San Francisco, California

A feature, not a bug

Jamelle Bouie:

Most Republican senators voted to remove the unemployment expansion at its full size, but it survived. Billions of dollars of benefits have gone to tens of millions of Americans. The increase in aid was so great that, as The New York Times reported last month, the federal poverty rate declined even as the jobless rate reached incredible heights. And there’s also no evidence that additional benefits are keeping people who want to work from working.

This aid program is the first country-wide test of universal basic income and the not-so-shocking thing is this: it is absolutely working.

The question we have to ask ourselves is simple. What is more important to us, ensuring that everyone has a back-breaking job that keeps them and their family hovering perilously around the poverty line or the alternative: that we simply eliminate poverty? It appears that Republicans and moderate/right-learning Democrats believe poverty is a natural state of the world. But it’s really not, we invented it. And with programs like this it shows us a glimmer of hope as to how a universal basic income would end up saving us money, bolstering the economy, and helping millions of vulnerable people in the process.

Why shouldn’t we support a universal basic income though? Well, because we would have to tax the mega-rich fairly.

Also reading this piece I can’t help but think that the reason why Republicans want to keep poverty around is that they believe, yes, that it’s natural and that they believe that hard work is required to lift you out of poverty, but also this: it makes things so damn convenient for business owners. Imagine if businesses had to fight for workers to join them, instead of workers fighting each other for jobs?

Or, as Jamelle writes far more eloquently than I can muster:

Workers are kept on edge — and willing to accept whatever wage is on offer — by the threat of immiseration. This, for politicians who back both big business and existing social relations, is a feature and not a bug of our economic system, since insecurity and desperation keep power in the hands of capital and its allies. Even something as modest as expanded unemployment benefits is a threat to that arrangement, as they give workers the power to say no to work they do not want.