A California state lawmaker wants the government to give $500 a month to impoverished college students as a test for a controversial kind of social program known as universal basic income (UBI).
Legislation that would create the program may be introduced later this month by Democrat Dave Cortese, a state senator who represents part of Silicon Valley.
The measure would “establish a UBI pilot program at 3-5 [California State University campuses],” according to a summary Cortese provided to reporters.
The pilot program would cover about “9,500-14,000 eligible student participants,” and “the total cost for the proposal would range between $57 million and $84 million, excluding minimal administrative costs.”
“College students are couch surfing and sleeping in their cars. This could be enough money to rent a room, and if you don’t need a room, by all means, use it for what you do need it for,” Cortese told The Los Angeles Times.
“It’s like a booster shot. It could help get them off of this treadmill and stop them from dropping out, being on the streets, and becoming homeless long term.”
Cortese could not be reached over the weekend to elaborate on his proposal.
George Kamel, of Ramsey Solutions, a financial consultancy, told The College Fix that Cortese’s proposal was “not a solution to the actual problem.”
“Giving up to 14,000 students $500 a month is not going to change what caused the problem. In fact, costing the state $57-84 million over 3-5 years will add to the problem,” he said, adding that UBI “only works when the people receiving the money actually use the income to lift themselves out of poverty.”
“All students, not just low-income students, should avoid the traps of student loans and the outrageous cost of higher education,” he said.
Support for UBI programs, in which a simple cash payment is made to every citizen without other requirements or restrictions, surfaces periodically in the United States, a country that is traditionally more hostile to government-funded welfare programs than European nations.
Liberals have been pushing the idea of giving people money for doing nothing for years and the idea has popped up recently on the campaign trail as Democratic candidates compete for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Republican President Richard Nixon flirted with the idea in 1969, supporting legislation that would have paid $1,600 annually to a family of four, but the bill never made it out of Congress. In the 1960s and early 1970s, New Jersey and Pennsylvania experimented with such income maintenance programs.
Last year Oakland, Calif., launched Oakland Resilient Families, which it described as one of the largest guaranteed income pilot programs in the United States. The pilot, a collaborative effort between Oakland-based nonprofit UpTogether and the national organization, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, will provide 600 low-income families with $500 per month for an 18-month period.
“Poverty is not a personal failure, it is a policy failure,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, a Democrat, said at the time. “Guaranteed income presents one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity, and economic mobility we’ve seen in decades,” she said, adding evidence is growing to justify a federally guaranteed income program.
According to the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research, various UBI programs have been tested or are currently being tested or planned in: New Orleans; Ulster County and New York City, N.Y.; Stockton and Los Angeles, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; Richmond, Va.; Columbia, S.C.; Gary, Ind.; Paterson, N.J.; and Cambridge, Mass. The center is participating in creating some of the programs.
UBI programs don’t work well in the real world, according to a 2019 study by a left-wing global trade union federation that The Epoch Times previously reported on.
The report by the France-based global trade union federation Public Services International and U.K.-based New Economics Foundation think tank, concluded “making cash payments to individuals to increase their purchasing power in a free-market economy is not a viable route to solving problems caused or exacerbated by neoliberal market economics.”
Pressing for UBI, which some claim is a “silver bullet,” wastes political energies that could be better used on “more important causes,” stated the report, which also found there was no evidence that UBI has achieved durable improvements in well-being anywhere it has been tried. There is no evidence that such programs “can be affordable, inclusive, sufficient and sustainable at the same time.”