By Ryan Velez
Costs of living are high, and jobs aren’t matching pace in terms of wages. With this fact as well as the looming threat of automation rendering entire sectors of workers unemployed, a universal basic income (UBI) has been bandied as a potential way to handle this future issue. Well, according to Time, the future is now in Stockton, California.
Free money? Don’t get too excited, as the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED), is still super-experimental, and isn’t going to pay enough for you to quit your job anytime soon. This concept pays $500 dollars a month to the city’s low-income residents, no strings attached.
“A lot of big names in Silicon Valley support UBI — Mark Zuckerberg advocated for the concept in his commencement speech at Harvard in 2017. Another Facebook executive who supports providing people with free money and no restrictions is Chris Hughes, who personally donated $1 million to the Economic Security Project, a program he co-chairs, which will provide funding for Stockton’s program to get off the ground this year,” Time explains.
This is no accident. Silicon Valley and its interest in automation is the most likely job sector in the world to cause mass unemployment in other sectors. This makes sense to try and get out in front of the issue, whether it is out of genuine concern or fear of a PR disaster. Stockton has already felt this issue first hand. Silicon Valley’s growth has led to lower wages, more automation, and less opportunity. This is part of what led the city’s 27-year old mayor, Michael Tubbs, to give UBI a try. He saw his mother make low wages despite long hours as a cashier.
“I think Stockton is absolutely ground zero for a lot of the issues we are facing as a nation,” Tubbs said in an interview with KQED. Interestingly, Richard Nixon actually tested UBI out in a few cities from 1968 to 1971, finding out that it did not negatively affect work ethic. Finland and Canada, among other countries, have also had similar tests within their borders, but it is a long way from being the law of the land. If Stockton’s gamble works out, who knows what cities may end up following suit.