcome we fought so hard for. It is bitterly disappointing for many of us.

But it should not be.

Every single day I’ve had supporters say to me:

“Your campaign helped me out of a depression. Thank you.”

“Working on this campaign has made me a better human being.”

“I met my significant other because of you.”

“Your campaign brought my family together. Your campaign got me excited about politics for the first time.”

These are all things that people have said to me in the past days. I’m incredibly proud of this campaign. We have touched and improved millions of lives and moved this country we love so much in the right direction.

And while there is great work left to be done, I am the MATH guy. And it is clear tonight from the numbers that we are not going to win this race. I am not someone who wants to accept donations and support in a race that we will not win.

And so tonight, I am suspending my campaign for president.

This is not an easy decision. Endings are hard and I’ve always intended to stay in this race until the very end. But I have been convinced that the message of this campaign will not be strengthened by my staying in this race any longer.

Endings are hard. But this is not an ending.

This is a beginning.

This is the starting line. This campaign has awakened something fundamental in this country and ourselves.

We’ve outlasted over a dozen senators, governors, and members of Congress and become the most exciting force in this entire race.

The Yang Gang has fundamentally shifted the direction of this country and transformed our politics, and we are only continuing to grow.

My goal when I first started was always to solve the problems that got Donald Trump elected. And I know in order to do that, I will support whoever is the Democratic nominee. That said, I hope this campaign can be a message, and word of caution, to all of my Democratic colleagues.

Donald Trump is not the cause of all of our problems. He is a symptom. We must cure the disease that got him elected, and in order to do that we must address the real problems that affect our people and offer solutions to actually solve them.

Those solutions are bold, and many think they are crazy. But I hope my campaign has made it a little less crazy to think we can lead our country to eradicate poverty. In fact, five candidates in this field have already supported it or expressed openness to supporting Universal Basic Income.

I stand before you today and say that while we did not win this election, we are just getting started.

This is the beginning.

This movement is the future of American politics.

This movement is the future of the Democratic party.

This wave is just beginning and it will continue to build until we rewrite the rules of this economy to work for us, the people of this country.

Thank you to each and every person who made this campaign possible, I love and appreciate you. Being your candidate has been the privilege of my life. We will continue to do the work and move this country forward.

Thank you all. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America.

– Andrew

More information at:

Nick Statt, “Andrew Yang has withdrawn from the 2020 presidential race“, The Verge, February 11th 2020

Daniel Strauss, “Andrew Yang drops out of 2020 presidential race“, The Guardian, February 12th 2020

Jeff Yang, “Thank you, Andrew Yang“, CNN, February 12th 2020

United States: New survey shows overwhelming support for basic income among Democrat students

United States: New survey shows overwhelming support for basic income among Democrat students

A new survey focused on basic income has been published by College Pulse (December 2019). 2000 college students were asked several questions, among which, for instance, if they supported the implementation of a basic income in the United States, such as that proposed by Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang, and what they would use the money for, if they did receive this unconditional stipend.

Overall, the survey showed that a clear 66% of Democrat-leaning students favored basic income, although also two-thirds of these are not confident this policy to ever become a reality in the United States (overall, 83% of students felt this way). Expectedly, only 18% of Republican-inclined students backed the idea. Support for basic income is also different depending on the subject’s race: while 47% of whites supported basic income, a much higher 62% group of non-whites were in favor of it.

The reasons to oppose basic income also varied, among respondents. A 34% majority (of those opposing) agreed that basic income should not be implemented because money should be earned (the laziness argument), while 30% argued the policy would be too expensive (the cost argument), and finally 8% concluded that this would lead people to misspend the money (the (lack of) trust argument). This is overall, but finer results show that Democrats are much more likely to refuse basic income on the grounds of excessive cost, whereas Republicans are over 50% inclined to oppose the policy convinced people would stop working if they received a basic income.

Although a significant majority of Democrat-leaning students (84%) considers that a Presidential Candidate who clearly defends a basic income implementation in the United States, either doesn’t change their vote tendency or increases the chances of them voting for such a Candidate, only 8% think the policy should be a priority over this next political cycle. These students prioritize, the results show, universal health care and stricter environmental laws.

More information at:

Jackson Schroeder, “66% Of College Democrats Support A Universal Basic Income”, The University Network, December 27th 2019

United States: Senators Mitt Romney and Michael Bennet plan an unconditional child benefit

United States: Senators Mitt Romney and Michael Bennet plan an unconditional child benefit

US Senators Michael Bennet (left) and Mitt Romney (right)

On Sunday, the 15th of December 2019, Republican Senator Mitt Romney and Democrat Senator Michael Bennet presented a plan to establish an unconditional child benefit cash transfer in the United States.

Under this plan, all parents get an unconditional benefit of US$ 1500 per year per child under 6 years pf age, plus US$ 1000 per year for every child aged 6 up to 17. There is still an additional US$ 1000 per year per child, dependent on income.

There is already a Child Tax Credit inscribed into the United States tax code, but it is strictly conditional to employment and is means-tested. Within Romney and Bennet’s new plan, considerable part of the benefit would be independent of the employment status, effectively helping the poorest parents.

This program would be funded through a reform in the federal tax code, within which inherited property would be fully taxed. That would replace the highly regressive nature of the present rules, which exempt wealthy property owners from paying taxes on the full amount of what their property is valued. This way, the new unconditional child benefit cash transfer would effectively transfer money from the very wealthy to poor and working-class American families.

Republican politicians have been, typically and historically, against any measures which expand cash programs for the poor. This initiative by Mitt Romney may lead, however, other Republicans to endorse such programs. Right-wing arguments against such welfare expansions have been mostly related to misspending – as in risks of spending the benefits on cigarettes and alcohol, for instance – or for allegedly discouraging employment, but there is already a solid body of evidence that these risks/fears are unfounded, and that plenty of benefits are to be gained from their implementation, especially in health and economic related realms.

More information at:

Dylan Matthews, “Mitt Romney and Michael Bennet just unveiled a basic income plan for kids“, Vox, December 16th 2019