Universal Basic Income: The Foundation of a Resilient Society — Nicole Sallak Anderson
These are tremendous times we live in. As I write this, it’s the second week of shelter-in-place here in California. Coronavirus has swept the nation, not in a convenient way, but most certainly in a universal way.
The House of Representatives just passed an emergency stimulus package, in which each American that filed their taxes in 2018 AND made less than $75,000 in that year will get a one-time check. For those of us who made more than that in 2018 but may have lost their jobs or businesses in the last week due to the nation being closed for business, well, you get less, down to almost nothing. And while the Tax Foundation, a DC-based thinktank, estimates 93.6% of Americans will be eligible for some amount, that’s certainly NOT universal stimulus.
In the days leading up to the bill, Twitter was a buzz with the #UBI, #emergencyUBI and #universalbasicincome hashtags. Wasn’t that a crazy idea some Democratic primary candidate based his campaign upon? Suddenly, Andrew Yang, a man whom primary voters completely rejected, was trending, speaking about universal basic income on CNN, and people were asking me about this concept of $1000/mon for every American until the crisis passed.
Funny how most good ideas are too scary until the really scary thing happens.
I digress. This isn’t going to be a blog post about the past. The past is gone, we can’t get it back. It appears that while various forms of emergency UBI are being offered in other countries, America took a pass. Our legislators had their reasons for a limited type of aid for their people rather than a universal one. I think this is because they are still locked to the old way of doing things, frozen in a world that is slipping away, moment-by-moment, as more and more of us shelter in our homes and realize that perhaps this quarantine pace isn’t so bad? Perhaps we’re more than our day jobs? Perhaps there’s more to our lives than the stock market, GDP, and being wage earners.?
The economy has shut down, and while that scares me, this is also a HUGE moment where we can redefine our world, literally any way we want. It’s obvious in these times that American society isn’t resilient. 3.3 million people filed unemployment claims last week. The most in history. For comparison, the largest number of filings in a week during the 2008 recession was around 700,000. They’ve lost their jobs and with them, their health insurance. This is American life now, as well as a glimpse of our more jobless future.
We can wring our hands or we can begin to envision the sort of world we’d like to build when this crisis has passed. I’d like to work together to create a more resilient society, one that can handle pandemics as well as shifting technologies. A society that can move to a more sustainable way of living and earning money while also automating work that humans just don’t need to do. A society built on 21st century technology where abundance is the norm and where even in a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, our people are sheltered, our children are fed, and all have access to health care. Even in the aftermath. Can you imagine such a country?
The policies at the heart of such a civilization are universal basic income and universal health care. I want to focus on the universal part of this…because in the end, universally sharing our blessings is all that really matters. The definition of universal is, “ of, affecting, or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group; applicable to all cases. “ All the cases, every single one of them. No exceptions. No one is left out due to gender, color, race, income, beliefs, status, sexual orientation, age, etc, etc. No one is left out, period.
Why would I want such a world where every single one of us has such a foundation? Because you, yes the person reading this right now, whoever you are, deserves it. As Whitman writes, “ By every life a share, or more or less, None born but it is born-conceal’d or unconceal’d, the seed is waiting.”
You, by the very nature being alive at this moment on Earth, is a potential seed, something important to life. I care not if you decide to do nothing with your blessings. Who am I to judge? What I do know is that if you have shelter, if you have care, then we are all the better for it. For as long as one of us suffers, we all suffer.
We have the technology to provide shelter and health care to all our citizens. It’s what we’ve been reaching toward since the scientific age began, the culmination of the electrical age we now live in. Taking the gains we have made through our technological advancements and redistributing them to each of our citizens is a promise of trust. It’s a belief in one another, that with the cash in your hands, you will do what is needed for your life to unfold.
Who are we to judge one another’s destiny? Who are we to even understand what’s necessary in this ever changing world? Each one of us is a part of the perfection of Earth. Yes, even those whom we despise. Even you, dear reader. Especially you. Universal humanity is the only way forward. For when we look at one another with the sort of trust, reverence, and respect needed to implement universal basic income, anything is possible.
We’re building a new world. Let’s make it a universal world. A resilient world.
Originally published at https://nicolesallakanderson.com on March 27, 2020.