Mayors Of 30 Cities Now Pushing For Universal Basic Income

universal basic income poster

Universal Basic Income was an original tenet of 1930s Technocracy, but every UBI experiment in modern days has failed. Nevertheless, thirty more mayors have stepped up to the plate to push for UBI. Governments have no source of income to pay for UBI, but that is overlooked. ⁃ TN Editor

In Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” the civil rights leader discussed how to best address poverty in the United States.

“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income,” he wrote.

King was not the first to propose a guaranteed income; political philosophers from Montesque to Thomas Paine also penned their support for what is often referred to as “universal basic income.” And the idea was recently re-popularized by former Democratic presidential candidate and current New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang.

However, King stands out as the most visible influence on Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a coalition of 30 mayors from Texas to Minnesota, who support direct, recurring cash payments for citizens and are starting guaranteed income programs of their own. The organization prominently features King’s words on its website, describing its mission as “rooted” in the civil rights leader’s legacy.

Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, sometimes called “MGI,” was founded by Michael D. Tubbs, then-mayor of Stockton, California in June 2020 after his city launched, and later extended, a basic income program where 125 residents received $500 monthly thanks to funding from the Economic Security Project, a nonprofit that supports other guaranteed income experiments.

CNBC Make It recently spoke with mayors who are pushing the guaranteed income movement forward in their cities — and giving out thousands of dollars in the process.

Richmond, Virginia

“When you look at 2020 and the inequities that have been illuminated this year, you’ve also seen the injustices that a lot of Black and Brown people have encountered for generations. It’s systemic,” says Levar Stoney, mayor of Richmond, Virginia where the city is piloting a program in which citizens will receive $500 a month for 24 months. “Some people may think this is a radical idea, but I think there’s nothing radical about helping people.”

Currently, 18 Richmond families have been confirmed for participation after being randomly selected from a pool of Office of Community Wealth Building clients who the city has determined suffer from a “cliff effect” where the family makes too much money to qualify for federal benefits but not enough to live comfortably as measured by the region’s living wage. The city sent a list of participants who met that criteria to an independent research team at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Guaranteed Income Research, who performed a random selection.

Stoney says that his childhood has impacted his support of guaranteed income.

“My father was a high school custodian who did not have a high school education. My grandmother was a domestic laborer working in people’s homes. I was raised on my grandmother’s Social Security check and my dad’s very low working-class salary. As a child, I handled the finances for my family. I had to call the bank and would check and see how much money was in the checking account and sometimes they would tell me we only had $30 left,” he says. “The reason I became a supporter of MGI was because I thought about what my grandmother could have done with that extra $500 a month. It would’ve meant more food and the ability for us to pay our bills.”

The so-called Richmond Resilience Initiative is funded through CARES Act dollars, a $240,000 gift from the Robins Foundation, and a recent $500,000 donation from Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, which was itself funded by a $15 million gift by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

City representatives say that the most recent award of funding will allow the program to expand to include up to 55 families in total.

“For me, this fits right into our justice and equity agenda — ensuring that people don’t fall through the cracks,” says Stoney. “In Richmond, roughly 21% of the population lives under the poverty line and I believe that they, too, deserve the best that Richmond has to offer.”

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Calls For Universal Basic Income Continue To Rise

UBI is a concept with deep roots in the historic Technocracy movement from the 1930s. Leading and diverse Technocrats who endorse UBI today include Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Mark Zuckerberg, Ray Kurzweil and former Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson. ⁃ TN Editor

The sheer havoc caused by the pandemic and the massive dislocations and damage to people’s lives has caused UBI to come back into focus. The UBI debate is pretty appropriate as the global economy staggers under multiple hits.

Universal Basic Income is a regular payment without strings attached, unlike many Social Security schemes. The original call for UBI has been around for quite a while. It was originally raised as a remedy for poverty and wealth inequity, but the pandemic has raised the stakes enormously.

Although most governments did come to the party with stimulus packages for the pandemic, criticism of those stimulus packages has been pretty continuous. The US stimulus package, in particular, was strongly criticised for not delivering enough money for long enough. Globally, the same ongoing criticisms apply in one form or another.

In an unlikely twist, my own country, Australia, a poll by YouGov has indicated support for a UBI in a recent poll. What’s so unlikely about it is that Australia is a typical Western nation. We tend to follow, not lead, in social reforms. To give you some idea of our social security mindset, there hasn’t been an increase in unemployment payments since the mid-90s. It’s not generally a major political issue for anyone.

The pandemic has changed the game. It wasn’t as bad here for infections and deaths, but it did involve major lockdowns for months. People were pretty lost. The financial uncertainties were real enough. Adding to this was the fact that low-income people were really hit hard. The stimulus, agreed to without dissent from anyone, did do the job of sealing the holes in peoples’ lifeboats.

The new poll is interesting:

50% agree or “somewhat” agree.
25% disagree, of whom 11% strongly disagreed.
25% didn’t agree or disagree, or didn’t know what UBI is.

If this was a demographic analysis, it’d be 50% are OK with the idea, and only 25% are actually against it. This is in a rich country, remember. It’s a rich country with some shocking, in fact disgusting, poverty stats.

Check out the link to the poverty stats, it’s a nasty little bit of reality which is rarely mentioned.

The point is this –

  • We can assume that the 13.6% of the population below the poverty line aren’t opposed to more money.
  • The 1 in 3 students dropping out of college and other education for lack of funds wouldn’t mind a bit more.
  • Age pensioners (15% of the population) and others on fixed incomes (5% on unemployment benefits) wouldn’t object to some more cash.

So at least 28% of the population obviously do need the support a UBI could provide.

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Pandemic Is Driving Momentum For Universal Basic Income

Presidential candidate and Technocrat Andrew Yang shocked voters with calls for Universal Basic Income, but now it has entered the mainstream of political thought. UBI was an original concept created by early Technocrats in the 1930s to ensure that all citizens were paid equally for their contribution to society. ⁃ TN Editor

When the idyllic upstate city of Hudson, New York, launches its basic-income pilot program in late September, it will become one of the smallest U.S. cities to embrace a policy once seen as far-fetched or radical.

“Basic-income” programs — designed to dole out direct cash payments to large swaths of people, no strings attached — were, until earlier this year, largely the realm of Washington, D.C., policy wonks and West Coast futurists.

But amid the pandemic and a global recession, both basic income and a basket of related policies have gained unprecedented momentum, surfacing everywhere from Capitol Hill to community Zoom meetings in cities like Hudson.

At their most targeted, such programs essentially function as a type of cash welfare, providing a flexible, fungible benefit to low-income Americans. In broader and more ambitious proposals, so-called universal basic-income programs would send cash to everyone regardless of income level — a feature intended, advocates say, to promote consumer spending, lessen the stigma of welfare and protect all workers against future economic upheaval.

Critics from both sides of the political spectrum have historically challenged such programs on the grounds that they cost too much money or don’t always reach the neediest recipients. But since the pandemic began decimating entire sectors of the U.S. economy, that logic has shifted.

In June, a coalition of 11 Democratic mayors from across the country announced the launch of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a national campaign that plans to invest in basic-income pilots and lobby for related policies at the state and federal levels.

Fourteen additional mayors have since signed on to the project, representing cities as diverse as Shreveport, Louisiana; Holyoke, Massachusetts; and Los Angeles. In July, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pledged $3 million to the group to pay for future pilots. Writing in Time to announce their coalition, the mayors called basic income “a policy solution that is as bold as it is innovative and as simple as it is ambitious.”

In Hudson, two nonprofits — with the blessing of the mayor and the county social services department — plan to mail monthly $500 checks to 25 people, chosen by lottery, for the next five years.

Further afield, nonprofits and volunteer networks also have given millions of dollars to hundreds of thousands of laid-off American workers as part of charitable cash-transfer programs. While such one-off grants are not “basic income” in the classic sense, advocates say they still express a new willingness to embrace unconditional cash payments as a part of the safety net.

Several states, including New York, California and Pennsylvania, have passed or are considering bills that would refund more cash to low-income workers by way of an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.

Meanwhile in Washington, six separate bills in Congress would direct new cash aid to Americans, whether through a second round of one-off stimulus checks or a series of regular payments. The first round of stimulus, authorized in March, prevented national poverty levels from surging, two studies suggest, and was championed by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

Now the challenge, for long-time basic-income proponents, is translating this sudden spike of interest into permanent changes to the safety net.

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Technocracy’s Universal Basic Income Continues To Impress

Technocrat and presidential candidate Andrew Yang ran on a platform including Universal Basic Income. Everybody laughed. Now, both sides of the political spectrum cannot stop talking about it as an answer to the pandemic-caused economic collapse. ⁃ TN Editor

With close to 30 million Americans still unemployed and thousands of businesses facing an uncertain future, calls for a “guaranteed income” are becoming louder.

Guaranteed income is giving cash to people who need it because they’re living in poverty. It should not be confused with a “Universal Basic Income,” which is money given to everyone regardless of employment situation or wealth.

The idea is centuries old but has actually been tried in very few nations. The most recent experiment occurred among 2000 unemployed workers in Finland. And, not surprisingly, it was mostly a failure. There were slight improvements in the feelings of “well-being” among the unemployed, but the two-year program had little effect on the unemployment rate or economic security.

The UBI has garnered support from the right and left alike. Conservatives find it attractive because if everyone had a basic income, almost the entire welfare state should virtually disappear as there would be no need for it. With a guaranteed income, however, all those programs remain and the guaranteed income program is just piled on top of it.

Proponents of guaranteed income aren’t concerned with statistics or whether people living in poverty find a job. For them, it’s all about the Benjamins and social justice.

NBC News:

“COVID-19 has shone a bright, hot light on our systemic failures,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland, California. “Oakland has seen more than a doubling in homelessness, and I am terrified that once these eviction moratoriums expire, we will see a homelessness armageddon.”

Schaaf is another signatory of the Mayors for Guaranteed Income statement of principles. Her city was once thought of as the working-class sibling to San Francisco. In recent years Oakland has become unaffordable for many who’ve called it home for generations: Along with rising homelessness, gentrification is in overdrive, the poverty rate is creeping toward 20 percentand a housing crisis looms ever larger. Schaaf says a guaranteed income is “powerful in its simplicity.”

What might give even more momentum to a guaranteed income is the post-pandemic economic landscape. How many shuttered businesses will never reopen? How many businesses will reopen but not be able to make it another six months? “Long-term” unemployment may be a huge factor in the post-pandemic economic environment. States, already reeling from budget crises as a result of the lockdowns, will need federal support of some kind to assist the unemployed for longer than the usual 18 to 26 weeks of benefits they currently offer.

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Pittsburgh Launches ‘Guaranteed Income’ Program With Twitter CEO

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, a committed Technocrat, is promoting Universal Basic Income with his own money in multiple cities around America, including Pittsburgh, Seattle, Atlanta and Los Angeles. UBI is a long-standing idea from Technocracy, Inc., dating back to the 1930s. ⁃ TN Editor

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced that his city is now participating in a program receiving funding from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, in which eligible residents will receive $500 in monthly “guaranteed income.”

The money used to start the program will come from funds Dorsey gave that is allowing Pittsburgh and 15 other cities to help those who are struggling during the economic crisis brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

“A number of people in the city of Pittsburgh will be chosen to be able to receive a monthly stipend, basically a debit card,” Peduto told KDKA. He did not specify how many people would qualify, but he did outline the criteria he would look at.

Peduto said that he wants to give the monthly payments to those who are currently struggling and who would be able to improve their lives with it. He is also looking to award the money to people of different backgrounds and demographics so that a study can be conducted to analyze how it works.

“This is one tool to close the wealth and income gap, level systemic race and gender inequalities, and create economic security for families,” Dorsey tweeted about the program earlier this month.

Dorsey gift is benefitting cities including Atlanta, Seattle and Los Angeles, whose mayors formed the network Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. That group was launched by Stockton, Calif. Mayor Michael Tubbs, who launched his own guaranteed income program in 2018.

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Harris Poll: 49% Of Voters Support Universal Basic Income (UBI)

In a short eight month period, the approval figure went from 43% to 49%, a six point increase. Opposition likewise dropped six points. Only madness and total ignorance believes that there is a free lunch.

UBI is a direct descendant of 1930s Technocracy, which believed that everyone in society would receive a monthly stipend to cover living needs. ⁃ TN Editor

Support for universal basic income (UBI) is on the rise, according to a new Hill-HarrisX poll released on Wednesday.

The nationwide survey found that 49 percent of registered voters are in favor of a government-issued basic living stipend, which marks a 6-point spike compared to a similar survey in February.

Support for UBI remains particularly popular among young people. Seventy-two percent of those between the ages of 18 to 34 favor the idea.

But the proposal still isn’t as highly favored among older generations of Americans — only 26 percent of those 65 and older back a UBI program.

Democrats’ support for UBI increased from 54 percent to 66 percent, as did support among independents which ticked up to 48 percent.

Thirty percent of Republican respondents, meanwhile, said they would support a UBI plan.

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has centered his outsider campaign on a version of universal basic income, which pledges to give every American adult $1,000 a month.

The entrepreneur has touted the plan as a way to tackle the rising threat of automation.

During his opening remarks at the third Democratic debate, Yang debuted a pilot program for his universal basic income plan, calling on Americans to enter a giveaway to become one of 10 families to receive $1,000 a month for a year.

Though Yang said that his campaign received more than 500,000 entries for the contest, the plan has generated some criticism from his fellow contenders, including top-tier candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Sanders told Hill.TV last month that while there is “no question” that automation will have a fundamental impact on Americans, he argued that “people want to work,” and to “be a productive member of society.”

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Epic Fail: Universal Basic Income (UBI) Is A Waste Of Money

UBI

The Technocrat push for UBI is mainly to address the displacement of workers due to the technology created by those same Technocrats. Economically speaking, it is a crackpot idea, but now an exhaustive study has been done by looking at all the failed experiments. Important conclusions include:

  • Making cash payments to individuals to increase their purchasing power in a free-market economy is not a viable route to solving problems caused or exacerbated by neoliberal market economics.
  • There is no evidence that any version of UBI can be affordable, inclusive, sufficient and sustainable at the same time
  • The campaign for UBI threatens to divert political energies – as well as funds – from more important causes. ⁃ TN Editor

A study published this week sheds doubt on ambitious claims made for universal basic income (UBI), the scheme that would give everyone regular, unconditional cash payments that are enough to live on. Its advocates claim it would help to reduce poverty, narrow inequalities and tackle the effects of automation on jobs and income. Research conducted for Public Services International, a global trade union federation, reviewed for the first time 16 practical projects that have tested different ways of distributing regular cash payments to individuals across a range of poor, middle-income and rich countries, as well as copious literature on the topic.

It could find no evidence to suggest that such a scheme could be sustained for all individuals in any country in the short, medium or longer term – or that this approach could achieve lasting improvements in wellbeing or equality. The research confirms the importance of generous, non-stigmatising income support, but everything turns on how much money is paid, under what conditions and with what consequences for the welfare system as a whole.

From Kenya and southern India to Alaska and Finland, cash payment schemes have been claimed to show that UBI “works”. In fact, what’s been tested in practice is almost infinitely varied, with cash paid at different levels and intervals, usually well below the poverty line and mainly to individuals selected because they are severely disadvantaged, with funds provided by charities, corporations and development agencies more often than by governments.

Experiments in India and Kenya have been funded, respectively, by Unicef and Give Directly, a US charity supported by Google. They give money to people on very low incomes in selected villages for fixed periods of time. Giving small amounts of cash to people who have next to nothing is bound to make a difference – and indeed, these schemes have helped to improve recipients’ health and livelihoods. But nothing is revealed about their longer-term viability, or how they could be scaled up to serve whole populations. And there is a democratic deficit: people who get their basic income from charities or aid agencies have no control over how payments are made, to whom, at what level or over what period of time.

The Alaska Permanent Fund, built from the state’s oil revenues, pays all adults and children a dividend each year – in 2018, it was $1,600 (£1,230). The scheme is popular and enduring; it has been found to produce some positive impacts on rural indigenous groups, but it makes no claim to sufficiency and has done nothing to reduce child poverty or to prevent widening income inequalities.

Finland undertook a two-year trial, from January 2017 to December 2018, of modest monthly payments of €560 (£477) to 2,000 unemployed people – but the government has refused to fund further expansion. It told us little about UBI except that, when push comes to shove, elected politicians may balk at paying for a universal scheme.

The cost of a sufficient UBI scheme would be extremely high according to the International Labour Office, which estimates average costs equivalent to 20-30% of GDP in most countries. Costs can be reduced – and have been in most trials – by paying smaller amounts to fewer individuals. But there is no evidence to suggest that a partial or conditional UBI scheme could do anything to mitigate, let alone reverse, current trends towards worsening poverty, inequality and labour insecurity. Costs may be offset by raising taxes or shifting expenditure from other kinds of public expenditure, but either way there are huge and risky trade-offs.

Money spent on cash payments cannot be invested elsewhere. The more generous the payments, the wider the range of recipients, the longer the scheme continues, the less money will be left to build the structures and systems that are needed to realise UBI’s progressive goals.

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5 Reasons Universal Basic Income Will Never Work

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is an economic impossibility being sold to ignorant masses as snake oil designed to pacify resistance against the onslaught of automation displacing workers. The sooner people see through this, the better.  ⁃ TN Editor

Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang is a dark horse contender for the Democratic nomination in 2020 and one of his proposals is getting a lot of attention. His idea is to pay everyone in the United States $1000 per month. It sounds great, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want an extra $1000 per month? I would also add that, perhaps surprisingly, there have been people on the Right like Thomas Paine, Charles Murray, and Milton Friedman who have favored the idea.

Of course, there do tend to be differences between the liberal and conservative versions of universal basic income. The conservative version tends to pay for the whole thing by liquidating most of the other welfare programs. In other words, let’s cut the government agency middlemen out and just give people a certain amount of money. Given the incredible amount of money that the government wastes, it’s certainly theoretically possible that it could SAVE US MONEY if we were willing to cut deep enough,

The UBI is to be financed by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, housing subsidies, welfare for single women, and every other kind of welfare and social-services program, as well as agricultural subsidies and corporate welfare. As of 2014, the annual cost of a UBI would have been about $200 billion cheaper than the current system. By 2020, it would be nearly a trillion dollars cheaper.

That being said, it would be politically impossible to cut many of those programs and layering it on top of the existing welfare state would defeat the potential purpose of it from the conservative perspective. On the other hand, there’s practically no price tag imaginable that gives liberals pause. That brings us to the first issue with Andrew Yang’s proposal.

1. We can’t afford it

The federal government took in $3.4 trillion in taxes last year and ran a $985 billion deficit on top of that, which is in addition to the nearly $22 trillion debt. Now consider that Andrew Yang’s proposal would probably cost more than $2.8 trillion. Yes, a value-added tax (VAT) along with cutting social programs would pay for some of that, but all? Highly unlikely. In fact, by some estimates, Yang’s proposal is coming up $1.2 trillion PER YEAR short of paying for the whole thing. It’s sort of like someone who can’t pay for a mansion on his current income who decides that the solution to that problem is adding a second mansion.

2. It creates a massive new VAT

Andrew Yang is proposing to pay for UBI with a gargantuan new 10 percent VAT to go along with some mostly undefined cuts in welfare programs. In case you are unfamiliar with a VAT, it’s a very popular tax around the world because it taxes products at every stage of development while passing the costs on to consumers. It’s a LITTLE like the gas tax in that respect. You curse the gas companies because gas is so high, but you don’t realize that you are paying much more in taxes than the corporation is receiving in profit. If we end up with a 10 percent VAT that we pay ON TOP OF all the other taxes we have, the safest bet you could ever make would be that the VAT is going to skyrocket in coming years because there is no better way on earth for the government to soak the middle class without people realizing who’s really taking the money out of their wallets.

Additionally, depending on how the VAT is structured, it has the potential to wipe out a lot of the benefits of a UBI. If you get $1000 more per month, but the prices of everything you buy go up significantly because of the VAT, you’re just taking money out of one pocket and putting it in the other.

3. There are few meaningful tests of this proposal

Because this idea has such an enormous price tag, it hasn’t been tested very much in the real world. Probably the most applicable experiment was the one the Canadian government did in Manitoba back in the mid-seventies and it had mixed results. Does giving money to people in African nations like Kenya or Namibia translate to America? Does giving 100 people in Stockton, California, $500 per month tell us anything of use at all? We’re talking about an extraordinarily expensive, radical transformation of how our society works and given the extremely limited amount of data we have to work with, we’d be flying blind through a canyon while trying to do it.

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Italy Ramps Up Latest Universal Basic Income Experiment

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a global scheme of Technocracy to subsidize the new ‘unemployables” class displaced by automation and AI. Thus far, every trial has failed, but that hasn’t stoped more attempts to make it work. ⁃ TN Editor

Italy’s Five Star Movement has risen to global prominence more for the colorful oddness of its founder, the comedian Beppe Grillo, than for the seriousness of its populist policies.

But one of its proposals has attracted genuine interest from across the world: The idea of a “citizens’ income.” This concept (a less radical version of the “universal basic income” scheme tried out by Finland) could in theory appeal to both the left and the right; the former because it might reduce inequality, and the latter because it could simplify social security.

After a long gestation, Five Star is rolling out its plan in Italy. Unfortunately, the plan has little of the revolutionary spirit of Milton Friedman’s idea for a simple guaranteed basic income for all citizens, jobless or not, and is more like a classic welfare-to-work program. After a deep recession and weak recovery, there’s a strong case for helping Italy’s left-behind. The worrying thing is that this experiment becomes an administrative nightmare, making it harder to target those most in need.

Italy’s new citizens’ income is for households earning less than 9,360 euros ($10,612) a year. It’s made up of an income support scheme and a housing allowance, which can add up to 780 euros a month for a single person with no income. It is aimed at pensioners and people of working age. The latter must be willing to accept a suitable job, or else lose the benefit – hence its difference to more radical basic income schemes. Companies will get a discount on their social security contributions when they hire a citizens’ income recipient.

The country clearly needs to help its poor. About one-fifth of its citizens are at risk of poverty, according to the country’s statistics agency, and one in ten lives with serious deprivation. This is worse than in 2008, when the figures stood at 18.9 percent and 7.5 percent respectively. Previous center-left governments passed a different support scheme, but it was far smaller than Five Star’s program.

Yet the new plan risks targeting the wrong people. The two most vulnerable groups in Italy are foreigners and families with lots of children. A household with at least one foreign-born member is almost twice as likely to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion than one where everyone was born in Italy. Similarly, families with five or more members are at far greater risk than smaller households.

Only people resident in Italy for at least 10 years can receive the citizens’ income, though. And while the support for a household of one is very generous, the additional money paid out for each child is proportionately less than before. A family with five children will get essentially the same amount as one with three. This keeps down the cost of the Five Star plan, but it risks penalizing the most needy.

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Now India Tries Universal Basic Income For 600K Citizens

Failed and abandoned experiments aside, Universal Basic Income continues to be promoted by Technocrats around the world. India’s smallest state, Sikkim, is launching the largest trial ever with 610,577 citizens getting “free” money. ⁃ TN Editor

High in the Himalayas, Sikkim is one of the tiniest states in India. But it is about to embark on an experiment of global interest.

Sikkim’s ruling party has announced an ambitious plan to implement a universal basic income for every one of its 610,577 citizens.

If successful, the scheme would represent the largest trial run anywhere in the world of a concept that supporters like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg say could provide a safety net, help alleviate poverty and address the challenge of job automation. Detractors, meanwhile, say it would reduce the incentive to work and would come at a huge expense.

A universal basic income is a regular, guaranteed income paid by the government, universally and unconditionally, to all citizens. It is a cash payment that aims to replace the often-confusing array of assistance states offer to citizens and places spending decisions in the hands of the recipients.

“If there is one chance of it happening anywhere, it is Sikkim,” said P.D. Rai, the sole member of India’s parliament from the state. Sikkim already has a progressive track record: it was one of the first Indian states to ban plastic bags way back in 1998 – a ban that it has managed to implement successfully unlike many other states. It has also provided housing for all its citizens. Most recently, it became the country’s first organic state, eliminating the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Its social indexes also stand out from the rest of the country, with a literacy rate of 98 percent, and it has managed to significantly bring the percentage of people living below the poverty line to just about 8 percent – compared to nearly 30 percent nationally. Sikkim’s small geographic area and low population density have been responsible, in part, for its success.

Rai acknowledges that there will be challenges. “It’s a matter of political will ultimately,” he said. “With the rise of global inequality, we want to ensure that we bridge the gap.” Rai declined to reveal how much the program, which was announced ahead of upcoming elections this spring, would potentially cost the state. The tourism and power sectors will be tapped to raise the resources. With over 2.5 million tourists coming annually, tourism is a major source of revenue. Being a surplus power generating state, Sikkim sells 90 percent of its hydropower. For now, he said, the government is holding meetings with experts and stakeholders and expects to roll out the scheme by 2022.

India has a large existing social security apparatus: the central government alone spends 5 percent of GDP spent on 950 schemes. These range from free rice, an allowance to build houses and even guaranteed employment for some living in rural areas. But inefficient implementation and diversion of funds due to corruption have long plagued the system, leading many to propose a universal basic income as a possible solution. India’s Economic Survey for 2017 highlighted the concept as a “powerful idea” that should be debated.

Elsewhere in the world, there have been several small-scale experiments with implementing a universal basic income, but they have met with limited success. In April 2017, the government of Ontario in Canada announced a pilot project involving 4,000 people that would have cost 150 million Canadian dollars. The project ended abruptly for being “expensive and unsustainable” after a year when the local government changed.

In Finland, an experiment with universal basic income similarly ended last year before its completion. The trial included a $630 monthly payment to 2,000 unemployed citizens.

In the United States, meanwhile, the concept has been floated in Stockton, California by its young mayor. Last year, it announced that 100 residents would receive $500 a month for 18 months.

The notion of a universal basic income has found backers in Silicon Valley, with tech moguls like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk endorsing it. In his Harvard commencement address in 2017, Zuckerberg spoke of the need for a “new social contract,” with ideas like a basic income to provide a “cushion” for everyone. Musk has described it as a “necessary” step as automation takes over human jobs.

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