Basic income trial shows ‘poignant’ stories

Basic income trial shows ‘poignant’ stories

A three-year-long project documenting the impact of a small basic income trial in the United States is entering its final stages before release. Director Conrad Shaw said the goal of this project was not solely about what a permanent basic income system would look like, but more so a means to “explore what people do with extra unconditional cash.” 

Aside from the financial struggles in the early stages, Shaw appreciates the series of events that occurred, which allowed the project to be illustrative of what a real basic income might look like in a crisis. Whether it be the hurricanes or the ongoing pandemic, a string of “scenarios” presented themselves and provided the perfect conditions to see where basic income can really make an impact during uncertain times.

“It’s just crazy how things lined up in the last several years, to give a lot of very poignant case studies,” he said.

The most dramatic changes Shaw’s team observed were the participant’s relationships and their psyche. Other than the day-to-day differences, the boost in self-confidence and change in their whole demeanor at the end of the trial held the most significance to Conrad.

“There’s an element of confidence that comes along with just being able to try what you want to try, to be able to take those shots,” Shaw said when asked to elaborate on the psychological effects the participants experienced. He said basic income allowed people to feel like they have always got a way to plan and move forward. 

“People felt free to pursue the things that they wanted to for a very long time,” he said. 

An important aspect of making the cash “unconditional” was to make sure the process was not something participants did not have to jump through hoops or constantly think about. They also wanted to make sure the recipients were not only using the money to pay for health care. 

When asked about what he would do differently and what his future projects would be, Shaw said he wished there is more political movement on basic income going forward. He said he was disappointed that presidential candidate Andrew Yang was not able to take his basic income policy further in the Democratic primary. 

While Shaw said the passage of basic income will be highly influenced by the political climate, he said he hopes that future work can evaluate the possible combined impact of universal health care and basic income when provided together.

Nonetheless, Shaw said he wanted to come at the project from a neutral academic view by choosing participants from a wide array of backgrounds across the United States. He said the project was a success in that it demonstrated the possibly life-changing effects of basic income for some recipients while leaving it up to the audience to interpret the results. 

“The sort of the transition between before and during and after basic income was very dramatic; they were in a very different place after than when than one they started so you know, just objectively it seemed like a pretty significant potentially permanent sort of change,” Shaw said.

Basic income is an ‘investment’ in the future

Basic income is an ‘investment’ in the future

In the current turbulent times, there is a fierce debate emerging how cities should adjust to rapidly changing economic and technological trends. Smart City Education Inside invited two experts to discuss the prospect of cash transfers to enhance sustainability and provide equitable educational opportunities for students.

Smart City Online Education Inside is a joint project between the Digital Education Institute, III, and the Talent Circulation Alliance. Under the supervision of the Bureau of Industrial Development Taiwan, the project launched a series of panel and keynote speaking events for those interested in education technology, sustainable learning, and sustainable society.

On Tuesday (8/11), Mr. Ameya Pawar, who had served two terms on the Chicago City Council and was the first Asian and Indian American elected to major office in Illinois, shared his presentation “Dignity, Decency, and Agency: The Case for Universal Basic Income.” Income inequality, wealth inequality, and decades of policies favoring wealthy corporations and big banks over working people, drew him to the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Pawar believes that every aspect of society is impacted by inattention to poverty, it is necessary to invest in mitigating it at both the national and local level.

“What leads us to believe that people will do something wrong or bad or do less if we help them a little bit?” Pawar asked. “To achieve sustainability, people need to have built-in resilience,” he said.

In response to the idea that giving cash may make people less willing to work, Pawar said that research has shown that is not the case. “Giving people money does not change the fact that people, as human beings, want to be productive; instead, it gives people more choices and breathing room in their lives,” he said.

On Thursday (8/13), we invited Mr. Sean Kline, who is the Systems Entrepreneur in Residence with RSA Future of Work Center, to share his presentation “Child Focused Development in the Digital Era.”

Kline believes, as services and technology become the dominant drivers of the economy, some segments of the population have been left behind. That’s why, a more modern and robust social safety net is needed to help transition and adapt to this rapid technological change is needed. While the government is putting tremendous conditions on how low-income families use public benefits, it is capable of giving people money in the form of large tax deductions. These unequal requirements demonstrate trust for one group and mistrust for the other. In fact, unconditional cash is administratively easier to deliver especially if it is provided universally.

With children being an important focus of Kline’s work, he suggests that lacking investment in children not only shapes their life’s trajectory, but shapes the trajectory of potential economic growth for society as a whole. Sharing examples of universal children’s saving accounts, baby bonds, and basic income and how they have benefited children, he believes that these are the primary methods to support children universally in the digital age.

See the original post on the Talent Circulation Alliance.

Basic income march goes ‘virtual’

Basic income march goes ‘virtual’

Even in a pandemic, basic income advocates are finding creative ways to bring attention to basic income. The Basic Income March organizers are partnering with an application to allow activists to march for basic income around the world and possibly set a record in the process.

With the goal of achieving 50 million steps, enough to “circumnavigate the globe,” this year’s march on September 19 is partnering with the WATT mobile application. Marchers can use the app now to start counting their steps to “express solidarity for the cause.”

At the same time, there are 35 cities organizing in-person basic income events around the world. For example, there are bike parades, street corner protests, and even interactive art installations in support of basic income.

WATT is described as “the world’s first platform for virtual marches and charity walks.” The application allows marchers to select a cause they believe in and count their steps for the cause on their mobile phone from anywhere in the world.

Income Movement co-founder Stacey Rutland said she felt there was a need for organizing grassroots energy in the United States around basic income, so she organized a march in October 2019. 

“The first march was a huge success. Within six weeks we were able to get it up and running and have thirty cities across the globe participate,” Rutland said.

The success with the first march convinced Rutland that there was a “hunger” for basic income grassroots activism. However, with the rise of the pandemic, Rutland had to find new ways to organize demonstrations for basic income.

“The ability to physically march quickly went out the door, but the need for public demonstration was pretty significant because of the dire economic circumstances that people found themselves in,” Rutland said.

These circumstances allowed Rutland to look closer at digital options as she strived to create a “marriage of the digital world and the physical world.” This brought Rutland to connect with Kalyan Gautham, the CEO of WATT.

Gautham said his goal with making the app was to “digitize events of solidarity such as marches and charity works so that people from across the world can participate in these events without having to travel to a different location.”

WATT’s development started before the pandemic, but the app became far more urgent once social distancing restrictions became a reality. 

On the app, marchers can share videos and pictures of themselves marching, while pledging a certain number of steps for the cause. This allows activists to plan a unified and continuous demonstration around the globe with clear data on the size and persistence of the marchers. Each participant can challenge others to take more steps and even create micro events within the demonstration. 

After Andrew Yang dropped out of running for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Rutland said it is important for basic income advocates to transition to a new stage of activism.

“The primary goal for 2020 from our perspective at Income Movement is to move from a single candidate movement to a long-term movement,” she said.

For Rutland, the pandemic has been a “horrific” experience for many low-income individuals in the United States around the world. She said a possible silver lining is that it has “brought to the surface for a lot of people the need to rethink how our economy works” so these long-standing issues can finally be addressed.

“What we hope is for the march to be something that’s fun, that’s exciting and that doesn’t feel like work but feels like a celebration while also creating an impact,” Rutland said.

Finland’s basic income never failed, our ‘jobs’ did

Finland’s basic income never failed, our ‘jobs’ did

This past week, Finland released the final results from its two-year “basic income” experiment. The program produced a modest increase in working days among basic income recipients and noticeable improvements in perceived happiness and healthiness.

Is this a surprise? When governments give people cash assistance, of course, their lives will improve. And with financial stress alleviated, these recipients will still find productive uses for their time. 

Simply imagine the unearned suffering billions of people could have been spared if governments had implemented basic income prior to the pandemic and global economic depression. 

Basic income skeptics should consider which system failed when confronted with the current avalanche of suicide, descent into addiction, and hungry mouth these twin crises have created. But according to the government’s standard, Finland’s basic income experiment still “failed” because recipients only increased their working days by a week or so.

Let that sink in. Despite proof that the program improved basic income recipients’ physical and mental well-being, it was deemed a failure because it did not fix every aspect of the labor market in two years. Recipients worked more, but that apparently still was not enough. 

Maybe the standard by which success is judged is, therefore, the true failure.

Our current situation shows us that the government was dead set on keeping us in jobs at all costs. And the natural result of that obsession to “preserve work” is that governments are now bailing out corporations instead of their people.

Of course, well-connected businesses like airlines are bailed out first (and multiple times) as average people languish on the edge of financial ruin. Meanwhile, complicated schemes in the United States like the “Paycheck Protection Program” are designed to create the impression of modest job loss, since employees are kept tacked to their employer by way of payroll. But these “jobs saved” are meaningless insofar as many small businesses will immediately shutter from falling demand whenever the program ends. Many are zombie employers, animated by governments’ obsession with “jobs” over human wellbeing.  

Even increasing unemployment benefits with a $600 bonus has been a nightmare, having never gone to many informal workers like caregivers and mothers in the first place. The unemployed will now make every effort possible not to return to work. Unlike with basic income, where the payment is available unconditionally, people will lose their leisure time and $600 unemployment bonus when they accept their next job. 

Unemployment payments are also being used to threaten employees to return to work before the pandemic is even under control. In Iowa, the governor said unemployment recipients will be thrown off unemployment assistance if they do not return to work when lockdowns are eased: even if their workplaces are still hotspots for COVID. This means even more lives will be sacrificed on the altar of “increasing work” and “saving jobs.” 

In contrast, basic income would empower people to  make an informed decision whether it is safe to return to work without the loaded gun of economic self-destruction being held to their head. Governments should pay people directly instead of paying their employers. If they did, employers would have to meet the safety and pay standards of the people they hope to woo back into work 

Almost a year ago, I wrote that the era of “experimenting” with basic income to determine whether it causes “laziness” should end. This question is more often than not asked in bad faith by opponents of basic income, who ignore overwhelming evidence that it generally increases the number of hours recipients work: even leaving aside the productivity gains in those work hours, as people are given more freedom to choose how their labor is allocated.

When the article was written, Canada cancelled its basic income experiment and Finland released its first year of results. These experiments were deemed failures at the time. But the absurdity of that belief is clearer than ever before. 

We stand at the abyss, with the highest unemployment rates and deepest recession of our lifetimes on the horizon. And yet governments have doubled down on putting “jobs,” narrowly defined as roles serving corporate interests, over our wellbeing. This paradigm, by supercharging the economic fallout of the pandemic and forcing people back to work without safety rails in place, defies all logic.

Basic income never failed us. Our “jobs” did. 

By Tyler Prochazka and James Davis

Taiwan debating coronavirus cash payments

Taiwan debating coronavirus cash payments

A debate has broken out in Taiwan over sending cash to combat the economic downturn related to the global coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) plans to stimulate select areas of the economy using coupon vouchers. The second-largest party, the Nationalist Party (KMT), has pushed for cash instead.

The DPP argued that cash is more likely to be “saved,” while vouchers have a better “stimulative” effect on the economy because they must be spent.

Chiang Wan-an, a member of the KMT, said sending cash is a more realistic way of providing financial security for Taiwanese. Cash can be used on paying education fees, healthy food items, and other essential areas, Chiang said.

Singapore plans to send a one-time payment of $420 USD to all Singaporeans above age 21 on April 14.

Taiwan’s proposed vouchers could be used to reduce the price of certain goods by 25 percent. KMT members argued this would not be convenient for those who do not understand the mobile payment system it would require. 

This voucher system would also not help the poor who need to make essential purchases not covered by the vouchers, the KMT said

Taiwan’s ruling DPP party did not rule out cash, but said that plans to send out cash would be targeted to “disadvantaged groups.”