September 01, 2019 ABA MEETING

Passage of the Section's Basic Income Resolution

Resolution 115H | 2019 ABA Annual Meeting

During the 2019 ABA Annual Meeting, the House of Delegates passed the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice's resolution, 115H, urging the U.S. Government to promote the human right to a basic income. The passage of this resolution was aided immeasurably by a letter from Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, California, where an experimental basic income program is ongoing. This letter was read to the House of Delegates as part of the debate on the resolution. 

Resolution 115H states, in part:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to enact legislation recognizing and promoting the human right to a basic income .

This victory is the result of the hard work and collaboration between members of the Section's Economic Justice Committee and members of the resolution's co-sponsoring entities, the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence and the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty.

A full summary of House Action at the ABA Annual Meeting, including the status of the Section's other proposed resolutions, can be viewed here.

 

Mayor Michael Tubbs of Stockton, California, on the Importance of this Resolution

At the richest time in history in the wealthiest country in the world, no American should live in poverty or struggle to afford basic necessities on a full-time salary. Pursuing a basic income would boost the economy, combat income inequality, provide an outsized benefit for women and people of color and put our country on a path of making our economy work for all Americans.

Basic income ensures that people have the support to achieve a base measure of economic stability. With the changing nature of work and rise of the gig economy, the increase in jobs that fail to pay a living wage, and increasing income volatility, people can benefit now more than ever from cash. More than 63% of Americans today do not have enough savings on hand to cover a $500 emergency. Cash transfers have been demonstrated to have positive effects on society, resulting in benefits such as improved health outcomes, increased school attendance, and higher levels of educational attainment. From an economic perspective, basic income has also been shown to serve as a stimulus for household consumption that can expand the economy.

Despite reservations about the unconditional nature of basic income, individuals who receive these cash transfers tend to remain in the workforce, and due to the resource of cash on hand, can better afford to apply for and accept jobs that pay a living wage. Furthermore, individuals who do leave the workforce often do so to engage in caregiving or return to education, showing that basic income values a broader view of productivity and individual contributions to society. Having an income floor provides relief to people who are working in an economy in which the poor and middle class are struggling to pay for the rising cost of living on stagnant incomes. 

Stockton, CA is currently administering the nation’s first mayor-led guaranteed income demonstration, known as the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED). In February, SEED began giving 125 randomly selected Stocktonians from areas making at or below the city’s median income $500 per month, for 18 months. The cash is unconditional, with no work requirements and no strings attached. 

SEED’s recipients are using the basic income to pay for bills, food, medicine, and school supplies, to reduce debt, and to save for the future. With an income floor of just $500 per month, recipients are able to spend more time at home with their kids and report better relationships with their spouses and relatives. Though only six months into the demonstration, SEED recipients are already reporting feeling less stressed, are happier, and are able to “breathe again.” 

The City of Stockton is in full support of the American Bar Associations efforts to broaden guaranteed income initiatives. The success and experiences gained from the SEED Program are testaments to the viability of basic income and serves as a model for equitable solutions in Stockton and beyond.