Michael Tubbs on universal basic income: ‘The issue with poverty is a lack of cash’ – The Guardian


“Only a few policy ideas have the potential to disrupt the racial wealth gap or poverty. Universal basic income (UBI) is one of them. But its promise depends on how it’s presented, its design, and the public narrative. In various guises, UBI has gained attention in policy circles, and field demonstrations have been mounted worldwide. It is variously framed by conservatives as a cost-saving alternative to welfare, by progressives as a poverty remedy that frees vulnerable workers from exploitative employment, and by some as a hedge against automation. And though various UBI schemes differ in their details, all provide unconditional money to participants, with no work requirements or limitations on how the funds may be used. This model is markedly different from contemporary US welfare programs, which tend to have strict requirements and limitations.

That’s why the UBI field pilot in Stockton, California, a diverse community with high rates of poverty and racial income disparities, is so intriguing. Although the robots are not closing in on Stockton, Mayor Michael Tubbs has brought in the nation’s first city-led guaranteed income initiative, supported entirely by philanthropic resources. Approximately 130 residents, selected from neighborhoods across Stockton where the medium income was at or below $46,033, will receive $500 a month over 18 months, no strings attached. An expert team is investigating all sorts of potential outcomes from work effort to health, civic engagement to financial wellbeing. Implicit in Stockton’s pilot is the idea that individuals can be trusted to make the best financial decisions for themselves and their families, a controversial idea with the capacity to address deep-rooted racial and economic inequalities.”