MLK Had a Dream of Guaranteed Income. As Mayors of 11 U.S. Cities, We Are Bringing That Dream to Life

By: Michael D. Tubbs is the mayor of Stockton, Calif.
Chokwe Antar Lumumba is the mayor of Jackson, Miss.
Melvin Carter is the mayor of St. Paul, Minn.
Ras J. Baraka is the mayor of Newark, N.J.
Aja Brown is the mayor of Compton, Calif.
Eric Garcetti is the mayor of Los Angeles
Adrian Perkins is the mayor of Shreveport, La.
Libby Schaaf is the mayor of Oakland, Calif.
Stephen Benjamin is the mayor of Columbia, S.C.
Keisha Lance Bottoms is the mayor of Atlanta
Victoria R. Woodards is the mayor of Tacoma, Wash.


In 1967, against a backdrop of massive civil unrest, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? and called for the immediate abolition of poverty. In the richest nation in the world, King saw no justification for the evil of rampant poverty and chastised the government’s efforts against the ill as “piecemeal and pygmy.” Housing efforts were subject to the whims of the legislature, educational reforms were sluggish, and family assistance programs were neglected; all failed to reach the most profound needs of the poor. King’s economic dream was the most direct – a guaranteed income for all Americans. This week, more than 50 years later and against a similar backdrop of racial and economic unrest, we mayors are bringing that dream to life.

Economic insecurity isn’t new and poverty itself is violent. We need a policy solution that is as bold as it is innovative and as simple as it is ambitious. We must fight every day for a more just economy, because what happens to one of us happens indirectly to all of us and we are in this fight together. That’s why, as mayors of 11 American cities with a collective population of about 7 million, we are launching Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. This coalition will invest in additional guaranteed-income pilots and advocate for state and federal cash-based policies.

As leaders of our respective cities, we see firsthand how poverty and economic insecurity afflict our neighborhoods and families. Nearly 40% of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency, and rising income inequality is compounded by a growing racial wealth gap. The median net worth of white households is 10 times that of Black households and about eight times that of Latinx households, and the wealthiest 0.1% in America own about the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%…

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Learn more about the coalition in this Forbes article