Things have gotten expensive in Austin.
According to Salary.com, the cost of living is reportedly 9.1% higher than the national average, with the largest differentials being observed in health care, food and housing. The cost of childcare is also relatively high, with the average annual payment totaling $8,759. “This cost is ranked NO. 31 nationally.”
Of course, this cost-of-living crisis isn’t helped by the fact that Austin-area governments can’t seem to stop raising taxes. For instance, just last week, Travis County approved a 13.3% property tax increase to fund Central Health’s already bloated, wasteful, and, frankly, shady budget.
That isn’t to say that Austin progressives don’t think there’s an affordability problem. They do. They just think they can solve it with more government (funded through higher taxes).
Which helps to explain Austin’s re-upped guaranteed income program.
Since September 2023, Austin has run a guaranteed income pilot program, funded by $1.1 million in taxpayer money. This program provided $1,000 in direct deposits per month to 85 households selected not at random but rather “utilizing the expertise and relationships of nine community partners.” The city enjoyed giving away Other People’s Money so much that councilmembers recently decided to allocate $1.3 million in the new budget to keep it going.
Of course, giving away taxpayer money isn’t an actual solution—and it’s riddled with problems to boot.
First and foremost, guaranteed income programs create a clear disincentive to finding work. If the recipient of the guaranteed income program tries to find work, that recipient may become ineligible for benefits, such as the check.
This creates a “benefits cliff” in which recipients may lose more than they’re bringing in. If that’s the case, why work or move up the socio-economic ladder? This is particularly troubling as it can create a cycle of poverty that trickles down through multiple generations, exacerbating the problem.
What’s more, the program requires confiscating resources away from the productive private sector to redistribute elsewhere. This too creates its own set of disincentives for labor and the economy.
Truly, the solution being pushed by Austin progressives is worse than the problem itself since it pushes a select few toward dependency while making everyone else poorer in the meantime.
Indeed, Austin guaranteed income program may as well be renamed its Guaranteed Indigent Program.