Highlights from a recent TED talk on Universal Basic Income. Also, Single Payer is achievable, say leading Dems

Highlights from a recent TED talk on Universal Basic Income, Common Dreams, 26 April, 2017.  Article on it notes that the concepts are far from new, and recent examples are easy to find. As Laura Williams, activism officer at the U.K.-based advocacy group Global Justice Now, noted recently: “In 2008-2009 Namibia experimented with the world-wide first Basic Income Grant pilot project in Otjivero – Omitara and found that the project led to reduction in poverty, increase in economic activity, and improvements in health. A similar series of trials in India produced similar results.”

More evidence is set to come from the Canadian province of Ontario, where a pilot universal basic income program is set to launch in three cities.

“If we look at the evidence, we don’t have to be worried at all about huge reductions in work hours, or that people will be lazy,” Bregman said to Huffington Post Australia last month. “In fact, it’s to the contrary, especially for people living in poverty. They will have the means to get up and do something and contribute to the common good, and a lot of people not in poverty but in so called ‘bullshit jobs’ will be able to quit those jobs and do something that they consider to be fulfilling and useful,” he added.

Writing last month at the Guardian, Bregman likened universal basic income to “venture capital for the people”:

While it won’t solve all the world’s ills—and ideas such as a rent cap and more social housing are necessary in places where housing is scarce—a basic income would work like venture capital for the people. We can’t afford not to do it—poverty is hugely expensive. The costs of child poverty in the U.S. are estimated at $500bn (£410bn) each year, in terms of higher healthcare spending, less education, and more crime. It’s an incredible waste of potential. It would cost just $175bn, a quarter of the country’s current military budget, to do what Dauphin [a city in Manitoba, Canada, which had a successful experiment in basic income] did long ago: eradicate poverty.

That should be our goal. The time for small thoughts and little nudges is past. The time has come for new, radical ideas. If this sounds utopian to you, then remember that every milestone of civilisation—the end of slavery, democracy, equal rights for men and women—was once a utopian fantasy too.

Bregman’s new talk comes amidst increasing inequality and as automation (read: computers and robots) takes over some lower-wage jobs, thus setting the stage to “amplify economic disparities.”

Looking at a possible “robot uprising,” George Dvorsky, contributing editor at Gizmodo, wrote:

Advocates argue that a basic income is essential to a comprehensive strategy for reducing poverty because it offers extra income with no strings attached. But looking ahead to the future, we may have little choice but to implement it. Given the ever-increasing concentration of wealth and the frightening prospect of technological unemployment, it will be required to prevent complete social and economic collapse. It’s not a question of if, but how soon.

Meanwhile,

For First Time Ever, Majority of House Dems Support ‘Medicare-for-All’ Bill

A record-breaking 104 House Democrats are co-sponsoring a Medicare-for-All bill

A sign at a February Medicare-for-All rally in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/flickr/cc)

As President Donald Trump and the GOP attempt once again to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a much crueler bill, House Democrats are pushing in the total opposite direction: as of Thursday, a record 104 have signed on to co-sponsor a Medicare-for-All bill.

“Americans are fed up with an inhumane, profit-driven health system that leaves millions without care.”
—Dr. Carol Paris, Physicians for a National Health Program

The bill, H.R. 676, known as the “Expanded & Improved Medicare for All Act,” has been introduced into Congress repeatedly by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). It has now received support from more than half of the Democratic caucus, a record for the party.

“There’s more of an appetite for an alternative now,” co-sponsor Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told Vox reporter Jeff Stein last month, when the single payer bill was already gaining significant Democratic support, as Common Dreams reported. “Democrats have a new confidence to push for a single-payer system. The momentum is building.”

“Americans are fed up with an inhumane, profit-driven health system that leaves millions without care,” said Dr. Carol Paris, president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), in a statement. “Quality health care is not a luxury, nor is it a commodity that can be bought and sold in a marketplace. It is a social good that can be best delivered through a single-payer national health program.”

Calls for a more compassionate and fair healthcare system—and unified push-back against the GOP’s efforts to dismantle Obamacare—have dominated contentious town halls during the two congressional recesses since Trump’s inauguration, and advocates say that such grassroots activism has built crucial momentum behind the movement for Medicare-for-All.

Indeed, Rep. Conyers described a critical moment in one of those town halls—and the impact it had—in an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press earlier this month:

One of the most poignant moments came at a town hall hosted by U.S. Rep. Diane Black, Republican of Tennessee, where a constituent explained her opposition to the GOP bill using faith. As a Christian, she said, her faith was rooted in helping the unfortunate, not cutting taxes on the rich, so why not expand Medicaid and allow everyone to have insurance? And she’s not alone. Last week, a Quinnipiac survey found that voters overwhelmingly oppose cuts to Medicaid—74 percent of them—including 54 percent among Republicans.

Given the record high support for publicly funded healthcare, economists, policy experts and commentators everywhere have called on the Democratic party to build on our momentum by supporting a single payer system. But perhaps the most convincing case I heard came from Jessi Bohan, the teacher from Cookeville, Tennessee who spoke at Rep. Black’s town hall.

The week after her question went viral she wrote to the Washington Post that she was troubled to see her comments used as a “defense of Obamacare” instead of what they were: an indictment of any healthcare policy that leaves anyone out. As Bohan so eloquently put it, “it is immoral for health care to be a for-profit enterprise” that allows insurance companies to make “enormous sums of money off the sick while people are struggling to pay their medical bills.” If she had it to do over again, she wrote, she would have explained to Black “the Christian case for universal, single-payer health insurance, which would protect all Americans.”

“While her message was targeted at Republicans, it is one that many of my colleagues in the Democratic Party need to hear as well,” Conyers wrote.

Now, it appears that many Democratic representatives are listening. And they should be: multiple polls in recent years have shown that most Americans support a single-payer system.

As Conyers declared in his op-ed: “Single payer is politically achievable.”

Still, not all Democrats are on board. Advocacy group Justice Democrats, which has been pushing Democrats to support single payer, recently called out the 89 Democrats who have not yet sponsored Conyer’s bill:

“The momentum towards a universal health program is unstoppable,” argued Dr. Paris. “Americans of all political stripes are reiterating their long-held support for improved Medicare for all, and Congress has a responsibility to act. We urge all members—including Republicans, whose constituents are demanding a better health care system—to come together and finally enact H.R. 676. Now is the time.”

The goals and approach of the Raise the Wage bill are supported by a new paper from the progressive Economic Policy Institute (EPI), which shows that by raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024 (as the legislation proposes to do), 41 million American workers would see a raise.

In addition, EPI finds that the minimum wage increase would disproportionately benefit women and workers of color, while more than 19 million children—nearly a quarter of all children in the U.S.—would benefit from an increase in their parents’ pay.

“If we raised it to $15 by 2024, for the first time ever, the minimum wage would no longer be a poverty wage,” said EPI senior analyst David Cooper. “Tens of millions of workers, mostly adults who provide more than 60 percent of their family’s income, would benefit from going to $15. This would, in turn, benefit their communities.”

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