universal basic income reframe: benefits for being

the second plenary of the 2018 policylink equity summit was the best by far (full program here). it far outshined the first one, which i thought was going to be my favorite. i got some really good stuff out of the convening, but the single most powerful thing was the term “benefits for being.” i so wish i had been paying more attention to who said it but i believe it was either carmen rojas, ceo of the workers lab, ai-jen poo, executive director of the national domestic workers alliance, or tara houska, national campaigns director for honor the earth. i need to find out if i can go back and rewatch it.

benefits for being. SUCH a goddamn good frame. i have been watching the universal basic income conversation for a while and it has seemed pretty slow/stuck for a while. and honest, that makes sense. that conversation is in a moment of slide, but continued progress will make it possible to insert into the conversation when a shock happens.

the problem with the universal basic income frame is that is it is situated in so many old frames:

so why do i like the term benefits for being? it just sets up so many excellent conversations and even debates to have. and some of the debates are ones that get to shared assumptions of people who are often seen to be oppositional. or it will force people (in my life, the people i’m talking about are often conservative and religious) to reckon with this one question: do you believe that everyone is valuable enough to get benefits just for being? do you believe everyone is fully human? do you believe that no human is worth more than another? do you believe that any human should starve because they’re not “earning their keep”? in all of these cases, the answers may not be how i would answer. but at least the truth will be on the table. and then we can talk. why don’t you believe every human being is worthy of just being?


uff. so good. gotta find out who that was… i’m gonna start using it and i need to make sure i give credit where credit is due. dudes love to take credit for shit they didn’t do. and i’ve noticed that even when i explicitly say i didn’t make something up but can’t remember where i got it, people attribute it to me anyways. either because they don’t know what else to do or because patriarchy has got it like that.

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