The photo above was taken while on a freeway ramp right outside of San Francisco, a glaring example of income inequality.
This is a response to “Stockton’s young mayor has bold turnaround plan: Basic income and stipends for potential shooters” by Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times published on May 26th, 2018
Basic income is not a new concept; in fact, it has been experimented with in countries such as Canada, Finland, and even the US. Within the states, the Alaska Permanent Fund gives $2000 to residents; a shared wealth from the oil extraction. Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs wants to use basic universal income to help his city combat bankruptcy, high crime rates, and its economy.
Interestingly enough, Zuckerberg and Tesla have hinted at the idea of universal income as a means to an end, something inevitable, rather than an opportunity. It is particularly interesting because their exact industries are the ones that are perpetuating the growing wage gap and poor job market. But Tubbs is making direct, radical action to address the issues that have made matters worse in Stockton.
Mayor Tubbs had heard of the idea before while reading Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s book called Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community. Dr. King suggested that a guaranteed income would help remedy social ills caused by the lack of funds. The idea was also suggested by Tubbs’s researchers when he asked how they could fix poverty. Seeking out valid research from the community to make informed political decisions may seem rational, but in most cases, that is not true. Political decisions are, well, political decisions. They may or may not help constituents; but Tubbs is putting all the effort he can into fixing the community through this program.
Stockton’s basic universal income program will randomly select households to give $500 monthly. A common worry is that people will spend it on drugs, alcohol, other vices. Maybe a television. But in fact, many say they will spend it toward bills. Which makes sense. If not bills, then maybe toward child care, healthier food, and rent. There is so much stigma around what people do with their money – particularly poor people. The notion that impoverished populations will spend this money on drugs is unfair; drug addiction can happen to anyone, of any socioeconomic class. But there is much more stigma and a lack of trust.
Not only does Tubbs want to give $500 to the group, but he also wants to give $1000 to those who are more likely to incite violence. Though this program is mentioned in the title, the article does not solely focus on it. In a way, it is a eye-catching outline that frames the program as one that supports criminals – who are seen as bad. Which is not necessarily true; people who are criminals are human too.
If we look at who has been incarcerated within the prison-industrial complex, it is disproportionately people of color who come from underserved communities that are enslaved under the 13th amendment which states “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”. The difference is who is or is not required to be incarcerated for their crimes.
Giving money to those more likely to incite violence can help the community. Violence often comes from bottled up stress and the inability to change things in a more constructive manner. People who have little to no resources or social safety net may have to resort to violence to make an ends meet, or to protect themselves in a community where the law enforcement does not serve them. It will help them be able to take care of themselves and not have to resort to violence to take out their frustrations or make some money. Many health problems are caused by stress and the lack of access to resources such as education.
Many are opposed because it is “free money”. It is not free, but a way to prevent people from going into poverty. People work 12-14 hours a day and they still experience troubles trying to make ends meet. This is unfair; this is at the expense of their bodies, time, and lives because they work for a business that underpays them. The business will profit more than the person will. Natalie Foster of the Economic Security Project said that people “shouldn’t live in poverty in the richest country in the world at the richest moment in time” and suggested that the universal income should be funded by “fees on the people making millions shuffling paper on Wall Street”. The shufflers on Wall Street make money off of the labor of others all while doing essentially nothing. Shuffling their papers to accumulate more and more wealth, widening the wealth disparity with every transaction thus instigating the social problems the community experiences today.
In the end the author said that they aren’t “quite ready to pay a tax fund for this kind of giveaway, but as long as this is… financed by private and non-profit sources, why not?” To be honest, the United States should be ready to make the give away as it has taken more for the benefit of the government and corporations. One way or another, private entities and nonprofits benefit from government funds – by why not just give to the people so they can more easily help themselves? After all, this is the home of the free.