LemmingsLeap 20 UBI Money for Nuthin’ 3
In my posts, LemmingsLeap 16 and 18, I have detailed the reasoning for a universal basic income. Recently, Chris Hedges published a piece on UBI on the net in which he called UBI an oligarch scam. His article details the ways in which the oligarchs would bend the UBI to their will in order to save Capitalism, another way of saying saving themselves, for in a non-capitalist society they could not prosper as they are currently. He is correct in saying this and the article is well worth reading. You can find it here.
It would not be difficult to imagine some of the oligarchs breaking off to support UBI. This has already happened. They approach us with smiling faces and they “feel” our pain from massive unemployment and employment with so little compensation we have to enlist in a government program to feed ourselves and our families. Their willingness to try to solve this problem, to negotiate a reasonable UBI, would be their ticket to a seat at the table. They know how it works. Once in the conversation, they will put pressure on those they think have gone too far and present perfectly reasonable (reasonable at least within the Capitalist structure we have all been brainwashed to believe is the best system ever) alternatives. They know that in the push and pull of the conversation that they will get some compromises that will enable them to keep their wealth and positions with the opportunity to get even more.
Hedges does have a point. The oligarchs would walk away from the table having satisfied the masses with some form of an income but still leaving them with their fortunes and the control they have over media, markets and money matters. By the following day, they would also have in place a plan to undermine the agreement just made as they do with all social plans, as they did with Social Security and Medicare. My answer to Hedges is below:
The UBI is actually a good solution to the problem and can be made better with a ceiling on earnings as well. The problem we face is that any changes we try to make, we make in the face of people who are determined to remain in control, own nearly everything including the government and have direct control over almost everything we see, hear and read. We have only a couple of choices here- kill them all or find a less violent way to reduce and finally eliminate their power. Failing to take the oligarchs’ power away will doom any attempt at reforming the present situation. As Hedges has pointed out, they have the ability to water down, twist and change any attempts at reform until the reform serves them.
In my assessment I talk about how UBI is a good idea. In theory it is. I challenge anyone to come up with a better plan. Let’s discuss it. I’m ready. Until then, I have to emphasize that if the rich and powerful are allowed to be at the table, the people will lose. I wasn’t being flippant when I said we have to get rid of the oligarchs’ power. That may include getting rid of the oligarchs. We can’t vote them out. They were never elected. If you have read my previous post #LemmingsLeap 8 The Vote, you will see that I have no confidence in our very damaged voting system. From gerrymandering and rolls purging to flipping voting machines, we can never be sure that all the votes are ever counted or that the counting of the votes is secure in any way. Voting will not level the field.
There is a caveat that must be examined before we break out the guillotine. For this we can look back to the French Revolution where a society erupted in violence and actually used the guillotine to try to solve its problems. The down side is that it took a very long time to clean up all the blood in the streets before any sort of order was restored. The other down side is that France is in the same place now that it was back then as far as distribution of wealth is concerned but a different set of people is in charge. That’s what eventually happens to most revolutions.
As much as some of us would like to see some heads roll, it would be advisable to find a nonviolent way to change things while keeping in mind that even in a nonviolent revolution there will be those who play the part in order to obtain power for themselves. So we must try to find a peaceful way of getting this done despite the charges by some people such as Hedges that it’s just a neoliberal power grab. We have to consider the advantages of a UBI that is configured properly to spread the wealth out rather than to continue concentrating wealth like the capitalist system does.
The advantages are too great. Battered women would have an income and be more prone to leaving a dangerous situation if they were assured of a way to support themselves and their children. Workers would have more power since they could always fall back on their UBI check. People on the margins who are unemployed, disabled or otherwise compromised would be able to live somewhere other than the streets. In addition, artists will no longer be starving and instead of expending so much energy to survive, will have more time to create.
The UBI seems to be what we need. If it is constructed for the people and not to extend the life of capitalism as was suggested by Chris Hedges, it could be a life saver for many people.