Universal basic income to transgender residents: Is CA city program right?

Vickie Connor / The Desert Sun

Fact Box

  • On March 31, 2022, Palm Springs City Council announced a two-year pilot program to give 20 transgender and nonbinary residents a universal basic income ($600-$900 per month) while providing a 20-person control group access to social services.
  • A February 2022 Gallup reported LGBTQ identification in the US has ticked up to 7.1% from 5.6% in 2021, with nearly 21% of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ. Bisexuality was the most common (57%) sexual identity claimed, while 10% identified as transgender. 
  • According to Williams Institute, 22% of LGBT people live in poverty while 16% of cisgender straight people live in poverty based on a study from 35 states from 2014 to 2017. 
  • Pew Research Center reported in a February 2022 poll that 38% of American adults say that “greater acceptance of people who are transgender is generally good for our society, while 32% say it is bad and 29% say it is neither good nor bad.”

Andrew (Yes)

Despite alarming headlines seeking to distort the reality of this program, what the city of Palm Springs, California, is actually doing is a very limited pilot program designed to give direct payments of between $600 and $900 to twenty members of the transgender and nonbinary community and then compare several metrics of quality of life against twenty members of the same group who do not receive the payments. This is not a free-for-all cash giveaway to anyone who identifies in this way; it is a very limited and vital study to see how these types of payments can help certain marginalized communities. It’s no secret that transgender and nonbinary individuals face a variety of biases, prejudices, and outright discriminations to which other groups are immune. Transgender individuals have much higher rates of suicide than their cisgender counterparts, as well as higher rates of unemployment and often burdensome medical bills. This is an important study into how government policy can help to offset these injustices.

The Palm Springs universal basic income experiment for trans and nonbinary people will put into practice the much-needed affirmation for members of this community and the larger LGBTQ+ community. While legislatures across the nation have increasingly made life more difficult for this group, particularly the younger members, this experiment essentially says, “We see you and we value you.” One of the most important roles a government plays is to take care of its most vulnerable citizens. This is a great example of a local government identifying a marginalized group and exploring concrete ways to help.

Curtice (No) 

The Palm Springs City Council has voted to begin a pilot program that will be giving 20 transgender or nonbinary residents guaranteed monthly income for two years. Council Member Christy Holstege tweeted that Palm Springs is 'proud to be a beacon of hope.' Apparently, falling in line with the pattern that emerged from the pandemic, the only way governments prefer to offer hope is by offering cash.

Palm Springs is yet another example of liberal policies identifying and separating off groups of people for certain benefits, actively engaging in government discrimination. This intended favoring of one group of individuals, transgender or nonbinary, above everyone else, is wrongheaded and unjust. There are no strings attached, so there is presumably no method of determination of whether these 20 applicants are truly gender-confused. We can remember Corporal Klinger from the TV show MASH, who regularly wore women's clothing in the hopes of getting kicked out of the army. It isn't a stretch to consider the possibility that some Palm Springs residents might attempt the same for a chance at guaranteed monthly income. It would hardly be the first time people tried to 'game the system' in order to get government handouts.

Even the Palm Springs mayor, who is reportedly transgender, said during a city council meeting, 'The bureaucracies that we've set up to fund poverty programs and to staff are probably much more expensive than giving the people the money who need it.' Neither government-sponsored discrimination nor guaranteed income are good ideas, with the former most likely being unconstitutional. Yet, Palm Springs seems to have hit the jackpot of bad ideas in one fell swoop.

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