During his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize address, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “there is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we have the resources to get rid of it.” What was true then, is true now. There is nothing new about poverty and we do have the resources to get rid of it.
In his last published book before his assassination, MLK Jr. wrote that “the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income.”
More than 50 years later, and we have yet to take advantage of the simple and effective solution. We must establish a Universal Basic Income (UBI) in the United States. Thanks to the hard work of figures like former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Poor People Campaign’s Reverend Dr. William Barber, we are closer than ever to making UBI a reality. I know the difference that a Universal Basic Income program will have on the lives of folks across North Carolinian, and as your Senator, I will introduce legislation to ensure every adult in America receives a $1,000 monthly recurring check.
At this moment, we are confronting an income inequality crisis, a generational poverty crisis, and an economy that is making it increasingly difficult for working families and middle-class folks to get by. Now is not the time for small ideas or incremental reforms. It is the time for bold and substantive change. It is time to reimagine what our government is capable of and transform our society into the Beloved Community Dr. King dreamed of and fought for.
Right now, we can see in our own great state of North Carolina the positive effects that UBI can have on a community. Since 1997, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Native Americans has distributed revenue from their casino to all tribe members, with checks ranging from $500 to more than $12,000 a year. More recently, the Durham City Council is working to implement a basic income pilot program. In Stockton, Mayor Michael Tubbs’s basic income pilot program dispelled the notion that guaranteed basic income makes people less likely to work and confirmed that with this money, people pay off their debts, moving closer to financial liberation, and pay for necessities like food and clothes that also stimulate the economy. It’s past time the government not only invests in the people but trusts them.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown us that what was once thought of as inconceivable is not only plausible but common sense. This is something that the government is truly capable of doing. Although we can see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the pandemic, North Carolinians know that experiences of economic hardship will not end when we are all vaccinated. It is imperative that we implement a survivor’s agenda in the United States Senate and create a people-centered economy. An economy that supports a single, working mother. An economy that supports hard-working farmers. An economy that supports those fighting every day for higher wages. An economy that affirms our dignity and our humanity.
I know what it means to just get by and I know what it would’ve meant to have extra resources to put food on the table and pay my rent. Communities like mine have been left behind. Our struggles have gone unnoticed and our cries for help, unheard. And then, even when the government does try to support us, it’s often too little or too indirect. When I get to Washington, I’m taking all of us with me. We need to get cash into people’s hands so they can survive and eventually thrive. So they can escape cyclical, generational, and structural poverty and have the financial freedom to create the small business they always dreamed of or pay off the debt they never thought they’d get out from under. UBI will rejuvenate the economy of main street, side streets, and unpaved streets.
This will not be replacing existing means of government assistance but will be in addition to them. It will be instead of endless funds for endless wars, tax cuts for millionaires, avoidance of a billionaires tax, the protection of corporate loopholes, and the allowance of big tech to sell our data while we don’t benefit at all. The question is not how can we afford this, the question is how can we afford anything less than this given the scale of the crises we face and the scope of the challenges working people across North Carolina and across the country are confronting.
MLK Jr.‘s final book was entitled “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” That question lingers over us today. Chaos or community? We must choose community. We must choose each other. We must choose our collective humanity and our right to a life free of fear or ruin and rich with opportunity and promise. We must bring the fight for a Universal Basic Income to the Capitol.
Add your name if you support bringing Universal Basic Income to a vote in Congress and eliminating poverty in America for good: https://act.ericaforus.com/signup/social_ms_ES_20210414_EA_UBI/