IF YOU drove I-10 through West Texas ten years ago, you would find one or two pumpjacks and plains of dead grass. The sparse and unpopulated landscape was a product of the desolate economy, comprised mostly of activities like “Animal Production and Aquaculture,” “Truck Transportation,” and “Support Activities for Mining.” Ten percent of West Texans made minimum wage or less in 2010, and the rest earned little more. But by 2017, the picture looked radically different. Thanks to the rebirth of the oil industry, just three percent of West Texans made minimum wage or less––an unprecedented change in the class makeup of the region. GDP per capita rose by ten thousand dollars from 2010 to 2015––a kind of change that hadn’t occurred in the area for decades.
West Texas shows us that America’s new oil economy influences more than stock charts and geopolitics: it also impacts the livelihoods of the communities around oil fields. And yet, large oil and gas firms have remained largely oblivious to their workers’ conditions. The oil industry may bring short-term prosperity to its workers, but it drags its employees along as if oil would guarantee their futures—which it certainly will not. This is the reality of America’s corporate-centric energy policy.
Continue reading “How the Oil Industry Has Failed Its Own Workers”
AS I write this piece, there are 2,604 billionaires in the world. The 26 richest people in the world own more wealth than the bottom 50% of the entire population, and the richest person in the world, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, now holds over 128 billion dollars in wealth. To put this into perspective, Mr. Bezos could buy every team in the NFL and still have $36 billion left to spend, which would only make him the 28th richest man in the world. Meanwhile, the World Bank estimated that 8.6% of the world population lives with $1.90 a day—a salary so low that one would take 185 million years to acquire Mr. Bezos’ wealth. And if that isn’t enough for you, there are also 860 million people without access to electricity and 2.5 billion who lack access to improved sanitation. The difference between the richest and the poorest is, put plainly, shocking.
Some politicians, like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have reacted to this level of inequality by arguing that billionaires should not even exist in the first place. However, if you’re not a progressive, you likely disagree with what they have to say. But looking at the problem by focusing on freedom and power might change your perspective. While many have defended billionaires through economics, now is the time to bring a more political argument into the discussion.
Continue reading “Billionaires: Where Freedom Fails”
IN A WORLD in which fiscal policy becomes more complex with each passing administration, an alarmingly simple proposal like universal basic income brings all parties into a state of shock. At its core, UBI seeks to give citizens a periodic, no-strings-attached cash grant to do whatever they want. Whether you are rich or poor, from San Francisco or from Bakersfield, every so often you receive a check in the mail for a fixed amount directly from the government. You could spend it all in a one-night extravaganza or save it to buy the car you always wanted—you could even burn the money in a bonfire if you like (though I would not recommend doing so). The fundamental principle behind UBI is for citizens to choose what they want to do with their money, whatever that choice may be.
Continue reading “A Left Defense of Universal Basic Income”