Reparations Repackaged: Oakland Adopts Racist Guaranteed Income Scheme | Opinion

The city of Oakland, California adopted a guaranteed-income scheme that is racist, flawed and amounts to just a repackaged version of reparations. The plan should be scrapped, not celebrated and promoted. This is not what genuine progress looks like.

Under the privately-funded, city-backed Oakland Resilient Families program, some low-income families will get $500 per month to spend with no strings attached. In order to qualify, the family must earn under $30,000 a year and have at least one minor child.

The purported goal of guaranteed income (or "universal basic income," as it's more commonly called) is for recipients to focus on getting a job or a better education without the competing stress of financial struggle. The extra funding, proponents argue, allows recipients to exclusively focus on getting to a place of economic self-sufficiency.

Shockingly, however, this program is designed to help people on the basis of race. Low-income white families do not qualify by mere dint of their skin color. Their whiteness evidently renders them unworthy of assistance.

Often, whites are presumed to have some kind of privilege that protects them against institutionalized racism. After all, it was powerful white people who designed and implemented the systems that proponents claim oppressed minority communities. I wonder, though, why the 7.3 percent of low-income whites living in poverty don't use their white privilege to escape to a more comfortable lifestyle?

The city of Oakland argues its rule is meant to specifically help black and indigenous residents because they suffer disproportionate economic disparities, per the Oakland Equity Index. Why? The city doesn't directly say. But the program's website claims that "wealth inequities [are] rooted in ongoing systemic racism." How utterly nebulous.

"The poverty we all witness today is not a personal failure—it is a systems failure," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in a statement. "Guaranteed income is one of the most promising tools for systems change, racial equity and economic mobility we've seen in decades."

Unnamed "systems" designed and enforced by the Left in Oakland somehow unfairly target people of color? If that were true, no guaranteed-income scheme would, by definition, help: Any money going to minorities would still be subject to the same systems that failed them previously.

What's more: All of the poverty is the result of a systems failure? Really? Perhaps this explains Democrats' resistance to conservatives who argue for more personal responsibility. To Democrats like Mayor Schaaf, no one is responsible for his/her own financial situation. Everyone is a victim. And victims deserve recompense.

But to claim guaranteed income is a "promising" tool is only true if one ignores the mountains of data from Finland. A similar program there by and large failed to get people on the right economic path.

A randomly selected group of 2,000 unemployed Finns between 25 and 58 received 560 euros ($600) per month from the country over a two-year period (2017 and 2018). While people were generally happier (who wouldn't be when getting free money?), they didn't fare much better finding work as compared with a control group. Free money recipients did just 2 percent better than those who weren't getting a handout, rendering untenable the highly expensive idea of universal basic income.

The results from Finland should be seen as instructive. Instead, they're ignored for purportedly more promising data from a much smaller sample in Stockton, California.

Downtown Oakland in 2015
Downtown Oakland in 2015 Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

The city of Stockton also gave its poorest residents $500 per month on prepaid debit cards. Although it wasn't predicated upon race, the program only looked at 125 recipients. As in Finland, the program saw most of its success from people reporting less stress. But the unemployment rate for the recipients only dropped 4 percent.

Still, left-wing outlets like NPR and The Atlantic celebrated the program, framing it as a massive success. But like the programs' proponents, the authors seem less interested in analyzing data than they do in implementing an abstract socialist idea.

Though Oakland proponents cite the data from Stockton, they are less interested in considering the full picture. In Stockton, for example, some 40 percent of the money was transferred from the prepaid debit cards to either personal bank accounts or to cash—neither of which was tracked for the survey. And proponents are already working with such a small study group, making the implications of this lack-of-tracking phenomenon even more significant.

In Oakland, proponents seem just as disinterested in the data. Free money recipients "have the option of participating in periodic surveys and interviews, but are not required to," according to the city.

How do policymakers purport to study a pilot if they do not take the results seriously? It's not about the results: Democrats are running with this idea, no matter the data. And soon, it may come to a city near you.

Mayors for a Guaranteed Income is the group behind the programs in Oakland and Stockton. Soon, the program will be tested in Tacoma, Washington and Madison, Wisconsin, with dozens of other large and midsize cities likely following not too far behind.

The push is almost exclusively centered around minority communities. It is, in effect, a repackaged form of reparations, sans the baggage attached to the concept. And, of course, it's predicated upon a Democratic talking point of "systemic racism" being to blame, suddenly, for all of society's problems.

Who knew the answer to systemic racism, where whites are supposedly offered exclusive assistance, is...more systemic racism where minority communities are offered exclusive assistance and whites are not. Perhaps we can go full circle and see all white people "systemically" disadvantaged. Isn't that a Democrat's version of progress?

Jason Rantz is a frequent guest on Fox News and is the host of the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH Seattle, heard weekday afternoons. You can subscribe to his podcast here and follow him on Twitter: @jasonrantz.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.