- On Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her allies unveiled their roadmap for the Green New Deal, an ambitious policy proposal to fight climate change, spur economic growth, and improve social welfare.
- Alongside the five-page nonbinding resolution, Ocasio-Cortez's office published a six-page document of Green New Deal talking points that differed in some key ways from the resolution and that was later deleted from the congresswoman's website.
- Confusion ensued after Ocasio-Cortez's team appeared to back away from their claims that the document was doctored or mistakenly published.
- Some have interpreted the language in the FAQ as suggesting support for a universal basic income, an old idea that has growing support on both the left and right.
This week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey unveiled their roadmap for the Green New Deal, an ambitious policy proposal to fight climate change, spur economic growth, and improve social welfare.
The FAQ talking points differed in some key ways from the resolution.
"'Green New Deal' suggests welfare for those 'unwilling to work.' Is that a mistake?" The Daily Caller's headline read.
Later on Thursday, the talking points were deleted off of Ocasio-Cortez's site.
On Friday, Ocasio-Cortez retweeted screenshots of clearly doctored versions of the FAQ that had been making the rounds online.
Robert Hockett, a Cornell University law professor and adviser to Ocasio-Cortez, told Fox News' Tucker Carlson on Friday evening that the document with the "unwilling to work" line was "doctored" and that Ocasio-Cortez had "never said anything like that."
But the document with the "unwilling to work" provision was also sent to reporters, including NPR, which also published it.
On Saturday evening, Chakrabarti acknowledged that his team had authored the document and that the "unwilling to work" provision was written with specific recipients in mind, including retired coal miners.
"We were essentially thinking about pensions and retirement security," he said. "E.g. economic security for a coal miner who has given 40 years of their life to building the energy infra of this country, but who may be not be willing to switch this late in his career."
The talking points also differed from the resolution in a few other areas, including the role of nuclear power, the use of carbon capture, and the proposed timelines for many of these policies.
Liberal supporters also expressed confusion about the conflicting messages.
"I feel like I am reading a different Green New Deal document from most of the rest of the internet," progressive commentator and Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias tweeted. "The one I see appears to back away from a whole range of specific policies (without ruling them out) in favor of aspirational goals, which does not seem like a particularly radical approach to me."
Chakrabarti responded, "I'd read the resolution. That's the actual thing introduced. We'll put up an actual FAQ since this bad copy is floating around."
The resolution includes much more vague language calling to provide "all people of the United States with economic security."
An old idea with new support
Some have interpreted the idea that the government would provide "economic security" even to those "unwilling to work" as similar to the concept of a universal basic income, essentially a cash transfer from the government to every citizen.
Indeed, Ocasio-Cortez's November resolution to establish a Green New Deal select committee in the House, included a call for a basic income.
"The basic income language did disappear between the draft resolution for a select committee and this resolution with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Markey," Greg Carlock, a senior advisor on the Green New Deal at Data for Progress whose September 2018 report formed the foundation for the final resolution, told INSIDER.
Carlock argued that the vague "economic security" language in the final Green new Deal resolution shouldn't be interpreted as calling for a universal basic income.
"I don't think anyone who signed on to that resolution thought they were signing on to basic income," he said.
And Chakrabarti said in a tweet on Friday that the resolution doesn't call for a universal basic income.
While UBI is widely thought of as a relatively radical idea, various basic income proposals have been around since the end of the 18th century and it has a growing fan base on both the left and the right.
Many libertarians, who view government social programs as inefficient, support cash transfers to boost social welfare and the economy.
"I really like the notion of getting rid of all welfare programs and going to a cash system," said Veronique de Rugy, a Senior Research Fellow at the free market-oriented Mercatus Center who considers most government social programs "paternalistic."
She told INSIDER, "If there's one thing the government does well, it's cut checks."
But ultimately de Rugy takes issue with the universality of UBI, which she argues doesn't effectively target the neediest. And she doesn't believe Americans would ever support eliminating programs that benefit the poor and unemployed before implementing UBI.
But the idea has become increasingly popular among Americans in recent years.
A Northeastern University/Gallup poll last year found that 48% of Americans approve of a universal basic income — up from just 12% a decade ago.
And a poll conducted by Data for Progress last summer found that 38% of Americans support giving everyone a monthly $1,000 payment and raising taxes on those making over $150,000, while 40% do not. Notably, that survey found the idea has much more support among working class Americans (non-college-educated) — of all racial groups — than among wealthier people.
The US already has one large-scale universal basic income program. The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend sends virtually every Alaskan an annual check of between $1,000 and $2,000 (or $4,000 to $8,000 for a family of four) that comes from the state's oil revenue.
And Andrew Yang, a 43-year-old entrepreneur and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate is basing his long-shot bid on a proposal to give $1,000 per month to every American between the ages of 18 and 64.
"When you realize how historic and unprecedented levels of inequality are, and that the trends are about to speed up and get worse, the numbers point to a clear disintegration of American society," Yang told Business Insider last year. "People are waking up. There's no rational solution to these trends that does not include some form of universal basic income."
Editor's note: The headline and text of this article have been updated.