Universal Basic Income Program, Republicans

Experts Say Universal Basic Income Programs Work, But Republicans Continue To Fight Them

Universal Basic Income programs have roots in the Black radical tradition, both the Black Panther Party and Martin Luther King Jr. called for a guaranteed income in the late 1960s.

Universal Basic Income programs have been rolling out across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic, which came with its own form of universal basic income which the United States government called Economic Impact Payments. Since that time, more cities have been experimenting with universal basic income, and despite the fact that they work to help keep people out of poverty, Republicans have consistently pushed back. 

In 2022, Washington Post Magazine reported that the resurgence of universal basic income programs were owed at least in part to the conditions created by the pandemic. Pilot programs were launched in cities like Los Angeles, Denver, and New Orleans, but also Gainesville, Florida; Birmingham, Alabama; and Columbia, South Carolina. The city pilot programs worked, but they were often tied to the political will of the leaders of those cities. Coupled with the resistance from the Republican Party, who were ironically fine with financing guaranteed basic income during the pandemic, the risk of those programs evaporating became real to experts. 

Sean Kline, the associate director of Stanford University’s Basic Income Lab, told the outlet that he is worried that these programs will end in the future. “I’m worried that these guaranteed income demonstrations are going to sunset and then it’s just going to go quiet.” Kline also said that arguments that these programs need conditions undermine the dignity of those who receive the payments. “There are positive outcomes from conditional cash, there are positive outcomes from unconditional cash,” Kline said. “But I think for me, making it conditional misses a really fundamental value around trust, dignity, agency, freedom.”

Universal Basic Income programs have roots in the Black radical tradition, both the Black Panther Party and Martin Luther King Jr. called for a guaranteed income in the late 1960s. King argued that it could be used to address poverty better than the welfare system by directly giving poor people money instead of government programs which King argued tried to indirectly solve poverty. In 1969, the federal government would get involved, Richard Nixon proposed a cash payment of $1,600 to poor Americans instead of those people paying taxes. However, Nixon’s Family Assistance Plan was killed by the Senate Finance Committee. 

In October 2023, Vox argued that universal basic income programs were not as radical as Republican legislators, like Arizona Rep. Lupe Diaz, who compared the programs to socialism in Arizona’s House Bill 2375, believed them to be. Vox’s analysis rendered UBI programs as basically an anti-poverty program that works, something that has been borne out in studies of the programs that have already been put into practice.

Last year, Business Insider spoke to Anna Jefferson, a principal investigator at Abt Associates who studies data from basic income programs across the country. Jefferson indicated that part of the reason basic income programs are popular is because inequality in America is currently greater than it was during the Great Depression. Jefferson noted that the projected $3 trillion cost of the program on a national scale could be offset by improvements to society if the net benefit ends up “reducing the need for food assistance or housing subsidies or criminal justice systems or burdens on healthcare systems, it may be something that pays for itself.”

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