The Left will come to deeply regret its cowardice on basic income
Peter Frase wrote an interesting piece in 2011, Stop Digging: The Case against Jobs. The essay was pretty popular and was re-blogged widely on various sites. In the article, Frase challenged a consensus that has emerged on the Left without much debate which places jobs at the center of demands:
“Much of the left has, mostly without debating it, coalesced around “jobs” as a unifying political demand. The motivation for this is clear: one of the biggest problems the country faces is that there are 20 million people who are unsuccessfully seeking full time employment. But while it may seem obvious that the solution to this problem is to create millions of new jobs, this is not in fact the only possible solution — and there are major drawbacks to a single-minded focus on increasing employment. For one thing, it may not be feasible to create that many new jobs. Moreover, it’s equally debatable whether, from a socialist perspective, it is desirable to create these jobs even if it is possible.”
Frase questions whether it was possible to create that many jobs, but he goes further to ask why should the Left be demanding this sort of job creation. He gives 3 reasons why the Left might demand job creation:
- People need income and job provides that.
- Work gives dignity
- Things need to be done that won’t get done unless someone is paid to do them.
Frase points to the apparently irresolvable paradox the Left encounters whenever it tries to go beyond its limited demand for jobs: the real problem of the unemployed isn’t their lack of jobs, it’s their lack of money. If the real problem is not a lack of jobs but a lack of money, why can’t we just handout money to everyone? This argues Frase, is why some on the left are coming around to the idea of just giving people money whether they have a job or not.
But the idea of just giving people money, whether they perform any useful labor or not, clearly runs into its own problem: How can the Left win a benefit like money for nothing when at present even those who have jobs are not paid enough to live on? The utopian character of the demand for basic income runs into the harsh political reality that a even a decent wage itself is widely considered an obstacle to economic growth.
(And before you stupidly interject that this is a position peculiar to the GOP and the Koch brothers, I should add that cutting the real wage — through inflation — is the expressed policy preference of the Left’s favorite fascist economist, Paul Krugman as well.)
If a decent wage impedes ‘economic growth’, what impact will paying people to do nothing at all have on ‘economic growth’? Moreover, the Left imagines it can get a decent basic income for those not working, when it has proven itself incapable of even getting a living wage for folks who are working.
To be perfectly blunt about this: the Left cannot get the state to create 20 million jobs, it cannot get the state to require a decent wage for those who have jobs and it cannot get a decent basic income for those who don’t have jobs. It is marvelously incapable of doing anything whatsoever to affect political relations at this point.
It is not as if all of these are different issues, since, as Frase points out, the real problem is the money. At root, the Left thinks it can fix the social ills created by capitalism by throwing money at the problem. The Left thinks some of these ills can be fixed by giving some people wages and the rest can be fixed by handing out money`to everyone.
The Left either does not know, or does not care to admit that the problem we are facing is an order of magnitude worse than jobs or income: we have an entire generation of youth well into their twenties and thirties who are utterly cut off from society in all major industrial countries. Beyond this, we have a vast population in the less developed countries who never had a chance even before this crisis and for whom the promise of a below minimum wage job in some field makes a dangerous trek across the US-Mexico border or the Mediteranean Sea worthwhile.
Frankly, giving the depths of the poverty we face globally, basic income and jobs creation is nothing more than the most privileged sections of the global working class realizing they are not immune. It expresses the horror of a bunch of privileged motherfuckers who now realize they too can eat out of dumpsters like the rest of the class. They thought they were immune to the crisis, they thought the fascist state would step in and make it all better, they thought the ills of capitalism could be fixed by tinkering with capitalism on the margins. And now these same deluded fuckers are trying to understand why they are living in their parents’ basement, working as an adjunct professor as a state college.
Not one of these people has ever shown that money plays any role whatsoever in the production of material wealth and not one of them has ever shown that the production of material wealth must take the form of a job, yet they repeat time and again that jobs or money are necessary if people are to escape poverty.
The capitalists demand labor of us all and our worthless Leftists only object that the wages paid for this labor are too low. The Left has gotten so desperate they now demand jobs that produce nothing and money to be paid for nothing.
And why is this?
It is simply because the Left cannot bring itself to even question the necessity for wage labor; you dumb fuckers would rather starve before you questioned this holy of holies of bourgeois society, and you twist yourselves into pretzels trying to fix capitalism without touching on its actual material relations.
Worst of all, you blame the working class for your stupidities, for your cowardice.
Obviously no one can get elected to office by promising to take away the jobs of the working class — so let’s talk about reforms. This is what lies behind every reform proposal: the hope the Left can get elected to Congress or Parliament. Even worse is the hope the Left can convince some useless politician to sign on to its incremental proposals fix the worst excesses of capitalism.
Thus, the Left packages all of its ‘demands’ in first place to appeal to fascists and their supporters. And don’t say that you don’t do this, because you know you do – you spend all your time thinking about how to market ‘socialism’ to the fucking fascists.
The demand for basic income is just a marketing tool to covertly force an end to the connection between individual labor and consumption; it is just an attempt to create communism without abolishing capital, money and labor. Under communism there is no connection between the labor contribution of an individual and her right to the means to life. All basic income does is try to implement this principle in the crudest possible fashion employing fascist state currency.
But here is where our basic income advocates get a little too clever for their own good: the fascists want basic income too. But fascists want it not to implement some sort of crude communism with fascist currency; they intend to use it to starve the working class. The aim of the fascists is to fold all social spending into a basic income and then inflate its purchasing power away.
This is the same tactics they used to cut the real purchasing power of Social Security, disability, unemployment and the minimum wage. Since the Left is completely dishonest about its own aims, it has ended up in bed with some of the most notorious fascists in the US — thus we have the spectacle of David Graeber [being pretty sanguine about] that fucking fascist, Charles Murray, to that other fascist, Paul Solman. (For the record: this earlier stated that Graeber was praising Murray. Graeber believes he did not praise Murray, and I accept his statement on this.)
Instead of openly declaring our intention to sever labor from consumption — communism — some on the Left think they can piggyback fascism all the way to communism. This is not going to work and the Left will come to deeply regret it.