Socialist Ideologues are About to Relearn a Lesson from History

Mar. 20, 2019
by Bob Adelmann

The common refrain that those who refuse to learn anything from history are bound to repeat its mistakes is about to apply to the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. The lesson from history was well put by John Smith, writing to the people in his failed communist experiment in Jamestown in 1609:

Countrymen, the long experience of our late miseries I hope is sufficient to persuade everyone to a present correction of himself, and think not that either my pains nor the adventurers’ purses will ever maintain you in idleness and sloth...

...the greater part must be more industrious, or starve...

You must obey this now for a law, that he that will not work shall not eat (except by sickness he be disabled). For the labors of thirty or forty honest and industrious men shall not be consumed to maintain a hundred and fifty idle loiterers.

Smith slightly modified the exhortation from the Maker of the Universe, Who said, through His Apostle Paul: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

Oblivious to such history and exhortations from the Creator, Newark’s Mayor Ras Baraka announced plans during his State of the City speech last week to create a commission to study the concept of a “universal” income plan to help the more than one quarter of the city’s population living in poverty: taking money from those who earned it and giving it to those who didn’t.

Baraka touted its collectivist benefits without mentioning its individual costs:

The problems we have belong to all of us, not just a few of us, so the solutions must be collective and not individual.

We believe in universal basic income, especially in a time where studies have shown that families that have a crisis of just $400 in a month may experience a setback that may be difficult, even possible, to recover from.

Baraka left it at that, with details to follow. He didn’t provide estimates of just how much that free monthly income would be, to whom it would flow, how long the program might last, or what it would cost.

A possible model for Baraka might be Stockton, California, a similar-sized city with a similar problem: one in four living in poverty. Starting on February 15, the city sent debit cards worth $500 each to 130 adults living in the city’s lower-income neighborhoods. The program will continue until the money from Chris Hughes (a Facebook co-founder) and some friends runs out.

Once that money runs out – $10 million – it is expected that Stockton will take over the program and extend and likely expand it. The Mayor of Stockton, Michael Tubbs, is as ignorant of history or exhortations from the Creator as is Baraka:

I think (the program) will make people work better and smarter and harder. We [as human beings] are not designed just to work all day and run a rat race. We’re designed to be in community, to volunteer, to vote, to raise our kids. And I think the more inputs and investments we can give in people to do those things, the better off we are as a community.

Hughes is equally ignorant:

We know from research in the US and internationally that recurring, unconditional cash stipends are a shockingly effective way to encourage work, improve health and education outcomes, and create a ladder of economic opportunity.

Such free money programs have worked so well in Finland and Canada that they were canceled shortly afterwards because they were “unsustainable.”


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More attuned to reality is Moody’s Investors Service (Moody’s), which just raised Newark’s abysmal credit rating from cataclysmic to ghastly (Baa3 to Baa2). Naturally, the mayor took all the credit for the slight improvement:

This financial turnaround has enabled us to strengthen public safety, avoid the layoffs of the past, require developers to provide affordable housing, undertake an ambitious street-paving and infrastructure upgrade program, and expand programs for seniors and young people.

The City of Newark is moving forward, and Moody’s decision to upgrade our rating reaffirms that our hard work is paying off.

Moody’s has a different take on why it raised the city’s credit rating from nearly cataclysmic to merely catastrophic:

For years the city’s budget and audited financial statements were notoriously late and the city’s budget was often unrealistic….

The upgrade … reflects the city’s weak, albeit improved, fund balance and cash position … and an elevated debt and pension burden. The rating also incorporates the city’s weak resident wealth and income levels [and] elevated poverty….

So improved are the city’s finances, according to Baraka, that “we have been able to end the practice of borrowing to meet current expenses.”

If history serves, Newark, under Baraka’s tender stewardship, might just have to start borrowing again to pay its bills. After all, if the commission agrees that giving money from people who earned it to other people who didn’t, and Newark institutes a program like Stockton’s, it will only be a matter of time before it has to start borrowing again. Moody’s no doubt is watching all of this play out with great interest.

Why do these people have to relearn history’s lessons, at taxpayers’ expense? Hughes is certainly free to experiment with his own money, and invest in foolish ventures like this one in Stockton, but not with mine. 

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Sources:

Fox5NY.com: Newark’s mayor exploring universal basic income program

New York Times: Universal Basic Income Didn’t Fail in Finland. Finland Failed It.

National Review: Newark to Test Universal-Basic-Income Program

Fox News: New Jersey’s largest city plans to test Universal Basic Income program

New York Post: Newark aims to become first big city to roll out universal basic income

Background on Newark, New Jersey

Background on Newark’s two-term Mayor, Ras Baraka

Moody’s: Newark Receives Credit Rating Upgrade, Still Faces Financial Challenges

Background on Moody’s Investors Service and ratings definitions

Sacramento Bee: Will ‘basic income’ become the California norm? Stockton starts $500 no-strings payments

CNBC: Facebook co-founder’s new $10 million initiative to test if cash handouts will help fix America

“He who does not work, neither shall he eat.”

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12

Bible Reasons: Giving To The Poor And Needy

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