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National Security at the United Nations This Week (May 8-15) – Just Security

Posted: May 15, 2020 at 8:52 pm

(Editors Note: This is the latest in Just Securitys weekly series keeping readers up to date on developments at the United Nations at the intersection of national security, human rights, and the rule of law.)

WHO Doctor Warns Coronavirus may Never Go Away, as Agency Outlines Reopening Criteria and Highlights Pandemics Mental Health Effects

The novel coronavirus may become just another endemic virus in our communities and may never go away, World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Director of Health Emergencies Dr. Mike Ryan said in a May 13 media briefing. He cited HIV as an example of a relatively recent virus that has become treatable but has not been eradicated or limited by an effective vaccine. The comments drew major news coverage (see here, here and here). Ryan went on to state:

Im not comparing the two diseases, but I think it is important that we be realistic and I dont think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear. We do have one great hope: if we do find a highly effective vaccine that we can distribute to everyone who needs it in the world, we may have a shot at eliminating this virus, but that vaccine will have to be highly effective, it will have to be made available to everyone, and we will have to use it.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in an earlier media briefing on May 11, discussed the need to balance the potential health harms of lifting stay-at-home orders and business closures against the social, economic, and health harms associated with extending the orders indefinitely. Stating that to protect lives and livelihoods, a slow, steady lifting of lockdowns is key to both stimulating economies, while also keeping a vigilant eye on the virus so that control measures can be quickly implemented if an upswing in cases is identified, Tedros outlined three key questions for policymakers to consider when deciding when and how to ease lockdown measures:

First, is the epidemic under control? Second, is the healthcare system able to cope with a resurgence of cases that may arise after relaxing certain measures? Third, is the public health-surveillance system able to detect and manage the cases and their contacts, and identify a resurgence of cases?

Tedros emphasized that these are merely criteria to be considered, and no perfect formula exists to balance harms, cautioning that recent resurgences of the coronavirus in locations such as South Korea, Germany, and Wuhan, China, following the easing of restrictions are signs of the challenges that may lie ahead.

WHO on May 10 issued a policy brief on surveillance strategies for containing the spread of the virus and procedures for reopening schools. The agency also warned May 13 that the pandemic could undo recent progress in improving global health, and, in a May 14 news release, highlighted the increased prevalence of mental-health issues globally due to the pandemic.

Migrant Lives at Risk in Mediterranean, with Pushback Practices, says OHCHR

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated it is deeply concerned about recent reports of failure to assist and coordinated pushbacks of migrant boats in the central Mediterranean, which continues to be one of the deadliest migration routes in the world. The May 8 statement came after reports that Maltese authorities were engaging in pushbacks, whereby boats containing migrants are towed back out to sea. OHCHR Spokesperson Rupert Colville expressed concern that nations appear to be using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for closing their borders to vulnerable migrants, especially those fleeing war-torn Libya. He called for the use of administrative regulations and measures being used to impede the work of humanitarian NGOs to be lifted immediately, noting that [s]uch measures are clearly putting lives at risk.

Meanwhile, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also expressed concern that the combined effects of conflict and the coronavirus pandemic are driving more and more civilians to depart Libya on a dangerous sea route.

Renewed Efforts at Security Council for Ceasefire Resolution Amid US Recalcitrance

The United States blocked an attempt by members of the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution imposing a global ceasefire in order to address the pandemic, according to a May 8 report in The Guardian. The U.S. made the move after some representatives thought they had reached a compromise whereby reference to WHO would be replaced by a reference to specialist health agencies in the resolution, due to U.S. demands.

Germany and Estonia submitted another proposed global ceasefire resolution on May 12. No date has been set for a vote on the new resolution. Some have speculated that if all reference is dropped to the WHO, even indirectly, in the text of the new proposed resolution, China may exercise its veto instead of the United States.

UNAIDS and World Leaders Call for Free Peoples Vaccine

More than 140 world leaders and high-ranking experts, including the heads of state of Ghana, Pakistan, South Africa, and Senegal, signed onto an open letter drafted by U.N. AIDS (UNAIDS) calling for any effective coronavirus vaccine that is developed to be made available for free to everyone globally. The letter states that [g]overnments and international partners must unite around a global guarantee which ensures that, when a safe and effective vaccine is developed, it is produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people, in all countries, free of charge. The same applies for all treatments, diagnostics, and other technologies for COVID-19.

Coronavirus Fallout May Cause 6,000 Daily Deaths of Children Under Five, UNICEF Warns

In a May 12 appeal for additional funding of $1.6 billion to help it fulfill the needs of vulnerable children amid the ongoing pandemic, the U.N. Childrens Fund (UNICEF) warned that the devastating socioeconomic consequences of the disease and families rising needs. The following day, citing a recent publication by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers in the Lancet Global Health journal,UNICEF said, An additional 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to weaken health systems and disrupt routine services. UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore stated, The pandemic is a health crisis which is quickly becoming a child rights crisis.

UN Leaders Urge Additional Coronavirus Protections for Prisoners

The heads of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), WHO, OHCHR and UNAIDS issued a joint statement on May 13 seeking to to urgently draw the attention of political leaders to the heightened vulnerability of prisoners and other people deprived of liberty to the COVID-19 pandemic, and urge them to take all appropriate public health measures in respect of this vulnerable population that is part of our communities. The statement called attention to the special vulnerabilities of people deprived of their liberty, such as their inability to practice physical distancing, the prevalence of preexisting conditions that render them more vulnerable to COVID-19, and lack of access to proper medical care and hygiene facilities, among other factors.

First COVID-19 Cases Confirmed in Bangladesh Refugee Camp Housing Rohingya

A refugee in Bangladeshs crowded Coxs Bazar refugee camp tested tested positive for the coronavirus, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic confirmed on May 15. The news raises concerns of a potentially massive outbreak of the virus, as 860,000 Rohingya refugees are living in the areas refugee camps in very close quarters.

UN Officials Issue Joint Statement on Libya

Seven prominent U.N. officials released a joint statement on the situation in Libya and the special risks civilians in the country face due to the combination of conflict and COVID-19. In the statement, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, Executive Director of UNICEF Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the U.N. Population Fund Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of the World Food Programme David Beasley, Director-General of WHO Tedros and Director General of the U.N.s International Organization for Migration Antnio Vitorino reiterate the urgency of a ceasefire to allow the pandemic to be addressed. They single out attacks on water supplies as especially troubling, calling for all parties to the conflict to protect such resources and infrastructure.

Envoy Reports Significant Promise in Yemeni Ceasefire Negotiations

U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths informed the Security Council of significant progress in ceasefire negotiations in Yemen, although he qualified his assessment: I am coming to this Council yet again to express hope, instead of to report success. More from the U.N. News Service here.

Additional Items

U.N. peacekeeping forces in Sudan reported the first confirmed positive coronavirus test in a Protection of Civilian (PoC) site, as confirmed by a May 13 briefing by the Office of the Secretary-Generals Spokesperson. The same day, the U.N. News Service reported that the South Sudanese government confirmed that two confirmed cases of the virus were identified within a PoC in Juba. There is major concern that an outbreak within PoC sites could be devastating. In South Sudan, more than 190,000 civilians are sheltering at such sites, including 30,000 in the Juba location. Given that such sites tend to be crowded, an outbreak would be exceedingly difficult to contain.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet referred on May 8 to the potential for a dual threat of a surge in violence and in coronavirus infections in Syria as a ticking time bomb. Various parties to the conflict in Syria, including ISIL, appear to view the global focus on the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to regroup and inflict violence on the population, she said.

UNAIDS issued a warning on May 11 that disruptions to the delivery of antiviral medicines critical to treating HIV/AIDS attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic could cause hundreds of thousands of additional deaths and increase transmission rates significantly. UNAIDS chief Winnie Byanyima said, The right to health means that no one disease should be fought at the expense of the other.

The U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) released its third special report (Spanish only) on May 12 on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, entitled The Social Challenge in Times of COVID-19. The commission proposes that governments ensure immediate temporary cash transfers to meet basic needs and sustain household consumption, which will be crucial for achieving a solid and relatively quick reactivation, according to an English-language ECLAC press release. In addition, in the long term, the organization reiterates that these transfers should be made permanent. This support for a universal basic income echoes a recent statement in support of a universal basic income by U.N. Development Programme Asia-Pacific Bureau Chief Kanni Wignaraja.

Three senior U.N. officials called for the immediate release of all Palestinian children detained by Israeli authorities. In a May 11 joint statement, they noted that Israeli government data shows 194 Palestinian children were detained by the Israeli authorities in prisons and detention centres as of the end of March. The statement was issued by U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Jamie McGoldrick, UNICEF Special Representative in the State of Palestine Genevieve Boutin, and Head of the U.N. Human Rights Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory James Heenan. The best way to uphold the rights of detained children amidst a dangerous pandemic, in any country, is to release them from detention and to put a moratorium on new admissions into detention facilities, they said.

Various U.N. agencies and officials condemned two attacks in Afghanistan on May 12 that killed at least 14 people. Among those who issued condemnations were U.N. Secretary-General Antnio Guterres, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer, and the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), held an informal video briefing on May 11 on Joining Forces: Effective Policy Solutions for Covid-19 Response. ECOSOC President Mona Juul released a statement on May 12 summarizing key takeaways from the briefing. Echoing the rallying call of the U.N. to build back better from the pandemic, Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed referred to the sustainable development goals as a clear compass that can guide the world in rebuilding.

Expressing its concern that least developed countries such as Haiti will be disproportionately affected given the weak health infrastructure and underlying social and economic inequalities characterizing these countries, ECOSOCs Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti issued a statement on May 8 cautioning that the COVID-19 health emergency, and its socio-economic impact, could become a humanitarian catastrophe in Haiti if immediate action is not taken to address the countrys health and humanitarian needs. More from the U.N. News Service here.

U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Qu Dongyu reported May 11 that while significant gains had been made in the fight against the desert locust upsurge in East Africa and Yemen more needs to be done to prevent a food security crisis, as the ongoing rainy season not only provides livelihoods for farmers and pastoralists but also favourable conditions for locusts to breed. The locust outbreak is the worst in decades in East Africa.

Three U.N. peacekeepers from Chad were killed in northern Mali on May 10 when their convoy hit a roadside bomb. Four others were injured in the attack, which Secretary-General Guterres noted in a statement may constitute war crimes under international law. He called on the Malian authorities to spare no effort in identifying the perpetrators of these attacks so that they can be brought to justice swiftly.

Three U.N. experts issued a joint statement on May 13 urging Hong Kong not to charge peaceful protestors with crimes. Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Mary Lawlor expressed concern that the recent arrest of 15 prominent pro-democracy activists will have a chilling effect on peaceful protests, calling for the charges against the arrested activists to be dropped.

In remarks to a video-conference on the role of religious leaders in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary-General Guterres said that leaders from all religions have a shared responsibility to promote solidarity as the foundation of our response a solidarity based on the human rights and human dignity of all. Additional reporting on the remarks from the U.N. News Service available here.

The U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on May 13 released a report on ocean conditions in the region. According to ESCAP, the report, entitled Changing Sails: Accelerating Regional Actions for Sustainable Oceans in Asia and the Pacific, explores the key areas around which regional platforms can rally interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral solutions for the ocean. Notably, the study finds that the ongoing global pandemic has created breathing space for the ocean habitat to begin to rehabilitate itself as the pressure of ocean traffic, overfishing and pollution are eased due to reduced activity. See the U.N. News report on the release of the report here.

In a statement on last weeks deadly gas leak that killed 12 people and sickened 1,000 more at a chemical plant in India, Special Rapporteur Baskut Tuncak reiterated calls for the industry to implement human rights due diligence. Tuncak, whose brief covers the implications of the handling of hazardous substances and wastes on human rights, welcomed the opening of an investigation into the incident, including the possibility of charging perpetrators with homicide offences. The statement was endorsed by the Working Group on Business and Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment David Boyd, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, Danius Pras.

The world economy will shrink by 3.2 percent due to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) forecasts in its mid-2020 report, producing $8.5 trillion in reduced economic output over the next two years. DESA also estimates that the pandemic will push over 34 million people into extreme poverty this year due to its economic impacts.

Secretary-General Guterres called it unlikely that leaders will gather in New York in September, as had been planned to mark the 75th anniversary of the formation of the General Assembly, the Brussels Times reported on May 14. The reported quote is from a French-language interview in the magazine Paris Match.

The United States accused Iran of violating a U.N. resolution by launching a satellite last month according to a May 14 news report from the Associated Press. On May 12, Russias ambassador to the U.N. reportedly referred to the U.S. assertion that it continues to have rights as a participant in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, including the right to reinstate sanctions on Iran for alleged violations of the deal, as ridiculous, given that President Donald Trump announced in 2018 that the United States would be leaving the agreement. China also reportedly rejects the United States position that it can unilaterally reinstate sanctions against Iran, also citing Trumps withdrawal from the deal.

WHO representatives are seeking answers after Burundi unexpectedly expelled its staff. Burundian officials requested that WHO officials leave the country May 13. The WHOs ouster comes as the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Burundi has expressed concern that the ongoing election campaign in the country has been marked by an increase in political intolerance and numerous acts of violence and human rights violations. In its May 14 statement, the commission expressed its concern regarding the decision by the Burundian authorities not to apply [WHO] recommendations on social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during the electoral campaign, while thousands of people interact on a daily basis during political rallies. The commission also expressed regret at the ouster of a WHO official from the country.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) warned that the current gaps in social protection could compromise recovery plans, expose millions to poverty, and affect global readiness to cope with similar crises in future. The cautionary note came in two policy briefs, the first entitled Social protection responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in developing countries and the second entitled Sickness benefits during sick leave and quarantine: Country responses and policy considerations in the context of COVID-19.

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National Security at the United Nations This Week (May 8-15) - Just Security

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What is Basic Income? | Guaranteed Universal Basic Income

Posted: May 11, 2020 at 10:53 am

Basic Income, often refered to as Universal Basic Income or a Basic Income Guarantee is a system in which all of the citizens of a country get a certain amount of income from the government -- unconditionally. This income would be received regardless of other income from work or any other limitations.

Basic Income would, in theory, allow for the removal of many other government support programs which would no longer be necessary. It would also give citizens the ability to survive without work. In turn, those who do continue to seek employment would earn a living at a standard above the minimum.

This system is a more efficient option than having a variety of cluttered, complicated, and bloated welfare and assistance programs. The goal would be to spend a similar amount of money in total, but with a far more efficient result. The amount given each individual would need to be enough for a single person to survive. Consequently, this would result in a lower homeless rate, and less people without enough money to eat or pay rent. At the same time, it allows those who can and do work to have free income to spend on things that aren't bare necessities, fueling the economy.

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Basic Income Guarantee | Universal | UBI

Posted: at 10:53 am

Last Updated on August 20, 2019

UBI, or Universal Basic Income, is also generally linked to BIG Basic Income Guarantee. Both terms are defining and describing the same thing a monthly stipend paid by the government unilaterally across the board to all citizens. Most people and even influencers like Forbes.com acknowledge that the future of banking and financial services is digital, so rolling out monthly stipends is not impossible or even challenging.

The City of Stockton, CA recently released some data on its pilot program using Universal Basic Income on 500 randomly selected participants. There were improvements reported primarily related to health and stress levels.

We can debate the true intent or motivation for such a program, but its existence and format is not rocket science. Everyone gets a monthly check. Zerohedge.com recently publish an analysis of some of the challenges related to UBI and BIG and whether handing out money solves anything effectively.

Lots of questions surround such a program the least of which is certainly not inflation and hyperinflation. Where will all this new money come from? How much is money worth of it can be printed from nothing and handed out for free? Maybe its time to further consider Bitcoin and services such as Lolli to store and preserve personal wealth.

This idea of UBI is not crazy either. In fact, its already in motion in 2019 right in California in addition to various places in Europe.

Furthermore, even social media giants such as Facebook are now rolling out their own digital coin. Perhaps the Facebook Libra is the UI (User Interface) for Universal Basic Income and Basic Income Guarantee.

Warning: if you read and truly absorb how do banks create money, then you might be demanding more than just UBI.

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Coronavirus is a crisis for the developing world, but here’s why it needn’t be a catastrophe – The Guardian

Posted: at 10:53 am

While countries in east Asia and Europe are gradually taking steps towards reopening their economies, many in the global south are wondering whether the worst of the pandemic is yet to come. As economists who work on poverty alleviation in developing countries, we are often asked what the effects of coronavirus will be in south Asia and Africa. The truth is, we dont know. Without extensive testing to map the number of cases, its impossible to tell how far the virus has already spread. We dont yet have enough information about how Covid-19 behaves under different conditions such as sunlight, heat and humidity. Developing countries more youthful populations may spare them the worst of the pandemic, but health systems in the global south are poorly equipped to deal with an outbreak, and poverty is linked to co-morbidities that put people at a higher risk of serious illness.

Without the information widespread testing provides, many poorer countries have taken an extremely cautious approach. India imposed a total lockdown on 24 March, by which time the country had about 500 confirmed cases. Countries such as Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria enforced lockdowns in late March, long before the virus was expected to peak. But these lockdown measures cant last forever. Poorer countries could have used the quarantine to buy time, gather information about how the disease behaves and develop a testing and tracing strategy. Unfortunately, not much of this has happened. And, far from coming to their aid, rich countries have outrun poorer nations in the race for PPE, oxygen and ventilators.

In many places, the human toll of the lockdown is already becoming obvious. Children go without vaccinations and crops are not harvested. As construction projects stall and markets are shuttered, jobs and incomes evaporate. The effects of prolonged quarantine on developing nations could be as harmful as the virus itself. Before Covid-19 rippled across the world, 15,000 children under five died every day in the global south, mostly of preventable diseases associated with poverty. Its likely that many more will die if their families are plunged further into poverty.

What can poor countries do in the face of this pandemic and how can rich countries help them? First, the systematic testing strategies that have been crucial to containing the epidemic and easing lockdown measures in Europe are equally critical in poor countries. In places where public health authorities dont have information about the spread of the virus and resources are limited, the response to coronavirus needs to be targeted at active hotspots. In this way, rather than imposing a universal lockdown, health authorities can identify the clusters where quarantine measures are required.

Second, developing countries must be able to improve the ability of their health systems to cope with a potential sudden influx of sick people.

And third, its crucial that poor countries are able to guarantee people a secure livelihood in the months to come. In the absence of such a guarantee, people will grow tired of quarantine measures and lockdowns will be increasingly difficult to enforce. To protect their economies from a collapse in demand, governments must reassure people that financial support will be available for as long as its needed.

In our recent book, written before coronavirus struck but with a title that is now eerily appropriate Good Economics for Hard Times we recommend that poor countries implement what we call a universal ultra basic income (UUBI), a regular cash transfer that amounts to enough for basic survival. The virtues of a UUBI are its simplicity, transparency, and its assurance that nobody will starve. It avoids the problems of many welfare systems that are designed to exclude the non-deserving, even at a cost to the needy. During a pandemic, when governments need to help as many people as quickly as possible, the simplicity of a UUBI could be lifesaving. Reassuring people that nobody will be excluded from subsistence aid also limits the feeling of existential foreboding that so many individuals in poor (and not so poor) countries are currently experiencing.

These ideas arent mere fantasy. The small west African country of Togo, with its eight million inhabitants and its GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of $1,538, is working on all these fronts. In addition to testing 7,900 suspected cases, the country is deploying 5,000 test on a random basis to assess prevalence. Health authorities will use the results to determine when and where to restrict peoples mobility. The government has also launched a cash transfer scheme linking an electronic wallet to peoples cellphones; it already has 1.3 million people registered and has sent money to 500,000 in the region of Greater Lom (the capital) alone.

The good news is that many countries, particularly those in Africa, already have the infrastructure to rapidly transfer money across a population using cellphones. Many people already use these systems in private exchanges, so government schemes based on this infrastructure can be up and running in a matter of days. If phone data indicates that some regions are experiencing greater economic distress, the transfer could be more generous in those places.

In fact, the greatest constraint we face isnt the feasibility of these measures its the willpower to finance them. Developing countries will need a substantial amount of help from richer nations if they are to pay for a UUBI. Some fear that their currencies will depreciate if they act aggressively, potentially spurring a debt crisis. Richer nations will need to work with global financial institutions to offer debt relief and additional resources to developing nations. Many developing countries will need to buy food and medical supplies with hard currency, which will become increasingly difficult because of faltering export earnings and collapsing remittances.

Given the unprecedented collapse in earnings that many people face, conventional fiscal prudence is perhaps less important now than it was in the recent past. Now is the time for governments to help citizens and economies by spending more, rather than less. The governments of developing countries may need to accept large budget deficits in order to finance a UUBI, at least in the short term. When countries begin to loosen their lockdowns and resume production, they will face extremely weak demand. Pledging that cash transfers will continue for some time in the future will allow people to go out and spend money when it becomes safe to do so. In turn, this will drive the revival of the economy.

None of this means that governments should simply ignore concerns about macro-economic stability. But a clear spending plan that responds to the immediate shock of coronavirus, in conjunction with a longer term strategy for how the lockdown will end, offers the best hope for preventing the present crisis developing into a future catastrophe.

Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee won the 2019 Nobel prize in economics for their work on poverty alleviation. They are the authors of Good Economics for Hard Times

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Universal Basic Income: Andrew Yang Was Pushing for It Long Before Coronavirus Pandemic – PopCulture.com

Posted: at 10:53 am

A growing number of representatives in the U.S. Congress are calling for a monthly stimulus check sent to Americans for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. On Tuesday, it received the added support of former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. Yang is no stranger to the idea, having run his campaign around the promise of Universal Basic Income (UBI) to combat the growing threat automation poses to the job market.

Congress is beginning to seriously consider a measure to approve monthly coronavirus relief payments for at least six months. A fledgling bill called the Emergency Money for the People Act would guarantee $2,000 per month for most taxpayers, ensuring that Americans could safely practice social distancing. On Tuesday, Yang added his support for the idea, which is hardly a surprise given his advocacy for UBI in the past. Now, many of Yang's vehement supporters want to make sure he gets credit for his early adoption of the idea.

Millions of Americans have gotten a single stimulus check worth up to $1,200 under the CARES Act, but for those out of work, that money has probably already gone to pay for food, housing or utilities. "They essentially helped pay last month's bills," said Yang in an appearance on Fox 11. "This month's bills, and next months bills, are right around the corner. We have to put $2,000 a month into everyone's hands for the duration of the crisis because that money doesn't disappear, it goes right back into our local economies, into groceries, rent, fuel, and things that help keep our communities, frankly, functioning."

More and more lawmakers seem to agree. In total, 28 Democratic representatives have now cosponsored the Emergency Money for the People Act, feeling that taking care of basic needs is the best way to ensure that Americans continue social distancing.

For Yang, the idea goes even further than that. Through his background in Silicon Valley, Yang came to believe that the automation of more and more jobs would inevitably leave vast swaths of Americans out of jobs, with no new work to replace it. Through a system of automation taxes, Yang wanted to implement UBI for those people in the United States.

With the coronavirus pandemic upon us, Yang's platform seems closer to reality than ever, and many Americans are now revisiting it. Here's a breakdown of how Yang proposed UBI in the U.S.

Yang grew up in Westchester County, New York, the younger son of two immigrants from Taiwan. He skipped at least one grade in school, attended gifted summer programs, went to an elite boarding school and then graduated from Brown University with a degree in economics and political science. Yang then attended Columbia Law School, graduating in 1999.

Yang worked as a corporate lawyer in New York City for a brief time, but found the work unfulfilling. In a profile for The Washington Post, Yang later said that the job was "a pie-eating contest, and if you won, your prize was more pie," and that he wanted to "build something" instead.

After that, Yang worked in some of the earliest online startups, as well as the health care industry and a standardized test preparation company. He also founded Venture for America, a nonprofit dedicated to helping potential entrepreneurs find the resources they needed to continue pushing the U.S. forward.

Finally, Yang has written two books throughout his career Smart People Should Build Things in 2014 and The War on Normal People in 2018. Both are about his experiences in the world of business, his thoughts on entrepreneurship and his belief in UBI as the future for America.

For those that had heard of Yang, this was the reputation he brought into the 2020 presidential race. He sometimes described his political views as "Human-Center Capitalism." This included the implementation of UBI through a program that Yang called the "Freedom Dividend."

As president, Yang promised, every U.S. citizen over the age of 18 years old would receive $1,000 per month from the U.S. government. He argued that this was necessary to make up for the number of jobs being lost to technological automation, which he projected would increase drastically in the coming years.

To pay for the Freedom Dividend, Yang proposed a value-added tax on large American corporations. He argued that he was qualified to combat corporate tax avoidance thanks to his background as a lawyer. Most other countries in the world have a value-added tax in their laws, though some refer to it as a goods and services tax. Either way, it is a complex method of taxing a product or service at every stage of production and distribution, compensating a community for the environment and infrastructure it provided for the creation of that product.

Yang's plan included other forms of welfare already in place. According to Yang, the Freedom Dividend would replace some extant welfare programs, but others would remain in place, meaning that people could continue collecting aid they already received with an additional $1,000 per month on top of it.

Yang's plan also noted that the Freedom Dividend would operate on an opt-in basis, so Americans who did not want the stipend for one reason or another did not need to refuse it. According to a report by USA Today, he theorized that a society with UBI would produce "healthier people, less stressed-out people, better-educated people, stronger communities, more volunteerism, [and] more civic participation."

While Yang advocated for Universal Basic Income, he was more moderate on other universal programs, such as health care. According to a report by CNN, Yang said in November that he supported "the spirit of Medicare for All" but also said that as president, he would take a gradual approach to it in order to convince the American people. He wanted to leave the option of private insurance available for those who wanted it, and thought that the public would eventually realize "that private insurance is not what [they] need" and that Medicare for All is "superior to [their] current insurance."

Still, Yang's policy proposal during his presidential campaign did not include a public health insurance option, nor did it commit to Medicare for All. He was criticized by some for his commitment to UBI and his apparent hesitation on any form of universal health care.

Yang suspended his presidential campaign on Feb. 11, 2020, and later endorsed Joe Biden for president. However, Yang has continued to advocate for UBI in media appearances since then, and has become a regular media presence. Eight days after suspending his campaign, Yang took a job as a political commentator on CNN.

Yang will soon be launching his own podcast as well, titled Yang Speaks. An audiobook version of his second publication The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future, is now available for free on YouTube, sparking more discussion than ever about UBI in the U.S.

In February, Yang mentioned on the air that it was "flattering to be considered for a VP role or any role in someone's campaign," implying that one of the remaining candidates was considering him. He also later said that he was interested in running for Mayor of New York City in 2021.

Yang has popularized UBI for modern Americans, but the idea is by no means his. Yang himself has said that he became an advocate for the idea after reading Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford.

Before that, however, the idea of UBI goes back as far as 1796, when it was suggested by writer Thomas Paine. Pain called for a tax on heritage used to fund "basic incomes" for people in their 20s. The following year, Thomas Spence wrote out a more official proposal for the idea.

If the trend of support for the Emergency Money for the People Act continues in congress, this long-held idea may soon be a reality. For updates on your stimulus check visit the IRS' Get My Payment website. For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization.

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Starvation in the time of Corona: momentum for the Universal Basic Dividend – DiEM25

Posted: at 10:53 am

The quarantine and cessation of economic activities as a result of this pandemic has put uberised workers on the frontline, and other kinds of precarious workers at even greater risk.

The COVID-19 crisis also has farther-reaching consequences: for example, the revelation of the scale of the underground economy (whether related to legal or illegal activities) in Europe, which some states prefer to ignore, while others include it in the calculation of their GDP. The increase in unemployment, the reduction in benefits to the unemployed and the increasingly restrictive policies for entering the European Union have led a significant part of the European population to fall back on the underground economy.

By definition, the underground economy consists of undeclared (and therefore also not taxable) economic activities that are difficult to measure. Legal underground activities are estimated to account on average for 17% of GDP of, while illegal underground activities are estimated to account for at least 3% of GDP. The COVID-19 quarantine and the resulting halt of the free movement of people and goods at both national and cross-border levels has left a significant part of the population without an income.

Beyond a more or less protective social safety net, European states have hypocritically relied upon humanitarian organisations, local associations and even the goodwill of local authorities to take care of those who have been left behind in the event of a hard blow.

But because of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic repercussions, humanitarian organisations and associations, which are already usually overburdened, are currently overwhelmed. These organisations and associations are themselves already suffering the repercussions of certain ultra-liberal policies. For example, one of the first measures taken by the Macrons government in France, immediately after its election, was to abolish the wealth tax.

In the past, taxpayers who paid this tax could reduce their tax burden by contributing to the budgets of humanitarian organisations. As wealth tax no longer exists, they no longer see any point in doing so, and humanitarian organisations are seeing their budgets significantly reduced. For the first time in its history of 70 years, the Emmaus aid association, for example, is calling for donations.

Schools also used to provide a safety net for vulnerable families that rely on the virtually free school lunch (13 cents per lunch in Paris for the poorest families) to guarantee their children one nutritious meal per day. With schools closed, many families are unable to feed their children, as no meals sold in shops are available at an equivalent price.

In the UK, it is estimated that this could affect 4 million children, i.e. almost 30% of school-age children. The same applies to students throughout Europe who used to eat at university canteens. At the same time, large supermarket chains are taking advantage of the opportunity offered to them by current confinement policies to drastically increase the price of food.

Whether in France, Italy, Spain or elsewhere in the European Union, children are hungry and families can no longer feed themselves. European governments alerted by their respective intelligence services are worried about the repercussions, such as major hunger riots that could explode in southern Italy, in the suburbs of large French or British cities.

These same governments have for decades tolerated the expansion of underground economies by reducing the number of labour inspectors and turning a blind eye to employers not declaring their employees and the trafficking of contraband to avoid social unrest. They have failed to offer lasting solutions such as creating more jobs and legalising immigrants.

Governments now seem to be surprised, or at least worried, about the resulting violence and repercussions of these increasingly ultra-liberal policies of which they were the architects. Worried about hunger riots, some governments are also concerned that criminal organisations may substitute the state in helping citizens and small businesses, and may definitely take roots in large areas of the economy.

DiEM25 has, from the outset, advocated not only the end of ultra-liberal policies, but also the introduction of a Universal Basic Dividend (UBD) that would accompany the foreseeable end of the job market as it was traditionally known after the war. It has to be said that although we at DiEM25 have often been labelled as dreamers, now most of our opponents seem to be coming to this exact conclusion.

Japan has just introduced a minimum income for every resident, national or foreigner, to cope with the crisis. Some mayors in California have also tried it and are now pleading to have it implemented nationwide to avoid the worst. Alaska is already offering it statewide. The Democrat candidate Andrew Yang based his platform on this policy.

The UN assistant Secretary General Kanni Wignaraja and the UNDP AP Chief Economist Balazs Horvath are pleading for a universal basic income within the World Economic Forum on 17 April 2020 declaring: rule number one of crisis management: when you find yourself in a hole, first, stop digging. They argue that social inequalities end up costing more by way of causing social unrest, mass migrations and the increase of extremist groups capitalising on them. The European Central Bank vice president Luis Guindos mentioned it as well. Even the Pope declared in his Easter letter that it might be time to consider universal basic wage.

Two days ago, more than 100 British MPs pleaded for the introduction of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) after 30% of British children have been considered as lacking food; and Spain is taking steps to implement next month a basic income to help citizens weather the economic fallout due to COVID-19. The Spanish minister of economic affairs said we are going to do it as soon as possible. So it can be useful, not just for this extraordinary situation, and it remains forever. Other countries in the European Union are thinking about it, and left-wing parties are pushing them to do so. The major counter-argument is the burden put on the taxpayer to finance it.

For the time being, DiEM25 is the only movement offering a solution to the financing argument: we refuse that the universal basic revenue be financed by the taxpayers. That is why we advocate for a Universal Basic Dividend and not simply a Universal Basic Income, i.e. financed in the form of a dividend paid from a portion of shares of listed companies pursuant to stock market transactions or IPOs. We see this dividend as a fair toll payable to the public on stock exchange transactions, particularly from those companies benefiting from state support shares which would be pooled in a European collective fund that would itself produce a due return.

In the meantime, we would go even a step further in the time of COVID-19: what about helicopter money to be created by the ECB: this is totally realistic as it is estimated to 750 billion , an amount which Lagarde regarded as an amount which can be made available to the banks.

Revolutionary ideas? Not so much at a historical moment when only creativity and thinking outside of the box will allow European states and their citizens to survive this crisis.

Consider donating to a food bank near you, if you are able to. The image used in this article can be found on Twitter.

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Is this the beginning of a Universal Basic Income? – Yahoo Finance Australia

Posted: April 11, 2020 at 7:40 pm

In March, the federal government announced Australians left without an income due to coronavirus will have access to increased welfare payments, dubbed the Coronavirus Supplement.

And it also delivered a $130 billion stimulus package that will see workers receive fortnightly wage subsidies or replacements of $1,500.

In the last few weeks, the government has spent $320 billion to keep the country afloat. For reference, the last federal budget was $500 billion.

While the outlay is jaw-dropping, the spending presents an opportunity to rethink the way we deliver welfare and function as an economy, according to senior research fellow at the University of Queenslands School of Economics, Professor John Quiggin.

Hes one of 100 signatories to an open letter calling for the introduction of a Liveable Income Guarantee, also signed by business leaders, policy exports, business people and religious leaders.

As we see in the context of this crisis, the economic system we have is one that periodically generates high levels of unemployment and often has large numbers of people unable to find work, he told Yahoo Finance.

In these circumstances, paying people a living income with no conditionality or much less conditionality than we've tried to impose in the recent past makes a lot more sense and is a lot more equitable than the policies we've been pursuing with increasing severity over the last 20-30 years.

According to Quiggin, the Coronavirus Supplement essentially is a Universal Basic Income (UBI). The question now, he said, is what if we tried a UBI in a non-emergency period?

Why go back to an approach [to welfare] which had to be abandoned at the moment we had a crisis?

The punitive approach to unemployment needs to change, he said, noting that few Australians are looking forward to collecting an income to sit on the couch.

People queue to enter Centrelink on March 24, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

And a future UBI would be a baseline pay, with Australians encouraged to seek gainful employment. But where it was difficult, there would be volunteering channels.

Given some encouragement, people who can't find paid work will be happy to make contributions in other ways, he said.

What we need to get rid of completely is the punitive approach which says if you're unemployed it's your own fault.

The problems with Australias social security program have been widespread and on display in recent days, as images of hours-long queues outside Centrelink were beamed around the country and the MyGov website crashed under the huge demand.

Tens-of-thousands of Australians have been stood down since February, with companies like Qantas, Virgin Australia and Myer alone pushing thousands into the welfare system.

According to the last census, 10.6 million Australians are employed. Prime Minister Scott Morrison believes as many as 6 million Australians will receive the $1,500 wage subsidies over the coming six months.

One of the recognised benefits of a UBI is that it takes the strain off existing systems: no questions asked means no forms to fill out our hoops to jump through.

Professor Quiggin said the cost will depend on the level of the UBI.

One way to deliver it would be to return to a system where the main benefits including unemployment benefits and the pension are delivered at the same rate.

My estimate is that to deliver this comprehensively we'd need something between 5 and 10 per cent of national income, that's essentially an increase in effective tax rates of between 5 and 10 cents in the dollar, taking account of income tax and the GST.

So it would be a very significant expansion... but not something impossible.

Australias United Workers Union is calling for a UBI thats equal to the minimum wage of $740 a week, which comes close to the $1,500 fortnightly subsidy announced by the government on Monday.

Story continues

Spanish minister for economic affairs Nadia Calvio recently announced Spain is moving to introduce a permanent UBI as the already struggling European nation buckles under the pressure of coronavirus.

"We're going to do it as soon as possible," she said. "So it can be useful, not just for this extraordinary situation, and that it remains forever."

She said she hopes the scheme will be permanent, and that a basic income will be mainly aimed at families.

Finland experimented with a UBI. Image: Getty

A large scale UBI experiment has not yet been carried out, with the coronavirus crisis the first time such payments have been deployed at such scale.

Finland carried out an experiment between 2016 and 2018 to measure the effects of a UBI and found that it didnt boost employment, but did lead to increased well-being.

The researchers had begun with a hypothesis that no-strings-attached income would encourage people to seek out work.

"The recipients of a basic income were no better or worse than the control group at finding employment in the open labour market," research coordinator at the Labour Institute for Economic Research Ohto Kanninen said.

Finlands social affairs minister Pirkko Mattila said the experiment was successful.

"We can use the data from the experiment to redesign our social security system; that is going to be the next major reform.

Another test in the 1970s in Manitoba, Canada found that a UBI boosted high school completion rates, pushed hospitalisation rates lower and also lightened the load on the healthcare system.

And billionaires including Elon Musk and Richard Branson have also described a UBI as a potential way into the future.

"A lot of exciting new innovations are going to be created, which will generate a lot of opportunities and a lot of wealth, but there is a real danger it could also reduce the amount of jobs," Branson said in 2017.

"This will make experimenting with ideas like basic income even more important in the years to come.

Robots will change the way we work. Image: Getty

In 2018, then-Greens leader Richard Di Natale proposed a UBI, although met with criticism that such a scheme actually boosts inequality given billionaires and minimum income workers would receive the same funds, and claims that a well-targeted welfare system was more effective.

US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also voiced support for a UBI, but warned that the schemes need to be designed effectively.

She said its worth considering whether a UBI will impact paid leave, access to publicly funded healthcare, and other taxpayer-funded programs already in place.

But according to consulting firm KPMG, a UBI could be inevitable.

UBI represents one option for reinvesting profit created by technology back into society. It would be paid to all, irrespective of income, employment or savings, and would provide enough money to live on, KPMG Innovate national leader James Mabbott said in January this year.

Speaking in the context of a robot and artificial intelligence revolution, Mabbott said the future will require Australia to rethink its approach to displaced workers.

What is the right balance between tax on capital, on profits and on incomes to make this possible?

UBI is one potential solution, though in most countries it would require major tax reform; in the Australian context, an evolution of our century old targeted income support system is more likely in the shorter term at least.

As Professor Quiggin noted, Australia already has something very similar to a UBI.

If we get back to a situation where we're not in a near-lockdown that we have, but we still have this [income], we will have a good chance to try it out, see what works and what doesn't.

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How the Pandemic Could Shape the Economy In the Future – TheStreet

Posted: at 7:40 pm

What will the United States look like after the coronavirus pandemic?

We've been told by experts and politicians that it will be hard--if not impossible--to go back to the way things were.

So, how could things change?

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, weighs in on what this could mean for the U.S. economy in the future.

Watch the video above for more.

And watch the full interview with Krawcheck here: How to Handle Market Volatility, Manage Personal Finances During the Coronavirus Pandemic

KATHERINE ROSS:President Trump has said that the economy will come back better than ever. And I'm wondering if you see this as a big opportunity or is it more of a problem?

SALLIE KRAWCHEK:Well, I have no idea what he means by that, but I think we're in a really important moment for, who are we? What do we as a society and in economy value? And it's one thing to have these discussions in a vacuum and it's another to be faced with this. We're a country where people don't have all the healthcare that they need. And while we think, "Ah, it's them, it hurts them. I don't want to pay for their heart attack," when you hit a situation like this where it's not them, it affects all of us, that if someone cannot afford to have the coronavirus test, if they can afford to have the test, but they can't afford the treatment, if they're not able to make ends meet and so go into the workforce and infect others, we're a society, we're not a group of individuals. And same with the safety net.

SALLIE KRAWCHEK:There's been talk of universal basic income and there's a lot of debate to be had but essentially that's just what we did by sending these checks to people. So what is that safety net that we value as the greatest country, the most powerful country, the richest country in the history of the world? Who are we? I think about this often. Historically, despite all of that, we had been a country that is mean enough that we don't have mandated paid maternity leave. How can we be the only developed country, the only country besides Papua, New Guinea, that doesn't have the kindness of its heart to allow mothers who are producing and bringing up the next generation, which is vital to our economy and society, we don't guarantee them paid time off to get their child off on the right foot. How is that right?

SALLIE KRAWCHEK:

P.S., let me add, the paid parental leave pays for itself in a year. It's hard to think of that because we think of it as an expense when in fact it's an investment that if a mother and a father has time with a child early on in life, they're much more likely to come back in the workforce, so they're much less likely to end up on welfare. And so I think there's one thing about let's come out of it stronger than ever. Yeah, I think we will. Will we come out of it kinder than ever and kinder in a way that has a positive ripple effect to the economy? Again, with the mandated paid leave. That will grow our economy. And so I'm hopeful that we'll have some kind of reckoning of, now that we've looked this in the face, we've had this existential risk, who are we as people and what do we really value as a society when we step back from the easy infighting that can occur when you've frankly got too much?

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After the pandemic, will there be a new status quo? – The Corner Economic

Posted: at 7:39 pm

*This article was originally publsihed by Fair Observer

Peter Isackson| Recently, The Daily Devils Dictionary highlighted the battle that is beginning to shape up in the media and in political circles around whether a return to a real or imaginary pre-pandemic status quo is possible. Most commentators in the West understand that the status quo they refer to embraces two major concepts: a globalized, liberal, free market economy and nations with political regimes based on (or at least paying lip service to) representative democracy.

On March 19, the newspaper The Australian reported this surprising piece of expert analysis: Macquarie Wealth Management, the stockbroking arm of the beating heart of Australian capitalism, Macquarie Group, has warned that conventional capitalism is dying and the world is headed for something that will be closer to a version of communism.

Words change their definition over time. Until 2020, most people thought they knew what the word communism meant. A firm of capitalist investment advisers tells us we may now need to rethink it.

Todays definition takes into account two moments of history, one in the future (from a dictionary to be published circa 2030) and one that includes the past and present.

Contextual Note

Macquarie Wealth Management cites the notion of conventional capitalism, which implies that an unconventional form of it may also exist. The same can be said of communism. In reality, people speak all the time about capitalism and communism without having any clear idea about their definition. Communism at least contains the idea of a group of people, the community, just as socialism contains the idea of society. The word capitalism represents a kind of absurdity because it makes no reference to people. Capital, in the sense of capital goods or the means of production, exists in every economy, whatever its organization and whatever its attitude toward ownership.

What capitalism ended up meaning in most peoples minds for the better part of two centuries was not just the simple fact that industry requires capital investment a given in any economic system but that capital (money and production capacity) has more weight than people in economic decision-making. Financialized capitalism even reaches a point at which people are totally irrelevant. Money (the marketplace) has a mind of its own.

Capitalism as most people understand it means that individuals, groups or institutions that own or control capital have a power of decision-making that is specifically denied to the people merely involved in production and consumption. The only difference would be that in communism, the ownership is said to be collective, meaning all of society has a stake in the ownership of the capital. That may be the distinction Macquarie had in mind when it claimed that capitalism would be replaced by a version of communism.

The Australian explains that Macquarie analysts and researchers said a number of policies announced in recent days, including cash payments to US residents, credit guarantees for businesses in Germany, and a Swedish stimulus worth 6 per cent of the Nordic countrys economy to keep banks lending to companies, were a sign that governments were shifting towards neo-Keynesian and Modern Monetary Theory policies, including a universal basic income guarantee. That type of communism, if applied permanently rather than provisionally during a crisis, would mean that all of the mechanisms of a market economy would still exist, but high-level decision-making would take into account the welfare of real people the entire community rather than merely shareholders seeking maximum profit.

When journalists espousing the liberal or conventional capitalist point of view react to the reality of the policies being put in place across the globe to counter the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, they may be tempted to call it war capitalism. That is how Adrian Wooldridge at The Economist framed it this week. Macquaries communism is Wooldridges war capitalism. The difference lies in the fact that Wooldridge sees it as an ephemeral measure intended to last only for the duration of the threat. And he insists that, just as happened in the US after World War I, the crisis will be followed by a return to normalcy, a term invented or at least popularized by US President Warren G. Harding in the 1920 election.

Other commentators even conservative billionaire Mark Cuban (a possible future US presidential candidate) and centrist French President Emmanuel Macron appear to lean in Macquaries direction, despite their own philosophical preferences.They understand that things will simply not be the same in a post-pandemic world. There will be no return to normalcy. The nations of the world and the world itself as a global community must work to build a new equilibrium, not seek to reproduce an old one, especially one that has shown itself, through two successive crises, to be fundamentally unstable.

In an article on Al Jazeera, the award-winning economic journalist Paul Mason highlightsthe contrast between the top-down crisis in 2007-08 provoked by the mad derivative-based logic of the global financial system and the bottom-up collapsing foundations of todays crisis provoked by the reaction to the coronavirus. Mason expects radical change and quotes Macquaries analysis. He cites as historical evidence the dramatic effects of the Black Death in 14th-century Europe that precipitated the dismantling of feudalism. Mason argues that capitalism is unlikely to survive, long term and in the short term it can only survive by adopting features of post-capitalism. Its no longer a question of political will but of social necessity.

Nobody in a position of political responsibility wants chaos, though it would appear that some people in a position of economic responsibility are so focused on their fiduciary duty that chaos outside of their own market would only be an unfortunate byproduct of their short-term decision-making. Politicians fear the pitchforks of history. Mason cites the incredible violence of the Peasants Revolt, the French Jacquerie and other similar events following the outbreak of plague in the 14th century, violence that quickly resulted in serious destruction and ideological transformation. Even when violently quelled, such revolts provoke lasting change, fatally undermining the power relationships of the normal order that preceded the crisis.

Historical Note

Future historians will look back at the 20th century and wonder why, for a brief space of history, people were so obsessed with isms. Consistent with the reality of the emerging consumer society, political thinking came to be conceived as a kind of catalog of ideological packages that political groups could arrange in a display case from which consumers could choose their preferred brand.

The identities of the brands were singularly confusing, partly because the marketers shifted their branding strategies incomprehensibly, appealing alternatively to the intellect or the emotions. They based some of the appeal on a supposed understanding of the economy (communism, capitalism, socialism), some on political hierarchy (authoritarianism, populism), and some on power relationships (nationalism, fascism). There were other somewhat eccentric isms as well that corresponded to a narrower consumer target audience: communitarianism, libertarianism, religious fundamentalism.

The same was true in the arts, where, after the success of impressionism in the late 19th century, all sorts of isms burst forth to attract the publicas well as the artists themselves, offering a shared brand to exploit for individual artists who couldnt manage to turn their name into a brand: pointillism, fauvism, cubism, expressionism, surrealism, minimalism, constructivism, naturalism, to name only a few. Commercialism never achieved the status of a movement, but it was constantly present as a central feature of the art market. And, of course, the art market over recent decades has become dominated not by aesthetic principles, but by the factor of capitalistic investment. Just last week, Forbes informed us that, in the midst of a pandemic, The Art Market Is Beating The Stock Market.

As the consumer society itself appears to have reached the point of beingconsumed by the pandemic, we shouldnt be surprised if the age of isms itself may be ending. In 2016, the Democratic primary campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders restored some respectabilityto the term socialism, a word vilified in the US for decades as synonymous with un-American. The fact that society will only remain sustainable at the price of transforming many of its institutions means that it will make no difference whether the economic system that emerges from a crisis is described by commentators as post-capitalism, democratic socialism, humanistic communism, unconventional capitalism or a trendy new moniker that doesnt end in ism.

Though many in the public eye are still making a profession of denying it, we already knew that the planet was in peril. Some radical change in our way of life is clearly required to avoid the destruction of humanitys lifeline. Now we can see with our own eyes that what many thought of as the natural order of a free market economy is in a state of provoked collapse. Nobody knows what form it will take, but the new rulebook for the worlds political and economic system will, in the coming years, be very different from what it is today. Will some enterprising marketer invent a new ism to describe it? Or will another Warren G. Harding attempt to impose a normalcy that has been proven unsustainable.

The last time normalcy was imposed, by President Harding and his ilk, the US experienced in quick succession: Prohibition, the Jazz Age, the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, the rise of fascism that included the Business Plot, the Spanish Civil War, Adolf Hitler and World War II. That normalcy didnt seem much like a status quo. It may not be the pattern most people would like to see repeated in our immediate future.

*This article was originally publsihed by Fair Observer

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UK workers hit by the economic pain of coronavirus need an income guarantee – The Guardian

Posted: April 9, 2020 at 6:07 pm

Unlike the financial crisis of a decade ago, coronavirus is not at root a manmade disaster, but it struck a society weakened and undermined by a decade of economic stagnation and nearly 40bn slashed from social security with the acquiescence of the pre-Corbyn Labour party.

Now the rules have been torn up. A 330bn package of support is available for businesses, while welfare systems were rapidly made temporarily more generous to the tune of 7bn. The state is now capable of stepping in to cover the salaries and sick pay of millions, to the fury of the Institute of Economic Affairs.

The job retention scheme was demanded by Labour and trade unions, with details being hammered out between the TUC, CBI and the Treasury. Though it keeps in place employers roles in deciding whether, when and who to lay off, it seems vastly preferable to the situation in the United States, where a third of workers appear likely to have to fall back on unemployment insurance.

Any demands for permanent social change need to connect the current crisis with long-term problems, if not to seem unconvincingly opportunist

The government has rightly been criticised for not covering everyone who needs support and for the ludicrously low level of statutory sick pay, which Matt Hancock sheepishly admitted he couldnt live on. And for the 2 million employees earning too little to qualify even for that and for the lack of help for those whose hours have been reduced but who wont see their tax credits rise in response. For workers who started after 28 February or are leaving their jobs, the safety net means the slim pickings of universal credit.

The subsequent similar scheme for the self-employed will leave some even better off than if coronavirus hadnt happened, but will not be paid until June and will still exclude 2 million self-employed because they earn too much, or have income from work elsewhere, or started their business after April 2019. These people will also have to rely on universal credit to get by.

With all these flaws in the schemes and meagre fall-back, there has never been a better chance for advocates of a universal basic income (UBI): conceptually, if not practically, the simplest way to ensure nobody misses out. Long promoted by campaigners on both the left and the right, a universal payment would plug all the holes by regularly giving every adult enough to live on. The US is experimenting with something approaching it, though (so far) only as a one-off, means-tested payment.

As yet, however, a basic income looks far from becoming a popular demand, let alone reality. Most peoples regular incomes are now covered by employers or government and as they are stuck at home with little to spend money on it can seem like an irrelevant distraction to be demanding regular additional payments for them. There have always been other, more fundamental, arguments from all angles against basic income. But, in terms of immediate practicality, it is hampered by the lack of a government database of peoples bank accounts to make immediate payments without duplication, unlike employers and the benefits system.

There are, however, alternatives that explicitly target only those currently missing out and that, like UBI, eliminate the upfront means test. OpenDemocracy has launched a campaign for a liveable income guarantee and last week the New Economics Foundation put forward its proposal for how a minimum income guarantee might work. Set at the level of the 2019 minimum income standard of 221 a week (excluding rent), though any level could be chosen, the payment would be available to every adult not currently benefiting from the existing schemes. It would be paid immediately through the universal credit advanced payment system, but would be free from conditionality and upfront means testing, while wealthier recipients could see theirs clawed back. People waiting for payments from job retention or self-employed schemes could also claim it as an advance on those.

As the Black Death is said to have sown the seeds for the Industrial Revolution, some have claimed coronavirus could even do for capitalism. But any demands for permanent social change need to connect the current crisis with long-term problems, if not to seem unconvincingly opportunist.

Not only is a minimum income guarantee a more feasible short-term solution to the economic crisis precipitated by coronavirus, it highlights the need for a permanently stronger social security net one that is humane to those who lose their jobs under all circumstances, without seeming impossible or utopian.

Most importantly, alongside any new policy ideas, the left cannot let up for a moment in pointing out the painful shortcomings exposed in public provision: the scandalous fragmented care system; the dangers of outsourcing and the two-tier health workforce; the evil of no recourse to public funds, which endangers us all; our overfilled and understaffed prisons.

Above all, the crisis has shown the continuing dependence of society on the working class employed in both the public and private sector, male and female, of all religious and ethnic backgrounds. Our weekly applause for public sector workers could be either a convenient figleaf over their continued exploitation or it could become the basis of a politics that puts all workers essential, furloughed or unemployed at its centre.

Rory Macqueen is a Labour party activist and was an economic adviser to John McDonnell between 2015 and 2020

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