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Republican leaders are worried that basic income programs will give Democrats an edge during the election

Katie Balevic   

Republican leaders are worried that basic income programs will give Democrats an edge during the election
  • Republicans are stressing about the popularity of guaranteed basic income programs.
  • They worry the programs will give the Democrats who support them an edge in the upcoming election.

Republicans may have a new election pain point.

Members of the GOP have expressed their opposition to the guaranteed basic income programs that are popping up in cities and counties nationwide.

But behind closed doors, senior Republican leaders are worried the programs could give the Democrats who champion them an edge in the upcoming election, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Guaranteed basic income programs grant select participants cash with no strings attached for a period of time. They are a more targeted version of universal basic income programs, which grant funds to an entire population. Mayors and other political leaders who support the programs, which can be publicly or privately funded, are mostly Democrats.

Republicans say the pilot programs may dissuade people from working, echoing the decades-old "welfare queen" trope that harkens back to the era of Ronald Reagan.

Participants say the opposite is true: Not only do they keep working, the payments also often allow them to afford training and education that leads to more lucrative jobs, Democratic Mayor Kamal Johnson of Hudson, New York, told Business Insider.

In Hudson, a town of about 6,000 people, a privately funded basic income program grants recipients $500 monthly for five years. Johnson told Business Insider the money allows people "to take care of their basic needs."

"That's a lot of what the data has shown us is that people are not going to quit their jobs just because they get an extra $500," Johnson said. "It's going to afford them more time and space to do things that they weren't able to do."

While participants are free to spend the cash however they want, studies have repeatedly shown that they overwhelmingly spend it on rent and food.

Despite the success of many of these programs, Republican leaders in several states, including Texas, Arizona, Iowa, and South Dakota, have either passed legislation or are working to pass legislation to block them.

At a hearing on the subject in January, Iowa state Reps. Steve Holt and Skyler Wheeler spoke in favor of advancing a bill banning guaranteed basic income programs in the state.

"I'm going to tell you right now: This is socialism on steroids. This is a redistribution of wealth. This is an attack on American values," Holt said in the hearing.

It's this kind of opposition that some Republicans worry could backfire come election time. And at least one notable Republican appears to understand the political value of such programs.

Former President Donald Trump insisted on having his name on the pandemic-era stimulus checks believing it would help his election chances, The Wall Street Journal reported. Trump has also floated the idea of "baby bonuses," an income program for parents as a reward for procreating.

Even so, some experts say guaranteed basic income won't make it on the federal level because of ongoing problems with existing programs, such as Supplemental Security Income. The program grants $850 monthly to older adults and the disabled.

"It's worth acknowledging we have a guaranteed basic income program in this country for people who are old age or disabled," Dennis Culhane, a homelessness expert at the University of Pennsylvania, told BI. "But most of the people who are disabled and homeless do not receive it. Most older adults who are homeless do not get access to it because you're not eligible until you're 65, and these people are therefore destitute."

He added: "If we are going to have guaranteed basic income, we should start by making the program we actually have work."

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