A few months ago, we at Urban Reform wrote about a new coalition called “Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.” At the time, the coalition consisted of 11 city mayors pledging to implement some form of a guaranteed income, and as of September 29, the coalition has grown to 29.
This is important to follow because while states are known as the laboratories of democracy, cities and towns are certainly the laboratories of policy.
Most of the cities supporting the idea are on the coasts: Long Beach, Los Angeles, Compton, Stockton, Oakland, Tacoma, and Seattle on the West Coast; and Ithaca, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Newark (NJ), Providence, Atlanta, and Richmond, to name a few on the East Coast. Shreveport and New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jackson, Mississippi, are the only Gulf Coast cities that have signed on so far. But as you can see, progressive mayors across the country are welcoming the idea as a new form of public assistance.
Stockton, California, ran the program for an 18-month span, and while self-reporting revealed that recipients spent the money on necessities and short-term debt, one issue with the program is that it’s “guaranteed” and not tied to a work requirement.
The policy has traditionally been aimed at uplifting Black and Hispanic low-income Americans in cities, but data tells us that the only way to truly do that is through education and access to employment opportunities.
In the pilot phase, many of these programs are supported by charitable or private entities, but ultimately we know the burden will eventually shift to local taxpayers.
This idea isn’t new. These mayors have looked to the “Freedom Dividend” of $1,000 per month proposed by presidential candidate Andrew Yang; a pilot version rolled out in Ontario, Canada; and versions of it tried in Brazil, Mongolia, and Iran—most of which have since shuttered.
Taxpayers should be wary; these programs will likely expand as it’s easier to provide a subsidy than address the underlying cause of the problem.
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