Stockton, Calif., is hosting an economic experiment, choosing 100 of its own residents to receive $500 a month in private funds to approximate the effects of a universal basic income.
The Economic Security Project (ESP) is funding the 18-month project, spending $1 million to conduct the test and monitor how the hand-picked residents spend the extra cash each month. ESP is partnering with Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, who says there will be “no strings” for accepting the payments.
“And then, maybe, in two or three years, we can have a much more informed discussion about the social safety net, the income floor people deserve and the best way to do it because we’ll have more data and research,” Tubbs told Reuters.
The universal basic income, in theory, combats poverty by doling out a fixed amount of cash per month to low-income or unemployed residents to create a guaranteed safety net for. Finland is currently running a two-year trial, giving 2,000 unemployed residents about $685 a month. Finnish authorities are not planning to extend the trial and will analyze the data collected after the program ends in December. (RELATED: Left-Wing America Steps Up Calls For Free Money, Jobs Guarantee)
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, who also worked on former- President Barack Obama’s campaign, co-chairs ESP. In the past, Hughes has proposed instituting a basic income of $500 for every American making under $50,000 a year. He proposed raising the income and capital gains taxes to 50 percent to pay for the program, according to Reuters.
Libertarian economist Charles Murray has championed the universal basic income as a viable and better alternative to welfare in the U.S., describing it in 2016 as “the least damaging way for the government to transfer wealth from some citizens to others.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector, an expert on welfare policy, disagreed with Murray’s analysis in a 2018 report, saying welfare reform is a better vehicle for a social safety net.
“The premise of universal basic income has a known track record of failure that hurts recipients and increases dependence on government,” Rector writes. “Policymakers seeking to reform the welfare state should focus instead on policies proven to work.”
Tubbs, elected in 2017 as the youngest mayor ever over a city of more than 100,000 residents, “felt almost a moral responsibility” to take risks and pursue unorthodox policies to help Stockton’s residents.
Stockton has suffered numerous social problems, such as rising crime, since the city filed for bankruptcy on June 28, 2012.
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