Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, January 12, 2018

Baby Bonds

Republicans want and are trying to impose work requirements for Medicaid recipients (with the consequence that the young, elderly, and disabled folks who most depend on the program are imperiled) right after they voted for tax cuts for the richest inheritors of massive wealth even as investments and supports of the economy are eviscerated.

You don't have to read critical theory to understand the values, aims, and consequences of these decisions. They are plain to see. At a time like this it feels worse than useless to keep flogging the same painfully obvious points over and over again.  Trump is an incompetent, intemperate, unqualified criminal and the Republicans are enabling him for tax cuts for the rich and to bully queers and people of color -- me, many people I love, many students I love and care for, millions I don't know, but from whose efforts and intelligence I benefit every day. If Republicans get their way I will die in a feudal slaughterhouse amidst greenhouse storms.

Republicans are dismantling our notional and ineffectual democracy and implementing a more plutocratic and authoritarian country from which Republicans imagine they will benefit. Many will die who would otherwise live, many will be lost to suffering and distress who would otherwise contribute to the support of society and progressive solution of our shared problems. The single best way to stop this development is to vote for enough Democrats to stop the Republicans from doing their worst. This is not to say Democrats are good or even good enough, of course it is just to say that voting Democrats into office is the single thing most of my readers can do to address the extremity of our present distress. As a queer ecosocialist feminist you will be unsurprised to discover that most Democrats regularly disappoint and enrage me even as I vote for them as the best alternative on offer as they almost inevitably are.

Now, set all that aside for a moment. I do want to say that there are worlds of deeper imaginative possibility that we should contemplate abstractly, concretely, aspirationally. If this is not only a time of distress and death -- it is also the time of revolutionary democracy. In a world in which Democrats re-assumed control, enfranchised all voters, strengthened social security by raising the income cap, implemented non-militarized accountable community policing models, provided Medicare as a public option onto universal coverage as a right, allowed bargaining to lower pharmaceutical costs, allowed post offices to work as non-profit savings and loans to provide equitable financial services for all, subsidized soil restorative agriculture programs and farmer's markets in urban and rural food deserts, raised taxes on the richest, invested in rapid rail, windfarms, solar infrastructure, burying wires and otherwise weatherizing our energy and transportation infrastructure, new possibilities emerge to address sustainability and inequity and open up the possibilities of discovery and diverse pleasures of which freedom significantly consists. Another such proposal, which I just read about this morning from the Roosevelt Institute, is to provide "baby bonds" to citizens at birth that are designed to redress radical wealth inequality and provide a basis for equitable growth and prosperity. It seems to me that "baby bonds" might be a rhetorically effective way to advocate for reparations for slavery and Jim Crow (understood as continuing on in current disenfranchisement, mass incarceration and police profiling, redlining and predatory lending, inequitable education, environmental racism).
The economy has room to grow, which means it’s the right time to think big about the social safety net. Roosevelt collaborators, economists Sandy Darity and Darrick Hamilton, are doing just that. As a way to combat rising inequality and level the economic playing field in the U.S., they propose (link is here) giving every newborn a “Baby Bond,” or a one-time deposit at birth tied to socioeconomic status. “The key ingredient of how successful you will be in America is how wealthy your family is,” Hamilton told The Washington Post. Every child deserves a fair chance. To build upward mobility for all Americans, big ideas are needed.
Maybe we will claw back to a state of sufficient sanity to work toward such proposals. If we beat the Republicans back, maybe we can even push Democrats from the left into progressive transformation. My students are generationally devoted to civil rights, sustainability, diversity, secularity more than my own was as a general matter. If the heavy hand of the last generation of cishet white supremacist ablist consumerism doesn't manage to destroy the country or the world, I am eager to welcome and collaborate with rising generations to repair the harms of history and build a fairer freer world before I leave it. My bond, for the babies.   

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