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March for Andrew Yang-backed universal basic income set for Harlem church as support for idea rises

March for Andrew Yang-backed universal basic income set for Harlem church as support for idea rises

Andrew Yang, businessman and 2020 Democrat presidential candidate pitches his argument for Universal Basic Income at the National Action Network convention in New York City on Wednesday April 3, 2019. NAN founder and civil rights activist, the Rev. Al Sharpton listens with the audience. | Photo: The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair

As a new poll now shows nearly half of Americans now back the idea of universal basic income being pushed by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a march next month in support of the idea in New York City is expected to culminate at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem.

“Our economy is leaving millions behind. Join the people powered movement to send the message that our society and economy needs to evolve to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” says the website for the march billed as the “Largest Ever March for Universal Basic Income” set for Oct. 26.

The march is expected to start in the South Bronx and feature leaders from Yang’s campaign, Al Sharpton, Chairman of Black Lives Matter Hawk Newsome and candidate for Congress James Felton Keith.

UBI is not only supported by liberals. Conservative economist Milton Friedman proposed a UBI early in his career, and Charles Murray, a libertarian political scientist at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote a book arguing for a UBI as a replacement for all the current social welfare programs. 

Critics of UBI worry that many people making close to the proposed minimum would simply drop out of the workforce. 

Yang, 44, who supports universal basic income as a major part of his policy platform wants to start giving every adult citizen $1,000 a month no strings attached to prevent the “widespread squalor, despair, and violence” that he believes will result from millions of workers being permanently displaced by technology.

“America is starting 100,000 fewer businesses per year than it was only 12 years ago, and is in the midst of shedding millions of jobs due primarily to technological advances,” Yang explains in his 2018 book, The War on Normal People.

Yang, who founded Venture for America, an organization that helps entrepreneurs create jobs in cities like Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland, argues that “normal” Americans who represent a majority of the population are the ones most vulnerable to being ravaged by the ongoing technological shift.

Support for Yang’s candidacy has also grown. A new Emerson poll now showed him in fourth place, his best results yet, among Democratic presidential candidates with 8 percent support. In the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls, Yang is currently in 6th place at 3.3%. Six months ago, his poll average was less than 1%. 

Asked this week on ABC’s The View why he thinks his campaign is doing so well, he replied:  “I think we’re doing so well because we are talking about problems that people see around them every day. The fact that 30% of our stores and malls are closing every day because of Amazon. And Amazon is paying zero in taxes in return. And when I say that to Americans around the country, they see it around them. And the fact that we can build an economy that works for us, that vision will help us address the problem that got Donald Trump elected in the first place. Americans are very smart. We understand what’s going on around us.”

While a majority of Americans initially resisted the idea of universal basic income for American citizens, a new Hill-HarrisX poll released Wednesday said 49 percent of registered voters are now in favor of it, marking a 6-point increase over a similar survey in February.

The poll also showed that support for UBI was more intense among voters 18 to 34. Some 72 percent of this age group favored the idea. Older adult voters, however, weren’t so supportive. Only 26 percent of voters 65 and older supported a UBI program.

Some 30 percent of Republicans in the poll said they would support a UBI plan while 66 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of independents noted their approval.

About four years ago, Rev. Roger Lee Ray of the progressive Community Christian Church in Springfield, Missouri, argued that there is a moral argument for UBI.

“For most of human history, poverty was caused by scarcity. There simply was not enough food, not enough drinkable water, not enough housing. There was not enough seats in classrooms for everyone to receive a quality education, to be comfortably housed, to be adequately fed, but the past half century has changed that. For the first time in human history, the world has more than enough to provide all these things for everyone,” he explained. “What we have now is not a lack of resources. What we have now is a lack of morality, a lack of will, a lack of basic common decency. Our poverty, especially in the United States, is created by those who both hoard wealth and who cling to power.”

He argued that charity is not a solution to poverty in the 21st century and noted that the economic system the world has been conditioned to accept is the problem.

“As Dorothy Day was fond of saying, ‘The problem is our stinking rotten system, and our acceptance of it.’  Our ancient scriptures, our hymns, our cultural myths and stories, all evolved in a context of food shortage, so that they derived images of generosity, of sharing, of showing charitable concern for those less fortunate ... but all of those tenderhearted, well intended images are not accurate in the 21st century. They are not accurate descriptions or reactions to what is going on in the economy of the present moment,” he said.

“The real problem is an economic system that keeps nearly half of the population locked into poverty when we have more than enough to take care of them. There are more empty repossessed houses in the United States than there are homeless people,” he said.

“... There is more food going into the landfill every day than would be needed to feed every hungry person in the world. Our problem is not scarcity, unless what you mean by scarcity is a lack of conscience, a dearth may I say, of giving a damn. The system is so corrupt, and yet we have come to accept it as a necessity, that we forget to challenge it,” he added. “A basic wage to all Americans would change everything ... but somehow we are suspicious.”

Christians, he argued, should not be suspicious of a concept he believes is endorsed by Scripture.

“In the version of Luke as we have it today, there are these verses of a message that is an anti-empire message. There's nothing about a messiah. There's nothing about dying for your sins. There's nothing about going to heaven or avoiding hell. It's much more down to Earth. It's Economics 101. It is practical theology,” Ray said.

“If you've got two coats and somebody doesn't have one, you give him one. If you're a soldier, you've got an actual job and that job is not extorting money through false accusations and lies about the people that you are supposed to be protecting. If you are a government official, you've got a job to do. Don't try to make yourself rich at the expense of others. It's very, very practical advice against abuses of power,” he said.


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