Universal basic income begins testing in the US

World Today

The idea that everyone should be given a basic income to survive is gaining more attention – especially given one of the U.S. presidential candidates – Andrew Yang – is throwing his weight behind the cause. Universal Basic Income or UBI – is already being tested in a few places in the U.S.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

In February, Stockton, California randomly selected 125 families and began giving them a basic income of $500 per month for 18 months.

After the first five months, Stockton’s Mayor praised the preliminary results. He said it showed the basic income improved people’s lives. Participants spent 38% on food, 24% on home goods and clothing, 11% on utilities, 9% on gas… while 18% was listed as other.

“Part of the problem there is it’s a debit card. And you can pull out cash rather than the use the debit card and they can’t track expenditures you make with cash. I believe it was about 40% was pulled out in cash. So almost half the money spent on the program is untraceable, ” said Justin Reitz, Economics Professor at San Jose State University.

Reitz points out the cost of UBI plans could be astronomical – in Andrew Yang’s case $3 trillion a year. So, it comes down to the source of the funding.

“If we implement that program we must cut other welfare programs, if that’s done wisely, I definitely think that’s beneficial both from an economic efficiency perspective in that people can decide for themselves what they’d like to spend that on,” added Reitz.

This past weekend, thousands marched at UBI rallies in 30 cities around the world, including San Francisco. The lead organizer – Income Movement – is actually running its own UBI program where it gives out $1,000 a month to fifty individuals across America.

“What we are doing is taking that call, that recognition that both Andrew and all these wonderful organizations and Basic Income have been talking about for quite a while and bringing it together that so in 2020 and beyond we’re thinking activism, thinking political engagement,” Stacey Rutland, co-founder, of the Income Movement.

Supporters come from all walks of like – like ‘Fred the Felon,’ a recovering addict – who drives this truck across the country in support of Andrew Yang. CGTN asked him about one of the chief concerns over Yang’s “freedom dividend” – would recipients use the $1,000 a month for nefarious purposes

“When I buy a stock from Verizon and I get my quarterly dividend, does the CEO in the boardroom say whoa, what is he going to do with that dividend money,” Ramey said.

Immediately following the rally, Andrew Yang made an appearance stressing that basic income will be necessary because technology and robots will inevitably replacing millions of workers.

“What they don’t reference is that our economy is up to 20.5 trillion in GDP overall. And then most of the money that goes into our hands is going to go back into the economy to expand the economy and tax revenue by hundreds of billions of dollars, save us billions on things like incarceration and homeless services, emergency room healthcare. So, if you look at in context of our entire economy, almost $21 trillion, this is actually very, very affordable,” Yang said.

Yang’s ‘Freedom Dividend’ is just one of the many ideas for achieving Universal Basic Income. He does have the biggest stage right now. But supporters said if he were to step down from that stage, it’s important that they build a movement strong enough to carry on.