Episode 3: Toxic Individualism Ain’t It
References and resources
- Policy Brief: Guaranteed Income
- The Deeper the Roots: A Memoir of Hope and Home
- Author Interview: ‘The Deeper the Roots,’ NPR
- The Power of Narrative in Economic Policy, Insight Center
- The Children Joe Manchin Left Behind, The New Republic
- The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED)
Kendra Bozarth 0:07
You’re listening to Raci$m Is Profitable, a podcast by and for people of color that aims to dismantle the assumptions that fuel the oppression economy. Your hosts are Jeremie Greer and Solana Rice, the co-founders and co-executive directors of Liberation in a Generation Action. Let’s get it.
Solana Rice 0:23
On this episode of Raci$m Is Profitable, we’re talking about personal responsibility. You know, the idea that if your money’s not right, it’s because you’re doing something wrong. Endless political and policy decisions are rooted in this toxic assumption, driven by the flawed belief that people’s behavior and choices are in their way. Just pick yourself up by your bootstraps already. We know it’s really the systemic barriers — and the blatant racism that built them — that lets policymakers minimize our deservingness and ultimately denied black and brown folks access to economic opportunity and government support. Hear this: The struggles that people of color endure are not the consequences of our own actions or inactions. Michael Tubbs joins us today to say it straight.
Chris Rock 1:18
We got a lot of things, a lot of racism going on in the world right now. Who’s more racist black people or white people? Black people. You know why? Cause we hate black people too. Everything white people don’t like about black people black people really don’t like about black people. It’s some shit going on with black people right now. It’s like a civil war going on with black people. And there’s two sides: There’s black people, and there’s n*ggas. And n*ggas have got to go.
Jeremie Greer 1:48
We hate black people too. So important to what we’re talking about, by the way Jeremie, that is Chris Rock that skit from one of his HBO stand up specials. But it’s so germane to what we’re talking about today because we’re talking about deservingness. And deservingness is so ingrained in us that like we embody it, we perpetuate it in a way that I don’t think we do in any other of the topics that we’ve talked about. I mean this is like black people are as like guilty of this as white people, right. Like I can think of people in my family that said that thing that Chris Rock said to me about like my cousin my uncle my auntie. Like like there was just like the way like he was just there.
Solana Rice 2:42
Yeah, and there was definitely distinguishing characteristics right, there were distinguishing characteristics that made us different than them. Like we were all black people like my dad would often be like…
Jeremie Greer 2:57
[laughter, talking] but yeah
Solana Rice 3:02
My like dad just like two years ago back when I we could travel and I was back home and we were gonna go to this like new ish restaurant and a white part of town white ish part of town it’s not super white anymore and he said we’re gonna go here but I hope it’s not “us” serving. It was like it was us rain he’s literally using them us very is very new because he’s like I don’t like best light you can can’t do this anymore like what why what and he’s like ah the service they just made us be putting everything everywhere and the sloppy and I’m like okay, dad we can’t [laughter].
Jeremie Greer 3:53
I remember like getting in we go to groceries we go grocery shopping and we go to like some grocery store like out in the damn burbs and it was like, exactly like like it’s just better there, it’s just better there.
Solana Rice 4:06
It’s just better. And I grew up on in Cleveland so we would we would go to the west side right? We don’t go to the east side of Cleveland to get anything we go to the mall on the west side. And sometimes we would even go like the Amish country he just my like my dad and my family did like love the furniture. Love Like be it out of on country. Like we got to go to Amish country and here we are like black people like in the 80s.
Jeremie Greer 4:37
It was do your mom and your dad right? That was it.
Solana Rice 4:41
…and my grandma. Yeah, we did. But I definitely remember these little white kids like especially one little white boy like we were in a grocery store and he like peered his head around the aisle like What are, who these people? Like a little toe-headed, bowl-cut, little boy really adorable, but like, oh my gosh.
Jeremie Greer 5:09
Never seen a Black person his life. But we do this right because we are holding people up to a standard that is set by white supremacy, right that you have to be a certain way that deservingness concept of deservingness is defined by what is deemed acceptable by white supremacy, right? That you are a working person, that you are a family person, that you are a Christian person, that you are a straight person, and that you are a white person, and that you embody as much of that whiteness as you can. And that that is what determines what you can get how you can get it. I remember being in college, I went to largely white school — University of St. Thomas in St. Paul — and I remember like, us being on campus and being hyper aware of how we had to present ourselves, like I see, I see young people walking around campus today. And like, I mean, it’s not easy for them. I’m not trying to but you know, like wearing dreads, you know, wearing like, you know, their black lives matter shirt. Like, we wouldn’t have done that cuz it was like, You need to try to one stay under the radar. And two make sure that you don’t let anyone know that you don’t deserve to be here. Which was a losing battle, because no one thought we deserve to be there anyway.
Solana Rice 6:38
Well, I think that’s what’s so hard is that the line for what is acceptable keeps shifting, and the bar keeps getting higher and higher. So we see this in our personal way, right in our personal lives. Yeah, it’s it’s like, what is acceptable? We just have to keep guessing. Right? Like you just said, like, at one point, you know, locks and dreadlocks were not acceptable. We still see in the Olympics, we’re like, Nope, dreadlocks not acceptable. Or like, you know, I remember when I was when I decided to not perm my hair anymore, straighten my hair, my mom was like, are you okay? Did you let yourself go? Like, it’s so it’s, it’s hard to know, it’s hard to know for ourselves deep down what we really want to do what what is acceptable for us and what what we can thrive in, you know, a lot of people still feel like, I can’t have my hair, not relaxed, I can’t have my hair not permed because I’m not going to get a job right these or have this has real consequences. This narrative has real economic consequences. And then we carry it into policy. So it’s like, oh, now we’re talking about, oh, you got to make this much money in order to have this kind of tax break, or you got to have not this much money to to get to get a benefit. It’s like I can’t contort myself anymore in any more pretzels to be acceptable.
Jeremie Greer 8:12
Right. No, and we see this you’re right, this has real public policy implications. So you know, that’s why I’m so excited to talk to Mayor Tubbs today about his work in in Stockton, California is because we seen this in social policy and economic policy. You know, the, when welfare reform happened in the 90s You know, the push for it came from the Reagan era in which they held up the kind of other side of deservingness which was the stereotype of the welfare queen, this this person was really more mythological than actual even though it’s based on a real person, but it was like really the myth around it, it’s what mattered. But this person that have multiple kids was having kids going state to state defrauding the government taking benefits you know, living you know, this fast lifestyle spending money on all these things. And that that was what the government had to protect the taxpayer against was this welfare queen. And then we saw when Clinton came in with welfare reform in the 90s he held up the other side of that deservedness coin he held up a mother of two who was a single mother but a mother of two who was working hard and who was you know, she’s she had a job she worked 40 hours a week but she just wasn’t able to make ends meet and it was like this other. But either way, it’s a response to this like, ideal of deservedness that is set by like white standards.
Solana Rice 9:44
Yeah, yeah. And that she was taking responsibility. Do you ever hear this term, they have skin in the game. There’s something. It’s terrible.
Jeremie Greer 10:01
Some conqueror. Only a conqueror could come up with something like that.
Solana Rice 10:04
Like you’ve got a show and you just never know what the what what it’s gonna be today or tomorrow, right? It might be income one day, it might be hair another day. But we are traversing some serious systems that really only say that we’re valuable if we’re producing something for someone else. And that if, if the standards haven’t been met, and oh, you don’t know what the standards are, but if the standards haven’t been met, you’re out of luck, you just haven’t you haven’t proven your worth.
Jeremie Greer 10:47
So yeah, and you know, and but no one ever asks a question like, What about whiteness and entitles people to like billion dollar tax breaks, or, you know, to interest free borrowing from the Federal Reserve that we talked about with another guest. Like there’s no one ever asked, like, what about whiteness entitles people to that or lets them be deserving of that, but we’re constantly having to justify why we deserve what are really crumbs in the grand scheme of things where we’re just constantly put in that position and, and the way that the politicians turn themselves into pretzels in order to like justify this really, really, really awful and awkward thinking is really, it’s really astonishing. So it’s really exciting to to talk to the Mayor Tubbs about it.
Solana Rice 11:38
I can’t wait. And that’s why I’m hoping that he’ll shed some light on how this myth perpetuates racism being profitable.
Jeremie Greer 11:50
Yo, Michael Tubbs is on the pod. He is the founder of the Mayors for Guaranteed Income and Ending Poverty in California, otherwise known as EPIC. He is a former mayor of Stockton, California. And he has a new book, Deeper the Roots: A memoir of Hope and Home. What’s up, Michael?
Michael Tubbs 12:09
Hey, thanks so much for having me.
Solana Rice 12:11
Hi, Michael. How are those babies first?
Michael Tubbs 12:15
Well, you can see I got the little carrier behind me, but they’re good. My son has a run in yet because right before I logged on, he kept too much info, but he loves the Drake song “Fair Trade.” So he goes outside when he’s outside. He came outside. Yeah. Clearly my son.
Solana Rice 12:42
That’s fantastic. Well, you know, we were talking earlier about this personal responsibility narrative. Your book illuminates a lot of how this came about for you. Um, I’m wondering, though, tell us a little bit more about when you first confronted this personal responsibility, narrative? And really, how did it land for you?
Unknown Speaker 13:10
Well, what’s funny is that I used to be a big adherent to it right to the ideology. Growing up poor in Stockton, so much of what my mom taught my grandma and aunt taught, but also like church and other people looked up to was this idea that you have to work twice as hard. You have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, etc. And looking back at it. Now, I realized that part of that was just a survival, like, as a young person, what agency do I have against a system? Right? So I think for them, I think was like, give me some agency and like, No, you are struggling with this. But now I realize as an adult, it’s just an incomplete narrative, right? Like that agency definitely exists. But we wouldn’t have to overemphasize agency if we got the structures right. So I think a big part of what was lacking was a discussion about structures and understanding of structures and idea that, yes, people made bad decisions. But those bad decisions are oftentimes made in horrible environments created by terrible policy decisions. And now that I talked about this little bit in the book, especially I would teach, I would talk to my young people about No, like, you are smart, and beautiful and fearless and brilliant. And you because things are so jacked up, you do it’s not fair. You do have to work twice as hard. But the onus is not you working twice as hard it’s not because your parents failed. You’re working twice as hard because the system has failed in doing that work. Maybe you’ll be in a position to correct that. So not the cleanest answer, but I think it’s so messy because you want to make sure people feel hope people feel some like ability to do something or else I think we could err towards being very nihilistic very reductionistic and deflate people from the possibility of rising up and exerting their agency, whether individually or collectively. So very long winded and meandering answer, but it’s been something I still grapple with. And that’s why when I taught I have a lesson called “upset the setup” where we just spend two days talking about structure versus agency and talk about well, I know that there is a setup. We’re not making this like there are certain things that are set up for your failure. And that’s not okay. You’re not crazy, cuz I think oftentimes, with the pull yourself by your bootstraps narratives miss is like reality. It’s like you’re telling people that everything you see is because you and you’re kinfolk, your cousins and all of us make terrible choices. And if you guys haven’t made terrible choices, you’ll be in a better neighborhood. And they’re like, Well, no, I didn’t pick this school. Like, I didn’t pick this teacher who’s not credentialed. Like I didn’t pick these liquor stores. I think it really drives people like crazy. So that’s how I was I was like, no, no, let’s be real. This is not fair. This is a setup. It’s real. But what’s also real, is that sort of structure where we just give up and we say, well, that’s just the way it is, or just how it’s always been.
Jeremie Greer 16:11
Yeah. And, you know, you as Mayor of Stockton, you stepped out there and really pushed through this narrative in making policy in like, offering cash to people that need it, right that people that need it to kind of live day to day. And I wonder if you could talk about, like, where did this conversation around deservedness — and I’m assuming that it did — show up in like the conversations you had with people around that policy, whether it was like the folks you needed to get to pass it, the folks in the community you need to bring along. Like what were some of the those conversations?
Solana Rice 16:42
Michael Tubbs 16:43
Yeah, what was interesting, I think because people are like, Oh, this is uh his dad’s in jail, his mom had him young. He went to Stanford. Now he’s mayor. I think a lot of people, particularly more conservative people in my community, expected me to like weaponize my identity against my folks and be like Well, look, I did it you guys need to do it. And I made a very conscious effort intentionally to use my story in a way that speaks to all the policy failures along the way, and I think that really frustrated a lot of people on any issue whether it’s anything; people will always be upset about you’re just giving people things. I’m like, Yes I’m giving people opportunity. Particularly with the basic income stuff because it’s also racialized. For people to understand this, Stockton is the most diverse city, but the city is only 10% Black, it is 30 35% white, 35% Latino, 20 percent Asian. And diversity doesn’t mean racial equity. And it doesn’t mean racial tolerance, right? There’s a real history and legacy of racism in this city, which is evidenced by the fact that in 2016, black people being in Stockton since 1849, in 2016, we had the first black mayor. Like that, that’s not because again, I’m magic. It’s not because there’s no other black person in history of the city who was qualified to be mayor. It’s structures; the set up.
Anyway, so we’re doing guaranteed income, it became Michael Tubbs is giving money to black people. Or Michael Tubbs is used to black people; I’m like it’s statistically impossible, like like most of the cases about to be white. Or Michael Tubbs is giving money to people who don’t want to work, or Michael Tubbs is bribing people to vote him. All this, all this imaging, and this is before we gave out a single dollars before we even had selection criteria. So there was no there was nothing. It was an idea that people already had in their mind that somehow those who weren’t deserving those who deserve to be poor, those who deserve to struggle, were going to be given something. And what was the craziest thing to me I still don’t understand this piece is that it wasn’t even government money. It was like philanthropic money. So that’s why I really thought it would be no conflict, which is dumb. Like no one it’s someone’s like the money going somewhere. Like why not have somebody come here at a basic level. But people were really upset. I would get comments like they get everything. Who is they? We haven’t picked anybody yet. They don’t work and I have to work; they or you’re helping them or you’re helping your “kind.” It wass just really wild. It really was heartbreaking. I just the level of contempt for people who are struggling. The level of racism and anti blackness, particularly in a city where the median income is only $40,000. So everyone’s broke almost like like somebody this is like y’all should be like hallelujah. Let’s help them out and figure out how to help more people. But instead it turned into… and then people were mad because we could only help 125 people because we didn’t have law support or funding in terms of government dollars at that time, and people were mad that they weren’t getting it. And we’re trying to find out who was getting anywhere like posted live on Facebook about how they knew somebody who had it who did something terrible. It was just the most bizarre, bizarre reaction to a million dollars in I I think i’ve ever seen. But it taught me a lot about and that’s what the work you all are doing. That’s the podcast, but the policy work, etc. To really call into question and really disentangle because the set up exists because there’s a ubiquitous sort of agreement that black people are lazy, even if people don’t say that, that poor people don’t want to work that people are poor because they can’t manage money. And until we really break down that sort of ideological alliance, we’ll continue to have half baked policy measures that seek problems that aren’t actually a real problem that needs to be solved. Like that solution. And I know you guys have said this a lot like the solution to poverty and economic insecurity is not a money management course. No, that could be a solution to something. But to that problem, it’s not.
Jeremie Greer 21:10
Yeah. You can’t money manage your way into paying a $500 rent if you only got $300. There’s no management that solves that problem.
Michael Tubbs 21:22
No management, yes check cashing to get your check cashed to pay the money through the like. These are actually like logical, economic decisions. To be rational, we look at the whole context. So long story to say it just taught me that so much of his work of narrative. And that’s why I started with the book, with EPIC, and even with Mayors for a Guaranteed Income we’re really trying to make sure we assert ourselves and do a better job of challenging myth challenging notions. And it’s a little bit easier to do that now that I’m not in elected office, because even when I was elected, I wasn’t really good at like, reflecting public sentiment; I was always trying to push it. And that creates conflict. That’s like, ideally, your politician when they have to do that, but now that I’m not in politics, formally, I can really push the envelope and push as to where we need to be. Because it’s particularly in California, it’s quite unacceptable, that we have a $40 billion plus budget surplus — because rich people got richer during a pandemic — and the highest rate of poverty in the country. With a Democratic legislature. Like that is mind boggling to me. And it’s what’s heartbreaking is that’s almost a bipartisan consensus. That, oh, some folks is just gonna be poor, like some folks who don’t want to work hard. So folks are just lazy, some folks will. And we’ll be happy for Michael Tubbs’es that make it and not do anything to interrogate why would only one person make it if we truly believe that talent and intellect are evenly distributed? That genius lives everywhere? Anyway? I’m just talking now.
Solana Rice 22:58
Well, no, I eat so there were some things that I want to pull and double click on from, from what you just said, which is, you know, this has political ramifications. These aren’t just like narratives that just like you might see on the cover of a magazine, you just walk by and you’re like, oh, yeah, okay, bye. This has political implications for you, it can technically have potentially have political implications for the other mayors that are supporting things like guaranteed income. I would love to hear more about what are the narrative? How, how does that narrative work, play out in other places? And then like, how are you preparing, either yourself or other folks, for like the political backlash? Because you, you went through I mean, you just like went through it.
Jeremie Greer 23:49
You went through it. And no one said, let me help you out.
Michael Tubbs 23:56
I joke with my mayors all the time, because now there’s more of a punishment for not being part of like the guaranteed income mayors; why aren’t you a part? Right? A lot of heat. But that’s, that’s a function of leadership. But sometimes you have to be first had to provide the cover, learn learn the lessons. And idea is it’s not about you anyway; it’s about policy idea. Let’s get to scale.
So my first the first day we announced we’re doing guaranteed income, I was 27 years old. We were at this conference and Joe Biden, then Vice President, now President Biden, gave a speech about coal workers. And they asked him about my basic income. And he said, we’re not sending people checks; people want the dignity of work. And the first question I received as a 27 year old was like, VP Biden said that this is like takes away dignity. How do you respond to that? And it was then I realized that so much of it wasn’t about doing the demonstration. So much of it was having a conversation so that like, in that moment, I said, Okay, I’m not gonna be able to kind of dance around, I’m not gonna be able to sort of, say the platitudes I know people want to hear. I’m just gonna have to be really real and direct. So from that moment on, we started talking about the dignity of people before dignity attached to work. And maybe if we live in a society that reflected that people could work in dignified conditions, and not have poverty wages, lack of ability to collectively bargain. Like in a pandemic, we don’t have paid leave when people are supposed to isolate for five days. Like when we really sit down and think about how bizarre, in many respects, our world and our country is in terms of policy, it’s really hard. Like we’re in a pandemic that’s highly contagious, that can be deadly for some people, and the order is to stay home for five days if you get it. And the vast majority of essential workers don’t have paid time off. So they either listen to the CDC rulings, or they to go to work and get more people sick. And because we don’t really have a strong safety net, most people are choosing to go to work if they’re like asymptomatic or not, like, you know, and anyway. So it was so that it became very clear that the fight was a narrative one. I remember, I would get all these trolls from Fox News like calling my office and swarming my Facebook page. And like Sarah Palin and Chuck Woolery, were like posting pictures on my face.
Solana Rice 26:26
Wait wait wait. The be back in two Chuck Woolery?
Michael Tubbs 26:31
Yeah we had a Twitter beef because he posted my picture. “26 year old mayor giving money to criminals.” And then they were like mixing the programs up. We’re doing like some kind of intervention to work, which include like a fellowship for folks to get paid to help keep the peace. But folks were getting conflicted like he’s given basic income to shooters to not murders.. and it was craziness. And I realized that I had to like just really punch back punch back. But even like sympathetic news outlets I remember being on CBS this morning in like 2018 and the host like laughing about the idea of giving people money and say like, Do you really think like. I realized that wow, we have such strong contempt for folks who are struggling without any understanding that a lot of the wealth that’s generated in this country is because we have so many people in poverty; it’s because we have so many people who don’t make enough. So then to answer your question with the mayors, I think COVID-19 has given an opportunity to have the conversation in a different way where it’s not like a veneer that everything’s fine. Because when we were talking about guaranteed income in 2017, everything wasn’t fine like one in two people couldn’t afford an emergency, but it was hidden, it was quiet, and the folks were most affected didn’t have political power. So no one felt the need to talk about it. But with COVID-19 has made everything so brazen and bear, and I think in that vacuum mayors have really stepped up. And I mean, it’s been some of them really got it just because upbringing but some of them it’s been like a little bit of a journey. And some of them took a while to get comfortable. Now we, we saw this with the build back better plan now we still have to fight around we vote. I would say I’m proud that it’s moved from can we give people money? I think that’s consensus that we can give some people money. Now the question is who and how much right. And so I think part of narrative work even with the mayors is to really get us understand that no one’s smart enough to design the perfect program for because everyone has like a sentence around families and children and mothers, which is great. I’m all for that huge first step. But we have to get to a point where we just understand that everyone deserves economic security, that everyone deserves a baseline. Because we have it it’s not like we where we are like our country has it. It’s not that we’re not we don’t have to charge we don’t have to lik. We have the resources to do it. And now just by walking up this group, let me help this group Let me help. They’re getting so particularly it’s a little bit weird to me, like I want to help mothers with three kids and no dad. And yeah. Yeah, super, super specific. And it’s like a government thing. And I’m like let’s back up and say, We want everyone to have a guaranteed income because everyone, regardless of the choices they make, regardless but to anything, deserves a floor by virtue of being human. And because we have finite resources, we’re targeting our program in this way. So we’re working on it. A long, long answer to your question, but we’re working on. I will say I’ve been proud to have other elected leaders sort of really step up and kind of champion and talk about and really push and fight and defend it. Ask the White House about child tax credit, etc. Because that level of advocacy from electeds did not exist even three years ago.
Jeremie Greer 30:17
Yeah, I wonder if you could pull into that a little bit like one because you mentioned like, the reaction you got is like an early person to step out there and that it is a different conversation today. Like what are some of the like, points in time to pivot that? Because we talk about this at Liberation in a Generation a lot like, you have a, you can have a bold idea of the future, but you still have to walk to get there. And there are steps along the way. So I wonder what is the like your reflection on? What are some of the things that happened that have moved this conversation to to you, as you said, from like, can we too, yes, we can.
Michael Tubbs 30:55
I think sort of first was just getting out there in the ether. Right. So so the announcement of the pilot, and then Magnolia Mother’s Trust in Jackson, Mississippi, did their pilots.
Solana Rice 31:11
Shoutout to Aisha.
Michael Tubbs 31:09
Yeah shoutout to Aisha. So yeah, things on the ground. We had some of the we had [inaudible] because I was in political office, it’s attracted more attention because there’s like, my, you know, no come for you when you’re like, not like in the same way. But you’re like governing a city and saying we should do this like, Oh, wow. And then you have sort of Andrew Yang run on this idea of basic income tell everyone, like basic income, basic and basic income. And then sort of when COVID, when in March of 2020, when kind of so we’re doing like a lot of narrative work and interviews. So people were interested, I can’t wait to see the data I could do with this, I cannot get with this. We’ll see. He also had a bunch of earned income taxpayer advocacy, particularly California going on where it’s like, let’s give people checks, and let’s try to do it like that, etc, etc. Then COVID happened. And then I can speak for us from the mayors’ perspective, when COVID happened, mayors are like, my folks gotta eat, what can we do? So they would do like one time thing. So Mayor Garcetti, Mayor Brown, and a bunch of others were doing like cards with money for folks get groceries and pay for this and paying for that like, so there was an appetite there was like, Okay, we could give people money. And the world did it. And we didn’t become some different country. We’re still red, white and blue with stars on the flag. And then the George Floyd murder happened. And that’s when I pause and was reading Where Do We Go From Here again, and being a nerd. I didn’t recognize that when he wrote that, that year, there was like, 125 racial protests like protests against racism in this country, like the country was like, lit like, the people were really upset. And he looked at that, and saw guaranteed income. That’s an Aha. So I call it some of my mayor friends was like, Look, we got folks protesting for George Floyd. But you know that, like, there’s only so much we can do in our office with policing anyway. And what people are saying, it’s not just about policing, it’s about structural violence, the violence of poverty, lack of opportunity. So in this moment, we should all just go big on guaranteed income. It was the same time the federal government began doing stimulus checks, Republican federal government began doing stimulus checks. So checks were coming once a quarter. And the mayors were like Yeah, absolutely. And then luckily, he was able to raise a bunch of money off of that to kind of get them cuz I mean, no, let’s take a risk. I was like, Hey, I got half a million for you to do guaranteed income pilot match it. Let’s go. And everyone. So then St. Paul, Minnesota was the first mayor Melvin Carter, . Yeah, but he said something ARP dollars in it. So he got into a fight with Congress person about one of these ARP. But because of that, it became clear that American rescue plan dollars could be used, and you had Mayor Brown in Compton, who did all privately but did that scale, like five 600 people. And then pretty soon everyone started using ARP dollars, ARP dollars ARP dollars in the momentum really begin to build because then you had sort of a proliferation of pilots and pilots for artists, pilots for this group, pilots for this group, some in government, some outside of government. And in doing so the more people got checks, you got stimulus checks, you got child tax credit checks, that is pilot checks. I think it has really changed the conversation where that battle had been won about whether people can be given money. And then you had a bunch of the governor come out in California with $35 million for guaranteed income, the only state thus far that’s put state money and began to the conversation going to change a little bit. So to answer your question concisely, I think it was a mixture of sort of moment and just like a crisis, the medical response. And I mean, I tell people all the time politics is a lot like high school, like people want to be part of the in group and be part of like the cool kids table, and guaranteed income just became like what the forward-thinking, down-for-the-cause mayors were doing. And I think that that creates a lot of momentum. It’s like, well, why aren’t you a part?Like, why can’t you do this?
It actually stalled for real problems. And I thought, and again, it’s a great reminder, I thought we had really turned the corner, I thought with the child tax credit through. And I was ready to like, Okay, I’m about to focus on something else, because not everybody. But that’s a lot of people getting guaranteed income. And I’m good with that. [inaudible] So I think sort of losing, build back better with a majority slim majority, but 51-50 majority in the Senate was a reminder that this is not necessarily just a right left problem. Like there’s a study earlier this in some respects, a bi. I mean, Democrats a lot further along, but there is a bipartisan consensus. Even, I mean, Joe Manchin’s comments being a prime example of folks who just want to trust some people with money, whoever, but no one knows who them people are. Because it’s a it’s an image in people’s head around someone who doesn’t exist.
Jeremie Greer 36:27
But they do know who the people are. Right? Like, like what they say they do. They just don’t want yeah.
Michael Tubbs 36:32
They don’t want to say who those people are.
Solana Rice 36:38
And it goes right back to our earlier point, right, that we all are holding, too many of us are holding these narratives. But we know that they literally can’t be true, because we’ve seen the money come, we’ve seen people’s lives give better. And we should be telling all of our electeds that this is what we want, need and deserve. Right?
Michael Tubbs 37:01
Solana, what’s crazy on that is that I realized this we’re doing the listening work and stuff is that people think they’ll do good with the money though, like everyone I talk to. If you pick me but don’t pick them. And again, who was I was like, I’m gonna describe them to me, what did them look like? Oh, you know, I actually don’t. Uh like where do they live? What they do, because it was but everyone would say no, I really, I’m really struggling. I think that’s part of the corrosive nature of individual individualism myth, is this notion that it makes people who have a lot in common really despise, distrust, and not like each other where it was like, I need this. They don’t need it is really weird, but I think it’s corrosive myth that that that leads to a lack of empathy and a lack of shared understanding that maybe the person next to me in the same city with the same income might have the same problems as me, maybe I’m not so unique. Maybe I’m not maybe they’re just as smart as I am. Maybe they know how to use money too but no, it looks like I know what to do. They don’t know what to do. It’s an I think individualism makes it so that we’re so inwardly, and so focused, we don’t need to look up and think about like, oh, wow, that person might be strongly like me, or, wow, that person may be equally as deserving as me maybe I’m not more deserving than my neighbor. Maybe we both deserve it. Yeah. But But that’s, that’s like a moral spiritual conversation that we have to have in society too, because it’s very, like selfish and mean.
Solana Rice 38:49
Individualism is very seductive, right? Because it does, as you said, it gives me agency like, I feel like I can do something. But it also does not promote empathy. It does not enable me to see myself in someone else. Which is like, that’s, that’s what’s so hard about this, this narrative. It’s a double edged sword. Well, I want to make sure though, that before we wrap, you’ve got to tell people what they need to know about your book, about Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, about Ending Poverty in California. What do people need to know?
Michael Tubbs 39:28
I think people need to know, particularly about on the last one; it’s funny because everyone is like end poverty in California hahaha.
Solana Rice 39:35
People still say that about Liberation in a Generation.
Michael Tubbs 39:51
I’m just built different. I think we don’t end poverty? I’m just scared of what happens if we don’t end poverty in California right. So I think it’s actually doable. Like, it’s actually not even the question of ideas. It’s literally, particularly in California, a question of political will. And a question of, do we want poverty in California? And then that’s why I named it that on purpose. Because I want to call the question; I want to end poverty in California, do you? Yes or no, and then build from there. Because, to me, it’s that simple, simple. It’s I mean, it’s not; implementation’s hard. But like, the idea that we can’t end poverty the in California is ridiculous. And you mentioned Mayors for Guaranteed Income, we’re gonna keep pushing and pushing and pushing, so that we have at least a child tax credit in the next couple of years, at least some form of federal unconditional cash for some amount of people. And so we have new data coming out from year two of the Stockton pilot, and what’s going to be heartbreaking and interesting about that data is that’s the data from 2020. So we’re going to see, like vast divergence between those who received the guaranteed income and those who didn’t, it’s gonna be really heartbreaking harrowing, that for 125 people who received $500, their lives are going to be so materially better than their neighbors, all because of their participation, they got lucky. Like literally because they were selected. I think it’s gonna really show how particularly in pandemics, that economic resilience is tantamount to survival. I’m not looking forward to; I’m looking forward to sharing, and I know it’s going to hurt to read, sort of the cascading impacts, and also display like, why don’t we just have this like, why, why, why? Why is it a matter of chance and lottery to have what you need to survive. And then the book is called, The Deeper the Roots. And it’s really almost like this conversation. In that it just really talks about sort of uses my story or my life, but use it in a way that doesn’t like glorify the individual who worked hard to pull us up by his bootstraps. Because I really do think a lot of people work hard, I don’t think effort in and of itself, is is the only criteria for success. But it really talks about systems and talks about like policies and talks about sort of how the system’s up here have very granular impacts on one family on one community of when city on one one child, and I think is also a story of hope around sort of have despite these challenges, despite the structures, there are ways to kind of influence it in push the system, I think is also a book about like, what a better out your better political frame would be where it’s not just power for the sake of power, but its power to actually like make things better for people and to make the government work for everyone, I think, but also, I think it’s really complicated, like, linear, like, it’s not that Cinderella story, because it ends with me losing reelection. So I think it also really sort of talks about the price of progress, if you like, if you want to make change to the political system like be prepared that everyone’s trying to give everyone money. Everyone’s not trying to give kids scholarships. Everyone’s not trying to have everyone have be liberated in a generation; that in fact, most people aren’t. And I wish I had, I wish I had known that part before I ran. I really thought that just being young and dumb, that maybe it’s just my politics, but we’re doing the right thing if we help people. That’s enough. But the world is the way it is because there are like forces — and forces being people and institutions — that are evil, that really like the dysfunction, that really liked the oppression, that really like the marginalization, that really are profitable based off poverty. And they’re not gonna let you just come in and change things without a fight. Like, progress comes at a price. So if you learn to do this work, be prepared for conflict; be prepared to be …united, and I’ll shut up after this. But I was at Ebenezer for Dr. King’s Day. And sitting there was just so inspiring. So I was thinking about Wow, across this country, people everyone loves Dr. King. When when he was actually alive in that pulpit people hated him. People thought he was crazy people like murdered him.
He was just saying we got to end racism, militarism and excessive capitalis, right? You know he was like we have to evolve as a country. And that was a reminder like, wow, this work is difficult in this work is hard. And this work goes against like 400 plus years of history. And sort of that’s just not gonna go away too easy. So I think the book kind of talks about that too. Like yeah, like there’s highs and lows. There’s those peaks and valleys. But I mean, if we don’t try to change it, no one else will is like the lesson. We gotta do something, or we don’t really do anything. Like, if we do, if we do something, it may or may not work, but if we do nothing we know nothing’s gonna change. And I think that’s the book in a nutshell. Do something. It might work, it might not work. But if you do nothing, I mean, I don’t know why you complain because it’s gonna be the same. Change doesn’t roll in on the wheels of inevitability, like Dr. King said, like, you have to force it.
Jeremie Greer 45:34
Well, Michael, thanks for coming on the podcast, and it is an honor to be in this fight with you. I love that framing because it is a fight because they they’re gonna, they’re gonna put up against us. So thanks for coming on the podcast and hope to have you back to update us on Ending Poverty in California.
Michael Tubbs 45:52
Hahaha. No, anytime deep respect for you guys’s work, and I know, you all been knee deep laying on some policy conversations, looking forward to working together do some some big stuff. Cuz I really think if like,if we can’t do it in California, then I’m not sure it can be done. Right. Like, maybe, maybe this is not the fight we can. Because if the biggest state with all the Democrats and all the liberals and all the progressives
Solana Rice 46:20
And the money.
Michael Tubbs 46:21
And the money. If we can’t do it, it’s a deeper problem here. So that’s what I’m motivated for the next couple of years.
Solana Rice 46:27
How about if we can’t figure politically how to protect and advance and make sure that these are political or sustainable political fights.
Michael Tubbs 46:38
So we have our work cut out for us, but I’m looking forward to it.
Solana Rice 46:41
Oh, wow. Wow. Michael said all the things. Yeah. And I want to, again, double click on one of the things that he said was this is all about political will. And I want to add that it’s about what people are really saying. So sometimes, like, right now we’re having this a lot of conversation about like black, a black woman on the Supreme Court or like, Oh, do we have representation in Congress do black people ever like we have to be listening to what people are actually saying, like the words that are coming out of their mouths, because it doesn’t matter if they have a D or an R behind their names, as we have been seeing with this conversation around build back better, a huge stimulus that would transform and is absolutely necessary for people in a pandemic. Tons of stuff in it getting held up by our not our friend.
Jeremie Greer 47:51
Michael mentioned, Joe Manchin, not our friend, Joe, Joe, like make no mistake about what’s happening. I want to use the Joe Biden, “Make no mistake people.” What is happening is Joe Manchin is joining with Mitch McConnell to block critical resources that would go to black and brown communities. That is what’s happening. Joe Manchin, Krysten Cinema are joining Mitch McConnell, “Mr. y’all ain’t really Americans, black people,” Mitch McConnell, standing in front of a confederate flag with his peeps Mitch McConnell to block critical resources like an expanded child tax credit that would go to families across the country, simply by having a child; you don’t have to prove how poor you are, you don’t have to prove that you’re working. You don’t have to prove that you’re someone that hasn’t been to prison. You don’t have to prove that you’re a student, you don’t have to prove anything except that you have a child and that you get the credit — being blocked by Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema. With Mitch McConnell. That’s what’s happening.
Solana Rice 48:56
And we should say that he is upholding this personal responsibility myth by saying Indeed, this is a program the child tax credit needs to be again, means tested.
Jeremie Greer 49:14
Tell them what “means tested” really means, Solana.
Solana Rice 49:16
It depends on your income. It depends on whether or not you are making going to work and making money and wealth for somebody else. Then you get to have this low Child Tax Credit, then you are deserving. And I think what we just need to hear again and again, is it if it’s income today, it’ll be it can be what you said, not having a record tomorrow at the bar keeps getting re set and it’s not this is about so when you hear political will that’s the political will to drop all of these requirements, drop all these thresholds that say we’re deserving.
Jeremie Greer 50:05
Right? And that’s really what, what’s holding us up is the idea. And what would smooth this out, is to dismantle white supremacy or racism to the point where people are willing to go with a plan that gives black people, immigrants, people of color, money, with no strings attached. Like, that is it where he said, The Haha, that’s the laugh, like, that’s what they’re laughing about, like, we’re gonna give people money that like drink malt liquor, or that hang around to do nothing, and who don’t like that is what’s going on in their mind. And when they say them. They’re talking about black people. They’re talking about immigrants. They’re talking about people who white society has determined undeserving of government resources. And that is what this debate is about, like, make no mistake. So when you hear means tested, it means we’ll give you the resources black people, but you have to prove that you deserve it. If you can’t prove to us you deserve it. You short. And that’s what’s going on. And again, he said is this black dis Republican democratic? This is Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema joining in with Southern segregationists in the Senate to block this bill. That’s what’s happening. And saying that, well, I might vote for it, if you do this. And, you know, I worry that the Democrats are going to go along with that the Democratic leadership is going to go along with it, that Joe Biden is going to go along with it. And I’m going to tell you, a lot of people who showed up at the polls for Joe Biden wouldn’t be wouldn’t make the Means Test, the Joe Biden, the Joe Manchin is trying to put on it, they wouldn’t get these resources. And that’s not why they showed up for Joe Biden. They showed up for Joe Biden, so he could deliver for them, so he shouldn’t sell those people out. Because of expediency of coming to some deal. With southern segregationists.
Solana Rice 52:12
We should also note that what Michael said is so true. We know that governments can do this, we know that philanthropy can do this too. Right? We have, we have the receipts, we also know that these same requirements, these means testing and things like that don’t happen for wealthy people who also get checks and money and breaks. That’s right. So this is not I love the way Michael put that is like, this is not about do we have the money. And this is about can we set aside? Can we undo these racist tropes that we’re holding on to about us and them about somebody else, and ourselves. And it’s really hard, I think, to untangle even for ourselves, even for our individual selves. This idea that we’re we’re special, and the people, the other people, our neighbors, they could be our neighbors. They’re not special, they do not deserve, they are not going they are not going through the same system. They might be going through the same system, but they’ve made bad choices in that system. So it’s all about, it’s not all about but we have to have grace for each and hold these folks that are making decisions accountable to having vision beyond individualism.
Jeremie Greer 53:50
And that we just need to walk that road and we just need to walk that road with the with the foresight, we need to bring people along as Michael talked about, I love the way he talked about how how the mayor like he said, it’s cool now to be a mayor that has a guaranteed income pilot. Like that is the work that we need to do to keep moving this forward and lead into that that liberatory future. So this I’m really, really excited to see where he goes with his work and where we can start kicking so that we can start kicking these politicians like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, into shape. Well, thanks for joining y’all. Peace out. Yeah.
Kendra Bozarth 51:50
Thanks for listening. For more information, check out our list of episode resources and visit us at liberationinagenerationaction.org. Shout out to our producer, Jacob Bronstein; audio editor, Nino Fernandez; communications director, me, Kendra Bozarth; the design team at TrimTab; and the whole squad at LibGen Action. Like what you heard? Help us make some noise by telling two friends about the Racism Is Profitable podcast. Until next time, y’all. Peace!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai