No work, no problem: Here's $500.
That's the latest proposal in a California city, which is set to become the first in the nation to deploy a "universal basic income" (UBI). Under the plan,100 residents of Stockton will receive $500 a month in cash, with no strings attached. Work, don't work, whatever.
The free-money program will start in 2019 and run for 18 months, costing the city $900,000.
That the program is kicking off in Stockton is ironic.The city fell millions of dollars in debt through expensive city-funded programs and development projects, leading to its bankruptcy in 2012.
The program is the brainchild of Michael Tubbs, the city's 27-year-old mayor. “We’ve overspent on things like arenas and marinas and things of that sort to try to lure in tourism and dollars that way,” Tubbs said, according to Fox News.
Luckily, the experimental program won’t deplete the city’s coffers as it benefits from financial backing by wealthy Silicon Valley moguls. One of those backers is Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, whose the Economic Security Project contributed $1 million to the project.
“It is such a fundamental idea behind America that if you work hard, you can get ahead, and you certainly don't live in poverty. But that isn't true today, and it hasn't been true in the country for decades,” Hughes told CNN.
“I believe that unless we make significant changes today, the income inequality in our country will continue to grow and call into question the very nature of our social contract.”
The UBI program has been tested in some European countries and Canada. Technology billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are both pushing for the free-money scheme.
"I think we'll end up doing universal basic income," Musk told a crowd at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February. "It's going to be necessary" because of automation, which will replace millions of workers over the next 30 years.
"There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better," he said. "I want to be clear. These are not things I wish will happen; these are things I think probably will happen."
CNN reported that "there are some wrinkles in this plan, however."
In its purest form, every American would receive a basic income, which some estimates peg at about $10,000 per year. In the aggregate, that would add trillions to the budget annually.
Policymakers could lighten the burden by scrapping the rest of the U.S.'s targeted anti-poverty programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as food stamps) and Medicaid. ...
But many on the left see the idea as a Trojan horse for eliminating benefits that currently lift millions of people out of poverty.
"The risk is high that under any UBI that could conceivably gain traction politically, tens of millions of poor people would likely end up worse off," wrote Robert Greenstein, the president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a blog post last month.