The Safety Net: Stockton, CA Mayor on Universal, Basic Income

Below, I'd like to post an exchange between an NPR host (Ari Sharpio) and the mayor of Stockton, CA, Michael Tubbs. Sharpio's line of questioning poses age-old,  traditional arguments against the idea of a universal, basic income. I think Tubbs does an excellent job at beating back the attack lines, as he frames UBI as part of a larger package of basic human rights that affirm humanity dignity, worth, and value:



SHAPIRO: One principle of capitalism is that if you work hard, you'll get ahead. And you can argue whether or not that that's true. But the idea is that it gives people incentive to go to a job every day and earn money, even though it may be an unpleasant experience. This program and the idea of a guaranteed basic income seemed to guarantee that people will get money whether or not they earn it. Does that undermine the incentive for people to have a job and be productive members of society?
TUBBS: I would disagree. But I also think as a human being, there are some things that you don't earn. Some things are rights. And I do think that people deserve a basic economic floor so the bottom doesn't fall out under them. People working 14-hour days, working incredibly hard and being rewarded with wages that haven't kept up with the cost of inflation over the past two generations, that's problematic for me as well. So I definitely believe in the work ethic of working. And I don't think $500 a month, according to the research and evidence from other trials done over the past three decades, will make it so that people won't work.
In fact, I think will make people work better and smarter and harder and also be able to do things like spend time with their families 'cause we're not robots. We're not just designed just to work all day and run a rat race. We're designed to be in community, to volunteer, to vote, to raise our kids. And I think the more inputs and investments we can give in people to do those things, the better off we are as a community.
SHAPIRO: Stockton declared bankruptcy five years ago. Right now this city of more than 100,000 people has 1 in 4 people living below the poverty line. By any measure, this is a place that is struggling. Do you imagine that a handout like this could turn those trends around?
TUBBS: Again, I would push back a little bit on the characterization as a handout. (Laughter) I would say a hand up or an opportunity. And I would say I think this in concert with many of the other things we're doing well. So just two weeks ago, I announced a $20 million scholarship fund so that every kid who graduates from our larger school district, they get a guaranteed scholarship for four years. We're doing a strategy called Advance Peace to advance our public safety. We have a skills gap report coming out with the University of the Pacific to figure out how do you link people to the jobs that will exist and with the skills to do those jobs.
So the statistics you mentioned are definitely harrowing and mandate that we be bold and creative 'cause the status quo was failing and it doesn't work for anybody.


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