The following is the testimony I wrote and recorded on video for Congress on May 18 as part of the #TestifyForUBI campaign. If you would like to take part too, please visit TestifyForUBI.com and fill out the application form. Please also follow @TestifyForUBI on Twitter for updates.
My name is Scott Santens and I’m the senior policy advisor to Mike Broihier in Kentucky for his U.S. Senate run. If you’ve read anything about the idea of universal basic income, there’s a good chance you’ve read something I’ve written. Since 2013, I’ve devoted myself full-time to this concept of our investing in all of society with an amount of money that is unconditional, universal, individual, and regularly provided, and I can faithfully promise you, I know more about this particular topic than most anyone in the country.
I can talk for hours about why UBI is so important, and has never been more important than right now, but I’m told I only have three minutes, so here’s how I want to spend that three minutes, which I thank you for providing.
There is no policy more important right now than getting a monthly amount of money to as many people as possible. The economy is an engine that runs on money as its fuel. Without people spending money as consumers, our engine stops. Getting money into the hands of consumers is not a Democratic or a Republican idea. It’s simply what our economy needs to function.
You’ve all heard of Monopoly. Notice how that game provides all players a starting amount of money, and replenishes that money with more money with every go around the board. That money is not given with any other condition than essentially reaching the first of the month. Without that money, the game is unplayable. If no one has money, it’s game over.
Right now we are looking at a game over scenario. When we’re seeing the Fed worry about estimates like 42% of the tens of million of jobs that were just lost may be gone for good, and how there are actually just as many unemployed people who haven’t filed for unemployment as those who have, and when we’re also seeing accelerated investments in automation, it’s time for BIG ideas.
Some of you may believe that UBI pays people to do nothing, but UBI pays people to do anything. Unemployment insurance pays people to remain unemployed. It can also lift them above the employed. Right now, that means many unemployed non-essential workers are earning more than many employed essential workers. A universal cash benefit reaches both. As a raised floor, it prevents the unemployed from falling below the amount provided, and the amount provided functions as an income boost to the still employed, which right now would function as Mitt Romney’s Patriot Pay.
Before this crisis even hit, there were 13 million Americans living in poverty receiving nothing from the government. Poverty kills, but so does stress. So does insecurity. 38% of those ages 18-44 are experiencing severe mental distress right now. That’s a result of worrying about survival. It’s the fear of the unknown.
That fear carries over into our economy. Why spend money if you have it, when tomorrow you might not? The most important thing we can do is assure everyone that at least for the remainder of the year, they will have at least $2,000 each month. That money will not be hoarded. It will be spent. That spending will encourage businesses to hire back more employees. That spending will get this economy out of recession and get our economy growing again.
This is also about more than money.
If every American knows they will be okay, that means security, and economic security means a lot of things, but among them are: increased physical and mental health, reduced crime, improved educational outcomes, increased entrepreneurship, and less self-medicating, which means fewer deaths of despair.
There is food in stores but people without money lined up by the thousands for food banks. The Fed is doing everything in its power to prevent the Second Great Depression, but you aren’t yet, and we need you to. This economy will not just turn back on, just because the "open" signs light up. This economy will be starved of customers for years to come, unless you do something about it, and the best thing you can do is to get money to people without conditions, universally.
Get money into the hands of spenders, and watch the economic engine that is the U.S. roar back to life in a way none of us have ever seen.
Get UBI into place, even temporarily, and you will see that it’s the bipartisan way forward.
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