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Power Up: This California pilot project could put universal basic income on 2020 map

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with Brent D. Griffiths

Good morning and welcome back, Power people!  

The latest:

  • House Democrats subpoenas for Trump’s records have been put on hold as the president appeals the ruling, per my colleague Renae Merle. 
  • And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told voters at a luncheon in Paducah, Ky that he’d push through any nomination Trump might make to the Supreme Court next year (an election year), per Reis Thebault 👀 

Thanks for waking up with us. 

Outside the Beltway

With Brent D. Griffiths

THEY HAVE A PLAN FOR THAT: Yolanda, an unemployed 40-year-old single mother of two, says it felt good to buy her daughter a birthday gift last week. 

The special purchase, one that she would not have been able to afford under normal circumstances, was made possible by the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED).

Yolanda, whose name we changed to protect her privacy, is one of 130 Stockton, Calif., residents who has been receiving $500 monthly since February as part of the guaranteed basic income program being piloted by the city and The Economic Security Project

  • Stockton's millennial mayor, Michael Tubbs (D), came across the idea of universal basic income when he was studying the work of Dr. Martin Luther King at Stanford University.
  • Tubbs brought his policy dream of “unconditional cash transfers” to combat poverty to fruition this year in a city where a quarter of the population lives below the federal poverty line.
  • The Economic Security Project is also funding a guaranteed basic income initiative in Jackson, Miss., in partnership with the nonprofit Springboard to Opportunities called the “Magnolia Mother's Trust” in which mothers living in subsidized housing receive $1,000 in “no-strings-attached” cash every month for a year.

Tubbs, who grew up in Stockton as the son of a single mother, says that while guaranteed basic income “is not a panacea,” $500 dollars monthly has made a significant difference in the lives of people like Yolanda, who have struggled to find employment since February.

Through SEED payments, people like Yolanda have been able to pay the phone bill, put food on the table and set aside savings for a car while searching for a job — all without direction from the local or federal government. 

  • “What I've learned as a policymaker is that people are smarter and make very good decisions that those of us who make policy give us credit for,” Tubbs told Power Up.
  • “What I always like to say is: If I can trust people to vote for me, I should be able to trust them on what to do with discretionary dollars, like paying for basic needs," he added. 

Bigger picture: For all of the progressive policies being debated in the 2020 Democratic primary — from reparations to universal health care to free college — there's been decidedly fewer moths to the flame of universal basic income.

Andrew Yang, the primary's biggest champion of a policy he's calling the “Freedom Dividend” allocating $1,000 monthly payment to every adult in America up to age 64, thinks that's about to change. An entrepreneur and tech industry veteran, Yang thinks the money should be funded by a tax on tech companies.

Not the wall: Yang argues that cash dispensed to Americans displaced by automation, globalization, technological transformations and “not immigrants” can help cushion the blow from the “fourth industrial revolution.”

  • “I'd be shocked if other candidates don't embrace UBI during this cycle,” Yang told Power Up over the phone on Tuesday. “It's inevitable and the sooner we level with ourselves and the American people, the sooner we can adopt meaningful solutions that will help preserve our way of life in the midst of the greatest tech transformation in our history.” 
  • The Democratic candidate is currently piloting his own mini-UBI program in New Hampshire. Yang has personally been sending $1,000 a month to the Fassi family in Goffstown since December; they have so far put the money toward their daughter's college tuition. Yang told us he will be announcing a recipient in Iowa next month. 
  • Realpolitik: Yang often points out that UBI was first floated at the federal level by a Republican president. President Nixon proposed a guaranteed income for impoverished families of four of $1,600 a year. The plan, opposed by Democrats and Republicans, failed to pass the Senate. 
  • “Republicans dislike it when government bureaucrats make people's decisions for them,” Yang explained to us. “So putting economic resources directly into people's hands is appealing to conservatives and libertarians because it increases economic freedom and economic autonomy.”

Adam Ruben, the director for the Economic Security Project Action, told Power Up that polling conducted by the group suggests that voters might become more interested in UBI if it's framed differently. Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have proposed something similar as a refundable tax credit. 

  • “In a lot of public opinion research we did, most voters believe you have to work for what you get and cash support should be tied to work,” Reuben told us. “The earned income tax credit is tied to work and that’s part of what’s given it bipartisan support over the last few decades.”

  • Harris's proposal offers monthly cash payments to low and middle- income families making less than $100,000 a year on top of public benefits and tax credits. 

  • “As many as 80 million Americans would benefit, Harris’s office has estimated, with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities calculating that the proposal would lift 9 million people out of poverty, including nearly 3 million kids,” according to the Atlantic's Annie Lowrey, who wrote a book on UBI called “Give People Money.”

  • Booker has proposed a “baby bonds” plan aimed at narrowing the racial wealth gap by providing each U.S. child a savings account with $1,000 dollars, plus an annual payment to the account depending on income of the baby's family, according to Vox. 

The flip side: UBI critics claim that cash distribution discourage work and that the cash payments are distributed to everyone, regardless of need. The Stockton mayor pushed back, saying incentives around employment are more nuanced.

  • “The vast majority of people who can work do work and if people don’t work, it’s because there is something wrong with their health, they are disabled, caregivers, child-rearing . . . So it’s a myth that there are people who don't want to contribute," Tubbs told Power Up.  
  • He added: “I think in 150 years from now, providing an income floor for people will be seen as part of the American contract — think of it more as an investment rather than money.” 

Yolanda was initially hesitant to speak publicly about the program she says she's “blessed and thankful” to be a part of. And she has a message for critics: 

  • “I want to let them know — and I’m not saying they are wrong about their opinion because there are some people sitting on their butts — but as far as myself and where I come from, we work hard for money and this is a lot of great help,” Yolanda told Power Up. “It has helped me manage my bills and get up to date and it feels great to put food in the fridge and buy my kids clothes and not tell them no all the time.”

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Movies have depicted twisters, tsunamis and mudslides — but are these on-screen extreme weather conditions realistic? (Video: The Washington Post)

On The Hill

DISASTER RELIEF BILL STALLS, AGAIN: A single Republican lawmaker once again thwarted the passage of a $19 billion disaster relief plan, objecting to House Democrats’ move to try to pass the troubled measure during a pro-forma session when almost every House member is on recess.

The move by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), following a similar one by Texas Rep. Chip Roy on Friday, ensures further delay in reaching a deal to help respond to California wildfires, Midwestern tornadoes and further aid to Puerto Ricans still recovering from Hurricane Maria. And it comes as federal weather forecasters have identified 500 tornadoes in the Midwest of a 30-day period, a staggering figure if ultimately confirmed.

  • Why Massie blocked the bill: A libertarian lawmaker known for his contrarian streak, Massie tweeted this: 

A disastrous debate: Here's a quick recap on why it has taken so long for Congress to get this done.

  • House Democrats passed a $14 billion disaster aid bill in January, amid what end up as the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history.
  • Puerto Rico: Senate Democrats blocked their Republican colleagues from passing legislation in April, arguing it didn't provide enough money for the island. Republicans sided with President Trump, who said Puerto Rico had received enough aid already.
  • Senate Republicans tried to force the issue by pointing out their $13 billion package included money for flooding in Nebraska and Iowa. Part of the strategy was that Iowa’s inclusion would force Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate to support the bill. The gambit did not work.
  • An immigration fight: Just as a deal last week appeared possible, the White House balked over the lack of funding for Trump's border wall. Ultimately, the $19.1 billion compromise contained no border funding. Senators passed it anyway, 85-8.
  • Status quo: Because the House is technically in recess, its pro forma sessions require lawmakers to unanimously embrace the proposal. That means Massie or any one of his colleagues can block the measure.
  • Next steps: The House will hold another pro forma session on Thursday, but it’s unlikely the proposal will pass until lawmakers return next week. Trump has promised to sign it.

The takeaway: “Most lawmakers agree that spending money to help communities recover from disasters has long been a central job of the federal government, and it’s becoming more important as climate change exacerbates extreme weather,” our colleague Amber Phillips reported. “But a combination of a less-effective Congress, a Republican focus on austerity and general political polarization have contributed to a disaster aid package stumbling through Congress ..."

If you think this is bad, just wait until the debt ceiling has to be raised.

From the Courts

A STATE WITHOUT AN ABORTION CLINIC? IT COULD HAPPEN IN MISSOURI: Missouri may become the first state since Roe v. Wade without an abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood officials warned Tuesday after the Supreme Court decided not to review an Indiana law prohibiting abortions when medical tests revealed an abnormality in the fetus. 

  • What’s happening in Missouri: CBS News's Kate Smith first reported the "last remaining abortion clinic in Missouri says it expects to be shut down this week, effectively ending legal abortion in the state."
  • “Planned Parenthood officials said the state’s health department is threatening not to renew the organization’s license to offer abortions in St. Louis, currently the only place in Missouri that provides the procedure,” our colleague Marisa Itai reports
  • The first state since Roe: “The license expires Friday, and if it isn’t renewed, Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said, ‘this will be the first time since 1974 that safe, legal abortion care will be inaccessible to people in an entire state.’ Planned Parenthood said the closure of the St. Louis clinic would leave “more than a million people in a situation we haven’t seen since Roe v. Wade,” Marisa writes.

The Supreme Court’s decision not to schedule a review of the Indiana law comes as Republican-controlled state legislatures are moving to pass a number of laws restricting abortion, including in Alabama where they aim to outlaw the measure entirely.

  • SCOTUS compromise: “The court said a part of the law dealing with disposal of the 'remains' of an abortion could go into effect. But it did not take up a part of the law stricken by lower courts that prohibited abortions because tests revealed an abnormality,” our colleague Robert Barnes reports. “The portion the court allowed to go into effect requires that the 'remains' of abortion or miscarriage be buried or cremated, as required of other human remains.”
  • What it means for future rulings: “ . . . The compromise over the Indiana law indicated the court might proceed slowly,” Bob writes. “It has been considering whether to review the law since January, and Tuesday’s decision indicated that coming to agreement took some time.”
  • Justice watch: “Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor would have upheld the 7th Circuit’s decision keeping all of the law from going into effect.”


Harris's plan: 2020 candidate and Sen. Harris unveiled a plan yesterday to go after the state abortion bans. Under the the senator’s plan, states with a history of restricting abortion rights would have to receive permission from the Justice Department before they could change their abortion laws.

  • Legalese: “The pre-clearance requirement would face steep hurdles. The Supreme Court struck down a similar provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, effectively freeing states to change election laws without seeking federal approval,” the Associated Press’s Juana Summers reports. “The Harris campaign argues that decision doesn’t ban pre-clearance measures, leaving it up to Congress to decide how to impose such requirements.”

HISTORIC OPIOIDS TRIAL BEGINS: “Motivated by greed, Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries deliberately flooded the market with prescription painkillers, deceptively promoted them and stood by as the opioid epidemic flourished, lawyers for the state of Oklahoma argued Tuesday, as a trial examining the company’s role in the drug crisis began,” our colleague Lenny Bernstein reports from the courthouse in Norman

  • How did Oklahoma become first?: “Judge Thad Balkman, who is hearing the case here in Oklahoma without a jury, insisted on Tuesday’s court date, making the civil trial in the Cleveland County courthouse the first to get underway,” Lenny writes. “The legal arguments unveiled before a packed gallery of lawyers, experts, media and the public are expected to be echoed at future trials.”
  • Why it matters: “The health-care conglomerate’s conduct has emerged as an early test of whether the pharmaceutical industry will be forced to pay billions of dollars to more than 1,600 cities, counties, states, Native American tribes and others across the United States that have sued to recover the costs of coping with the crisis.”


BOLTON V. TRUMP: Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi there’s “‘no reason’ for Iran to back out of its nuclear deal with world powers other than to seek atomic weapons, a year after the U.S. president unilaterally withdrew America from the accord,” per the Associated Press’s Jon Gambrell.

Bolton also claimed without evidence that “the alleged sabotage of four oil tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates came from naval mines placed ‘almost certainly by Iran.’”

  • “Speaking in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, Bolton told journalists that there had been a previously unknown attempt to attack the Saudi oil port of Yanbu as well,” per Gambrell.
  • Bolton’s threat: “The point is to make it very clear to Iran and its surrogates that these kinds of action risk a very strong response from the United States.”

This comes after Trump contradicted Bolton’s Iran posturing in Tokyo over the weekend:

  • ““It has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership,” Trump said. “We’re not looking for regime change. I just want to make that clear. We’re looking for no nuclear weapons.”

The New York Times’s Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman report that while Trump and Bolton have privately groused about one another as fault lines over Iran, North Korea and Venezuela have increasingly played out in public:

  • “At a recent meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Mr. Trump pulled Mr. Adelson aside and asked how he thought Mr. Bolton was doing, according to a person briefed on the conversation. Mr. Adelson said that if Mr. Trump was happy, then he was happy . . . But it was not clear if he was happy... One person close to Mr. Trump said the situation resembled the moment when the president turned on Rex W. Tillerson, his first secretary of state, but still took another six months or more to push him out. Others expressed doubt that Mr. Trump would get rid of Mr. Bolton before next year’s reelection campaign.”
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In the Media