Long Beach, CA, Gonna Try Out A Little UBI, So That's Super Nice
Here's a nice thing! Long Beach, California, is going to give a guaranteed income a try. It's not going to be a big program — it's not going to provide anyone with enough to actually live on — but it will give an extra $500 a month to 500 single parent families who are currently living below the poverty line. And that seems like a pretty good start.
Those participating in the pilot program will also get "free childcare, transportation support and workforce training."
Via CBS Los Angeles:
The program will focus on the 90813 zip code, which the mayor says has the "highest concentrated area of family poverty."
The initiative, which is headed up by the Long Beach Economic Development Department, will start taking applications at some point in the coming months and hopes to launch by the end of this year. It wasn't immediately clear how it is being funded.
Researchers with the Office of Economic Research at California State University will analyze and study the pilot program and provide recommendations on how to develop it.
Well that certainly makes a lot of sense!
A program like this will help out far more people than just the 500 who get to officially participate. It will help those providing childcare, it will help small businesses who will benefit from people being able to spend a little more money, and it will give those local businesses more access to qualified employees. Everyone wins, at least a little.
We are coming to a crossroads in this country. We have far, far more people of working age in this country than we have jobs that pay a living wage. Right now, businesses across the land are struggling to find workers for jobs they do not think are worth a living wage. There are 17 million empty houses and not enough people who can afford to live in them. The median rental price for an apartment is $1,226 a month, while someone working the minimum wage full time makes about $1,256 a month. And yet, we also have 614 billionaires — people who have more money than they, their children, and their children's children would ever be able to spend in their lifetimes.
The 400 richest Americans have $3.2 trillion combined. The top one percent has $34.2 trillion among all three million of them. The bottom 50 percent, however, has $2.1 trillion to split between 164 million people. This is not a problem caused by people being "lazy," or by people not working hard enough. In fact, this country would be completely fucked without a permanent underclass to do all the work no one wants to do for as little as people want to pay them for that work. We have the money for everyone to live comfortably, we have enough houses for everyone, we have enough resources for us all to survive. Hell, one pound of food per person in the United States goes to waste every day, at least partially because people do not have enough money to buy it. We are literally throwing out food that is being grown and harvested while 54 million Americans are food insecure.
Something's gotta give. Things are not working out and the closer we get to a future where the work people do is increasingly automated, the more necessary things like a universal basic income are going to be. It's better to start figuring these things out now than to wait until things get really bad and try to work something up then.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse