In an inspiring display of solidarity and social progress, the premiere of the documentary "It's Basic" at the Tribeca Film Festival highlighted the growing momentum behind "guaranteed income" programs. Just a few years ago, the idea of providing people with money without any conditions seemed implausible in mainstream policy circles. However, this film showcases the positive impact such programs have on Americans struggling to make ends meet, while also shedding light on their potential to address social and economic challenges in the United States.
Produced by Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, California, and founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, "It's Basic" follows participants in guaranteed income pilot programs across the country. By sharing the stories of five recipients in different cities, the film aims to normalize these policies as a means of supporting those in need, boosting local communities, and addressing the social and economic issues that afflict America.
The documentary underscores the shifting sentiment surrounding guaranteed income programs. Tubbs, who initiated Stockton's basic income program in 2018, noted that the rising costs of food, housing, and other daily necessities have made the need for an income floor even more urgent. The film showcases how $500, provided as a no-strings-attached cash stipend, can make a significant difference in people's lives.
One of the film's main characters, a single mother and school bus driver, equates having cash in hand to fueling her car, stating, "Put a little gas in my tank and I'll show you how far I can go." While $500 may not seem like much money, the documentary emphasizes its potential to help individuals move forward, improve their lives, and provide better opportunities for their children.
Crucially, the recipients featured in the film are employed in essential fields such as nursing, social work, and transportation but struggle to make ends meet with their current wages. The documentary highlights their efforts to contribute to society while grappling with financial insecurity.
The surge in basic income programs across the United States is an encouraging sign for Tubbs, who continues to advocate for its implementation on a national level. He references the success of the child tax credit as a nationwide experiment in guaranteed income, which reduced child poverty by 40%. However, Tubbs emphasizes the need for long-term policies to sustain these positive impacts.
Guaranteed income programs not only help individuals meet their immediate needs but also have broader societal benefits. Participants in pilot programs have utilized their stipends to pay off debt, repair their vehicles, and provide clothing for their children. Contrary to concerns about discouraging work, these initiatives often enable recipients to secure higher-paying jobs or transition from part-time to full-time employment. Research also indicates that guaranteed income improves recipients' physical and psychological health by alleviating stress and anxiety associated with economic insecurity.
Looking ahead, Tubbs envisions the transformative potential of a permanent guaranteed income policy. With longer-term support, individuals would have the opportunity to respond to market pressures, invest in themselves, and pursue job training. This empowering approach aligns with the vision of a global society committed to social progress and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). By addressing economic inequalities, promoting well-being, and reducing poverty, guaranteed income programs contribute to SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities), among others.
"It's Basic" exemplifies the power of civil society, grassroots movements, and documentary filmmaking in promoting sustainable and equitable policies. The film encourages viewers to recognize the potential of guaranteed income programs to transform lives, strengthen communities, and work towards a more inclusive and prosperous future.
Youtube credits: @BlowbackProductions