Stockton, a city of 300,000 located in California‘s Central Valley, will soon become the first city in the United States to launch a universal basic income experiment. Certain citizens will receive $500 a month, no strings attached, with the idea of helping people who are struggling economically to thrive. One in four people in Stockton live below the poverty line, thanks to wage stagnation, job loss and rising housing costs, and this move will be an experiment in seeing how a little help can make a big difference in the lives of people who need it.
With support from the Economic Security Project (ESP), a basic income advocacy group co-led by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, Stockton is starting a trial program known as Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) to test how basic income may impact city residents and the local economy.
Stockton’s 27-year-old mayor Michael Tubbs first encountered basic income in the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who supported a guaranteed income. Elected in November 2016, Tubbs is the city’s first Black mayor and its youngest mayor ever. “I can see the radicalness, but I’m trying to solve the questions that every community has,” Tubbs told Business Insider. Tubbs envisions universal basic income as one component of a local economic development plan, including investments in education, to empower workers to get ahead in an economy that has otherwise been skewed against working-class Americans.
Tubbs is skeptical of the idea that basic income would cause people to become lazy and inactive. “In our economic structure, the people who work the hardest oftentimes make the least,” Tubbs said. “I know migrant farm workers who do back-breaking labor every day, or Uber drivers and Lyft drivers who drive 10 to 12 hours a day in traffic. You can’t be lazy doing that kind of work.”
The specific structure of Stockton’s basic income program is still being developed. However, Tubbs has said that he wants the trial to include people with middle-class and upper-middle-class incomes as well as those in need. He believes that what’s happening in Stockton reflects a broader movement in the United States. “For whatever reason, in this country, we have a very interesting relationship with poverty, where we think people in poverty are bad people,” Tubbs said. “In the next couple years, we’ll see a larger national conversation.”
Via Business Insider