Economist: Tubbs’ basic income test won’t work

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs during press conference explaining how Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) floor of $500 a month can improve economic security and well-being of city residents. CALIXTRO ROMIAS/THE RECORD

UCLA economist Jerry Nickelsburg isn’t saying Universal Basic Income won’t work; he’s saying Stockton’s experiment with it won’t work.

“The experiment is doomed for two reasons,” Nicklesburg writes in Public CEO. “First, it is temporary. The recipients know that the money will only last two years, and that will incentivize them differently than a true UBI.

“Second, it is $500 a month, and even though Stockton has one of the lowest costs of living in California, this is still not much money. Recipients are going to view it as a windfall and not as part of their expected income.

“As with all UBI experiments to date, the temporary nature of this study pollutes the outcome. “Can I start a small business and live on $500-a-month knowing that it will go away in 2 years?” our Stocktonian asks. The likely answer is, “Maybe, but what I’ll do if my business goes bust?”

These strike me as valid arguments. Decide for yourself by reading Nicklesburg’s entire essay here.

“Since we can’t learn from such experiments, …Niclesburg writes, “the only way to find out if Thomas Paine’s idea was the right one is to put it into actual practice.”

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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