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Do not diminish value of guaranteed income | READER COMMENTARY

Michael Tubbs, mayor of Stockton, California, the country's first city to experiment with guaranteed income, at his office April 23, 2018. He is leading a push to expand the idea with a new initiative, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. (Jason Henry/The New York Times).
Michael Tubbs, mayor of Stockton, California, the country's first city to experiment with guaranteed income, at his office April 23, 2018. He is leading a push to expand the idea with a new initiative, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. (Jason Henry/The New York Times). (Jason Henry/The New York Times)

There have been some opinions recently published in The Baltimore Sun that oppose Mayor Brandon Scott’s bold move to join Mayors for a Guaranteed Income and his commitment to exploring a guaranteed income pilot in Baltimore (”Baltimore needs jobs, not ‘guaranteed income,’” Feb. 25). I wanted to chime in and offer a different perspective.

First, the idea of a guaranteed income (defined as a government sending people direct, recurring cash payments) has deep roots in the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. put it very bluntly in his final book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” when he wrote, “The solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” The Black Panther Party platform (called the Ten-Point Program) also included the fight for a guaranteed income.

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Second, the Baltimore pilot program is slated to be led by the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success which oversees a number of anti-poverty programs specifically designed to improve outcomes for children and families in Baltimore. It makes me think of an already established guaranteed income pilot in Jackson, Mississippi, called the Magnolia Mother’s Trust. This program was the first in the nation to specifically target payments to extremely low-income families headed by Black women living in affordable housing, many of whom already work multiple jobs in an effort to keep their families afloat. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly one in four Black women in America live below the poverty line.

I implore The Sun’s readers to take 10 minutes, search YouTube for “Magnolia Mother’s Trust” and watch some of the participants talk about how this guaranteed income pilot program has affected their lives. When asked, “What does this additional monthly income mean to you?” the overwhelming response is some variation of “it means freedom!” Freedom to pay bills, to pay down debt, to put food on the table and still have time and money left over for fun treats and creative pursuits. There is now some breathing room and space for making one’s life more than a constant struggle for survival under the crushing weight of capitalism and racism. These mothers can work less and love on their families more, and that is good for everyone.

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To paraphrase Aisha Nyandoro, leader of the Magnolia Mother’s Trust: When people have time and emotional bandwidth freed up, they have the ability to think and dream of a more just, more compassionate and less cynical world.

Dave Fell, Baltimore

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