Those opposed to Universal Basic Income (UBI) plans frequently argue that the no-strings-attached part disincentivizes people from finding gainful employment. It’s the same argument they make for welfare or food assistance, and in all cases they have been proven wrong. At the time, Tubbs explained some of his thoughts on the matter to POLITICO: “There’s this interesting conversation we’ve been having about the value of work. Work does have some value and some dignity, but I don’t think working 14 hours and not being able to pay your bills, or working two jobs and not being able—there’s nothing inherently dignified about that.” Amen.
The Washington Post reports that the study, carried out by independent researchers out of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the University of Pennsylvania, found that recipients of the stipend were “twice as likely to gain full-time employment than others.” Most of the money was spent on essentials like food, and money spent on alcohol or tobacco made up less than 1% of participants’ expenditures. Maybe most importantly, the relief brought by not simply scraping by seems to have made an intangible difference in Stockton participants’ lives.
After a year of getting the money, 62% of the people were paying off debt compared to 52% before the study. Researchers also said most people moved from being likely to have mild mental health disorders to “likely mental wellness”.
Tubbs, who lost his reelection campaign this past November, says that the study shows, at the very least, that restricting the money being given to families during the time of COVID-19 should be reconsidered. St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter told the Post that “The study shows what mayors know: People are working but the economy isn’t.”
Since Mayor Tubbs took a courageous step into the 21st century, he has inspired dozens of other city officials from across the country. At least 40 U.S. mayors have signed on to the group Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. They hope to begin their own pilot UBI programs, as our anti-egalitarian economic system continues to leave more and more people behind. This news, coupled with the acceleration of our country’s failures by way of the COVID-19 pandemic, will hopefully push more and more politicians to try out some of the more progressive policies old lefties have been talking about for well over 100 years.
Daily Kos caught up with Mayor Michael Tubbs back in 2020 (remember then?) to answer a few questions for our Making Progress series.