Democratic presidential candidates have been debating something called Universal Basic Income, which would provide Americans with direct cash payments.

Candidate Kamala Harris, the U.S. senator from California, has proposed a version of the idea called the LIFT the Middle Class Act, which would spend $2 trillion over 10 years.

These programs are foolhardy for many reasons, but the most savage take on Harris’ proposal had nothing to do with the program itself.

“Not to be outdone by (candidate) Andrew Yang, who wants to give 10 lucky families $12,000 a year in universal basic income, Kamala Harris has decided to do a raffle of her own to introduce the universal basic incarceration program,” wrote a satire website called the Genesius Times.

Pledging to spend trillions of dollars on new income-support programs may not be controversial in the Democratic primary, but Harris’ career as California attorney general and San Francisco prosecutor has become a liability in a primary dominated by progressive voters who are concerned about over-incarceration and other criminal-justice issues.

She now touts herself as a reformer, but Vox noted that her record has “led some critics to describe her not as a progressive reformer but as a relic of a ‘tough on crime’ era going back to the 1990s and 2000s.”

Such critiques have been increasingly widespread, and might explain, in part, why Harris is falling in the polls and struggling to gain traction even in California.

A new Berkeley IGS Poll of California primary voters found her running fourth, with 8.3 percent.

That’s well below front-runner Elizabeth Warren, who was backed by 28.6 percent of those surveyed. Harris’ numbers fell from 13 percent in June. She fared poorly even in her home region, the San Francisco Bay Area.

No wonder that satire had to sting. Universal Basic Income is another fanciful idea that will go nowhere, but Harris’ approach to incarceration illuminates her actual record.

We don’t know why voters preferred each candidate, but it’s not a stretch to think that the more voters examine that record the less impressed they will be. For now, though, it’s clear and significant that even Californians are unimpressed with their own senator.

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