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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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

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"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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