When people think of the proper role of city government, they usually think police, roads, and schools. The City of Los Angeles ranks near the bottom in all three (not to mention having the worst homeless problem in the country). Perhaps this is because the city seems more intent on engaging in social experiments than fixing roads, fighting crime, and improving schools.
The latest example is its new “BIG:LEAP” basic income program, designed to “transform the role of local government.” While defunding the police and giving free money to people are considered fringe ideas in most places, in Los Angeles it is becoming a reality. Last week it began accepting applications for what amounts to a lottery for 3,000 lucky winners. The prize is $12,000 per year, at a total taxpayer cost of $36 million.
This is far more than the $2,000 per year Andrew Yang, who introduced the concept to Americans in his presidential race, recently proposed to New Yorkers in his mayoral race. New Yorkers rejected it, giving him just 12 percent of the vote.
About a third of the money comes from defunding the Los Angeles Police Department, another radical idea rejected in other areas. It was just roundly rejected by voters in Minneapolis despite it being the center of Black Lives Matter’s defund the police movement.
All of the money, of course, comes from Los Angeles taxpayers. While it resembles a lottery, most are not eligible to win. The city effectively takes about $20 per taxpayer and redistributes it, through what is assured to be a “random” draw, to others.
To be eligible to win this lottery, there is nothing you must do but meet the qualifications established by the city and fill out a lengthy questionnaire. You must have at least one child, thus making it yet another government program that has the effect of encouraging the poor to have children. You also must have income below the federal poverty line.
So, for instance, a single mother with two children making over $22,000 per year would not qualify. Thus, the program acts as yet another that discourages work, since merely by working less, a person can qualify to make a free $12,000.
Also, to qualify you must check a box indicating that you were adversely impacted by Covid-19. This allows the program to fit squarely within the “never let a tragedy go waste” strategy for progressives. Just like government subsidies, handouts, loan forgiveness, eviction protections, and rent forgiveness, this program disguises itself as a COVID-19 relief program when in fact it is intended to be the first step toward yet another, more radical government assistance program.
The final requirement to qualify is filling out an extensive survey replete with highly personal questions about physical and mental health, finances, and lifestyle. It asks numerous unusual questions like, “In the last month how often have you been angered by things that were outside your control?” It appears Los Angeles seeks to turn its residents into lab rats. Indeed, the program is being done in concert with the “Center of Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania” to use as a model to “reform current policies, guide future programs, and aid in the expansion of our social safety net.”
Naturally, it also asks for ethnicity, gender (i.e., male, female, “non-binary,” “agender,” or “gender fluid”), and sexual orientation. The program is clear in its objective: “While no single program can reverse decades of economic and racial inequality that marginalize low-income people of color, BIG:LEAP can point the way towards a more equitable and prosperous future.” Considering the application questions and the purported justification for the program, one must wonder how “random” the selection will be.
Since it’s a city program, it sits on top of the myriad of other state and federal benefit programs already in place, such as CalWORKs (aid program for adults with children), Cal Fresh (food stamps), WIC (women, infants, and children) benefits, MediCal, and the federal earned income tax credit and Medicare. The program proudly boasts however, that unlike other California programs, there are “no restrictions on how the money can be spent.” In other words, using other peoples’ money to support your alcohol, cigarette, or drug habit: totally fine.
Mayor Eric Garcetti is part of a network of “Mayors for Guaranteed Income,” a national network of mayors “interested in determining how cash—with no strings attached—can assist households in need.” Garcetti, however, will not be around to evaluate the program. He has chosen instead to leave his post midterm as mayor of America’s second largest city in favor of an ambassadorship. So, if this defund the police and redistribution experiment causes more crime in your neighborhood, you may have to address your complaints to New Delhi, India.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.