This was also posted here.
I support Andrew Yang for President in 2020. The Flagship of his policies is the Freedom Dividend in which every American Citizen over the age of 18 will receive $1,000.00 each month unconditionally. This seems surprising to a lot of people I talk with, although the concept has longstanding American support from Thomas Paine to Martin Luther King, passed Congress twice during the Nixon Administration and has existed in Alaska, a deep red state in the form of a Petroleum Dividend for over 40 years. Maybe it will help our fellow Americans if those of us who have lived experience of receiving an Unconditional Basic Income can share it. I’d like to share a little context on myself and things that guide my thinking on this topic.
I studied and earned degrees in Political Science and History in undergrad and commissioned into the US Marine Corps for eight years after that. I did this because I loved the Constitution for the United States and wanted to support and defend it. Then I went back to school to get my MBA and have worked at IBM as a Product Manager for two years. All of this experience guides how I think about politics, history, society, economics, business and technology. All topics relevant to the Yang Presidential candidacy and our future as a nation. But I realized I also have a personal story to tell about how UBI can affect a person and a family.
When I started my job as a Product Manager at IBM company I was stressed. Really stressed. I was having overwhelming anxious and unproductive responses to stress. People assume when you’ve been in life and death situations you get your stress meter re-calibrated and are better prepared to distinguish between real stressors and less serious annoyances. That thought is right and wrong at the same time. You do better recognize what is and is not of importance, at least intellectually. You also may learn a response that works really well for those life and death situations and your body and emotions may default to that at all times. Or you may have put away all the normal response and processing to traumatic stimuli and events because it wasn’t time to process it then. That bill comes due eventually and processing must be done.
So here I was with my overwhelming anxiety and fear responses from fairly ordinary daily challenges. I was afraid I wouldn’t say or do the right thing. I was afraid I’d be found out to have bluffed my way along. I was afraid I’d be fired. Unable to pay my bills, to provide for my wife and my baby daughter. I was afraid I was sliding down a slope and couldn’t stop myself, and that the natural result was going to be ruin for my family. I started to actually think my family might be better off without me and have intrusive thoughts of self-harm. I got help. People who care about me encouraged and supported me to seek help including big contributions from my wife, my family, close colleagues and professional counselors. Through a combination of exercise, guided meditation apps, psychotherapy and other treatment I made substantial gains. I’m happy to say I am doing much, much better. I also finally completed my application for service-connected disability benefits for post-traumatic stress among other injuries. A service-connected disability rating represents the commitment of the American people through the department of Veterans Affairs to support a veteran in any disability they incurred connected to their service. This includes commitment to cover medical care for any condition created or worsened by service. It also includes direct payments for disabilities. These are intended to help compensate the veteran for any difference between what they are able to earn and what they could otherwise be earning, but for that service-connected disability. The cash value of my service-connected disability payments sums to around a thousand dollars a month.
These payments were like a breath of oxygen when I was gasping for breath in my stress. See, even though I was getting paid well by IBM (plenty to cover my student loan debt, family medical debt, mortgages, bills and still leave a little for modest vacations) it did not feel secure. I felt like I couldn’t count on that salary because I was genuinely afraid I was going to lose it. Even though this disability payment is small (relative to my salary) it is (mostly*) unconditional.
I don’t know how much of the eventual peace and calm I came to comes from the professional treatment I received. I don’t know how much of it came from the love and support of my family. I don’t know how much of it came from my own work, reflection, exercise and meditation. I don’t know how much of it came from the knowledge that there is a floor below which our income will not fall. And that is kind of the point! This wholistic approach helped me recover into a much healthier and more productive father, husband, veteran, citizen, employee and community member.
Remember please that going through the challenges I did, I had significant support, benefits and privileges. I was already educated, coming from a middle-class upbringing. My debt load is moderate and manageable. I was no longer in any kind of physical danger. My family was never in any actual danger of losing shelter or food or safety. I had health insurance, both from the VA and my employer. Oh! I had an employer! I had a job that paid well despite stressing me out. Now re-consider if you will how a child or an adult who grew up with none of these benefits or advantages might be troubled. Think about how much it might benefit them to have healthcare coverage and the peace of mind that an Unconditional (always going to get it) Basic (just covering the basics) Income (always coming in) can deliver as a foundation on which to build their lives. Now consider that applied to every Citizen over the age of 18, in our entire nation. Imagine what we can accomplish when we put Humanity First!
Please do what you can to help us in this effort! Read up about Andrew Yang and his policies! Donate to the campaign if you can (we average $26 per donor!) Volunteer your time phone banking or texting to educate your fellow voters. If you receive any kind of UBI please join me in telling your story!