Last year, Elon Musk threw his weight behind Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang and not, as Musk joked at the time about Yang's youthful style, solely because he would be "our first goth president." The real appeal for Musk was Yang's vocal support of Universal Basic Income.
The idea is that every month the government would send out some amount of cash to everyone, regardless of need or employment status. Yang argued this would cushion disruptions brought about by technological change, free people up to be bolder and more entrepreneurial, and also just be humane.
Mayors are ready to give UBI a try.
Musk seems to agree, but he isn't the only one interested in the idea (UBI is popular in Silicon Valley, causing some critics to dub the idea "welfare for capitalists"). Michael Tubbs, the young, Black mayor of Stockton, California, is also on board. His city has been using grant money to pilot the scheme for the last 18 months, offering 125 residents $500 a month to see what impacts a basic income will have on recipients and the city.
As the experiment rolled along, other mayors reached out asking Tubbs for details. Tubbs decided to gather them together under an umbrella group called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (unlike UBI, "Guaranteed Income" goes only to those in need, not to everyone). Eleven mayors from across the country signed up, including the mayors of Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Newark, New Jersey. Last week, the initiative launched.
It immediately got a couple of high-profile backers. Both the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Musk tweeted their support.
Each city will organize its own separate pilot program, and the idea still faces political and fiscal hurdles. But Tubbs insists that right now, with the country facing a Depression-scale economic crisis and the appetite for change running high, is the time to take action.
"It's taken Covid-19, where direct cash payments are part of the solution offered by the federal government, so I just thought the time was right to organize mayors around the idea because we live in a time of pandemics," Tubbs commented. "If it's not Covid-19 this year, it'll be an earthquake next year, a hurricane the year after, or fire. Folks need to build economic resilience in our cities now."
With momentum moving towards the innovative solution, Musk just might see one of his preferred policy ideas implemented, at least on an experimental basis.
Do you think UBI is a good idea?