Beginning in 2019, 100 residents of Stockton, California, will be receiving a “basic income” from the city government. This “pilot program” is the first of its kind in the United States and is akin to similar “universal basic income” programs currently and previously carried out around the world.
Here’s a summary of the Stockton situation as described by CBS13 TV in Sacramento. I’ve chosen to quote the details of the plan from local media because I want readers to appreciate that this is neither satire nor some attempt to exaggerate the facts to serve an editorial end:
A team of independent researchers will pick 100 people to receive the money. The purpose is to study how an extra $500 a month impacts people’s health and stress level. Researchers are also looking to see if people feel financially secure.
“Around this country, especially in communities like Stockton, people are working incredibly hard and falling further and further behind. We have people in our community that work two or three jobs, we have people that are working and still can’t pay rent,” said Mayor Michael Tubbs.
The researchers will also have a comparison group as part of the program. It consists of 200 additional people who will get a $20 gift card for filling out surveys and provide feedback.
“People who are working incredibly hard are smart and they don’t have money [not] because they are not good with money, they don’t have money because jobs aren’t paying enough for folks to live and survive. We believe something as small as $500 a month can make a world of difference,” he said.
There is so much wrong with this plan politically (assuming that the concepts of “consent of the governed” and “republican government” are still believed in California), but respectable economists have pointed out several pecuniary problems, as well.
In an article from 2016 assessing the “lunacy” of the “universal basic income” (UBI) proposal, Nick Giambruno laments, “It’s just a matter of time before the idea gains traction in the U.S.”
Welcome to the future, Nick!
Giambruno lists a few European efforts to institute a UBI:
Finland wants to pay its citizens around $1,000 a month.
The Netherlands and the U.K. have also proposed dishing out free money.
In Switzerland, there’s a proposal to hand out around $2,800 a month to everyone. This one is surprisng since the Swiss are generally sensible about money.
Needless to say, the Swiss overwhelmingly voted their UBI proposal down in a referendum. But Finland was on the cutting edge of the forced charity (yes, I know, a logical impossibility) when in 2017 it initiated its version of the UBI. The government of Finland doled out €560 (about $637) a month to 2,000 jobless citizens chosen randomly. The recipients were subjected to no minimum requirements to qualify for the “free” money.
Mind you, the average income tax rate in Finland is north of 51 percent. In other words, the “free” money is being taken from those who worked for it and given to those who did nothing other than have a pulse. Where I come from, that’s called theft.
The Stockton, California, program is described a bit differently. City leaders there claim that this money will be used to help the working poor. Here’s the hard-luck tale of the hard-working, but never-getting-ahead dad, as told by CBS13:
Stockton dad Jose Miranda works hard to save his money, but setting aside a small portion of his paycheck every other week can be a challenge. He says his expenses just keep piling up.
“Kids you know, my kids. I spend money on my kids the most, I think. And rent, in particular. Food and phone,” said Miranda.
Miranda lives in a neighborhood where the median income is at or below 46 thousand dollars.
It’s one of the areas the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration program (SEED) is sending letters to people who may be eligible to get $500 a month with no strings attached.
“I think for the people that really need it, it will be good for them, like a lot of people say groceries, rent, car payment, even if you want to help a family member, anything extra is good to get,” Miranda said.