Ian Schlakman's Top Priority for Maryland is a Basic Income Guarantee
August 8, 2018
Ian Schlakman — Green Party nominee for Governor of Maryland — is highlighting his support for a basic income guarantee as a key difference between himself and all other candidates in the 2018 election.
"Big business will not provide economic prosperity for all Marylanders" said Schlakman. "Neither will small business. I am a small business owner and a champion of small businesses, but we have to acknowledge that relying on the capitalist business model will not provide economic prosperity for all Marylanders. Not even a jobs guarantee can do that. To do our duty to protect every resident of Maryland from hunger, from homelessness, and from struggling to get by every day, we have to establish a basic income guarantee."
A basic income guarantee is a version of established benefit programs such as Social Security. Under a basic income guarantee, every resident receives a payment from the government on a monthly basis, regardless of their age, ability, or employment status. Recipients of a guaranteed income payments are free to seek additional employment.
"As Governor, I will begin rolling out a basic income guarantee immediately by providing every resident of Baltimore City with $1,000 monthly to cover their basic living expenses - food, housing, electricity, and household necessities. Our state government has deviated from its responsibility to care for people. I will not bend over backwards to promote business with the hope that higher profits and few more percentage points of GDP will trickle down, because it won't."
After initiating the program in Baltimore City, Schlakman plans to initiate it in the Maryland counties with the lowest income per capita — Somerset and Caroline Counties on the Eastern Shore, and Allegany and Garrett Counties in Western Maryland. The program will soon provide a basic income guarantee to every Maryland resident.
"I support a federal basic income guarantee, and have worked to promote the idea with Basic Income Action, a non-profit group I helped found," said Schlakman. "I've worked with many experts from around the work, and they agree - establishing a basic income guarantee is the most effective way to eliminate poverty. It's better than expanded welfare programs, better than a jobs guarantee, and certainly better than pumping up the capitalist business model in the hope that more profits will magically elevate poor and working class people.
"I support a jobs guarantee only after we have established a basic income guarantee," said Schlakman. "Our first priority has to be to provide for the dignity of all people by making sure they can survive, with their housing, food, and basic necessities guaranteed. Every adult will be provided a basic income, and everyone will be free to work in addition to their basic income. But if our reforms create a situation in which people have to work in order to survive, millions of people in this country are going to stay poor. We have to prioritize helping everyone out of poverty before we expand our efforts."
Approximately 40 million Americans are living with "severe impairments," as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Schlakman is particularly concerned about people with disabilities, older populations, and people with child care responsibilities being pressured to work instead of being supported by a basic income guarantee. "Forcing people to work without guaranteeing them a basic income is cruel," said Schlakman. "It reminds me of the 'workfare' requirements established by the Clinton Administration in the 1990s. We would be pushing people out of their homes where they are needed into unskilled jobs that provide them with little value beyond their manual labor. We can — and must — do better."
Schlakman supports expanding state or federal programs to provide more skilled jobs and job training, and promotes the idea of massive investments in infrastructure tied to jobs programs. He insists that a basic income guarantee is a better solution for solving poverty.
"I support a massive investment in our energy infrastructure, our transit infrastructure, and our technology infrastructure," said Schlakman, "not because I want to put people to work but because I believe revitalizing those systems are critical to our survival. We need to transition to 100% clean renewable energy immediately, and to do so we have to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in wind and solar technology, retrofitting, research, construction, and other industries. We have to build an efficient mass transit system, and to do so we need to create jobs in both construction and design. We need to close the digital divide, and to do that we need people working both in technology and construction to wire all our cities for free municipal internet. We need to do these things because they are critical to our survival, not because we need to put people to work."
"Democrats who support a jobs guarantee but aren't calling for a basic income guarantee are acting out of fear," said Schlakman. "They want to say they are solving poverty, but instead of working for the most efficient solution — a basic income guarantee — they call for a jobs guarantee because it is politically expedient. They will try to appeal to their liberal base as poverty fighters while being able to tell Republican voters that they put people to work. I don't believe you can make radical change and play both sides."
Schlakman is calling for a state-wide basic income guarantee of $1,000 per month per adult, regardless of age, ability or employment status.
A mIllionaire's tax can pay for a basic income guarantee, universal single-payer health care, and other programs designed to lift all Marylanders out of poverty.
"Maryland leads the nation in the number of millionaires per capita," said Schlakman, "and the Hogan administration has spent the past four years paving the way for more wealthy people to expand their businesses, pay fewer taxes, and deal with fewer administrative hurdles to getting and keeping more money. It is time that those who have benefited from this environment contribute their fair share and take on a small additional tax responsibility to help fund revolutionary poverty-ending programs."
Schlakman is the only candidate in this year's gubernatorial race to advocate a basic income guarantee, which would provide a guaranteed income of $1,000 per month to every adult resident of Maryland.
"The number of 'penta-millionaires', that is, people with $5 million or more in liquid wealth, has increased almost ten percent in the last year," said Schlakman, "and Maryland is one of the states with highest number of these ultra-weathy households. The top 1% of U.S. households now control over 25% of the liquid wealth in the United States, about $9.7 trillion. This is where I look to fund programs designed to eliminate poverty."
Schlakman points out that the top marginal tax rate in the United States has decreased from almost 90% in the 1950s to approximately 45% today.
"Bringing back the high marginal tax rates that were on the books sixty years ago would have an even more dramatic effect today," said Schlakman. "In reality, most wealthy people were not taxed at the highest rates back then, because the rates only applied to those were making an equivalent of $2 million annually. Not many people were that wealthy then, but because wealth is so concentrated at the top of households now, those higher tax rates would apply to many more millionaires, penta-millionaires and billionaires. Because those households are so vastly wealthy they can afford to pay higher rates without the responsibility affecting their way of life, and the funds collected would let us fund the revolutionary programs I am calling for, like a basic income guarantee and government-funded universal health care. I see this as a win-win scenario."
Schlakman also plans to fund a basic income guarantee by diverting funds for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grants and new taxes on casino gambling, lotteries, alcohol, and cigarettes.
"Despite the name, TANF funds don't actually go to needy families, they are paid to states as block grants from the federal government," Schlakman said. "Maryland's TANF funds are allocated poorly and should be used instead to fund a universal basic income, which will benefit every adult and every needy family in Maryland without means tests, or work requirements."
"Simply put," Schlakman said, "our government's top priority must be eliminating poverty and all the associated negative impacts of poverty. Anyone arguing otherwise need to defend their position and explain to the people of Maryland why something else is more important."
Schlakman considers a basic income guarantee a human right and urges local, state, and national governments to establish basic income guarantees in preparation for — not in response to — automation and other economic developments.
"As a small business owner and advocate for worker cooperatives, I am not campaigning on bringing bigger business to Maryland," said Schlakman. "Big business yields big control over communities. Big business makes communities dependent on the success of the big business. Big business is only concerned with profits and marketing. Lately big businesses and their billionaire owners have been marketing their efforts by talking about piloting basic income guarantees. This is a bad idea. Our governments — local, state, and federal — need to step up and establish publicly controlled and overseen basic income programs before we turn to CEOs to privatize yet another essential service."
"Last month President Obama gave a speech in which he said that 'we’re going to have to consider new ways of thinking about these problems, like a universal income' after mentioning the threat technology poses to jobs", said Schlakman. "An opinion columnist for Blooomberg News responded with an article titled 'Obama and Bezos Could Make Basic Income Work'. This is dangerous thinking. Tech billionaires want to rinse their corporate reputations after they put tens of thousands of people out of work. We need to provide for every Marylander and every American because it's our moral obligation to take care of people, not because we want to insulate Amazon or Tesla or some other corporation from the consequences of layoffs."
"The dream of automation was always to put work into the hands of robots and computers so human workers could relax, contribute to their communities outside of the factory, and live fulfilling lives," said Schlakman. "It was never force millions of Americans to have to struggle working two or three jobs or stay in the homes and eat decent meals."
Schlakman advocates immediately establishing a basic income guarantee in Baltimore City, then quickly rolling out the program to Allegany and Garrett Counties in Western Maryland and Somerset and Caroline Counties on the Eastern Shore, the lowest-earning counties in Maryland. "I am not advocating a pilot program," said Schlakman. "The research has been done, experts have weighed in and we know that the most efficient way to solve poverty is through a basic income guarantee. Billionaire capitalists are obsessed with demonstrating their skills with data, and they always talk about piloting basic income programs. People are not data points and have the right to basic support regardless of how pilot programs perform."
"As Governor, I will make sure Marylanders will have a basic income guaranteed. I am the only candidate calling for this, and I'm not calling for a pilot or a study. We're going to get it done."