When the Coronavirus Pandemic threw livelihoods into uncertainty and consequently spurred the creation of multiple direct government assistance programs, every American was given first-hand experience with the concept of Guaranteed Basic Income (GBI), an idea that has been proposed in the US for nearly as long as it's been in existence. By this point, several US cities had already begun GBI pilot programs in which they provided $500 to $1000 per month to a select group of people for one year, at a time where rents have grown 4x as fast as worker wages.
It's Basic highlights the myriad benefits achieved through GBI by documenting participants of these pilot programs in five cities— Saint Paul, MN; Cambridge, MA; Newark, NJ; Gainesville, FL; and Los Angeles, CA— all working people who were given extra cash with no strings attached. What becomes apparent time after time is that the best way to address poverty and provide people with an opportunity to keep their heads above water is to give them money, which studies show is spent on survival and necessities. The film reveals that Basic Income pilot programs also help people maintain and gain employment, create health benefits for children, and level the racial playing field through community-centric solutions, as well as improving citizens' ideas about, and relationships with, their government and elected officials. With social services and direct assistance programs having faced devastating cuts since the Reagan administration, It's Basic chronicles the causes of pervasive poverty and the rise of the "working poor", as well as ways that GBI has manifested in recent American history and why it is now seeing a resurgence in public and government interest.
With commentary by Michael Tubbs— former mayor of Stockton, CA and founder of Mayors for Guaranteed Income— and interviews with program recipients and participating mayors across the country, the film shows the common struggles experienced by the 60% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck in the world's largest economy. It's Basic is an eye-opening look at the power of cash to transform lives and communities, and is a powerful call to action for policymakers to invest in guaranteed income in order to build a more just and equitable society.
FEATURED IN THE FILM
- Melvin Carter, Mayor of Saint Paul, Minnesota
- Sumbul Siddiqui, Mayor of Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Cory Booker, US Senator, New Jersey
- Eric Garcetti, former Mayor of Los Angeles, California
FILMMAKER'S STATEMENT: "It's basic. Just give people money. Sounds simple and at the same time preposterous. But it turns out it's an idea that has been around for quite a while.
As filmmakers our greatest challenge was trying to weave a host of characters form five cities into an organic whole. We didn't want the film to seem like a survey. Instead, we wanted to get to know these people and were constantly trying to find a balance between their stories and the larger policy issues and history.
In the end, we blended it all together in a way that we hope opens minds and touches hearts.
It's Basic. A little bit of money. A world of difference."
— Marc Levin