October 27, 2020

Another one to watch

 Universal Basic Income is an idea that's been around for a while, arguably for centuries, but it's started gaining more traction in the wake of COVID. It tends to be popular in progressive circles, although it has some surprising support from libertarian and conservative circles where it's non-paternalistic and unbureaucratic approach resonates.

The idea is pretty much what it sounds like: guarantee every citizen a certain amount of money on a regular basis. It's been touted as a solution to poverty, a degree of protection from automation, and a safety net for the growing "gig economy" (a phrase that makes me think of unfortunate frogs hunted for their legs).

It's been tried to a limited degree in some places and the results seem promising. The latest city to announce an experiment with it is Compton, CA, a city with a poverty rate about twice the national average (sounds like a place I know). According to Mayor Aja Brown, the idea is to "challenge the racial and economic injustice plaguing both welfare programs and economic systems." According to CNN, 800 low income residents will pilot the program, as described in this fact sheet.

It will be interesting to watch the results. One thing I'm pretty sure about, in a climate of growing inequality, we're going to need something like a universal basic income or guaranteed employment program. Pope Francis issued a similar call earlier this spring.

No comments: