by Lowell Ponte
In 2012 the City of Stockton in California’s Central Valley declared bankruptcy. Now, six years later, it is about to become the first American city to experiment with “universal basic income,” simply giving people money for nothing, no questions asked.
This is the next great liberal utopian scheme: give everybody a guaranteed income from the government whether they need it or not, as Craig R. Smith and I document in our book Money, Morality & The Machine. While President Donald Trump is trying to make jobs easier to get, the Left aims to make working unnecessary. When families become hooked on free lifelong income of, say, $1,300 every month, Progressives believe a majority will vote for Democrats forever to keep the free cash coming.
Stockton, of course, does not have the nearly $2 Billion needed to pay each of its 320,000 residents even $500 a month for 18 months. Its ambitious young Mayor Michael Tubbs, 27, a Democrat and former intern in President Barack Obama’s White House, has been offered a $1.2 Million private grant to fund such an income for at most 133 families, who will be studied to see how it changes them.
Roughly a quarter of Stockton residents have incomes below the poverty line in this 13th largest city in California (and 63rd largest city in the United States). Forbes has ranked Stockton, based on crime rates, the 8th “most dangerous” city in America.
Mayor Tubbs calls Stockton “ground zero” for the economic problems that affect many of our cities. He believes people have a “right” to an economic floor below which they cannot fall, and he compares what he favors to the oil fund that each year sends a check to every Alaskan.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., advocated a guaranteed income, as does veteran radical labor leader Andy Stern in his 2016 book Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild The American Dream. Surprisingly, Republican President Richard Nixon and libertarian Nobel-laureate economist Milton Friedman also favored it.
Such guaranteed income would be cheaper than today’s means-tested welfare state, argues American Enterprise Institute analyst Charles Murray. Up to 81 cents of every dollar government spends on the poor never reaches the poor, says Murray; it is devoured by the welfare bureaucracy, which uses the poor to justify their own hefty incomes.
Directly giving everybody, rich or poor, a guaranteed income would eliminate these welfare middlemen…much as is done with Social Security, up to 85 percent of whose payments to those unable to retire are taxed and clawed back by government. When Social Security began, its benefits were not taxed – but politicians are too greedy to let people have untaxed money.
Experiments with universal basic income have been tried from Finland to Kenya. It will be “necessary” in the near future, says Tesla founder Elon Musk, as high tech and robots leave millions unemployed. The European Union proposes funding pay for non-working humans by declaring robots “electronic persons” so they can be heavily taxed.
Stockton Mayor Tubbs’ 18-month experiment will give temporary low pay to a handful of poor families, not create a substantial “universal” basic income that pays, and hence has support from, everybody. But it will study some basic questions. Will giving people what they used to have to earn destroy their work ethic? Will people use it to buy food and opportunity, or booze and California’s recently legalized recreational marijuana?
Will beneficiaries become more free, or freeloaders? What happens to society when the productive pay crushing taxes to subsidize free bread and circuses for the unproductive? Is money-for-nothing the door to a bright utopian future, or a trap door to personal dependency and national bankruptcy? We should consider this now, before Progressives perpetuate their power by imposing this new, universal welfare state on all of us.
To schedule an interview with Lowell Ponte, contact: Sandy Frazier at 516-735-5468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a free copy of Craig R. Smith and Lowell Ponte’s latest book, Money, Morality & The Machine, contact: David Bradshaw at 602-918-3296 or email him at email@example.com