Pittsburgh launching guaranteed income program

Pittsburgh launching guaranteed income program

This is a trend that started on the west coast in Stockton, California, later expanding to a discussion of doing it for the entire state. And now it’s jumped across the country to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We’re talking yet again about the idea of a basic income guarantee program, where select citizens are assured some level of income even if they are unable or unwilling to work. The Mayor of the city that’s home to the Steelers is Bill Peduto and he sounds as if he thinks this program could be a real winner. (CBS Pittsburgh)

“A number of people in the city of Pittsburgh will be chosen to be able to receive a monthly stipend, basically a debit card,” said Mayor Peduto.

He said the “guaranteed income” means an extra $500 a month. The city will jump-start the program using a portion of the $10 million from Jack Dorsey at Twitter.

Mayor Peduto said he is looking for three qualities in the people selected:

People who are struggling financially
The ability to have it change their lives
People from different types of demographics and backgrounds to be able to do a study

You may be wondering how Pittsburgh can afford all of this generosity and if the taxpayers are willing to foot the bill. As it turns out, that’s not really a concern in this case, at least during the pilot phase of the program. The money is coming from a ten million dollar grant provided to the city by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. (How nice of him, eh?) Selected individuals will be given five hundred dollars per month, no questions asked. Well… that’s not technically correct. There will be a lot of questions asked to see if you qualify for the program to begin with.

As noted in the excerpt above, the Mayor will be looking for people who are “struggling” and could see their lives change with an extra half a grand every month. And he wants to make sure they come from “diverse” backgrounds so the city can study the results and individual outcomes. One outcome he’s hoping to see is if the money creates “a less likely chance that they end up back in jail?”

Wait a minute, here. Did you say you’re hoping it will be less likely that they’ll wind up back in jail? So I assume there will be a preference established for people who have broken the law and been punished for it rather than those who have struggled financially while managing to obey the law. What they do with Dorsey’s money is obviously up to them, but that doesn’t seem like the fairest way to distribute it.

Keep in mind that the test program in Stockton produced mixed results at best. In the beginning, they had a hard time finding enough people to even apply for the program because everyone assumed the letters they received in the mail were some sort of scam. (Who gives away free money>) After it had been in operation for a while, Stockton also discovered that they were having a hard time tracking where the money had gone because most people wound up taking most of it out as cash from ATMs. As to the impact it had on people’s lives, the results were somewhat hit and miss.

Even if this winds up working out well, what happens when the Dorsey money dries up? At that point, the Mayor will have to go to the taxpayers and ask them if they want to fund monthly paychecks for those unable or unwilling to work. Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound like a winner at the ballot box. But time will tell.

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