Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently suggested that the popular universal basic income (UBI) proposal — which appears to be referencing Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang‘s plan — is “regressive” and acts as a “trojan horse” to gut the social safety net. In response to her comments, Yang’s supporters took to social media to voice their disagreement.
Notably, Scott Santens, a UBI advocate and Yang supporter, created a Twitter thread suggesting that the New York City representative is not correct in her analysis.
“My focus for six years now has been UBI,” Santens said. “I can tell you that what @AndrewYang is proposing is a massive improvement to our safety net. As proposed, it would reduce poverty among the entire population as much as Social Security reduced poverty among seniors. It would change lives.”
Santens continued to claim that the criticism that Yang’s UBI of $1,000 per month would prevent people qualifying for assistance is also true of the federal jobs guarantee and $15 minimum wage, which are proposed by candidate Bernie Sanders, whom Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed.
“That does not mean these things are Trojan horses. They are simply lifting people above qualifying lines.”
Yang’s UBI stacks with Social Security retirement benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), per his policy page. But Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which is a means-tested program, does not stack with his UBI, meaning anyone collecting SSI would not receive it should they opt-in for Yang’s proposed UBI.
The exclusion of SSI is a common criticism of Yang’s proposal, rebranded the Freedom Dividend, and some suggest this means the plan is no longer universal. According to Santens, claiming that means-tested programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) must exist in addition to UBI continues to enforce the conditions of the programs and means the UBI proposal is not universal.
“It would be like providing people Medicare for All, but deciding that work and job seeking requirements must continue to apply. Is that still M4A?”
Santens said Yang’s proposal is not about gutting the social safety net but “recognizing the inherent flaws” with a net that hinges on such conditions, and subsequently removing these conditions. He continued to suggest that eliminating these conditions is not possible if detractors believe that the conditions must exist on top of a proposed UBI.
“What we need is trust,” he said, concluding the thread with an assurance that Social Security would exist alongside Yang’s proposed UBI and noting that it would help both seniors and those with disabilities currently on SSDI.
In addition to Santens, many of Yang’s supporters criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s critique on social media and pressed her to reach out to Santens or Yang to discuss the issue she has with the 44-year-old serial entrepreneur’s signature campaign proposal.
Yang previously addressed criticisms of his UBI while speaking to The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur and reaffirmed that he would “not touch” existing welfare programs.