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San Francisco’s Perverse Incentive to Identify as Transgender

Imagine a progressive American city creating a financial incentive for residents to transition from male to female or female to male.

That’s exactly what San Francisco just did with a program called Guaranteed Income for Transgender People, or GIFT.

This is like using a fire hose to spray gasoline on a burning skyscraper. Talk about perverse incentives.

Anyone want to bet that if this program expands, the number of poor people in San Francisco who say they identify as transgender will also increase?

San Francisco, of course, is already a laboratory for bad policy ideas. But giving a guaranteed income to low-income residents who say they identify as transgender is certainly next-level stupidity.

The GIFT pilot program “will provide 55 eligible residents with $1,200 per month for 18 months, as well as healthcare and financial coaching,” the Los Angeles Times explains.

This scheme combines bad tax policy with bad social policy. And the whole will be worse than the sum of its parts.

Let’s look at the details to see why.

First of all, note that this program does not provide what is known as Universal Basic Income. It does not target the entire population or even those in greatest financial need, but rather those with the highest status in the intersectional hierarchy. In this case, that means residents, including minors, living at the intersection of economic poverty and transgender identity.

The announcement says:

The program will prioritize the enrollment of transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming and intersex (TGI) people who are also Black, Indigenous or Colored (BIPOC), homeless, living with disabilities and chronic illnesses, youth and the elderly, monolingual Spanish speakers, and those who are legally vulnerable, such as undocumented TGI people, engaged in survival sex trafficking, or formerly in prison.

To prevent this $1,200 per month gift from interfering with eligibility for other programs, San Francisco claims it is simply a research pilot program. However, this is probably a ruse, as the treasurer of the town receivables “no need for a broad ‘does it work?’ to replicate. pilots or research studies.”

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In fact, San Francisco is trying to focus “on qualitative research that can tell the human stories of people receiving guaranteed income,” as we learn from the fine print. “Storytelling and narrative change are essential to building public will and debunking false narratives of poverty and deservingness.”

In other words, the purpose of the GIFT pilot program is to get moving stories that can be used for an ad campaign to expand the program. So we can assume that San Francisco will avoid the kind of rigorous scientific evaluation that could expose the program’s failures. And we can assume it will expand.

Of course, we already have evidence that this arrangement will not reduce poverty in San Francisco. For more than a decade, the federal government funded research on “guaranteed income” schemes. It supported randomized controlled trials in six states conducted from 1968 to 1980.

Guess what the US government found? The recipients’ motivation to work decreased regardless of gender, marital status or parental status. In fact, for every dollar of transfer payments, revenue fell by 66 cents.

At that rate, it would take three dollars of tax dollars to increase a recipient’s net income by one dollar. These results have been a disaster for fans of a guaranteed minimum income, universal basic income, negative income tax, or an unconditional money transfer by any name.

But such facts do not stand in the way of Aria Sa’id, executive director of San Francisco’s legally recognized Transgender District. After learning about the GIFT program, the transgender activist longed for more.

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“My dream,” Sa’id said“is to take a fire truck with millions of dollars in cash and have a wind blower and say, ‘Join me.'”

Fortunately, most Americans have more common sense than hosing down the city streets with twenty dollar bills. More than 90% of the audience agrees with that “able-bodied adults who receive cash, food, housing and medical assistance should be required to work or prepare for work as a condition of receiving those government benefits.”

This lack of public support is no doubt why national politicians do not push for such ‘guaranteed income’ schemes with much zeal. San Francisco voters, however, are far to the left of the average American voter. So the politicians of that city respond to different incentives.

Nevertheless, the poor outcome of this policy is still easy to imagine.

Consider: the number of people who identify as transgender, non-binary, etc exploded especially in recent years among young people. This growth was so alarming that Dr. Lisa Littman, a physician and researcher, proposed a new diagnosis in 2017 that she “rapid-onset gender dysphoria.”

This pandemic among young people has gotten much worse over the past five years. As a result, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service has been overwhelmed and recently opted to do so press pause about sex hormones and related operations in minors.

Anyone who studies the rise of gender ideology in schools, culture and social media will undoubtedly suspect that we are dealing with a new social contagion, not the rare gender dysphoria of the last century.

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For many minors, gender reassignment is now a trend.

But coincidentally, unlike goth or grunge, this trend leads to sex hormone sterilization and disfiguring surgeries.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal

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