BREAKING: A coalition of mayors from around the United States have declared that they are exploring launching Universal Basic Income pilot programs after a successful trial run in Stockton. The cities include Tacoma, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Compton, Oakland, Atlanta, Stockton Newark, Saint Paul, Jackson, and Shreveport, which each made the announcement on Twitter.
Here in Cascadia, Tacoma will be one of the first cities taking part. The current mayors are part of new organization Mayors For A Guaranteed Income, which advocates for policies supporting Universal Basic Income, the idea of providing citizens with regular payments to cover the basic costs of living so that no one lives in need. The group was started by Michael Tubbs and the Economic Security Project, a 501(c)3 that supports the idea, and the mayor of Stockton who created the first pilot program in the United States in 2019.
For those not familiar, Universal Basic Income is the idea of providing citizens and residents with string free cash payments each month. In various forms, it has been tested by different countries such as Kenya, Finland, Namibia, India, Sweden and Canada. It is neither a left or right idea, and has been embraced by movement leaders such as Martin Luther King, Black Panthers, James Meade in the 1930s, as a response to the Great Depression, dating as far back as Thomas Paine who suggested a lump sum for all citizens at adulthood in 1797, embraced by feminist organizations like Wages for Housework movement in the 1970’s, and promoted by neo-liberal economists such as Milton Friedman, who felt that a negative income tax could help reduce bureaucracy and need for social programs.
Stockton rose to national attention in 2017 when Tubbs launched the initial pilot program, which gave $500 each month the 125 residents. It gained widespread attention as the first serious UBI attempt within the United States.
With early success, and in the middle of a pandemic, Tubbs decided the timing was important for being being negatively impacted by the economic affects of COVID19 stating that:
“It’s taken COVID-19 where direct cash payments are part of the solution offered by the federal government, so I just thought the time was right to organize mayors around the idea because we live in a time of pandemics,” Tubbs said. “If it’s not COVID-19 this year, it’ll be an earthquake next year, a hurricane the year after or fire. Folks need to build economic resilience in our cities now.”
More than just the impact of COVID19, Tubbs was ultimately pushed to found the coalition after the death of George Floyd, who was killed after supposedly using a counterfeit $20:
“I think the pandemic exposed just how fragile the economic underpinnings of our society are,” Tubbs said. “COVID-19 has put us in the midst of another Great Depression which necessitates bold, New Deal-type investments in our people and our social safety net.”