When Progressives Get Stupid: Bernie’s Immoral Objection to UBI

So, I was sitting around with the village the other day, and the village said, “You know it’s kind of nice, a really good turn actually, that this guy Bernie Sanders is pushing for things that people here and there need, you know, like you’re-damn-right free health care, and about-time free college education, and better-than-the-current-crap $15-or-more minimum wage, and better-late-than-never jobs and housing plans, and even scaling back some of America’s hideous international slaughterfests, and going all in on may-the-heavens-help-us-planet-saving Green New Deal proposals, but you know,” the village continued, with no small degree of growing anger and impatience, “there’s this one eensy-weensy-teeny-tiny-little-itty-bitty microscopic problem that this do-good guy Bernie Sanders seems to be entirely, immorally oblivious to. You know what I’m saying? And do you know what that itty-bitty little problem is?”

“Debt!” the village screamed. “The goddamned cost and curse of individual debt! Where the fokk is debt relief?! Print the goddamned money in face of the fokking rigged system and cut everyone their $1,000 per month debt and fiscal justice check! Most of that money will go direct to individual debt relief, or allow people to leverage some new debt to get what they know best they need most: a new roof! a fuel efficient car! improved living conditions for their elderly parents! or children! or all! safer, healthier housing! more nutritious food! donations to money-starved good causes! A local park or community center! A safe sidewalk! A billion trillion things! You name it! Life-saving stuff that may never reach us through any government program because the government can’t be everywhere all the time or know everything, or when and what matters most.

The village continued, “People need it, this little thing called money in a rigged system. They need regular, steady, ready money. To the tune of a thousand dollars per month or more! How can the Bernie Sanders people be so immoral as to not see this? How can they deny the need for a regular cash infusion against a viciously cash-rigged system? Nevermind that all the other candidates are even more hopeless generally, politically. At least Yang came up with one great idea: universal basic income, a thousand dollars per month. Give him credit, and print the money. Inflation is no worry, look it up,” said the village, “we did. It’s time for the Bernie Sanders camp to get off their cans, to get their heads out of their backsides on this issue, and move forward with this overwhelmingly powerful proposal. Or suffer the consequences of dumbassery. You know that you should know that if you’re smart enough and if you have a big enough heart to know that you need to throw a lot of cash around at a lot of different pressing needs, then you should be smart enough and have a big enough heart to know that you need to throw a good chunk of that cash where it’s needed most: direct into people’s pockets, where they can best and most readily use it where they know best and where only they can know. UBI would be in addition to every other good program. It must not be means tested. It will benefit the least among us the most.”

“So, yes,” said the village, “Bernie is basically a good guy most ways, but his people need to break out the smelling salts and shock themselves back into the real world where all the debtors bleed on the fiscal blades of the profiteers, the real world where a thousand regular bucks in the pocket each month is a lifesaver like nothing else. Hell yes,” added the village, “we could get all analytical and break it down for all the dumb-asses to whom individual debt or being flat broke is no real concern, but these people are so hopelessly immoral or dense to begin with that they can go hang for all we care, which we see as entirely fitting for how evidently little they trust in people or care to meet the real needs of the people in the village,” said the village. “Wake up. Or die in your sleep. The village has spoken.”

Noam Chomsky on Universal Basic Income: “Actually that’s an interesting concept. It comes from the right wing, originally. Milton Friedman proposed it, for example. From his point of view it was part of an effort to undermine welfare state measures. But it doesn’t have to have a reactionary component. It can be interpreted as something progressive. People have rights. In fact, if you read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, take a look at Article 25. It says, people have rights to adequate food, nutrition, health, employment, security, and so on. Those are minimal rights. Any society ought to guarantee that. Well, you know, one way to guarantee it would be through a socially acceptable form of basic income. In fact to an extent that’s what so-called welfare states try to provide in a certain way. So sure that’s something that could be proposed. I don’t think it goes far enough, but as a short-term way of alleviating major problems that’s fine, and there are elements in various societies that do provide things like that.”   

Bernie supports the theoretical idea of UBI but not the actual implementation of it. Which is to say, he doesn’t really support it. He is wrong. The village is correct. Come to the village, Bernie. You are lost, and may well lose, without it.

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