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Elon Musk supports UBI as mayor coalition explores pilots in 11 cities

  • Elon Musk reiterated his support for universal basic income (UBI) on Monday in response to a tweet from Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice.
  • Bernice King tweeted about her father’s advocacy of guaranteed income, which has been backed by 11 US mayors in a new coalition
  • Guaranteed income, the mayors explain, differs from UBI in that it is intended only for those who need it most.
  • The mayors aim to work towards launching guaranteed income schemes in their cities as a measure to address racial and economic inequality.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Elon Musk posted in support after a majority-Black coalition of mayors announced they would work to launch guaranteed income schemes in their cities.

Mayors in 11 cities launched Mayors for a Guaranteed Income on Monday with the pledge to advocate for the measure, saying it can be a “tool for racial and gender equity.”

At the news, King’s daughter Bernice, tweeted a clip of her father advocating a guaranteed income, and wrote: “Wow. A universal basic income (guaranteed annual income) was what my father recommended as a primary way to eradicate poverty.”

Musk responded: “Very much agree”. 

The coalition’s website quotes Martin Luther King’s assertion that “the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”

The cities in question are Stockton, Compton, Los Angeles, and Oakland in California; Newark, New Jersey; Columbia, South Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; St. Paul, Minnesota; Jackson, Mississippi, Shreveport, Louisiana; and Tacoma, Washington.

Guaranteed income and universal basic income (UBI) are not quite the same, but share many advocates.

According to the mayoral coalition’s website FAQ, guaranteed incomes are meant for people who most need support, versus a universal income which would be given to everyone.

The policy is meant to supplement, rather than replace, existing social security policies, the mayors say on their website. 

Musk has long been an outspoken advocate of UBI. Andrew Yang — who built much of his Democratic presidential campaign on support for the idea — attracted the Tesla CEO’s endorsement in 2019 before stepping out of the race. 

The Mayors for a Guaranteed Income coalition is formed of 11 mayors, nine of whom are Black. It was founded by Michael D. Tubbs, Mayor of the City of Stockton in California. 

The idea of some form of basic income has existed for centuries, as Business Insider’s Kevin Webb has reported. But the stimulus checks sent out through the CARES Act during the coronavirus lockdown have provided an unexpected testing ground for the idea. 

In June, Newark’s Mayor Ras J. Baraka, one of the coalition’s members, argued in an opinion piece for Newsweek that “while these efforts are encouraging, they are ultimately insufficient.”

The fact that the coronavirus disproportionately affects Black people, alongside the racial injustices highlighted by the George Floyd protests, also added urgency to arguments to address economic inequality as a racialized issue. 

“Rising income inequality is compounded by a growing racial wealth gap,” the coalition’s website states. 

One 2018 pilot in Jackson, Mississippi, where coalition member Chokwe Antar Lumumba is mayor, tested the plan by offering low-income Black mothers a guaranteed $1,000 per month for a year. 

A 2019 pilot in Tubbs’ city of Stockton, California, in which some of the poorest residents were given $500 monthly, resulted in most of the money being spent on food and clothing, as Business Insider reported



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