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Tuesday, June 9th 2009

Sonia Sotomayor and income security for all

Sonia Sotomayor and income security for all

Sonia Sotomayor has become a household name since President Obama announced her as his pick for the Supreme Court.

Her life story is truly remarkable: Puerto Rican parents, growing up in the South Bronx, the death of her father when she was young, her mother working two jobs to support Sonia and her brother, Princeton University, Yale Law School, a distinguished legal career, and now this nomination.

Along with her story, we are of course hearing a lot about politics and the expected fight over her confirmation. Democrats appear to be uniformly elated, though a few have expressed remorse that Obama didn’t pick someone who’s more of liberal ideologue. Republicans are divided, and portrayed as being in a bind over how to oppose her.

Instead of writing about the politics of this nomination, I’m inspired to focus on a relevant subject that’s too often distorted by ideology - justice for all. That, of course, is the closing phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, which many of us learned when we were kids in school. “… with liberty and justice for all.”

Justice for all is impossible when only a few have real access to elected officials, while many others are mostly excluded. The very rich meet politicians at fundraisers; the rest of us may try to arrange meetings, but in most cases our phone calls are returned only by interns.

Income security for all will help level the legal, social, cultural, political, and economic playing fields.

This shouldn’t be a matter of liberals vs. conservatives or Democrats vs. Republicans. After all, the Pledge of Allegiance is nonpartisan.

Here’s how income security for all can work: There will be some baseline amount, say $1,000 a month, and our government will provide that for every adult citizen. It should be enough for food and shelter, but just enough, a basic income, so there will still be strong incentives to work, earn, and produce.

Major reasons for social exclusion are economic insecurity and economic inequality. People who are struggling to pay their bills, typically, cannot afford to be active citizens, participating in politics. Conversely, the very rich can readily hire lawyers, lobbyists, and PR professionals to advance their causes and plead their cases.

Even a basic income, $1,000 a month for every adult citizen, will do a great deal to reverse those injustices.

Sonia Sotomayor is truly exceptional, obviously. Her mother clearly did an extraordinary job in extremely difficult circumstances. Yet in a more just society, such exceptions would do more than prove the rule, they will also seek to help others to also become exceptional. Justice for all may require income security for all.

Perhaps Justice Sotomayor will one day write a Supreme Court majority opinion declaring that extreme economic inequality is, in itself, a violation of our fundamental rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The complete proposal for income security for all is in my book, Peaceful, Positive Revolution,.

Guaranteed income was a mainstream, even moderate idea in the 1960s. Martin Luther King was a leading supporter, and a plan to provide a guaranteed income actually passed the House of Representatives in 1970 by a margin of two to one. More of that history is on the home page of this web site, IncomeSecurityForAll.org.

Steven Shafarman

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2 Responses to “Sonia Sotomayor and income security for all”

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