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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/27/20

Thanks to COVID-19, Universal Basic Income is a Thing Again

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Former Democratic presidential candidate--now CNN political commentator--Andrew Yang had a unique signature issue among the other presidential contenders with whom he shared the stage.

He wanted to give every American $1,000 from what he called the "Freedom Dividend."

But the "Freedom Dividend" concept is not unique.

The idea of a "universal basic income" (UBI) actually originated in this country via Thomas Paine, who called for in his 1797 essay "Agrarian Justice," "a national fund making payments of 15 pounds sterling to each adult over 21 years old."

British philosopher Bertrand Russell supported it, as did former Louisiana Governor Huey Long, urging us to "Share the Wealth."

In his 1967 book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:

"I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective--the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."

In the 1970s, even Republican President Richard Nixon's plan for a partial basic income passed the House of Representatives before failing in the Senate.

By that point, basic income was no longer a bleeding-heart leftie's utopian fantasy; myriad notable economists theorized its impact on societies the world over.

Writing for Jacobin magazine, Peter Frase explains UBI:

"Let's begin with the U, for universal or, in some versions, unconditional. For the originators of the UBI idea, it was crucial that cash payments be conceived as universal rights not tied to work or any other condition...Then let's center the Basic part. One of the principles of UBI, at least in its more radical incarnations, was that it was to be sufficient to cover a person's basic needs, at a livable if not luxurious level, without any other source of income."

Now that the country is gripped in the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at the same moment its economy is in free fall, myriad conservative lawmakers are being forced to embrace what they previously decried as the "evils of Socialism."

As Congress has now settled on a $2 trillion package to help mitigate the economic havoc, UBI doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

Consider the agreement reached in Congress Wednesday to cut $1,200 stimulus checks to most individuals and small-businesses.

Based on households' or individuals' 2018 tax returns--unless they already filed for 2019-- married couples will get up to $2,400, $500 per child.

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Ted Millar is a writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Straight Forward Poetry, Better Than Starbucks, the Broke Bohemian, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices (more...)

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