Meaningless “basic income” experiments in Las Cruces

Evan many conservative thought leaders have been willing to consider the idea (called Universal basic income) of replacing welfare payments to the poor with cash payments. The idea is pretty simple: welfare programs have a bunch of hoops and phase-outs that can often disincentivize going from welfare to work. One problem (as other conservatives often point out) is that politicians are unwilling to eliminate the welfare programs and pay them out in a cash equivalent.

In recent years there have been experiments, supposedly with UBI concepts, but they never actually result in replacement of welfare with cash, they simply result in more cash. We critiqued a 2021 Santa Fe program along those lines.

Now, Las Cruces has gotten into the mix. A privately funded guaranteed basic income project allocated 330 families $500 per month and ended in January. Results haven’t been analyzed yet. Now, thanks to $1.7 million dollars of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, multiple nonprofits in the Las Cruces community will provide $500 monthly payments over 18 months to 150 eligible Las Cruces families”

Will the results of these experiments mean anything? Sure, most people, especially those with low incomes, will gladly take an extra $500 annually, but unless the UBI is a replacement as opposed to a supplement for existing welfare programs it will be rather meaningless.

Interestingly, Mayor Ken Miyagishima, a Democrat, appears to be the only voice of reason in Las Cruces government. He said, “I hope it doesn’t just turn into, hey, I got this money, this is great. And okay, it ran out, so what am I going to do now?”

Universal Basic Income: The reasons why it's a terrible idea. – The Trailblazer