January 04, 2018

#BasicIncome vs guaranteed employment

I have blogged several times in the past year about basic income, guaranteed income, universal basic income, or whatever terminology you use. As you can see, I even created a theme logo for relevant blog posts.

But it's always been skeptical, in the very best use of the term.

From the beginning, I've said I oppose any libertarian or tech-neoliberal versions of BI that would use it to eliminate current safety net items. I've been skeptical of a basic income guru or priest like Scott Santens for not being more skeptical of such versions, for not being upfront about its costs on a regular basis, and for being not just optimistic, but in the neighborhood of crack-smoking for how easy it will be to get this done.

I have also challenged Santens' version of BI for being specifically geared to the tech-neolib "gig economy," which has problems of its own that BI won't fix but that OTHER governmental, regulatory changes could fix. Also, such fixation ignores that driving more workers toward a "gig economy" only empowers corporations more — corporations who would then be more empowered to either yank back BI gains or else make the taxes to pay for BI more regressive.

Related to that, I have stressed in detail that BI is only one tool, no more, in what working Americans need in terms of real government support — and that single-payer national health care is more important. That link, in turn, has extensive extracts from a long Boston Review piece that offers the skeptical critiques of libertarian or tech-neoliberal versions of BI in even more depth than I have.

Related to THAT, in noting BI is NOT a magic wand, my skepticism of him has increased based on some of his Twitter followers.

As far as specific versions of not just neoliberal or tech-neolib income in the abstract, but very specifically, what Santens himself supports, I reject using BI to get rid of unemployment benefits, to replace any part of Social Security, to replace disability benefits or other such things. Instead, keep the first, strengthen the second and fix the third.

(I still follow Santens on Twitter, but use various filters, as I do with some others.)

So, if BI is that problematic, at least in America — it may be less so elsewhere, but color me at least somewhat skeptical there — but the idea behind it is of such yearning hope, is there anything better?

Jacobin offers an emphatic yes with its backing for guaranteed employment.

One point it makes is one I partially, at least, agree with — the semi-hysteria over "here come the robots" of Santens and other BI advocates. I think that Jacobin may be overplaying the hype angle, myself, but at worst, the degree of the problem is at the midpoint between it and the BI crowd, and it's probably not even there.

Now, the pluses?

First, Jacobin notes that it — let's call it GE for short — has an even older pedigree than BI, going back to Huey Long's "Share the Wealth." Related to that, I would add that there don't seem to be any libertarians or tech-neoliberals in either past or present supporting GE. That means one doesn't have to put a "selected versions" filter on it. That, in turn, pushes it ahead of BI right there.

Second, the authors note that GE would likely fight poverty more quickly than BI. They tie this into another issue with Santens — that his basic BI of $300 a month or whatever isn't much, and that if he wants to talk "real" BI, as I've already noted, it's massively expensive.

Third, the above points, plus others, mean that GE should be easier to implement. And, if you increase the minimum wage and also index it to inflation, you address other problems.

The idea of focusing on a guaranteed job does run somewhat counter to James Livingston's "No More Work," so arguably, Jacobin is being more capitalist than the best versions of BI. (Santens says BI is "neither capitalism nor socialism," which I find somewhat facile.)

That said, this is where two forks of pragmatism trump one of idealism.

I believe GE will be easier to implement than any basic version of BI.

I believe GE would return more benefit than any basic version of BI.

January 03, 2018

Top 10 blog posts of 2017 —
Thanks #ActualFlatticus, Ted Rall, others

Here's the list of the top 10 blog posts of my last year. The last spot changed a couple of times in the last few days of the year, but this is where we are at as of noon Jan. 1.

1. My long blog post on the life and death of Twitter groupie guru "ActualFlatticus," known in real life as Christopher Chopin. (And, don't worry, people who want more skinny on him, I've got at least one blog post for the new year based on skimming through his Twitter archive.)

2. Thanks to Ted Rall exhibiting either incredible obtuseness or something similar about how anti-SLAPP lawsuits, and other aspects of civil law, work, and the help of Ken White, aka Popehat, I did an in-depth takedown of Rall's bloviation.

3. A post from the start of last year gained steam whenever New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker got mentioned as a possible neoliberal Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 — my take on pharmaceutical reimportation and Booker having a snootful of Big Pharma.

4. Ken Burns' Vietnam War TV documentary, almost certainly his worst ever, led me to write up a long takedown not just of it, but of his whole history, based on an old blog post that said watching him was like the stereotypical result of eating Chinese food.

5. Phat Albert, Albert Pujols, slumping to new lows in 2017, led to me wondering how close he was to the end of the playing line, seeing him approach the Pete Kozma line territory, detailed here.

6. Donna Brazile's new book, a mix of running over Hillary Clinton and Debbie Wasserman Schultz with the bus, on the one hand, and a mix of gloryhounding, CYA and Bernie Sanders suck-up on the other, led me to throw all three under the bus.

7. Bullshit about who was gassing whom in the Syrian Civil War, a bullshit largely spread in America by the same people peddling Putin Did It, led to this explainer of what we didn't know, and what we actually did know that undercut the bullshitters, about that tragic conflict.

8. Are attempts to kill Obamacare dead? It appeared that was the case this summer, as Mitch the Turtle McConnell couldn't get 50 votes. However, in the GOP Tax Scam and elsewhere, Republicans later in the year continued to chip away at the edges, with Schmuck Talk Express John McCain, "normalized" by #TheResistance for his Obamacare stance, making a mockery of that.

9. The possibility of the St. Louis Cardinals getting Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins for a major roster boost led to my speculations on trade cost before Marlins owner Derek Jeter did a bunch of shenanigans to trade him to the Yankees. And, Jeets now says the Marlins will be profitable this year.

10. Sneaking in at No. 10, a Chris Tomlinson column on CEO pay led me to further speculation about that and related issues, including the old "don't bite the hand that feeds you."

January 02, 2018

TX Progressives round up 2017, peer into 2018

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy and leftist new year.


SocraticGadfly riffed on the idea of the Twelve Days of Christmas and found 12 jobs even better than knitting for Hillary Clinton.

PDiddie at Brains and Eggs named Hurricane Harvey his 12 jobs even better than knitting, unlike the Dallas Snooze plumping for Joe Straus.

EgbertoWillies.com writes about "Chappelle to poor whites: Trump is fighting for me, not you" and points out that "Evangelical Christians will pay for trading faith for power, morality lost forever."

Neil at All People Have Value said Democrats running for office at every level of government in 2018 should be asked how they will respond to the threat of authoritarian government in the U.S. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Rivard Report tells the story of Holocaust survivor Rose Williams on her 90th birthday.


Therese Odell was still on the Trump watch beat over the holidays.

DeAnne Cuellar tells you how to save the Internet.

Juanita is feeling better now, thanks to all for the concern.

The Dallas Observer notes an Internet poll showing Mark Cuban would beat Donald Trump in 2020 — if he ran as a Dem, which he says he won’t. Also at that site, Jim Schutze lists Dallas' top 5 needs for 2018.