universal basic income

Universal Basic Income



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Imagine paying people no-strings-attached cash, whether they have a job or not.

Chris Hughes, Co-Chair, Economic Security Project: “There’s a need for a new kind of safety net.”

It’s a utopian idea that some think to a potentially jobless dystopian future.

Sam Altman, President, Silicon Valley School for Startups: “This way of automation is coming, and it hasn’t crashed our society yet, but it’s going to.”

In California, two experiments are being planned that could point to a radically different future of work.

Stockton, California. Just five years ago, the city was declared bankrupt. Today, unemployment is almost double the national average, and many people live paycheck to paycheck.

But the city’s mayor, Michael Tubbs, has a plan to combat an increasingly unequal and insecure jobs market. Starting this year, a hundred residents will receive a guaranteed income of $500 per month — whether they work or not.

The mayor’s plan is inspired by the radical idea of a Universal Basic Income, or UBI, an unconditional cash payment for all citizens.

The experiment will measure the impact of these payments on the recipients’ lives.

Mayor Tubbs believes it could be the key to helping the working poor, those who have jobs, but find it hard to make ends meet.

Michael Tubbs, Mayor Stockton: “If Universal Basic Income works out in Stockton, you will see the poverty levels decrease. I do think there will be more discussions about things like social safety net and basic income, for sure.

The truth is, one in two of every American can’t afford on $500 emergency, which means the majority of the country is not doing that well.”

Chris Hughes, Co-Chair, Economic Security Project: “I’m the first to say that for three years worth of work, I ended up with nearly half-a-billion dollars. That is not how the economy is supposed to work.”

Chris Hughes is one of the people paying for Mayor Tubb’s experiment. He made his money as a co-founder of Facebook.

But the online revolution he’s profited from could mean rising insecurity for the workers of tomorrow.

Now, he spends his time looking for new ways to deliver a fairer society.

Chris Hughes, Co-Chair, Economic Security Project: “We’re seeing massive growth in the number of part-time jobs, contingent workers in the gig economy. And with that instability comes a need for a new kind of safety net.

Five-hundred dollars ($500) in the background every single month for people who need it, so that in the great months, you know you’re going to be good. And in the months when work isn’t quite as stable, you know you’re at least halfway to making the rent.”

Skeptics argue that no-strings-attached handouts could discourage people from working. But Chris Hughes says research to date suggests that top-ups have beneficial effects.

Chris Hughes, Co-Chair, Economic Security Project: “When people get modest amounts of cash, they use it to improve their lives, and the lives of their family: they invest in themselves.

Most importantly, people don’t drop out of work en masse.”

Mark Zuckerburg, Co-Founder and CEO of Facebook: “Our generation is gonna have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars and trucks.”

Silicon Valley seems awash with billionaires eager to allay fears about an uncertain future of work — fears stoked by the very innovations that have made them their billions.

Sam Altman, President, Silicon Valley School for Startups: “Universal Basic Income is one of these ideas that’s been talked about and debated a lot. So we thought it’d be really good, given what we think what is gonna happen in the world if we could get some data.

Same Altman is president of a Silicon Valley school for start ups. And he is about to launch the most rigorous experiment in basic income ever carried out in America: three thousand (3,000) people will receive either $50 (fifty-dollars) or (one-thousand dollars) $1,000 with no-strings-attached every month for the next few years.

Most economists argue a basic income would be just too expensive for governments to provide today.

But Sam Altman claims the rise of the robots could ultimately have an answer for that.

Sam Altman, President, Silicon Valley School for Startups: “If the AI comes, the good news is the cost of goods and services come down dramatically because computers can do them so inexpensively.

In a world like that, we’d see effected GDP growth in terms of purchasing power skyrocket.

In the world where the AI really does arrive, there’ll be plenty of money.”

Supporters of a basic income even believe it could change people’s attitudes towards work itself.

Sam Altman, President, Silicon Valley School for Startups: “We’ll definitely have to redefine what we think of as work. But we’ve had to do that many times before.

One of the things that we learned in Silicon Valley is just how much potential some people have. And if you can unlock that, if you can free them from having to work a job that they hate just to be able to survive, we’ll create hugely more value for the world.”


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1. California is a land of stark contrasts. True or false? Describe the situation in the city of Stockton.

2. Is Mayor Michael Tubbs socially and politically left, right or center? What does he propose? What does he think would be the consequences?

3. The universal basic income scheme has been officially, fully and permanently implemented. Is this right or wrong? Is the funding coming from the government?

4. Why is Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook a proponent of universal basic income? What reasons does he give?

5. What are the disadvantages, downsides or drawbacks of UBI?

6. Is the future bright for jobs and careers in the United States?

7. UBI proponents see a lot of potential in UBI. Is this correct or incorrect? Why are they optimistic?


A. Describe the economic situation in your town, city or country.

B. Have there been many debates, discussions and arguments about universal basic income?

C. What would happen if it were fully implemented? What would be the plusses and minuses?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. Are there alternative ideas, suggestions and proposals?

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