Market Mad House

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. Friedrich Nietzsche


American City Tries Basic Income

A large US City is conducting a very small experiment with Basic Income. A few residents of Stockton, California, may receive $500 a month in Basic Income under a proposed test.

Mayor Michael Tubbs announced the program on October 27, but news reports provided few details, CNN Money reported. CNN did not say how many would participate in it.

The number will be quite low because Tubbs has just $1 million in funding from a private group called the Economy Security Project, The Atlantic reported. That means only a tiny fraction of Stockton’s residents will receive the money.

Since Stockton’s population was 307,072 in 2016; a real Basic Income would require serious money its government probably lacks. It would cost $153.536 million to give $500 to give each of Stockton’s citizens a month. The yearly cost of basic income for Stockton would be around $1.8 billion, so simple mathematics might doom such a scheme.

Details are Unknown

Many details about the program including the criteria for recipients are unknown because it has been designed yet, The Atlantic noted. Nor is the number of recipients known. A strong possibility is that it will be tested in a particular neighborhood.

It might not make much difference because the average rent in the city is around $1,051 a month and that number has been rising by 10% a year. That means most of the money will probably go straight into landlords’ pockets. Rents in Stockton are high because Bay Area commuters that can no longer afford to live in Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco – are pushing residents out of the city.

How effective the program would be is unknown, but it is sure to attract critics from both the right and the left. On the right, the talk-radio and Breitbart lynch mob will undoubtedly go after Tubbs, which is likely to boost his political profile. On the left, the social services bureaucracy; and its mouthpieces in the labor movement and the media, are likely to launch vicious attacks.

A likely tactic will be news stories about Basic Income recipients at the food bank. Another will be stories about recipients using drugs or committing crimes. Conservative critics are likely to use the fact that Tubbs is African-American to raise old fears of “poverty pimping” and “welfare queens.”

Will it Work?

Hopefully, this experiment will be expanded to other communities more representative of the American mainstream. It would make far more sense to test the giveaway of $500 a month in a place like Beattyville, Kentucky, (labeled “America’s Poorest White Town” by The Guardian) or Pueblo, Colorado, where the benefits would be much greater.

It looks as if the Basic Income discussion is beginning in America. One wonders how far it will go and if it will become a reality anywhere in the nation.

Stockton is a very poor city the average income is around $23,046 a year. That makes it very difficult for average people on the edge of the Silicon Valley tech boom to survive. Whether $1 million in basic income will make any difference in such a place is anybody’s guess.