In January 2019, the new mayor of Stockton, California launched the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration in which 125 people randomly chosen are to receive a guaranteed income of $500 a month for 18 months.
The idea of the government giving people money directly has been cycling in and out of favor in America for more than 200 years. It’s the essence of Social Security and the annual dividend paid to Alaska residents, and it was gaining adherents again in 2016 when Stockton elected Tubbs as its first Black mayor.
That same year, Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook Inc., had helped start an organization called the Economic Security Project. Among its policy prescriptions is a guaranteed basic income, driven by the belief that today’s economy is fundamentally unjust and frequently precarious. A guaranteed income wouldn’t have to be enough to live on. It wouldn’t fix every problem. But it could, the group hoped, make recipients less vulnerable. They were looking for a community to try out the concept and show that people could be trusted to spend money that came without restrictions.
By 2019 there was funding for the pilot, there were researchers and recipients, there were even three murals in downtown Stockton inspired by the idea.