- On Thursday, Jack Dorsey, the billionaire CEO of Twitter, announced he is working with 14 American mayors to fund universal basic income (UBI) trials in their cities.
- The pilot programs will be run city by city and have not yet launched.
- Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang helped bring the idea of universal basic income into the mainstream and is funding his own UBI pilot program.
- Proponents say guaranteed incomes could help close America’s growing wealth gap, while others say they could compound America’s financial crisis by encouraging people to stop working.
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Billionaire Jack Dorsey, the cofounder of Twitter, is spending millions to experiment with universal basic income.
Dorsey’s experiment is part of a larger initiative called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. On Thursday, the group announced the program could impact as many as 7 million Americans across 14 different cities, including Los Angeles; Atlanta; Newark, New Jersey; and Jackson, Mississippi. The involved mayors say they plan to launch guaranteed income pilot programs in their cities at an unspecified future date and lobby federal lawyers to consider a national one, too.
The coalition behind the experiment says giving people a guaranteed income could lift people out of poverty and cushion the economic and career blows of the coronavirus crisis.
Dorsey, who has built up a net worth of $7.5 billion, will sink $3 million from his nonprofit into the program, according to the announcement. The UBI program comes shortly after Dorsey’s widely publicized pledge to donate $1 billion to coronavirus relief efforts.
The group did not specify who will be eligible for payments and how much they will receive each month under their plan. In a statement, it said that it envisions the basic income as a flexible supplement to existing social programs. At least two cities — Jackson, Mississippi; and Stockton, California — represented in the mayors’ coalition already have working guaranteed income pilot programs, while Chicago, Newark, and Atlanta have task forces exploring programs of their own, according to the group’s website.
Proponents and past research claim that a guaranteed income could be the best way to level the wealth divide between the richest and poorest Americans, a chasm that has grown even wider during the coronavirus pandemic. Critics of basic incomes say the economic effects of such proposals haven’t been thoroughly researched and could stop recipients from working, Business Insider previously reported.
Still, Dorsey isn’t the only wealthy American experimenting with universal basic income. Entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang announced in May that he will give $500 to 20 New Yorkers every month for the next five years through his nonprofit in an effort to test the effects of the policy.
Yang made his universal basic income proposal — a scheme, called the Freedom Dividend, that would pay every American adult $1,000 monthly — a central part of his presidential campaign. Once considered an unlikely policy proposal championed only by Silicon Valley titans like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, guaranteed income has since gained traction with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
UBI proposals can be traced back as far as the 16th century, but have been floated throughout American history by a wide range of leaders including Thomas Payne and Martin Luther King, Jr. The one-time $1,200 stimulus checks Americans received earlier this year as a part of the CARES Act were essentially an interim universal basic income, Business Insider previously reported.