Sarah Bedford of the Washington Examiner reports on progressive city governments that paid residents for doing nothing in particular.

Once the provenance of policy wonks and tech entrepreneurs, universal basic income or guaranteed income programs have become a reality in several cities.

Proponents say UBI, which provides all people in the program with a recurring cash payment regardless of their socioeconomic status, can help lift people out of poverty and protect them from financial ruin in the event of an emergency.

But some evidence suggests universal basic income and guaranteed income programs can provide little benefit despite the enormous costs.

Rochester, New York; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Ann Arbor, Michigan, are among the cities launching guaranteed income programs this year. Other places, such as Alexandria, Virginia, had already moved to implement such programs over the last three years. …

… Data from some of the recent guaranteed income pilot programs show results that differ, in some ways, from the talking points in favor of the programs.

By far, the largest category of spending from the cash payments was at retail stores. More than 40% of the money went toward retail, compared to the 8% that was spent on housing and utility bills, according to a database compiled by Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, the Stanford Basic Income Lab, and the Center for Guaranteed Income Research.

Pandemic payments also appear to have offered few long-term benefits.

A study published last year found that cash payments handed out during the pandemic had no significant impact on the financial well-being, psychological well-being, or physical health of the recipients, even those who received larger sums of money.

After an initial burst of increased financial freedom from each payment, the recipients of the income generally faced the same rate of overdraft fees and late payment notices as those who received none at all.

The results “suggest that the cash allowed participants to spend more money, improving objective financial outcomes for the few weeks immediately following the transfer and then dissipating thereafter,” the study’s authors wrote.