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Unconditional Pandemic Security

Scott Santens
Scott Santens
5 min read
Unconditional Pandemic Security

What I'm about to tell you I only understand because I have a basic income already and it's hugely important for everyone to understand right now in this moment of health and economic crisis.

$1 ≠ $1

That may seem like bad math, but let me try and explain...

Many of us were already feeling financial insecurity prior to this pandemic. Every month was a matter of survival. Would you earn enough? Would you keep your job? What would happen if you lost your job? Would you find another? Would you go on welfare? Would you become homeless?

All of those fears and anxieties are now actually happening. It's real. People are actually losing their sources of income. People have no idea how long they'll be without income and what's going to happen to them. People are scared shitless and rightly so, because there's no security for so many people.

All of the ordinary policy responses are rooted within insecurity. Unemployed? Maybe you'll get unemployment insurance. Maybe you won't. Maybe you'll get welfare. Maybe you won't. Maybe you'll get a tax cut. Does that even affect you if your income vanished? Maybe you'll get a stimulus check? Maybe you won't qualify for it. And so insecurity reigns.

What we must do is rein in insecurity.

There is only one policy response that provides real security because security is a feeling built on knowing in advance. It's not about the money. It's about the unconditionality of the money.

We need to know our worst fears won't happen.

If everyone knows that the worst possible scenario for them and their family is an absolute minimum of $1,000 per month instead of $0, and an additional amount for their kids, they feel something different. Starvation is off the table. That may sound small, but it's not. It means that fear no longer occupies your mind. You are lighter.

What the government desperately needs to do to avoid mass desperation is to step in and say:

We've got you. You are all American. We are all in this together. This nation was founded to secure and protect each other, and that's exactly what we'll do. No worst fears. No conditions. You are a citizen of the United States of America, and your unconditional right to life is a right we secure.

An Emergency Universal Basic Income (EUBI) is least of all about the amount of money. Most of all, it's about introducing a solid floor underneath everyone so no one fears falling into the great depths of the unknown. It's not the same for someone to keep an extra $1,000 as it is to know $1,000 is guaranteed to be there.

A fully universal unconditional payment provided each and every month for at least the next six to twelve months (and possibly longer) that excludes no one (including kids) means that every single one of us will feel that minimal sense of security through this crisis.

That feeling isn't nothing.

It's everything.

Yes, there are health reasons for UBI right now. Yes, there are economic reasons for UBI right now. But, I just want to emphasize that what's going on right now requires a response that understands what we are all feeling and addresses it.

We don't know what's going to happen.

We don't know and we can't know, but what we can do is pull together and swear to each other that no one will be left behind. No one. That's the entire reason we founded this nation in the first place, because we knew we were stronger together than as individuals all on our own.

Now is the time to reaffirm our founding principles. None of us are on our own. We are all Americans and we refuse to let one person fall because that one person could be us. We will protect each other and recognize that a storm is here and the only way to weather it is together.

There has never been a moment in time in any of our lives where it is more important than right now in this very moment to construct a floor that no one falls beneath and that we can all use to stand upon and rebuild after this pandemic has passed and our lives are unpaused.

There are so many reasons to demand a UBI by calling and writing your legislators to support it, but as someone who I think is a lot less afraid than a lot of other people right now because I feel I'm going to be okay, EVERYONE needs to feel too that they will be okay.

We will get through this, but I implore you to try and understand how important a feeling of security is to everyone as things get worse before they get better. What we need to do, we need to do right now, and that's guaranteeing for the duration of this crisis and beyond, a bare minimum amount of guaranteed economic security.

Look beyond the amount.

Look beyond means-testing.

Look instead at creating an island of known within a sea of unknown.

Unconditionality.

Universality.

Basic needs.

These are what define UBI, and making sure we provide UBI right now is what will define us, and also define our nation.

History will judge all of us for the actions, and lack thereof, that we take in this moment. Are we going to be the ones who step up and change the course of history for the better, who get through this together and make sure that the next time this happens, we have the mechanisms in place to take immediate action? Or are we going to be the ones who refused to come together and who watched as our leaders failed us, and by extension watched as we failed ourselves?

I hope and urge that we do the right thing.

Our coinage has reminded us of what that right thing is for centuries. E pluribus unum.

Out of many, one.

We are stronger together.

Let us unite in this time of political division and physical isolation around the idea that no one should ever be left behind, and all of us are better off when all of us are better off.

There has never been a more important time to guarantee each other's most basic needs as a right of citizenship. We can do this. We must do this.

And we must do it NOW.


Please find who your representatives are and contact them immediately to urge they support UBI.


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Unconditional basic income (UBI) advocate with a crowdfunded basic income; Author of Let There Be Money; Senior Advisor to Humanity Forward; BasicIncomeToday.com editor; Fund for Humanity board member