Guest Blog: “A Political Idea for America in Three Little Words”

A Political Idea for America in Three Little Words

By: Glenn Parton

We need a National Safety Net (NSN) in America that is bigger and better than FDR’s New Deal of the 30s (and even bigger than his visionary proposal for a Second Bill of Rights in the 40s). The basic components of it are Medicare-for-All, Living Wage, Affordable Housing, Federal Jobs Guarantee, Free Higher Education, and BIG (Basic Income Guarantee of $1,000 per month per adult until income exceeds $100,000 per year). These elements, woven together, could and should provide a decent and dignified lifestyle for every American citizen and legal immigrant, effectively ending poverty in America, and laying the ground for a qualitatively better society.

A solution is ready at hand: the redistribution of wealth using a progressive tax (where the more you make the more you pay) for the purpose of financing a National Safety Net (NSN) is easily attainable by the richest country in world history. During the Eisenhower Administration, for example, the upper tax bracket paid 91% in taxes, which in today’s money means that anyone earning over 1.7 million dollars a year paid 91% in taxes (at least in theory). Think about how many people in America today make more than 1.7 million dollars a year! A truly progressive tax could be tailored to generate more than enough revenue to pay for NSN, and that’s only the single best general way to pay for it. There are dozens of additional sources of revenue, including a tax on luxury items, tax on financial transactions, value-added tax, ecological tax, carbon tax, etc.

A Universal Basic Income of $1000 per month is insufficient by itself to ensure a decent and dignified lifestyle in America, considering the fact that the average rent for a one bedroom apartment in America (with geographical variation, of course) is roughly $600 or $700 per month or more. Considering further the cost of education and medical procedures and prescription drugs, it is clear that UBI is not a stand alone solution. Monthly cash, regardless of the amount, is an essential part of the solution, but not all of it, and Basic Income (BI) will function best within the more comprehensive framework of NSN. Moreover, if some Americans blow or waste the money, for whatever reason, they still need and deserve to be sustained in a respectful way, instead of left to die or deteriorate on the streets. Basic Income is not a replacement for a real national safety net, but it is a key element of it. It’s the combination of Medicare-for-All, Basic Income, Housing-for-All, and the other elements of NSN that provide a basis or floor for a somewhat independent and respectable life.

It is to be hoped that this simple but comprehensive political proposal — summed up in a three little words, National Safety Net (NSN) — will eventually be accepted and improved by progressive candidates now and in the future. The logic behind this political ideal is that the best electoral politics must not only aim at immediately winning more electoral seats, but also it must engage in political education and strive for a vastly superior future. Getting the balance right between strategies and principles, between immediate and longer goals is not easy, but it is an essential part of an adequate political program. Today it is clear that a decent and dignified life requires not only a job at a living wage, or a place to live, or healthcare, or education, or monthly cash, but a balanced combination of these staples within the larger context of a healthy and peaceful planet. The integral wholeness of NSN meets the needs of the present age, recommending itself as part of an effective run up to the 2020 presidential election.

Basic Income (of $1000 per month per adult) is an essential part of real economic freedom, but unfortunately it is, at this time, not part of Bernie Sanders’ campaign platform. Without it, the American people remain subjugated to the capitalist economy, even if they have guaranteed jobs at living wages, and they are kept healthy enough and educated enough to continue to work, because they have no control or determination over the working conditions of their daily existence, and they have no power to reject these conditions. Comfortable and well fed slaves are still slaves! On the other hand, Basic Income (BI) without the other benefits of NSN such as Free Housing will also leave people at the mercy of the Corporate State, because nearly all the money from BI will most likely go to pay the rent or mortgage, which means that individuals will remain chained to the capitalist work-economy in order to keep a roof over their heads. What justifies regarding NSN as a new and liberating stage of social development, perhaps the last stage of Capitalism, is the fact that it makes the basic necessities of life into unconditional rights of citizenship (which means that one does not have to qualify for them, earn them, or even ask for them), and it combines these essentials into a minimal level of freedom that gives Americans the personal power to refuse economic servitude, and to pursue alternative modes of existence, if they so choose. No more forced work in America!

NSN is not a radical idea in the sense that its passage into law will immediately, or in the short term, revolutionize everyday life, but it has the radical potential to do so in the long run so by creating a “new economy of time” in which people will not be forced into wage-slavery, into a job that exhausts their talents and energy, and a small percentage of these people, who already know what is of true value in life, and who, therefore, no longer want to be part of a productive economic system that wastes and destroys human and non-humans lives, at home and abroad, as well as destroys the Earth itself, will initiate and experiment with better ways of living and working, eventually demonstrating and proving to greater and greater circles of the population that an alternative society, Another World, in which people are truly free and happy, is possible and desirable. These catalyst groups will begin the long-range, deep change that is the real promise of America.

The Sixties Revolution was halted for many reasons, but chief among them was the pressure to conform to the American workplace that the Movement was deeply rebelling against. Some of the money for many of the resisters came from dealing drugs (mainly marijuana), and when the State bore down on this activity, imprisoning people for decades, there was not enough money from mom and dad (if you were lucky enough to have supportive parents at all) to sustain an alternative lifestyle. NSN will correct this situation, enabling people to not only remain independent individuals, but also to pool their resources (including money) for collective adventures such as joint business ventures, cooperative farms, urban communes, and countless unpredictable free associations of artistic, intellectual, political, and economic communities. Just think of the possibilities if 50 people, for example, who have healthcare and housing, would utilize even half of their combined 50 thousand monthly income for creative, alternative purposes? Now think about what 300 people could do with 300 thousand dollars per month combined income?

A longer version of this proposal is here.

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