Opinion: Income program must be paired with honest dialog on race

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

Universal Basic Income — a policy idea whereby people receive unconditional funds to help meet their most essential needs — is making waves in California.

The city of Stockton is set to launch a three-year pilot program. And Y Combinator, which provides seed funding for startups, is designing a pilot project for Oakland.

Click here to read Jhumpa’s full op-ed.

Universal Basic Income: Reclaiming Our Time for Racial Justice


By Anne Price, President

It’s been 40 years since we witnessed a Women’s Convention challenging our nation to take up equal rights of women in education, work, and in their personal lives, but this past weekend nearly 5,000 people, mostly women, gathered in Detroit as part of the inaugural Women’s Convention with the theme of Reclaiming Our Time.

Inspired by Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ highly esteemed mantra “reclaiming my time,” convention speakers echoed the need to restore human dignity across a wide range of social, political and economic issues.

The Women’s Convention lifted up the role that social movements led by women of color have played in shaping current proposals and actions to address discrimination, alienation, and exclusion. At the same time, the gathering recognized that the Women’s Movement has never amply included, let alone prioritized, Black women’s oppression and experiences in the struggle for gender justice.

We are in an important moment for women to exercise their moral agency to reclaim dignity and humanity in our economy and draw upon the legacy of historical movements. One of the most compelling ideas for reimagining our nation’s economic policies through this vision is Universal Basic Income (UBI), a progressive policy proposal that is gaining traction in the national conversation.

The basic tenet behind UBI is to give every American a stipend so that all children and families have the funds to meet their most essential needs — with their dignity and self-efficacy intact. The most common UBI proposal is to give people unconditional cash grants of about $12,000 per adult annually, with variances for true costs of living. This amount would help families create an income floor to meet basic needs like shelter, food, and transportation.

While UBI has gained mainstream attention as a possible solution to automation and job loss, when it comes to the full promise — and historical roots — of UBI, we have some reclaiming to do.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Organizers and volunteers from the National Welfare Rights Organization, marching to end hunger in 1968. Source: Anna Julia Cooper Center, Wake Forest University

Opinion: Environmental legislation leaves low-income behind

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

The passage of two environmental bills — AB 398 and AB 617 — has been a hot topic these past weeks. The legislation extends California’s cap and trade program and aims to improve air quality in polluted communities.

Backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the new statutes have drawn mixed reaction in the environmental justice community. As they stand, they also retain a regressive, flat-rate pricing system that places an unfair economic burden on low-income families, who will continue to pay a higher percentage of their earnings toward energy costs in comparison to higher-income households.

To read Jhumpa’s full piece, click here.

Fifty is the New Forgotten

Medium By Anne Price, President
From Charlottesville to Hurricane Harvey to removing DACA, this past month has repeatedly reinforced one of the primary drivers of Insight’s work — the absolute necessity of focusing on the needs of communities who are almost never included in our policymaking and are almost always left short changed. We must remain vigilant in our fight to ensure the voices and needs of people of color, immigrants, low-income communities and women are front and center.

This includes the often overlooked women of Generation X, now in their 50s.

Women are often the glue that holds families and communities together, too frequently sacrificing their own financial stability and emotional well-being for their family and friends. Increasingly, the economic security of today’s families rest on the shoulders of women. Two thirds of mothers play a significant role in the financial well-being of their families. Yet women are paid less, are crowded into certain occupations, and work in jobs that lack wealth escalators, consequentially hurting families and communities.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

Living in a World They Didn’t Make: A Look at Millennial Women


By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

The United States has a storied history of strong, fierce women fighting for equal rights and opportunity. Every mother hopes her daughter will fare better than she, facing fewer obstacles and less discrimination, and benefitting from a more equitable society.

As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day and commemorate the adoption of the 19th amendment, it’s important to acknowledge our progress toward equity. But it is equally important that we acknowledge that, for Millennial women — those born from the early 1980s through the early 2000s — the gains have faltered.

Coming of age during the Great Recession and the push for mass incarceration, these women grew up in troubling economic and social times.

To read Jhumpa’s full piece, click here.

Photo courtesy; Jovan J of Flickr Creative Commons

Opinion: Level the college playing field for black women

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

Dzifa is a hard-working, immigrant woman who overcame some serious odds to recently get her Ph.D from the University of California, Los Angeles, in Public Health. Highly educated and gainfully employed with a coveted post doctoral fellowship position, Dzifa is closer to achieve her dream of conducting research to make a difference in the lives of women in her home country, Ghana. It seems Dzifa is winning at life by most standards.

Yet, Dzifa’s accomplishments also come at a huge price. Financing her education on her own, she carries more than $100,000 in student debt. As a result, she lives on an extremely tight budget and grapples with finding side gigs to help her with the high cost of living and making her way out of this enormous debt. Rather than taking on research she knows can make a difference, she takes on projects that are stable and adequately funded.

To read Jhumpa’s full op-ed, click here.

Reimagining Justice and Legal Advocacy


By Anne Price, President

Originally published in Insight Center’s June 2017 Newsletter.

There has never been a more critical, more insistent time to reimagine access to justice. The demand for legal assistance for Americans striving to make ends meet is at an all-time high. Only half of those seeking assistance from federally funded legal aid programs can be served, and fewer than one in five low-income individuals gets the legal help they need.

These are the outcomes of a system in which funding for individual legal services is significantly constrained, as is the range of permissible services that programs can provide. Presently, the national Legal Services Corporation, the largest single funder and lifeblood of the civil legal aid system across the country, is one of the many programs the Trump Administration slated for complete elimination in its draft budget.

Click here to read Anne’s full piece.

Returning to the Promise of Full Employment: A Federal Job Guarantee in the United States

Returning to the Promise of Full Employment: A Federal Job Guarantee in the United States outlines the socioeconomic case for establishing a Federal Job Guarantee to fundamentally transform the U.S. labor market through the promise of inclusive economic opportunity.

Co-authored by Darrick Hamilton of The New School for Social Research, William Darity, Jr. and Mark Paul of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, and Anne E. Price of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, the report traces the history of job guarantee proposals in the U.S., and details the disproportionate impact unemployment has on significant segments of the population, including people of color and other historically marginalized groups.

To eliminate persistent involuntary unemployment and underemployment, the authors call for the establishment of a National Investment Employment Corps that would empower workers, invest in infrastructure and socially beneficial services, and improve the economic well-being of millions. Read the report to learn how a Federal Job Guarantee would reduce poverty, remove unjust and discriminatory barriers to work, and create a stronger, more inclusive economy.

Click here to view and download Returning to the Promise of Full Employment: A Federal Job Guarantee in the United States.

Where We Went Wrong with the Racial Wealth Gap


By Anne Price, President

Originally published in Insight Center’s May 2017 Newsletter.

Before the Great Recession and the Occupy Wall Street movement, leading minds on economic issues came together from diverse communities of color to set an audacious goal: closing the racial wealth gap. It was a bold proclamation not just in its enormity, but also because an intentional focus on race and wealth inequality represented a significant departure from greater calls for class-not-race interventions at the time.

The call to close the racial wealth gap drew upon the pioneering work of numerous researchers and thought leaders. These pioneers got it right when they claimed that racial wealth inequality is not a natural occurrence or a law of nature, but a man-made choice.

From the Homestead Act to the G.I. Bill to Social Security, millions of people were locked out of opportunity due to a legacy of intentional and inadvertent policies that not only restricted communities of color from building wealth, but also facilitated the extraction of wealth from people of color to directly benefit Whites. The result has been ever-widening wealth differences between Whites and people of color that ultimately weaken democratic institutions, lower wages for all workers, undermine public health outcomes, and contribute to the disinvestment of entire communities.

To read Anne’s full piece, click here.

Opinion: Is it unfair for state to suspend licenses for unpaid tickets?

East Bay Times

By Jhumpa Bhattacharya

Close to 20 years ago, I received my first traffic ticket speeding on Interstate 5. I can still remember the sheer panic I felt when I heard the siren and saw the flashing lights. I received a reckless driving ticket for going 86 mph, 30 miles per hour above the speed limit and was mandated to appear in court.

A few weeks later in court, I plead guilty and the judge told me that I could go to traffic school to avoid impacting my record. I was relieved until they told me that my fee was $360. My only option was to use a credit card and pay over time. One year later I finally paid off the fine plus interest, totaling close to $420.

To read Jhumpa’s full op-ed, click here.