Stockton Primary Revenue Program Prolonged. Is Help For the Thought Rising? – Slashdot


A $500-a-month basic-income program in Stockton, California will be extended through 2021 “in response to the economic strain put on participants by the coronavirus pandemic,” reports the New Yorker:
While the idea of extending the program had been under discussion even before the spread of COVID-19, Stockton’s mayor, Michael Tubbs told me that current conditions made doing so a “moral imperative,” as many participants have lost work, and those classified as essential workers face increased risk. “COVID-19 has put the focus on the fact that a lot of Americans live in constant moments of economic disruption, because the fundamentals of the economy haven’t been working,” he told me…. Tubbs first encountered the concept of a universal basic income, or U.B.I., while he was an undergraduate at Stanford, in 2009, in a course that covered Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s advocacy for the idea late in his life… Tubbs told me that he doesn’t see a basic income as particularly radical but, instead, as “this generation’s extension of the safety net,” following in the path of things like Social Security, child-labor laws, weekends, and collective bargaining…

[D]uring the pandemic, the percentage of money that participants spent on food, consistently the largest category, reached nearly twenty-five per cent over the monthly average, while the amount spent on recreation dropped to less than two per cent. Participants have also put the money toward rent, car payments, and paying off debt, as well as one-off expenses for themselves or their children: dental surgery, a prom dress, football camp, and shoes. They’ve also been able to cut back on working second and third jobs; one participant, a forty-eight-year-old mother of two who works full time at Tesla, was able to stop working as a delivery driver for DoorDash. Alcohol and tobacco have accounted for less than one per cent of spending per month…

Jennifer Burns, a history professor at Stanford University, told me that the bipartisan support for [America’s] Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act marked a significant shift in thinking about cash transfers… Recent calls for U.B.I. have mostly come from Silicon Valley, where libertarian-leaning entrepreneurs embraced the concept as a quick fix for job losses due to increased automation. According to Burns, the current crisis has shifted the focus away from hypothetical disasters toward inequities that already exist. In her view, the automation argument is primarily a distraction, but “if worrying about A.I. helps people look around and think about what’s already under way, that’s good.”
Stockton’s goal “was always to promote the adoption of basic-income programs on a state or federal level,” according to the article, and they’re now being “flooded with requests for advice from pilot programs in development in other cities, including Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Newark, Nashville, and New Orleans.”

Mayor Tubbs tells them its prospects as a federal program depend mostly on political will — since “This country has a history of finding ways to pay for things that we say matter.”

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