The year basic income came to kitchen tables

Taylor Jo Isenberg
Dec 18, 2018 · 3 min read

The energy around guaranteeing an income has come much faster than we would’ve guessed — and we’re stepping up to meet the moment at the Economic Security Project. Here’s a rundown of our year:

We supported 28-year-old Mayor Michael Tubbs to build the first city-led guaranteed income demonstration in the U.S, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration. The combination of innovative government action and provocative concept drew the national spotlight to Stockton, which Mayor Tubbs proudly describes as “a city on the rise.” Over the course of 2018, SEED grew from an idea to a full-fledged study preparing to release disbursements early in 2019. Letters to potential recipients went out just last week, and we’ll soon have our group of residents selected to receive a guaranteed income of $500 for 18 months.

The vision of Mayor Tubbs caught the attention of not only national press, but leaders across the world — including Chicago. With Economic Security Project’s support, Chicago has formed a taskforce comprised of local advocates, politicians and labor leaders to explore bringing a guaranteed income pilot to one of the country’s largest cities. Work has moved fast in the Windy City, thanks to the leadership of Alderman Ameya Pawar — and we’re excited about our continued involvement as the project evolves from theory to reality next year.

2018 also brought the first disbursements of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust, a pilot that sits at the intersection of economic, racial and gender justice. As part of the program, at least 16 black moms living in extreme poverty will receive a guaranteed income of $1,000 a month for a year. You can hear from Aisha Nyandoro, the visionary behind the pilot, as well as from the moms themselves, about what they hope to accomplish in this excellent piece from NBC.

In addition to our work on the ground, we also took the conversation on guaranteed income to a broader stage. One of the key tools we used this year: Fair Shot, by Co-chair Chris Hughes. The book took on several questions we hear often in this work — what’s the policy to create an income floor for poor and middle-class Americans? How would we actually do it? We spent 2018 working through those answers and are looking forward to implementing our ideas at both the federal and state level as we move into 2019. Through what we’re calling our Working Families Tax Credit, we are advocating for creating an income floor of $500 per month through the tax code, including expanding the definition of work to include caregivers and students.

Several Congressional leaders, including Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman and Senator Kamala Harris introduced these ideas into federal legislation this year. Topping out with families making $100,000, Harris’s bill in particular goes so far into the middle class that many experts and journalists made the connection between the policy and a guaranteed income.

We have reason to believe we’ll see similar, ambitious ideas emerge as the 2020 candidate field is defined in the coming months.

For more on what we’ve been up to in 2018, check out this end of year recap we put together:

Lastly, we want to thank you for your continued support of our work. From the highlights above to all the other work happening within this network, we think it’s clear that 2018 is the year guaranteed income moved from a radical theory to a winnable reality. As described in a recent piece in The Atlantic: “Boosting the fortunes of the middle class and ending poverty are achievable policy goals, not moonshot ideas or flights of fancy. And Democrats want to achieve them by giving people cash.”

A year ago, we never would have imagined this idea could move so far in just 12 months and we are looking forward to rolling up our sleeves for the work ahead in 2019!

With gratitude,

Team ESP

Economic Security Project

The Economic Security Project challenges the status quo by…

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