Twitter chief executive officer (CEO) Jack Dorsey has donated $3 million to a universal basic income project, which is being piloted by the mayors of 16 US cities.
Jack Dorsey became the first investor in Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a radical plan to give people a basic income, regardless of job status.
Dorsey tweeted: “This is one tool to close the wealth and income gap, level systemic race and gender inequalities and create economic security for families”.
Universal basic income
The idea of governments paying a basic income to citizens has recently gained traction due to artificial intelligence being deemed as a threat to jobs.
Under the universal basic income (UBI) concept, every individual in a country will receive a cash payment at regular intervals, without any requirement to work or qualify for it. The payment would be given to every citizen, regardless of wealth or employment status.
Meanwhile, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income is a version of UBI that would offer a recurring payment, but only to “some” residents. The project’s website did not specify who will receive payments but it discussed the need to address poverty, particularly amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The website says: “Covid-19 has only further exposed the economic fragility of most American households and has disproportionately impacted black and brown people.”
“Mayors will come together in this network to advocate for a guaranteed income – direct, recurring cash payments – that lifts all of our communities, building a resilient, just America,” it continued.
Stockton mayor Michael Tubbs, who founded the project, wants it to become a national program that will extend beyond the current pandemic. He previously argued that increasing the taxes of wealthy individuals such as Dorsey could help fund it.
Tubbs created the project in cooperation with the non-profit Economic Security Project,to build on the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) guaranteed income pilot.
Since early 2019, 125 Stockton residents have been receiving $500 monthly to spend in their discretion and early analysis showed that the money is used on basic expenses such as food, transportation and utilities.
UBI, AI, and joblessness
While discussions of UBI have been around for decades and the concept has been closely associated with the idea of artificial intelligence, AI expert Calum Chace said that a it could be some way off.
Chace explained: “It is seen by many as a solution to the threat of joblessness as machines automate more and more of our jobs in the coming years and decades. Unfortunately, it is wholly unaffordable if it offers anything more than abject poverty.”
“But if, say, [in] a generation from now machines do take most of our jobs, we should all be able to live the lives of leisure that economists like Maynard Keynes promised long ago – if, that is, we can achieve the economy of abundance, where the cost of a very good standard of living falls close to zero,” he continued.
“The idea of fully automated luxury capitalism is the next big thing, once people understand the limitations of UBI,” Chace added.