These are the slides which resourced a workshop held immediately following Luther Seminary's Midwinter Convocation in 2019. The workshop focused on exploring universal basic income within the context of Christian faith.
Universal Basic Income: An Exploration
Luther Seminary post-convocation workshop
Mary E. Hess, PhD
1 February 2019
As we gather today Luther Seminary, we acknowledge the sacred lands on which we live and
learn. We remember that before the sidewalks, roads, and bridges that brought us here today, this
land was an oak savannah. Indigenous peoples walked and lived on this sacred land.
We give gratitude and know that it holds both pain and beauty for indigenous peoples today and
for all of us. Minnesota is home to eleven sovereign nations, we name them now, because names
Bois Forte Band of Chippewas
Fond du Lac Ojibwe
Grand Portage Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe
Lower Sioux Indian Community
Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe
Prairie Island Indian Community (Dakota)
Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux
Upper Sioux Indian Community
White Earth Ojibwe
There are many other Native Americans living in Minnesota as well.
We are grateful to have the opportunity to learn and to work in this community, on this territory. We
remain mindful of broken covenants and the need to strive to make right with all our relations.
info on land acknowledgements
an outline for today
• introductions around the circle
• an agreement for our conversation
• some basic deﬁnitions — what is UBI?
• what is the landscape within which we have this conversation?
• relative inequality (a video)
• UBI explored (a video)
• a story circle
• how does theology help? how does it complicate the issues?
• next steps going forward
Agreements for our conversation
• Speak for oneself Use “I statements.” Own and offer your thoughts and
feelings honestly; avoid grand pronouncements or stating positions of others
• Practice respect in speaking and listening Accept that others may have
different views, without needing to debate or set them straight.
• Be brief in comments Honor timeframes and refrain from interrupting
• Listen carefully, especially when something is hard to accept Suspend
• Respect conﬁdentiality After our gathering, do not attach names to
comments made without permission
• Allow people to pass, or pass for now, if they are not ready or willing to
respond to a question
universal basic income: 5 elements
• periodic — it is paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as
a one-off grant
• cash — it is paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing
those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore,
paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to
a speciﬁc use
• individual — it is paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to
• universal — it is paid to all, without means test
• unconditional — it is paid without a requirement to work or to
• generally a form of UBI that is being promoted by
presidential candidate Andrew Yang, former
WorkingAssets CEO Peter Barnes, and others
• the idea is that the funds come from shared assets (for
example in Alaska where royalties come from oil on
public lands), taxes such as a carbon tax or a VAT tax, or
other such mechanisms
negative income tax
• “On the background of an explicit tax schedule which
taxes no income at 100% and which can be, but need
not by deﬁnition be, linear, a negative income tax
amounts to reducing the income tax liability of every
household (of a given composition) by the same ﬁxed
magnitude, while paying as a cash beneﬁt the difference
between this magnitude and the tax liability whenever this
difference is positive”
• “hunger and food insecurity are closely related, but
distinct, concepts. Hunger refers to a personal, physical
sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a
lack of available ﬁnancial resources for food at the level of
• “In 2017, an estimated 1 in 8 Americans were food
insecure, equating to 40 million Americans including
more than 12 million children.”
supplemental poverty measure
• “SPM deﬁnes poverty as the lack of economic resources
for consumption of basic needs such as food, housing,
clothing, and utilities (FCSU). To determine family
resources, gross money income from private and public
sources is supplemented with beneﬁts such as food
stamps, housing subsidies, and tax credits. Deducted
from family income are medical out-of-pocket expenses
including health insurance premiums, income and Social
Security payroll taxes, child support payments, work-
related expenses and child care costs.”
means tested beneﬁt
• “A means-tested beneﬁt is a payment available to people
who can demonstrate that their income and capital are
below speciﬁed limits”
• examples in the US include medicaid, SNAP food
beneﬁts, WIC, and so on
the landscape in which we have this conversation
“I believe in a future where the value of your work is
not determined by the size of your paycheck, but
by the amount of happiness you spread and the
amount of meaning you give.
I believe in a future where the point of education is
not to prepare you for another useless job, but for
a life well lived.
I believe in a future where an existence without
poverty is not a privilege, bur a right we all
what do we believe, as Christians, about who we
are as human beings?
a conversation in four stages and in the round
a circle of discussion
• review the agreements
• four rounds of questions (the ﬁrst is 90 seconds, after
that every person will have 2 minutes to respond to the
question), and then an open discussion
• there will be no interruptions in this process, and we will
help each other hold to the agreements
• ﬁnal round of Q&A will be simple “popcorn” conversation
(1) Tell us about why you decided to come to this
workshop this morning. You could be doing many
other things, but you chose to come here. What
was the “pull” of this event?
(2) How do your background and your core
commitments of faith shape your experience of
work and worth?
(3) What are your concerns (or hopes) for a public
conversation about universal basic income?
(4) What is one thing that seems clear and
complete to you right now? And what is one thing
that’s an open question that you may want to
• more than 2000 verses in the Bible on poverty and social
justice (Sojo’s list)
• biblical heartbeats from this week’s Midwinter
Convocation (cf. Rossing, Harris, Schifferdecker, and
• Pope Francis: Laudato ‘Si (encyclical published in 2015)
• God’s abundance!
Laudato ‘Si (praise be to you)
• The spiritual perspective is now part of the discussion on
• The poor are disproportionately affected by climate change.
• Less is more.
• Catholic social teaching now includes teaching on the
• Discussions about ecology can be grounded in the Bible
and church tradition.
Laudato ‘Si (continued)
• Everything is connected—including the economy.
• Scientiﬁc research on the environment is to be praised
• Widespread indifference and selﬁshness worsen
• Global dialogue and solidarity are needed.
• A change of heart is required