We need to ask can basic income fight climate change and politicians like Donald J. Trump (R-New York). Self-proclaimed climate defenders need to ask this question because hostility to climate science and efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions is growing.
For instance, the so-called Yellow Vest rioters turned Paris into a warzone in December 2018. Importantly, the Yellow Vests originated as a middle-class protest movement against high gas prices in France, The New York Times reveals.
For example, The Times describes the Yellow Vests this way; “Those who participated were predominantly men and women who rely on their cars to get to work and take care of their families.”
In addition, The Times reports the Yellow Vests are heavily middle class. The Gray Lady notes: “In the mix were small-business owners, independent contractors, farmers, home aides, nurses and truck drivers. They live and work primarily in rural towns and in the suburbs or exurbs of France’s big cities; many earning just enough to get by.”
Importantly, the Yellow Vest is a safety garment French law requires all drivers to carry in their vehicles. To explain, authorities designed the Yellow Vest to make stranded motorists more visible to other drivers. Thus, the Yellow Vests are the world’s first motorist rebels.
Can Basic Income Fight Climate Change Deniers?
Therefore, the Yellow Vests can be viewed as a populist movement fighting what they see as a threat to their middle-class lifestyle. Interestingly, the Yellow Vests are finding admirers in strange places.
Hence, the battle against climate science makes strange bedfellows. Incredibly, American billionaires and libertarians are making common cause with violent French fascists.
Then there’s Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro whose perspective foreign minister Ernesto Araújo denounces climate science as “a Marxist plot,” The Guardian reports. Uniquely, Bolsonaro openly admires Trump and Brazil’s murderous military dictators of the 1960s and 70s. Like Trump, Bolsonaro is threatening to pull out of the Paris accord on climate change.
Can Basic Income Fight the Trump Presidential Fantasy
Populists like Trump, Bolsonaro, and the Yellow Vests appeal to the eroding middle class. To explain their followers are the people whose income, jobs, and job security are disappearing.
In America, the Trump presidential fantasy is that we can recreate the mid-20th century economy; with its secure, high-paying jobs and stable family life, by pretending it is 1988 or 1958 again. The denial of unpleasant realities like climate change, technological unemployment, income inequality, and growing Chinese military and economic power is integral to the Trump presidential fantasy.
For example, Trump won 67.9% of the vote in the coal-mining state of West Virginia with his rants about “clean, beautiful, coal.” Notably, the average household income in West Virginia is $43,385 a year, Data USA calculates. Conversely, the median household income in the USA was $62,175 a year in June 2018, Sentier research estimates.
Can Basic Income Fight Climate Change and Populists
Thus to counter populists like Trump climate defenders will need economic policies that benefit people in places like West Virginia. Obviously, basic income is a logical candidate.
For example, a $500 a month individual basic income could raise the income of a West Virginia family of four to $63,385 a year. Tellingly, that figure is over the U.S. Median Income of $62,175 a year.
In detail, such a basic income will be paid to every individual regardless of age. Hence, a family of husband, wife, and two kids will receive $20,000 a year in basic income.
My suspicion is that West Virginia voters will support a climate change believer who is fighting for a basic income for them. Notably, Trump’s popularity in West Virginia rests on the correct perception he sort of fights for the economic interests of the state’s residents.
Most of the working and middle-class opposition to climate science is rooted in the fear that efforts to cut greenhouse gases threaten families’ lifestyles. Growing income inequality and technological unemployment magnify these fears.
Could Basic Income and a Carbon Tax Fight Climate Change?
Importantly, basic income could make a carbon tax palatable to middle and working-class voters.
To explain, such voters will oppose a carbon tax if the proceeds disappear into government bureaucracies. However, the same voters will love a carbon tax if they receive the proceeds as basic income.
Therefore, climate defenders must commit to dedicating 50% to 75% of the proceeds of a carbon tax to basic income. Under those circumstances, basic income will transform a carbon tax from Scrooge to Santa Claus.
Can Basic Income Fight Climate Change Alone?
However, basic income cannot fight change alone. Instead, basic income must be part of a generous package of benefits for the working and middle-classes.
Those benefits could include abolition of income taxes for the middle class, free public transportation, single-payer health insurance, tuition-free college, higher minimum wages, and increased Social Security payments for seniors. Plus, tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and solar-electric systems must be part of the deal.
Beyond an expanded welfare state, we must invest in job-creation efforts for regions with fossil-fuel dependent economies. For instance, building solar panel, battery and electric-vehicle factories in places like West Virginia will be a good start. In addition, we could extend high-speed internet to every town in the United States to give all Americans direct access to the digital economy.
Can Basic Income and Hyperloop fight Climate Change?
Moreover, next-generation transportation systems; like the Hyperloop, could connect people in places like West Virginia to high-paying jobs in the big city. To explain, the Hyperloop runs on electricity, and it can theoretically travel at speeds of up to 759 miles per hour (1,223 kilometers per hour).
Thus, a Hyperloop could make daily commutes from West Virginia to New York or Washington D.C. feasible. For example, Hyperloop One estimates that a Hyperloop trip from Pittsburgh; just north of West Virginia, could take as little as 39 minutes.
Uniquely, Hyperloop could defuse movements like the Yellow Vests by offering a faster, cheaper, and cleaner alternative to the car. Plus a successful Hyperloop will lessen the need for trucks, diesel-powered trains, and jet aircraft, all of which burn fossil fuels.
In the final analysis, fighting climate change will require fighting populism. Fighting populism without repression will require economic policies that benefit everybody not just investment bankers.
To win climate defenders must offer policies that benefit everybody. Without such policies the world will see many more Trumps and Bolsonaros.