By M.D. Kittle
A Milwaukee Common Council committee has moved a step closer to putting federal taxpayers on the hook for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) pilot program.
The Community and Economic Development Committee recommends the city tap into the nearly $400 million in direct American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding it’s receiving to launch the UBI program. The full council today is expected to take up the measure, which appropriates $400,000 in ARPA funds. It’s seed money, to be used for staffing, start-up costs, and initial program costs association with the creation of the program.
Universal Basic Income is the essence of the Welfare State, under which every adult citizen receives a set amount of money from the government in regular payments. The idea, proponents insist, is to alleviate poverty and replace other need-based social programs that generally involve more layers of bureaucracy.
Sound good? It’s a pipe dream at best, a redistribution of wealth scheme that would rapidly expand government dependency at worst.
Just ask Finland.
Two years after it became the first European nation to launch a basic-income trial in which nearly 2,000 unemployed residents were given a regular monthly stipend, many of the recipients remained jobless, according to Business Insider. Proponents blamed the failure on a flawed experiment model, but the costs to support a full-scale Universal Basic Income program would have been staggering.
As Investors.com, reported, a form of UBI has already been tested in the U.S. It, too, failed.
From 1968 to 1980, the federal government ran a “negative income tax” experiment — meaning that a minimum income is guaranteed, but phased out as earnings increase. The goal was to incentivize work, but the policy ended up encouraging just the opposite.
The program resulted in a drop in working hours across the board. Most strikingly, working hours fell by 43% for single men not responsible for a family. To make matters worse, stints of unemployment were prolonged — meaning that after someone lost a job, it took them longer to begin a new one.
Milwaukee doesn’t appear to be heeding those lessons.
The measure was authored by Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, who says United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County (United Way) will serve as the fiduciary agent for the UBI program. The Office of the Common Council – City Clerk would work with the Department of Administration – Purchasing Division to prepare and issue a request for proposals for a UBI Program Coordinator.
Once a program coordinator is hired, he or she would work closely with United Way to finalize the UBI program, Lewis said in a press release.
“A tremendous amount of work and research has gone into the Universal Basic Income program legislation during the past few years, and I am very proud to be the primary sponsor of the file,” Lewis said, adding that the initiative will “significantly raise the living conditions and quality of life for those receiving the payment through the (UBI) program.”
Just how much money Milwaukee would dump into an expanded program after the pilot concludes remains to be seen. And it’s not clear how the city would fund a UBI initiative after the federal aid dries up.