Since the presentation of Royal Decree 463/2020, a government considered progressive has been announcing a series of social measures aimed at alleviating the main consequences of the crisis, identifying groups at risk and applying specific measures that cushion the most dramatic effects of economic paralysis such as who runs to extinguish the most urgent foci in a huge fire that a runaway wind does not stop spreading.
Meanwhile, voices pointing to the need to apply an economic measure that encompasses the entire population, that shields all citizens without exception or condition against the flames, are increasingly audible. As reported yesterday March 22 The confidentialReferring to sources of the executive, this demand could have penetrated the debates of the coalition government while the country, as President Pedro Sánchez announced a day earlier, faces at least two more weeks of alarm, which this time could include a further stoppage. of economic activity.
The result of this pulse we will see possibly after the Council of Ministers next Tuesday, when new social measures are announced and we know the effects of the runrún for a basic quarantine income that has been intensifying in these very long ten days that started on March 14 .
“The economy has to stop to stop the curve, but life cannot be stopped,” Hontanares Arranz, activist of the Basic Tide against unemployment and precariousness, sentenced on Monday, March 16, a group that that same day broadcast a call for the implementation of a basic income of forty. Although the government had not yet made public the bulk of its social measures, Arranz already described the incipient response to situations of economic vulnerability derived from the impact of the health crisis as “ineffective and meaningless.”
“The situation is chaotic, the worker does not know if he has to go to work, the employer does not know if he has to open, and the one who does not have a job does not know how he is going to get resources. A basic quarantine income is urgent to be able to make these decisions more calmly ”
“The situation is chaotic, the worker does not know if he has to go to work, the businessman does not know if he has to open, and the one who does not have a job does not know how he is going to get resources,” summarized the activist. “We consider that a basic quarantine income is urgent to be able to make these decisions more calmly.” For this employee of the social services of the Community of Madrid, who had been called to work only one day in all that first week, the difficulty of implementing any conditional measure was more than evident. “It is easier for a family to know that they have a guaranteed universal benefit to go to the supermarket so that it is the social services that have to identify this situation of vulnerability.”
According to the report on 2019 poverty status a total of 12,188,288 people, more than a quarter of the population, would be at risk of poverty and social exclusion. This in a “normal” operating situation of a growing economy. Those who work in social services like Arranz and also defend a basic income as a fundamental tool against inequality, have been denouncing the ineffectiveness of conditional aid to alleviate these situations of need for years. Expanding more conditional measures in times of emergency does not appear to be promising in terms of effectiveness.
Last Wednesday, March 18, just the social measures announced on the eve were published in the BOE, the president of the Basic Income Network Daniel Raventós together with Julen Bollaín, also a member of the Network and former economic spokesman for Elkarrekin Podemos, were wondering in a grandstand published by eldiarionorte.es: “That the entire population had a modest material existence guaranteed… until the end of the year? Is it too much to ask? Is this a scandalous proposal? ”
In the text they pointed out that most of the resources mobilized by the government would go to assist companies, and they opposed the possibility of, with the same resources, guaranteeing “a basic income of 1,000 euros per month for the entire population until the end of the year ”
“This crisis is teaching us the importance of literally putting life at the center, but for life to be cared for we need to have our basic needs covered and that, for a high percentage of the population, can be done only through basic income” , valued in conversation with The jump Pura Sánchez, who defends basic income from feminism universal.
Sánchez cannot help imagining what the scenario would be if that universal and unconditional basic income that he claimed years ago had already been operating at the time the emergency was unleashed, a scenario of significantly less vulnerability. “Many people’s health would be better, they would be better nourished, having a guaranteed income in these circumstances would greatly reduce anxiety, and they could focus on maintaining health, without having to worry about the material conditions of life.”
Work in alarm state
A disturbing paradox has generated debates and questions since March 14: if people are taking individual responsibility to minimize their displacement in order to avoid contagion, why are the work centers still open and a Does a considerable part of the labor force continue to carry out its activity?
Although we are probably on the eve of a leap forward in terms of the economic paralysis of the country, during the first week of the state of alarm there have been countless tensions between the right of workers to preserve their health, and the many companies have the prerogative to require them in their jobs. In this context, an old question was posed: in the current correlation of forces between capital and labor, what possibilities do employed people have to assert their rights?
“If working people all received the basic income equally, today there would be no one forced to take the risk of going to work. Production could be stopped without many consequences for the worker ”
“If working people all received the basic income equally, today there would be no one forced to take the risk of going to work. Production could be stopped without many consequences for the worker ”, explains Anna Acalá, union delegate of the Inter-Union Alternative of Catalonia (IAC) at the Girona hospital.
Unlike other union centers, the IAC believes in universal and unconditional basic income as an essential measure, beyond quarantine, to strengthen the “individual and collective” bargaining capacity of the working mass.
“It would provide security that allows you to demand working conditions. Nobody would be forced to accept the first garbage they offered him in order to have ‘something’ with which to pay the bills, ”sums up the union member, for whom the basic income would also make it easier to feed a resistance box, or would allow prioritizing work. useful for the community.
“There are many people who have spent years profiting from our effort, and it is time for private companies to assume responsibilities, to raise taxes and establish a universal basic income,” Alcalá defends.
Mental health and material security
We are at the beginning of a recently extended quarantine, and the effects of confinement on mental health are already a recurring theme in conversations and articles. For Sergi Raventós, a social worker who is part of a Mental Health Foundation, it is not possible to dissociate it from the material conditions of people.
“On the one hand we see the effectiveness of the universal health system that does not make distinctions when treating the entire population and on the other the miseries of the system conditioned to being poor, unemployed, or highly disabled”
The group with which this basic income activist works will be particularly affected by this situation, as some “have temporary jobs and it is probable that they will not be renewed. Others were going to be hired just now for Easter and the summer period. ”
In these circumstances, you can see the difference in terms of the level of uncertainty between those who depend on a job and those who, having a 65% disability, “have a non-contributory pension insured on a monthly basis that gives them a certain important economic tranquility”, even when the amount they receive is below the poverty line.
For this member of the Basic Income Network, a guaranteed and universal income would allow people to “take care of and evaluate their health ahead of the urgent economic need of having to go to work.” In the face of the health emergency for Raventós, the evidence that unconditionality is imposed is clear: “On the one hand we see the importance and effectiveness of the universal health system that does not make distinctions when treating the entire population and on the other the miseries of the focused and conditioned system to be poor, to be unemployed, or to have a great disability ”.
A paradigm shift?
Given the social measures approved by the government related to ERTEs or the situation of the self-employed, social networks are abuzz with labor and bureaucratic doubts. To what extent will I be able to take advantage of it? What are the procedures to complete? The confusion over the processes to access help and resources in the case of being entitled to them, or the calls for attention by groups that are excluded from these conditioned salvage operations, are the hangover that these announcements are leaving.
“We will make the income statement and we will settle accounts, but now we should bet on a basic income for everyone and without management problems, or costly controls, or bureaucracy. We would end poverty, uncertainty, economic insecurity, discomfort and psychological insecurity ”, Sergi Raventós affirms vehemently in this situation.
“If staying at home is unconditional, basic income is also”, defended journalist Nuria Alabao for her part in a grandstand in the ctxt magazine last Thursday, March 19, in which, with a hopeful tone, he affirmed: “Perhaps we will be in time to take one more step towards a new world where crises will never be paid by those from below, where we all have guaranteed a minimum to live in conditions”.
In the accelerated course of these days of quarantine, there is little left to verify whether the government is moving towards the unconditional income model that many defend
Agreeing that this extraordinary situation invites the valuation of a basic income, Pura Sánchez, however, is skeptical, for her two enormous obstacles stand in the way of achieving this paradigm shift: the first has to do with what that she considers a lack of sovereignty. He believes that the government’s decisions are subject to the dictates of international organizations that would not allow a redistributive measure of this scope. The second would have to do with the way in which the individualism that champions neoliberal governance would have conquered subjectivities: “It is hard for me to think that we are going to generate in this break the ability to reflect in collective terms”.
In the accelerated course of these days of quarantine, there is little left to verify if the government is moving towards the unconditional income model that many defend, a possible prelude to think about an unconditional basic income when the storm ends, or if it continues trying to turn off lights of a fire that does not stop, while many wonder if this crisis will be paid once again by them.