One of the more surprising results from November’s election was the surprise defeat of Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs in his bid for re-election to a Republican upstart Kevin Lincoln, a pastor and former George W. Bush administration official who is both black and Latino.
Tubbs won national attention for his implementation of a universal basic income program in the city, paying selected residents $500 per month. The program was highly controversial and had questionable results at best.
As PRI’s Kerry Jackson wrote last year about the initial audit of the program, “forty percent (of the money given to residents) was transferred to bank accounts or turned into cash and has left no trail.”
Damon Dunn wrote about extensively about basic income for PRI, calling Tubbs’ effort, “another name for putting everyone on welfare.”
In his PRI book Punting Poverty, which was published earlier this year, Dunn called basic income, “fool’s gold that does not even attempt to offer economic empowerment.”
As the two highest profile proponents of universal basic income – Tubbs and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang – went down in the flames at the polls, one would think California leaders would think twice about pushing forward with basic income on a state level. Think again.
Hailing his proposal as a “landmark” bill, Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low introduced Assembly Bill 65, which according to his office, “signaled an intent to create a Universal Basic Income for all Californians, regardless of income.”
“People do not need tax breaks — they need real money to help pay the rent, keep the lights on and put food on the table,” Low said in a press release.
Most Californians would beg to differ.
Clearly Low hasn’t read the recent poll from the UC Berkeley Institute for Governmental Studies, in which 81 percent of Californians said the level of state and local taxes paid by the average Californian was high. Year after year, California is continually ranked as having one of the nation’s highest tax burdens.
Low is right that Californians want relief to help pay housing and energy costs.
He should start by repealing the big government energy mandates imposed over the years by Low and Democrats in the State Legislature that have driven up the energy burdens of Californians.
As PRI’s Wayne Winegarden has documented in his study Legislating Energy Poverty, which garnered statewide and national attention, government energy mandates have hit California’s poor, rural, and minority communities especially hard. In his follow-up study Legislating Energy Prosperity, released earlier this year, Californians could save more than $2,000 annually if lawmakers enacted free-market energy policies.
On housing, PRI’s Kerry Jackson has written that “our housing jam is another of California’s man-made disasters.” To lower the housing costs of Californians, Low should focus his efforts on eliminating government-enacted obstacles to homebuilding in the state.
As Jackson writes, “California’s housing market is not a functioning market, but a maze of red tape wound tightly by layers of public policy that discourages building. There will be no significant improvement until policymakers pursue big, bold initiatives that will unravel the knot.”
In the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week, just 43 percent of likely voters favored the federal government enacting a basic income plan giving $1,000 a month for all adult citizens, whether they work or not.
This is further proof that Californians don’t want $500 or $1,000 per month of other people’s money thrown at them. They want relief from the high cost of living put in place over the years by Sacramento policymakers. Reversing these cost burdens should be the only priority of lawmakers this session if they are serious about wanting to help people afford to live in the nation’s most expensive state.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.