Help Me Bring Universal Basic Income to All New Yorkers

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Hi. I think politicians talk too much, so I’m going to *try* to keep this as short as possible.

I live in New York’s 98th Assembly district. The Republican, Karl Brabenec, is running unopposed. There are other races for Assembly where the incumbent is running unopposed, and I feel that’s not how things should work. You should always have a choice. Especially when the incumbent running unopposed is a Republican. Here’s why.

So, I am asking residents of NY’s 98th Assembly District to write-me in. You can do so by going to the last row on your ballot in the write-in section, finding the column where Karl is listed, and in that very bottom section, write “BJ Mendelson”.

I have no chance of winning. But that’s not the point. The point is, you should have a choice in who represents you.

Why me? Damn good question. For one, I’m not a bullshitter. You all know that if you read my first book, “Social Media Is Bullshit” from St. Martin’s Press. Truth is a rarity in politics, and I’d like to think / hope I can bring just a little of that back in some small way.

But more importantly, the planet is on fire, we’re heading into another Depression, and I don’t think any of us should be sitting on the sidelines anymore. 100M people did not vote in 2016, which saw that presidential election decided by 250,000 or so votes in five counties. (The 2000 election was decded by 537 votes in Florida, and just over 2% of the vote in Ohio decided the 2004 presidential election.)

I just couldn’t sit back anymore and live in what I feel like is a hostage situation, which is how I feel living under the minority rule of the Republicans. They do not represent us, they do not want to represent us, and they will make no effort to do anything that will assist us in anyway, despite a global emergency with the climate, a pandemic, and a looming Depression.

Ok, so, I’ve already talked too much. Back on point! There’s a simple solution both to our climate crisis and our looming Depression, and that’s a Universal Basic Income. So my entire platform, such as it is when you’re a write-in candidate, is to bring Unviersal Basic Income to New York State.

How? That UBI would be funded through a new carbon tax.

Sounds real vague, right? HOW WOULD THAT WORK YOU HIPPIE FUCK! You might be thinking, because that’s the way Republicans think when you suggest taxes to deal with our planetary emergency and poverty.

So let me be a bit more specific:

  1. There’s already a bill circulating in the State Senate calling for a study of implementing UBI in New York. You can see it here. I would fully support this bill and do what I can to make sure it becomes a reality however I can.
  2. There’s already a bill circulating in the Assembly to create the carbon tax. So, ditto. I would do all things possible as an Assemblyman to make sure the carbon tax is instituted. But I would also like to tweak that bill just a bit so that the funding from the Carbon Tax is explicitly earmarked for a Universal Basic Income.

Now, if you’re doing the math, you might be thinking “OK, 20 million New Yorkers. Giving them all $1,200 a month would cost like 288 billion dollars. That’s way more than the current NYS budget of 177B. What the fuck.”

You’re right! Because UBI is something that needs to be done on the federal level. We won’t be able to give that much under UBI in New York State.

But there are steps we can take to get all of the people some of the money, and some of the money in a Depression is better than no money at all.

My hope is that the UBI created for New Yorkers can supplement an eventual federal-level UBI.

But Wait, There’s One Other Thing You Should Know About NYS UBI

I believe in reparations. If you’re Black or Indigineous, you are owed an apology on the state and federal level. (Look up the history of Wall Street here in New York and you’ll see what I mean about why New York needs to apologize too.)

And we can do reparations in a way that won’t make everyone else crazy by doing it through UBI. Here’s how:

If everyone in NY over the age of 18 got $300 a month, if you’re Black or Indigenous, you would receive an additional $200. No questions asked. No strings attached. This is our apology and what you are owed. Consider this an investment in a brighter future.

And I want to be clear about something: UBI is NOT “giving people money.”

It’s an investment. The same way Industrial Development Agencies give tax incentives and funding to companies and small businesses, UBI, to me anyway, is no different. It’s an investment in our people.

Your obligation in receiving UBI is to be all you can be, which in turn spurs innovation, entrepreneurship, the arts, and good citizenship. I believe that while UBI is expensive, we will see a return on our investment over time in the form of these things.

Now, before anyone freaks out (because some white people will freak out about reparations), I have good news: Everyone is eligible for that additional $200 amonth by committing to two years of public service. If you complete that public service, than congratulations, you’ve earned that additional $200 a month as well.

There are other ways to also fund the UBI: A micro-tax on financial transactions, following Milton Friedman’s idea of creating a Land Value Tax, and reducing or eliminate any unnecessary taxes and make sure the funding collected from those taxes are going where they’re supposed to go. Again, I’m not big on taxes, I want to eliminate as many of them as possible, but there are a few that may be needed to protect the planet and fund the UBI, and those to me are necessary to keep.

Also: If you receive SSI or any sort of welfare payment, you would get to keep that money in addition to your UBI. I am not for replacing those services with UBI, but I am for eliminating the harassement that comes with getting those payments each month.

So, this turned out to be a long blog post. I’m sorry. Talk is cheap, and your time is valuable, so I’ll shut up now. This is my platform. This is what you would get by writing me in as a candidate for NY’s 98th Assembly seat.

Thank you for reading. Feel free to get in touch with me via Instagram here.

B.J. Mendelson is the author of “Social Media Is Bullshit” from St. Martin’s Press.

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