More

A German entrepreneur had an idea to give people an extra $1,100 a month. It's going well.

Could a small benefit really improve people's lives? I don't know ... but it worked for me.

A German entrepreneur had an idea to give people an extra $1,100 a month. It's going well.

If you were given $1,100 a month, with no strings attached, how would your life change?

Would you take more vacation days? Maybe you would stress less about your bills or expenses. Would you even go to work anymore? Would you finally start that business or write that novel?

Basically, would your life be better than it is now?


Those are the questions that German entrepreneur Michael Boymeyer wanted to answer with his new My Basic Income project.

Michael Bohmeyer, creator of the My Basic Income project. Image via Mein Grundeinkommen.

The crowdsourced program, called Mein Grundeinkommen in German, is a bold economic experiment that aims to improve the lives of average Germans with a relatively small investment.

$1,100 (a little over 1,000 euro) per month is less than half the average German monthly wage but more than twice the welfare there, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The money for the project comes from donations made to the program, and recipients are chosen at random from a pool of applicants.

So far, 26 people (chosen from over 66,000 applicants) are receiving the monthly benefit payments. Additional recipients are chosen whenever enough money is raised to support someone for a whole year.

The money, which Mein Grundeinkommen describes as "unconditional" has been used for a wide variety of things by the chosen recipients so far.

One woman said she wanted to "spend more time with her children and do volunteer work." Another said she wanted to "develop a theatre production."

Another recipient, 9-year-old Robin, plans to use his basic income to buy more books.

Robin and his family started receiving benefits in December 2014. Image via Mein Grundeinkommen.

However, as Michael Bohmeyer told the L.A. Times, "Not a lot changes: The students keep studying, the workers keep working and the pensioners are still pensioners. But there is a big change that takes place in their minds. People feel liberated and they feel healthier."

The idea has even gotten the attention of the German government, where leftist politicians have long supported the idea of a federalized basic income. Those who oppose it say that receiving unconditional money from the government might take away incentives to find work — an argument that sounds really familiar if you pay attention to discussions about "entitlement programs" here in the U.S.

German President Angela Merkel opposes basic income but has discussed it internally several times. Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images.

The big question: Could receiving a small benefit really improve your life?

Frankly, it's hard to imagine a situation where it wouldn't. But I also have some personal experience with this.

Less than two months ago, I was unemployed. Like, really unemployed. The kind of unemployed where you start to wonder if maybe your career destiny is at the local deli and not, as you imagined, in the corner office of a New York City skyscraper (or whatever your thing is).

During that time, I regularly received an unemployment benefit. It wasn't much, but it was enough to pay rent and buy some inexpensive groceries. (Put that cultured butter down, Zuckerberg.)

So me and my tiny government check had some time to ask important questions: What do I want to do with my life? What am I good at? How can I eat lentils again without jamming this fork into my eye?

It was in that time that I decided, definitively, that I wanted to write professionally.

So I wrote. A lot. I got published wherever and whenever I could, and in time (SPOILERS) I got a job writing for Upworthy.

And sure, unemployment benefits aren't the same as a no-questions-asked stipend, but it taught me a lot about being helped.

Unemployment and other government programs are constantly under threat in the U.S. via the narrative that if you receive government help, you won't want to help yourself.

Presidential candidate Marco Rubio is one of several senators who voted not to extend unemployment benefits last year. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Receiving a benefit certainly didn't remove my incentive to work. In fact, I had never wanted a job so badly in my life.

What it did was give me the opportunity, and the time, to think about and work toward the job I really wanted. It relieved some pressure. Instead of panicking, I could focus on things getting better.

So maybe a basic income isn't such a bad idea. As Bohmeyer said, "to be able to work creatively, people need some security, they need to feel free. And they can get that with a basic income."

For some, that stipend might just be a little spending money on top of their already comfortable lives. But for others, it could be the difference between giving up and pursuing a dream. It was for me.

Every murder of an innocent person is tragic, but the cold-blooded killing of a child is too heinous to even think about. So when a man walks up to a 5-year-old riding his bike in broad daylight and shoots him in the head in front of his young sisters, it's completely reasonable that people would be horrified. It's an unthinkable and unforgivable act.

Cannon Hinnant didn't deserve to die like that. His parents didn't deserve to lose him like that. His sisters didn't deserve to be scarred for life like that. We can all agree that a horrible tragedy in every way.

His murderer—Hinnant's dad's next door neighbor, Darius Sessoms—deserved to be rounded up, arrested, and charged for the killing. And he was, within hours. He deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law, and history indicates that he assuredly will be. The system is working exactly as it's supposed to in this case. Nothing can be done to bring Cannon back, but justice is being served.

So why is #SayHisName trending with this story, when that hashtag has long been used in the movement for Black Lives? And why is #JusticeForCannon being shared when justice is already happening in this case? Why is #ChildrensLivesMatter a thing, when there's never been any question that that's the case?

Keep Reading Show less
Mozilla
True
Firefox

When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less